Monthly theme: Procrastination

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For our Guild Monthly gatherings (held the second Monday of each month), we now have a set discussion topic to begin the evening with. March’s topic was a blight experienced by many writers: procrastination.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but my creative productivity has been at an all time low over the last year, and my writing even more-so. So what is it that is holding me back? What is preventing me from writing?

There are many things that can lead to procrastination, here are just a few that we came up with:

  • Self doubt
  • High stress (either caused by the activity we’re procrastinating doing, or other life events)
  • Intensity of the effort ahead (particularly experienced after the first draft is completed)
  • Striving for perfection
  • Too many distractions
  • General emotional burn-out

Sometimes, when you overthink situations, and try and overwork your piece, the thing you love the most becomes the thing you hate. This, I believe, is where my problem arises, and one that I have found pretty much across the board: you’ve finished the first (or second or even third) draft. You know the story’s not perfect. You’ve read over it numerous times, you’ve people interested in reading it, you love the characters and you want to do them justice, but the self-doubt monster has reared its ugly head and you’ve listened to too many podcasts and read too many books telling you what you should be doing, that you’ve almost lost the will to do it. You know it’s broken, but you’re overwhelmed by the amount of effort required to fix it.

So what can you do?

How does one recover from procrastinating?

Easiest answer is, of course, just write. But if something is hard to write, then it’s also likely to be hard to read. You don’t want your story to feel forced. The trick is to get yourself back into the writing mindset.
Here are some solutions we came up with:

  • Set deadlines: If re-writing the entire piece is overwhelming, break it down into manageable chunks: ie: “this week I’m going to rewrite chapter one”.
  • Timetable: If you are procrastinating by engaging in other activities, set them to a schedule. For example, “I will only spend 20 minutes on Facebook tonight, then I shall write”. Set a timer, and stick to it.
  • Take regular breaks: If you are trying to write, and the words aren’t coming, don’t feel obliged to force them. Take a walk, play with the cat, etc. You may find that your brain becomes more alive the moment you step away from the computer, and suddenly you’re rushing to get back to it. Try not to take the breaks too often though, else they’re just another form of procrastination!
  • Free write: Sometimes the computer can be inhibiting. Try writing on paper: stream of consciousness or a scene you’ve been looking forward to, or putting your character in a difficult situation and seeing how she wriggles her way out of it. If it’s on paper, it’s more ephemeral, and if it’s good, you can then commit it to type. I wrote about this in my own blog last year.
  • Write that scene you’ve been hanging out for: I write my stories sequentially and sometimes I know where a story is going but not how to get there. If you’re having issues writing and there’s a scene you’re excited to be writing, write it! You can always re-work it later to better fit the build-up!
  • Seek a critique: Not sure where the story is going? Ask someone that you trust to be honest to read your story. Be careful choosing people to close to you emotionally (ie: spouses), as if they are a little too honest, it can marr your relationship! I suggest finding a writing buddy, as you can read each other’s work (and writers understand other writers). For help in taking critiques well, we have made a post in the past.
  • Distract the cat: We adopted a kitten last year, and she always seems to want to be involved in what I’m doing. This can vary from sleeping on or beside me, to chewing on my arm and climbing on the keyboard. If your feline (or puppy, or child) is proving distracting, you can either shut them out of the room or set up another activity to keep them occupied (I recommend “Cats Meow” for kittens). If you have children, schedule your writing time when they are sleeping, or when there is someone else to either watch them or field their attentions.
  • Start something new: If you’ve written your story so well in your head that you lack the motivation to put it to paper, take a fresh approach. Either consider the story from a different character’s perspective, or start something else entirely. Take your characters, and write a short story, change the setting, heck, you could even write fanfiction!
  • Set a time to write: Set yourself a time to write every day – say between 9 and 11 at night. Sit in front of your keyboard (disable your internet if need be) and don’t permit yourself to move until that time is over. Pretty soon you’ll get sick of staring at that blinking cursor and will put your fingers to the keyboard and, maybe, magic will happen.

