Posted in General

On NaNo Prep

If you’re feeling like November is breathing down your neck already, you’re not alone. There’s two weeks left before November first arrives, and with it, NaNoWriMo. That’s something I didn’t realize until sitting down to write this post. Time to complete any necessary NaNo Prep is running out.

Much as I like to write without a plan, it’s important to remember that NaNo is a marathon, not a print. Doing it without any sort of plan is possible, but not recommended. Doing it with zero preparation is absolutely inadvisable.

That leaves only a few options.

Option A, rush through and try to get outlines, character arcs and research done in two weeks. While doable, unloading a ton of energy into just preparing may not leave you enough energy to pour into the actual writing. Secondly, a rush job might leave holes later that need closing up, potentially dragging out the editing portion.

Option B is to hodgepodge things together. A vague outline or a couple of free writes might be enough. In the spirt of Rebel Wrimos, this is also a good place to decide once and for all that you’re going to do That project you keep putting off or finish This novel that you’ve been creeping through. It might mean you spend these last days making notes on what’s happened so far, and ideas of what’s coming up. It’s good for those who can flex well or have works-in-progress they want to put fifty-thousand words towards.

Option C is to dive into the story without a plan. That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do, and it will make your NaNo harder. It’s not something I’d recommend if this is a first attempt at NaNo. If however, you know your personal process well enough and if you’re already brimming with ideas, this is more than possible. It means rather than plotting or developing characters, your focus on the next two weeks is in filling your creative well with as many ideas as possible. Building playlists or creating mood boards is a good way to help with that for the hardcore pantsers.

Regardless of how detailed your plan is, you need to be prepared to put in a lot of work over the next thirty days. That includes making sure you have time dedicated to writing. If you haven’t told your family or friends about it, do it now! Today!

This is also a good time to clean out your space if you need to. Having a clean and fresh space to work from can help you focus on the task ahead, rather than getting distracted.

Finally, make sure you are taken care of. If that means setting up a reminder on your phone to get up and get some water, do so. Get a writing buddy that will also challenge you to stand up and stretch every thirty minutes or so.

Are you ready for NaNoWriMo? What’s your plan for November? Let me know in the comments!


Posted in Exercises, writing

NaNo ’18: A Writing Space

One of the things I’ve noticed is absolutely vital to my success during NaNo is having a particular space set aside for actually writing. Part of this likely has to do with the mindset of knowing that space is set aside for writing and that it’s not sharing space with half a dozen other things. Much like when you need a child to sleep, having a particular routine or space for them to do so can make it easier for your mind to transition from the day-job into the writing career.

For me, part of NaNo Prep is always prepping my space. This means cleaning out my desk space, tossing old papers and generally cleaning up the area. Since this is the last full week of October before NaNoWriMo starts, that was this week’s big goal.

This year however, I’d been forced to get a new desk as my old one had developed a very serious tilt to it, among other problems (chief among them being lack of space). Although I’ve had my new desk for close to three months now, it had none the less gotten cluttered with other things, so as per usual NaNo Prep, it was time to clean out and get ready.

Cleaning off the top so I had space to make notes was a big priority, as was putting all of the spare notebooks back in their appropriate folders. We’re guessing the desk I have is somewhere around the 1970’s era, so my monitor doesn’t actually fit in the space where it should go (hence why it sits to one side). Thankfully the cubbies on the side provide plenty of storage for the smaller idea notebooks, my graphics tablet, headphone case and yes, the keys for locking my desk up and protecting the computer from the cats. I also have a giant notepad which functions as my mousepad for those moments when I need to take a quick note.

With the top of the desk cleared, it was time to oil and polish the wood. With the age of the desk, I want to preserve it, so I spent a little extra time caring for the wood. (As a side project, since one of the drawers has had its knobs replaced by previous owners and no longer matches the rest of the fixtures, I eventually want to replace all of them and make them all match again).

Once the rest of the desk had been cared for, it was time to move on to the floor surrounding the desk. It’s on carpeting and I have a long hair cat who loves to sit under the desk when I’m working, so that meant some heavy-duty vacuuming. I also tucked a towel underneath since I know if there’s a towel on the floor, my kitty will inevitably decide to lay on it.

To make it feel like a proper writing space, a few small items do live on the top of my desk, such as my library books, a notebook for tracking wordcounts and my planner. Normally I also have a pen and a pad of sticky notes.

With the last big things out of the way for me, I’m more excited than ever to start NaNo. What about you? What does your writing space look like?

Posted in General

The Importance of Backing Up

Unfortunately today’s post comes as a reminder that things happen and that while we can’t prevent terrible things from happening, it never hurts to be prepared.

Over the weekend, my sister’s computer suffered some form of malfunction which wiped an entire folder and several additional files from the hard drive. The folder in question that suffered the most damage was in fact the folder containing all of her writing from the last ten years or so. Some of these were files brought over from previous computers, some of these were stories she’d only just started, or mere ideas she was saving for later.

The very unfortunate part of this is that she does not have back-ups of any of the lost files. The only reason she was able to technically ‘save’ one of the salvaged pieces happened because she’d temporarily stored another copy on a flash drive previously. Everything else existed as a single copy on one computer.

