Tag Archives: Deadlines

Resisting NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place every November. The point is to write a novel in 30 days, which turns out to be approximately 1667 words per day. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in it, and every year I have said, “Maybe next year.” The truth is, I could never really see the point. I’m a professional writer with several published novels to my credit. It seemed as though NaNo was for people who had no discipline or needed something like that in order to get the job done. How many, after all, finished anything worthwhile?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Well, this year, when I said, “Maybe next year” to my friend Pam Herber, she said, “You say that every year.” The gauntlet had been thrown.

So I did it. Every day I wrote approximately 1500-1800 words, with an extra spurt at the end that had me finish a couple of days before the deadline, and this is what I discovered:

1. I now have 2/3 of a poorly-conceived, messy, ugly, unwieldy first draft of a potentially good novel that I would not have had had I not participated in NaNoWriMo. I wish I had taken a week to prepare for my project, both plot and character, before the start of the challenge.

2. I had fun doing it, meeting friends in coffee shops to write together with headphones and caffeine.

3. I complained a lot because I didn’t get a Saturday or Sunday off, not even Thanksgiving Day, but I didn’t complain too loudly, because by Thanksgiving, magic was happening in the twists and turns and character development in my book.

4. I watched as my online NaNo “buddies” struggled with and overcame difficulties to also complete the challenge. Not all of them made it.

5. The pep talks the NaNo folks send almost daily are funny and insightful. Though I didn’t attend any regional events, they were frequent and looked to be a lot of fun. I might pop in on the Thank God It’s Over party tomorrow to accept my winner’s pin.

6. NaNoWriMo has writing events all year long. Darfinkle, my regional liaison, is going to give a presentation at the Wordcrafters in Eugene conference next March about NaNo and its camps and youth programs.

7. I read Chris Baty’s funny book, “No Plot? No Problem.” Chris is the founder of NaNo, and he might be more surprised than anybody about how well it has taken off. He has a lot of tips to writing a novel in this book and I found it to be a good read.

Really now, what is the need in the world population that NaNo has filled? That is a question worth considering, because I think that over 600,000 people registered this year, from all over the globe.

8. My process of writing urgently, under deadline, was more than validated. For 23 years I held a series of weekend retreats where all participants were required to write a short story in 24 hours. Though many never believed they could do that, nobody ever failed. 50,000 words in 30 days is a little different, but the same idea prevails.

So now I have a first draft to finish, reorganize, and polish.

Will I do NaNo next year?

Likely. If you do, “buddy” me so we can encourage each other on this crazy journey. It is a writing experience like no other. Highly recommended, at least once. NaNo

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Filed under Learning, Possibilities, Reading, Writing

Has Summer Destroyed my Work Ethic?

I’m out of practice. Out of sync.

And I think it’s because I don’t have a deadline.

Normally, I get up, get coffee, and get to work. I stop briefly for breakfast with the husband and dog, and then I’m back at it until I’ve either finished my page count or am ready to shoot myself because the words won’t flow. Fiction, nonfiction, school papers… I get up and go to work.  My deadlines are met, my papers are in on time, and I get books written.

Not any more. This summer I seem to have begun to hone the fine art of fiddling around. Like now. It’s 10:40: prime writing time for me, as I’m my fictional best in the morning and the worst in the afternoon, and what am I doing? Blogging. Sweeping the kitchen floor. Doing the dishes. Brushing the dog. Hanging out on Facebook.

Frittering.

Well. The summer will soon be over and I’ll have not only my thesis to write, but school papers, not to mention the current novel in progress, which I’m deeply into in my mind, but clearly not on the page. So this has been a nice summer break, puttering in the garden and making delicious home made bread for Al’s sandwiches, but the time has come to get a renewed grip on myself.

Henceforth: I will get up in the morning, get coffee, and get to work, and I will not fritter until my page count is in on fiction or I have accomplished a nonfiction goal.

This is the way things get done in my office.

This is the way my books are written. Not by inspiration, but by daily page count.

Here we go…

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Filed under Coffee, My New Novel, time, Writing

Let’s Talk About Professionalism

I just finished editing an anthology for Rick Ramsey at TripleTree Publishing, and I need to say a word about professionalism in our industry.

I hear would-be writers cry the blues all the time about not being able to get published. Well, I just remembered why. You don’t do your homework, and you have a misplaced sense of entitlement.

I received manuscripts late. I received manuscripts that were incomplete. I received manuscripts that were single spaced. Or that were double spaced, with an extra space between paragraphs, some of which had no paragraph indentations. I got manuscripts that had funky punctuation which I had to fix (very time consuming) before it could go into the file for the book designer. I edited manuscripts, kicked them back to the authors for their okay on the revisions and never heard back. I got whole new manuscripts back after editing, making all my hard-earned revisions useless, because the old formatting was back.  Which I had to re-do.Some of these were professionals. And then, on top of all of that, I had two rude authors. I don’t need rude.

Not everybody behaved badly, but I could easily tell who was a professional.

One manuscript stood out because of this: It was perfect. It arrived on time, in pristine condition. I had not one single editing suggestion. It didn’t even have a misplaced comma. The story was tight, well-told, and I knew instantly that this was a professional author. I was right. Linda Clare.

So listen up. If you want to be a professional, then dammit, act like one. Stop whining. Make your deadlines. Submit what you’re asked to submit when you’re supposed to submit it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Act like a professional.

And be nice.

If you do those simple things, chances are, you’ll get published. A lot.

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Filed under editors, Uncategorized, Writing

Neurotically punctual

I can’t be late. For anything, ever. I am always early. Embarrasingly so, occasionally, and my annoyance with my husband when he makes me late is always way out of proportion.

I’ve known this about myself for many years, but it has just recently come home to me because I’m in graduate school, and this program is all about writing research papers.

Because of the way the coursework is set up, sometimes we don’t finish the class until the weekend before the end of the term. So obviously, we have an extra month in which to write our papers. Our grade shows up as a Work In Progress. But then we start a new term and a new class, and there will be a paper due at the end of that one, too.

I know myself, and I know that if I get behind, I will go crazy. Besides, I want to put the old class behind me so I can concentrate on learning the new material.

Other people in my class don’t sweat it. They take the full amount of time allotted, and make certain that their papers are just exactly right before turning them in, even if there are several papers in their personal queue.

I can see by talking with them that I’d rather get it done and turned in on time than producing the best work it can be.  This is not a good thing.

I wonder if there was an incident in my childhood that produced this peculiar neurosis. Perhaps it was too many years in the deadline-driven advertising business.

Oh well. I guess I’m not bugged enough by it to get myself analyzed. I can, however, work on being a little calmer around deadlines.  Frantic is worse for my health than being late, and I need to remember that.

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Filed under college, Stress