What can I do if I can’t break the procrastination blight?

Use your procrastination for being productive in other fashions, here are a few things you can do if you really, really can’t bring yourself to write:

  • Housework: I’ve cleaned out my pantry, tidied up my closet and unpacked the last two boxes of books. Pretty soon I’m going to move onto gardening.
  • Research: Watch documentaries related to your topic or read articles. Maybe they will re-spark the motivation to write.
  • Read: Time spent reading is rarely wasted. Read in your genre – you can always label it as “research”. Read other genres, as a fresh perspective is always worthwhile. Something might inspire you.
  • Take up a new hobby: Cooking, drawing, painting, sculpting etc. Then at least your creativity will have an outlet.

Have you any more tips to break the procrastination blight?

Share them with us on Twitter: @chchwriters or comment here!

We are also happy to take suggestions for our Monthly themes!

Book Release: Spectra

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spectra-frontcoversmlA monstrous child is born from the ground where a building fell. And the child is hungry…
A gladiator must make the ultimate choice, between freedom or friendship…
Deep in the heart of Brazil’s desert forest, the world’s rarest parrot is kidnapped by smugglers…

The Christchurch Writers’ Guild are pleased to announce the release of their second anthology, entitled Spectra: with all the different stories in the world begging to be told and all the genres and styles available for telling them, any community of writers is going to produce a spectra of stories. There is something for everyone in this collection of short fiction and poetry showcasing the interests and talents of members of the Christchurch Writers’ Guild.

Authors include: Shelley Chappell, Beaulah Pragg, J.L. O’Rourke, Kevin Berry, Ami Hart, Matty Angel, Jean Flannery, Jonathan Kingston-Smith, Mia Andrews, Philippa Drayton, Chris Visagee, Sille Mannion, and Angela Oliver.

Spectra is available on Amazon, in both ebook and paperback format. We will be creating a bulk order from Amazon in early February; if you are interested in purchasing a copy/copies, please drop us a line.

Special thanks to Kura Carpenter for designing the cover, and also to Philippa Drayton, Jenner Lichtwark and Shelley Chappell, for helping with the editing. Formatting was done by Angela Oliver.

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Lucifer Seraphina gives Spectra her purr of approval.

NaNo Interview: Jill Winfield

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Lately come to Christchurch from Melbourne, Jill Winfield is looking forward to saying, ‘in my second novel…’

Can you tell us a little about your NaNoWriMo 2016 project?

I find it really hard to talk about what I’m writing because I can’t bring myself to spoil the surprise, I know you need to be able to do this for pitching purposes, but I still struggle. For NaNoWriMo, I’ve picked up a story idea I’ve had kicking around for several years but never figured out the way into.

Just to explain the photographs: My novel passes through a lot of share houses, featuring those kinds of surfaces and textures.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

Although I’ve signed up before, this is the first time I’ve actually got going.

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1.Chapter 1, House 1, First Floor Ceiling

How have you adjusted your regular routine for the month of November?

I haven’t made changes as such, it’s more that I’ve ratcheted up my commitment by setting very specific (but achievable) goals. I set a goal of writing 2000 words per day with 1 day off per week, just in case. I figured out that on weekdays, if I got up fifteen minutes earlier, I could get an earlier bus and have an hour of focused writing at a cafe before work, instead of half an hour of maybe writing in my journal about – whatever. Before work, I usually manage between 600-800 words. Sometimes I get in another 200 or so at lunchtime, trying to get food in my mouth rather than on my keyboard. After work, usually after dinner, I write until I’ve met my target and finished what I wanted to write about. On the weekends, I cram writing in whenever I can. It is incredible how much you can achieve when you sit down and plug away at it every day.

What made you decide to take the NaNoWriMo challenge?

I’ve been working on the second draft of my first novel for what feels like a very long time – 18 months thereabouts – without feeling like I’m getting anywhere. I started to wonder how I would ever get to work on all those other novels I have floating around in the back of computer/brain/journals if I couldn’t get through this *swearword* second draft. NaNoWriMo was a good opportunity to put down the hard slog of editing/re-writing and pick up an idea I’ve wanted to play with for a long time – like a working holiday. A fun one.