Ten years of writing is gone and lost to whatever crash, malfunction, glitch or other disaster caused them to be deleted in the first place. The lesson here is simple:

Back up your work frequently.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to email yourself a copy. You can either copy and paste the entire text into the body of the email, or attach it and then send it to yourself. This gives you the option to access your writing through the same places you access your email.

Another option might be using a service like Google Drive or even Microsoft’s OneDrive. If you have a gmail account, you already have access to Google Drive which boasts the use of 15 gigs of storage for free. Similarly, if you have a Microsoft account such as through Skype or even for the latest version of windows, you should have access to OneDrive online, which comes with a slimmer 5 gigs of storage. Both of these work with .doc or .docx files and have access to a word processor for those instances where you need both.

Don’t be afraid to use flash (USB) drives and other storage devices. Many of these can be attached to keys or easily stored in a wallet or purse. With a range of sizes and styles to choose from, you can easily find one to suit your needs and budget.

Finally, hard copies are invaluable protection against computer failure. Even in the event of total file loss, having a hard copy means you have something to work off of, even if you end up having to retype your manuscript. If you don’t have your own printer, some libraries offer limited printing, while many office stores also have a copy and print center where you can have everything printed out for a small fee.

Back up your files and if possible, do so in multiple ways. You can’t always prevent a problem, but you can be prepared for it.


Posted in General, writing

NaNo ’18: City Building

Since I’m being a rebel this year, a huge part of my NaNo Prep is actually getting the notes together to make sure my rewrite goes smoothly. The biggest part of that has been building the fictional city for my project. Because of the sheer amount of work I’ve been doing on that end, I thought I’d share some of that process, both to help anyone else in the same boat and as part of my NaNo ’18 Chronicles.


Once I picked out a name and relative location for the city, the biggest part was actually going through and picking out any details I’d put down in the early drafts. That left me with a list of locations and people’s names, which gave me a good place to start on figuring out my rough size of the city. After a little research I figured the city would have a population of around a hundred thousand.

With that figured out, it’s down to the map. That is turning out to be an adventure.

I’ve done continent maps before, and even sketched out little village maps, but a modern city map is something slightly different. I’m still in the early stages of figuring that out, but I’ll definitely have a post on that later, and hopefully it helps someone else out! Here’s a sneak peak for now.


As I’m going, I’m also building up a list of names to use for shops, streets and parks. some of my current (favorite) picks include:

  • Redden Blvd (I’ll also have Yellowed, Greener, Darkener and Lightened as street names)
  • Petite Palate
  • 3rd & Central (these are both a street name, and eventually the name of a coffee shop on the corner)

One of the big things I’m also running into is the exact placement of various city services such as police stations, fire departments and hospitals. Both response time and ease of access heavily affect these particular buildings.

Posted in Exercises, writing

NaNo ’18: NaNoPrep Reminders

We’re already halfway through October and it doesn’t feel like nearly enough time to get everything done and ready. November–and NaNo–is approaching rapidly, which is why I wanted to take a moment to share a few reminders.

Breathe. It’s okay if you need to take a break, even in the midst of the hectic writing event that is NaNo. Remember to give yourself some breathing space and room. Before you put pen to paper in the next few weeks, look at your upcoming calendar. Block out the time you’ll need to hit your goal, and don’t forget to add in some time to calm yourself and focus.

Be ready for anything. Life has a way of happening when we really don’t need or want it to. Things go wrong like computers getting fried, or work suddenly piling up. Be prepared for those things and don’t forget to back up your work as much as possible. Save early and save often to prevent losses from crashes or power outages. Keep copies stored in a couple of different places, just in case something does happen.

In that same vein though, be prepared for things to go right. Inspiration can strike at any time, and those moments where it all clicks together is occasionally an inopportune moment when you can’t stop what you’re doing and rush to write the brilliant solution. Keep a notepad handy for jotting down notes, or set a reminder to your calendar for when you’ve got a few more minutes.

It’s only the start. I know, you’re staring at that going ‘what do you mean the start? I’m getting ready to write fifty-thousand words!’ To which I say: Good, go for it! But also remember that you’re doing this in thirty days. Even if you’re rebelling and working on something you’ve done previously, it is highly unlikely you’re producing a perfect, polished and ready-to-go final draft that can be plopped right into the publishing machine.

If you finish NaNo with the full 50k, congrats! Celebrate a little, but don’t forget to do things like edit and polish later. Give yourself a time to come down off the rush of accomplishing a first draft and let your story settle so you can look at what really needs to be changed.

If you don’t finish NaNo, that’s okay too! You’re trying and that’s the important part. Keep working on that draft until it’s done, be that at fifty-thousand words, or a hundred and twenty-thousand words. Sometimes NaNo is a great way to get us started writing and to prove what we can and can’t do. But it’s only the first step in a long journey, keep putting one word down after another and you’ll get where you’re going eventually.

Embrace your potential. This month is going to be full of highs and lows. You may end up at the end of November with fifty-thousand words, or you may end up with only five thousand words. Anything is possible with NaNo, embrace it, and give it your best. You’ll never know what you can do until you try it.