I also thought that the daily habit of writing those 50,000 words would improve my writing. There was an American photographer, Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) who worked for forty years as a nanny and took photographs after hours and sometimes during her working hours. 17,500 negatives, 2,000 prints and 30 home movies were found after she died and they (well, probably not all of them) are extraordinary. I believe that good art is made through doing and doing and doing. Doing NaNoWriMo is establishing a good habit of writing and writing and writing. 

P.S. I do like my first novel. When I finish it, it’s going to be great.

P.P.S. Google Vivian Maier, I don’t imagine you’ll sorry, there’s a story in every photograph.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

I’ve found the more I write, the more I want to write and the faster my ideas come. Doing NaNoWriMo has reminded me (because I had forgotten) of the FUN of writing. I love making stuff up and I love playing with words and if can make up a great story using a compelling arrangement of words then that’s a worthy way to spend my time.

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2. Chapter 5, House 5, Kitchen Table

How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

Doing NaNoWriMo has brought home how much you can achieve through discipline. It has also made me question my preconceptions of what writing work I can do where. When I first started writing I had a lot of false starts, I kept changing and editing and stopping and starting. It was easy (for me) to get nowhere writing on a computer. I didn’t really get going until I began writing by hand, in a journal, because you can only go forward. The overriding directive of NaNoWriMo: keep writing! Don’t edit, just keep going! has helped me learn to keep going on a computer. That will save a lot of time 🙂

After NaNoWriMo, I think I will continue my hour-long session of writing before work. I often get far more done in that hour than I might in four hours on a weekend.


Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

I find when I get stuck that if I just start writing, something will come to me. It might be something like:

Oh no! I don’t know what to write. Whatever will I write? I’m hungry. I wonder if my character is hungry. I wonder what they like to eat.

I bet they like chips. I bet they eat chips all the time, especially when they shouldn’t…

Using Scrivener really helps with getting stuck too – you just start a new scene and keep going and all those bits and bobs are still there waiting for you in one neat location when you find out you really do need them.

Also, don’t forget to stretch your wrists around and get up every now and then.


Do you reward yourself for achieving your daily/weekly goals? If so, how?

My plan is to reward myself with a new book for each week I meet my target. Last week I went to Scorpio Books aiming for a nice fat fantasy or SF novel and came home with a collection of Walt Whitman poems. His writing soothed my brain. 

NaNoWriMo 2016 Interview: Angela Oliver

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Angela Oliver is an author and illustrator, with a wide cast of colourful and unusual characters, very few of them human.

Can you tell us a little about your NaNoWrimo 2016 project?

Initially I intended to rework – for the third or possibly fourth time -the second book in my Lemur Saga, Tail of Two Scions. However, I quickly realised that I was not in the right frame of mind for re-writing a previous draft, and that something fun and frivolous was more likely to help me achieve my goals. Therefore, I switched to a novel entitled Love in Tirra-Inle. This is the first in my Furritasia trilogy (I’ve almost finished the third and abandoned the second halfway through, but that’s by-the-by) and is my first attempt at what is intended, vaguely, to be a romance novel. Albeit a fairly unorthodox kind. With giant cockroaches.

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My unlikely couple, Daniel and Kataryna, illustrated by Arquel back in 2004.

How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?

NaNowrimo began in 1999 and I have participated in it on and off since it’s inception. I cannot recall exactly how many times I’ve accepted the challenge – but I believe my success/completion rate to be around 50%. In early years, I actually I finished the novel before attaining the word count goal.

How have you adjusted your regular routine for the month of November?

I have shifted my focus back onto writing, which is a good start. Previous years I have used techniques such as getting up earlier (5am) and attempting “1,000 words before breakfast” but as I get older, I seem to require more sleep. Fortunately this year my husband has a few other commitments which mean that I do not feel so much like I am neglecting him.

What do you like the most about NaNoWriMo?

Probably the social aspect and the fact that it re-establishes in me the habit of writing. Although I do not attend a great deal of write-ins, and actually write better at home, the mere knowledge that out there hundreds, thousands, of other people are undergoing the same process of frustration, dedication and determination as me is really quite encouraging. As writers, it is easy to feel alone, but by bringing together communities, either online or in reality, it really helps to create bonds and make it much harder to just give up on the story.

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How has the establishment of NaNoWriMo influenced your writing habits?

The awareness of NaNoWriMo makes it easier to put off writing something new straight away, knowing that I intend to spend the entire month of November writing means that I don’t feel September is wasted because I mostly played Pokemon and didn’t achieve much of anything else. It also gives me more focus, and causes me to force myself to sit down each day and write – at least for the month of November!

Do you have any tips for NaNo newbies?

The secret to successfully completing NaNo is by not caring too much about making the story perfect,  focus instead on getting the words on the page. Never delete anything – if I must remove it from the plot, I will either highlight mine in a different colour (so I can find it against later) or cut and paste it to the end of the manuscript so that it still counts towards my final word count goal. And if your story feels a bit flat, then it’s time to add something dramatic and different! Be random if you need to.

What is the most unexpected thing you have had happen in a NaNoWriMo novel?

It’s hard to remember what the most unexpected thing is, but I’ve had a few! One of my favourite was when I discovered which of the characters in Tail of Two Scions had the hidden agenda, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected. I had set up several “red herrings” and determined that the original plan was just too obvious so thought “who is the least obvious suspect that would make sense” and voila! It then involved some going back to add in foreshadowing and also determining her motivation, but still!

What is the strangest thing you have ever Googled for “Research purposes”?

When I started my story this year, I spent a lot of time looking up random cockroach stuff – and got caught up on trying to determine whether a cockroach was a beetle or a bug (turns out roaches are neither) just so I could pull off a humorous dialogue interchange. I’ve also looked up what would happen if a chicken ate a cigarette (spent half an hour looking and then just decided that it was easier just to not include it in the plot at all as it wasn’t really of any relevance).

aroha-fcsml
“Aroha’s Grand Adventure” was my 2010 NaNo novel – and is now available on Amazon.

Do you reward yourself for achieving your daily/weekly goals? If so, how?

I started doing that this year, although I’ve lapsed somewhat now we’re halfway through the month (I think one day my reward was “sleep” – ironically the same night we had the house-gone-to-sea earthquake and I got NO sleep at all due to the tsunami warning). But I’ve tried to come up with something for every day – often it’s food related, a trip to the local Coffee Culture for chai and belgian biscuit, occasionally it’s watching a favourite show (QI, MLP or OUAT). The night after the EQ it was ice cream, but I ate it before achieving the word count – figured I deserved it anyway, given I was running on 3 hours sleep.

Anything else you would like to add?

I blog my NaNo Process day-by-day. If you have the time, this is actually a pretty neat process, because it allows you to determine patterns in your writing. My standard pattern, I realised, was to flake out around the end of the first week – between day 6-9 when typically I would either wind up with a: “my story sucks, I don’t know why I’m bothering” or “I’m really losing momentum”. I don’t think this is atypical, I think it’s a result of the first few days of exciting out-of-the-date writing, followed by the realisation that, if you, like me, are seat-of-the-pants writing (as opposed to rendering a pre-plotted story) then that’s about the point when you actually get into the plot and may, indeed, start to falter. Advice? Be aware of it, and push on through to the other side!

You can follow my day-by-day process here: lemurkat.co.nz

Book & Resource Recommendations for NaNoWriMo’s.

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For NaNo Newbies

No Plot, No Problem
Chris Baty
No Plot, No Problem
Chris Baty
Write your Novel in a Month: How to Complete a First Draft in 30 Days and What to Do Next
Jeff Gerke
The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel
Hallie Ephron

For Writers

Scene and Structure
Jack M Bickham
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Save the Cat!
Blake Snyder
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
K. M. Weiland
The Emotion Thesarus
Angela Ackerman & Becca Peglisi
(their Thesaurus series have a several other books that are invaluable to writers – available both in hard copy and e-Book)
Recommended by: Judy Mohr, Em Lowe

Websites

www.nanowrimo.org
www.jamigold.com/for-writers/

Facebook has several pages dedicated to including the main NaNoWriMo group as well as municipal groups.

Another day in the life of a NaNo-Nut: Plotting

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The creative perspective

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As I embark on this fourth NaNo journey, I’ve found myself dwelling on how, as a writer, my craft and the experience of writing have changed since those early days.  I still find it fun, but over the years I’ve become more introspective about the way I work. You’ll find that too. 

That first journey saw me throw myself into a lifelong dream. The desire to simply write that novel motivating me to just write, and write, and write. Which is just what NaNo is about. But along the journey, I’ve realised that to complete my manuscripts, I need to have a direction. Some signposts along the way. Of course that won’t be the same for everybody.  

As a result, you find yourself considering what type of writer you are.

Plotter or pantser?

For anyone new to writing, you’ll find there appear to be three general kinds of writer. 

1) The Plotter – somebody who meticulously plans their entire project, so that when NaNo starts they have an outline, their structure, know their plot, their characters and what their end goal is.

2) The Pantser – somebody who quite literally writes by the seat of their pants. No real direction, just the ability to follow the plot and characters wherever they may lead. 

3) The Hybrid – somebody who combines both plotting and panting to their novel-writing journey. 

When embarking on  NaNo, it’s worth considering what kind of writer you are.

As I mentioned before, I’ve always been a pantser. Literally writing by the seat of my pants. Letting the characters develop the stories as I go. To the extent that I’d find my characters talking to me (I know, you think I’m mad). Driving in the car, carrying out my own interviews with them to learn who they were, how they’d react to things, who they’d vote for the next American president! All things that gave me an insight into the people I was creating, and the direction my story was taking.

However, this year, I’ve decided to embark on the NaNo journey with a plan. A result of which has seen me methodically planned my book from beginning to end. I’ve researched my backstory, and all of the key points throughout the novel and have reams of notes as a result. I’ve filled out character worksheets, setting worksheets, created picture boards, and even organised a road trip to Mackenzie which is the setting for the vast part of my story.

This is not because I’ve decided that pantsing is wrong, but because I’m open to new ways of doing this. 

What type are you? It’s well worth considering before you embark on your NaNo journey. If you’re new to NaNo. Chris Baty’s No Plot, No Problem is an awesome read, giving some insight into what the National Novel Writing Month is. As well as giving you some insights into how to go about it (from well-learned experience). 

If you’re not a NaNo, but want to look at ways of plotting and planning, then I thoroughly recommend the following books for helping with writing craft in so far as structuring and planning your novel: 

1) Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – a comprehensive, easy to read guide to structuring your story. 

2) Michael Hauge’s

Writing Screenplays That Sell, New Twentieth Anniversary Edition: The Complete Guide to Tur

ning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals 

3) Jack M Bickman’sScene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)

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I’ve found these three books invaluable in helping me plan for NaNo, and perhaps because I want to take my writing to the next level, I’ve enjoyed investing in craft books that have opened my eyes to the whole concept of plotting and planning for my writing journey. 

Another aspect of the planning that I’ve come to think of as vital for writing development is surrounding yourself with likeminded people. 

Use the Writing Community

Writing is a solitary activity, and can be really lonely. Particularly when you hit the wall often called writers block, or self-doubt.  During NaNo, the goal is to hit that 50,000 word target. A goal that is completely achievable. However, it is inevitable that during NaNo, you’ll have peaks and troughs. Some days, you’ll fly. Others you’ll wonder just what on earth you are doing. By surrounding yourself with people with that same objective, you give yourself not only a sounding board, but also a support network. It can become competitive. I love a challenge, and going to our Tuesday ‘Night Owls’ write in, I find myself challenging myself to keep up with some of the more prolific writers (some of whom have achieved 160,000 words during NaNo in the past – yikes!). 

So here’s some suggestions. 

Visit the NaNoWriMo website: 

Find out who your Municipal Liaison is ( http://nanowrimo.org/regions)

Find out where write-ins are planned with other writers in your local community – these can offer invaluable support, and potentially create lifelong friendships.

Join NaNo to make the most of the webinar’s and support it offers during November. 

Visit your Local Library:

Is there any information on local groups?

Do they have activities or workshops for writers?

Local writing organisations: 

In our case, we’re lucky to have a vibrant community of writers locally. The Christchurch Writers Guild ( https://chchwriters.org ), New Zealand Society of Authors ( http://authors.org.nz/about/branches/canterbury/ ), and the Romance Writers of New Zealand ( http://www.romancewriters.co.nz/about/regional-meetings/ ). The latter of which have local chapters who organise workshops, monthly meetings, and local write ins. Investigate if there is anything like that near you.

This may all seem a little much for the writer who’s new to this, but these lessons have been learned over four years. And if I’m completely honest, I’ll undoubtedly learn more lessons this year. 

Furthermore, there are two more things to remember during NaNo:

The first: Switch off that inner-critic. That little niggle of self-doubt is the worst thing for creativity. He/ she will whisper in your ear as you write, telling you you’re taking the wrong direction, that your writing is crap, that this is a waste of time. He’s a pain in the ass, and needs to be told that. My first year I let him really get at me. Kept re-reading what I’d written, questioning whether I was made for the whole writing thing. So the second year, I made a poster. “Inner-critic you’re banned from my study for a month.”

Childish perhaps, but psychologically, I refused to listen to anything the rotten demon. He had no part in my NaNo journey, or any writing journey from that day on. 

The second: is to enjoy. Have fun. Creativity and writing are a truly exciting opportunity to explore something that few of us ever do. People will poo-poo you, “Gah, why would you write? There’s no money in it? Why waste the time?”

If it’s something you truly want to do – then do it. Enjoy it. Lose yourself in your own fantasy world. Whether it be crime, mystery, fantasy, a children’s story or a romance, NaNo is the one time of the year you can say “Okay, I’m gonna do this.”

Whether you have a PC, or a rudimentary paper and pen. Let your imagination run wild for the month. You never know where it might take you. 

I hope this helps, and that you enjoy your NaNo journey. 

Emma jottermonster


emlowe2Emma Lowe moved to North Canterbury from Dunedin three years ago. She promptly joined the CWG and was overwhelmed to discover not only a network of writers, but a group of people who have become close personal friends. She has been focusing on her writing ever since (at least when she’s not juggling kids and the family business). She predominantly writes romance, and is also a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, amongst other writing organisations.

Another day in the life of a NaNo-Nut: Preparation

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nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200 As November looms, so thousands of writers worldwide start to prepare for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). A month when they will throw themselves into the annual challenge of writing a fifty-thousand-word novel. That may sound impossible, but for many, they’ll achieve it. For others, they’ll take that enviable step of actually realizing their literary dream.

This year will see me undertake my fourth NaNo journey. With each year my writing has grown, and with each year, I’ve realized there are things I need to do to improve the next years’ experience. And so, as I prepare this year, I’ve separated preparation and planning, both personally, and professionally where my writing is concerned.

Angela asked me to write about my NaNo experience, so here goes.

Preparation (a personal perspective)

1. Make sure you have a creative space to work in.
It’s not always easy. Whether you live alone, or with a family, there’s always distractions. Whether it be the urge to tidy up and vacuum, or having to listen to your teenage sons’ music. As a result, if you are going to write, you need a place you can feel comfortable in.

Do you need an uncluttered workspace? Do you work best with your family around you? Do you work with chaos around you? It’s all up to the individual. I know writers’ who work in the kitchen in the midst of their family. And writers who need to escape from the chaos that’s home. Everyone is different.

If not at home, then possibly a local coffee shop, the library. You need to feel comfortable where you write to avoid distractions, and the urge to procrastinate.

preparingfornano
Preparing meals for NaNo.

2. Pre-prepare meals
As a mom of six, understandably meal-times can be a little like feeding time at the zoo. However, I’ve found that during NaNo, if I prepare meals and freeze them, it makes for a far more efficient dinner time. As a result, during October, every time I cook a meal, I make double the amount and freeze the extra for the following month (why I don’t do this all year round I don’t know!). I’ll make cauliflower cheese, lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, shepherd’s pie, curries. I’ll prepare veg and then put it in freezer bags (I could probably buy frozen veg, but I’ve always preferred my own). I’ll have baking days, where I make muffins, potato wedges, anything that I know the family enjoy. So that when they’re hungry, they can merely take it out of the freezer and heat it up. Meaning they leave mom alone!

3. Make sure your family and friends are aware of what NaNo means to you, and them.

I’ve traditionally used a personal contract to reinforce my commitment to NaNo. I commit to my fifty-thousand-word goal, and have in the past reached as many as 125,000 words. This has only been possible by communicating with my family. They know what writing means to me. But during November, they’re aware that they don’t come into my study. They leave me to write. My husband bought me a hat, which he jokingly referred to as my writing hat. It’s become symbolic, in that if I’m wearing it, the family leave me alone to write.

Talk to your family and friends. Explain to them what NaNo is. What you intend to do. Why it means so much to you. Help them to understand why the month is important. If you’re going to commit, then you need the support of those around you. To be honest, my family become my own personal cheerleading squad. Watching as my daily tally grows. Urging me on all the way. That kind of support is invaluable to any writer.

4. Know what you want to achieve from NaNoWriMo

It’s all well and good committing to NaNoWriMo, but what do you want to achieve? Is it a novel you’ve always known you wanted to write, but never had the time? Is it your memoirs? Perhaps it’s a thesis? A collection of short stories? As you prepare for NaNo, set your goals. Know what it is you want before the month begins.

5. Buy yourself stationery.

stationeryMost people these days’ use computers, but one of the things I’ve found vital are notebooks and pens. I have small notebooks that fit in my handbag – each one labelled differently. Character notes, ideas, quotes, sources. I also have a large notebook that I use as journals and plotting diaries. I keep record of my progress, documenting how ideas evolve. How a character has changed; why I decided it needed to happen; if I decided to change a setting. All things that contribute to the evolution of my story. Not to mention picking up interesting snippets when I’m out and about.

6. Create a schedule

Identify what time of day is most effective for your writing. Are you a day writer? An early morning writer? Or do you like writing late into the night? In identifying it, you’ll be able to create a schedule for NaNo that most effectively uses your time for creativity. Do you want to just write for a couple of hours each day? Just an hour? Do you want to join a local write-in with the your local NaNo group. Research what’s available early, so that you’re not distracted during NaNo.

7. Set your goals.

Set yourself SMART goals (small, achievable, realistic targets). It might be a word count goal. I generally aim for 2,000 words a day. But I’m lucky enough to have the time to commit to having my bum in the seat far longer than many others may be able to commit.

To achieve 50,000 words in a month, then the average would be around 1650 words a day. You’ll find some days that is easy. Others will be a struggle. But they will generally average out if you’re on course for the fifty-thousand-word goal.

If you have a goal, you have something to reach for. A direction. So commit to that goal.

That’s pretty much everything as far as the preparation is concerned. I hope this helps with others planning their NaNo journey. It’s an exciting time of year, and with only a little over two weeks to go, preparation is well and truly underway for 2016’s NaNoWriMo.

Part 2: Planning to come!


emlowe2Emma Lowe moved to North Canterbury from Dunedin three years ago. She promptly joined the CWG and was overwhelmed to discover not only a network of writers, but a group of people who have become close personal friends. She has been focusing on her writing ever since (at least when she’s not juggling kids and the family business). She predominantly writes romance, and is also a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, amongst other writing organisations.