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The truth about me & NaNoWriMo

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My official word count for NaNoWriMo is 53,383.  The first 30k was completed in 7 days at the beginning of the month.  My initial goal was 30k because I decided to co-write a book with my Mother-in-law where we each take on 30k for the month.  When I finished my portion of the thing, I sat around moping for a couple of days – this unbelievably ridiculous state of mind I get into when I have finished one project and lament I will never come up with another idea again – then struck upon a fresh idea for a book and decided to go for the NaNoWriMo gold by writing another 20k on the new project.  

Great success!

I made it, with time to spare, but the differences in the process of two books were astounding.  The first book had a basic outline, a plot element for each chapter, a handful of characters and a direction when I started out.  It went smoothly and I barely batted an eyelash in the struggle to come up with a plot.  The second book started out with a concept and that’s it.  Despite the fact that I know the ending of the book, I still have no clue where I’m going with it and the tension is waning because of that.


So now I’m taking a break to reexamine the plot of book two and I decided to also examine my experiences with NaNoWriMo.  It was more illuminating than I thought it might be.  

So here’s the truth about me and NaNoWriMo.

I heart structure

I never thought I would say that.  I never thought it was true, but it all makes sense now.  My desk is sparse, I hate stuff and clutter.  I work best on one story/project at a time.  I took a test the other day that said I was a bit more right brained (organized/logical) than left brained (chaotic/creative).  After all this time of thinking I was so damn free wheeling and intuitive, here I am hearting the hell out of structure.  

Well shit.

Plotting is my least favourite part of writing a book, but it seems once I have the basics, I can easily string everything together. If left alone to my own devices (with no structure) I will meander like crazy and get nowhere fast.  

Who knew?


I guess I did, a little.  I guess in a way it’s lucky I like structure.  My desire for order has allowed me to be a successful freelancer for years and helps me to organize my thoughts and life easily.  But on the flip side I look to people who are able to be completely free and chaotic with a little bit of envy or at least great admiration.  Unfettered randomness is something I would love to be able to achieve, but I have trouble with it.  I can’t just let things fall as they may, I have a desire to pick them up and organize them if they are just scattered about.  

I suppose the grass is always greener isn’t it?

I’m a competitive bitch

It all started when I was young.  I was a figure skater and I competed fervently for medals.  I loved me my gold.  And when you’re young they say it’s not about winning or losing but I don’t think I ever really bought into that crap.  It is about winning and losing sucks.  

So now of course, every time there is a winning condition set for something, I’m on it like a woman possessed, teeth bared and ready to kick ass.  

Who am I competing with?


Well in this case no one in particular, but I still feel that thrill of competition which – if I followed it to it’s fullest extent – would probably allow me to tear down anyone in my path to get to the finish line.  It’s brutal and bloody in my mind.  It’s a chaotic mess of stress and holier-than-thou thought patterns.

Holier than who?

I don’t know…thou.  Whoever thou is in the moment.

I’m not proud of it but in a way I don’t want it to change because it really drives me to get shit done.  When engaged in competition I become a brutal bitch of a doer.  Definitely productive, if not completely healthy.

I have carpel tunnel

Never has it been more apparent then when typing around 4,300 words a day.  

Damn it sucks.  

Deadlines stress me out

For mostly the entire week I was writing my 30k I was stressed.  It’s possible it’s because my MC is a psychopath of course, but I think it was more than that.  I was putting a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to see just how fast I could do it.  So literally every moment spent now writing I felt stressed.  I felt like I ought to be writing.  

I feel that way just naturally when I’m not working on a project (or even sometimes if I am) but in the case of NaNoWriMo it was massively amplified.  Now in a way it’s good, because I know I will work like hell in the future when I have actual real deadlines, but I kind of wish there was a way to magically undo the stress of it all.  

I’m not satisfied with less

I think I would be kicking myself if I hadn’t done the full 50k.  I’m not satisfied with halfway to the prescribed goal of a thing.

I felt compelled – even if I didn’t realize it at first – to push my word count forward.  It got me a good head start on my new book admittedly, but in retrospect it might have been good to figure out an actual plan before I started it.  Luckily I’m not too far in that if I have to slash and burn a little, I won’t be completely heart broken.

So there you have it.  The truth about me and NaNoWriMo.


I learned a lot more than I thought I would.


So the question is: will I do it again?


I’d like to say the answer is no.  I mean when I have an idea for a book it rarely takes me longer than a month to write the thing.  Plus I’m hoping to get my actual career as a published writer going soon which will give me all the incentive I need (as if I’m lacking).  

But in the end, I might just concede that my competitive nature will flare up when word of next year’s NaNoWriMo hits the twitterverse and I might not be immune to the allure of something I can potentially ‘win’.  

Because even if it’s not a real competition, I certainly found a way to make it one in my mind this year and I can’t see that part of me changing anytime soon.

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NaNoWriMo advice from a fast writer

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I’m a fast writer.

Seriously, short stories take me an hour or two (maybe) and a first draft of a novel has yet to take me more than a month and a half (at most).  Fast is just the way I’m built.  I think fast, talk fast (much to my parent’s confusion), hell I even do dishes fast.  I’m impatient to get on with life, so I get’er done.  To me this is a blessing, although some might see it as a curse.  Once I was in a writing group and one of my group buddies told me that one of my short stories should be revised and revised and that I should work on it for months.  I laughed in his face then quit the group (okay so maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as all that, but I still did disagree and eventually leave because the pace of the group was too slow).  Fucked if I’m going to work on a short story for months, I have things to do with my life.  Don’t you?

Sure you do.  We all have things to do with our lives and we want to get on with it.

So you’ve decided to jump into NaNoWriMo have you?  You think you can write over 50,000 words in one month?  You think you can get a first draft of a novel done in 30 days?

You’re damn right you can.

Here’s a list of my best advice for people who need to write fast this November:

Let go of slow

I feel as though writers have this romantic image of themselves more often than not.  Imagine a secluded space, a darkened cafe or a mountain top, or a secret garden or a dusty library.  There the writer sits, rolling up their sleeves, dipping quill into ink pot and writing the most romantic words of all time, the words that will make the world shiver with delight and quiver with depth of meaning.  There’s writerly advice all over the place suggesting we slow down, take some time and delve into the ‘true spirit of writing’; this pen/pencil/quill in hand idea of what writing really means.  I’ve heard writing compared to meditation, a slow unravelling of self onto the page, a long, deliberate exploration of your inner thoughts.  Does this sound perfect to you?  Do you want to be the hermit writer on the mountaintop slowly penning the perfect prose?

Forget it.  You know what’s boring?  Meditation.  I tried it once and it sucks.  There you are sitting alone in some room or some park when the world is getting shit done.  And please, the idea of writing by hand not only makes my carpel tunnel flare, but it also makes me want to stab my eyes out with pencils.  Who said self exploration has to be slow?  Who said good things take time?  Life is short folks, embrace speed.  Thanks to technology the world is moving faster and faster.  You’re keeping up, so why not your writing?  Forget the notion of slow and deliberate and open yourself up to the creative chaos that is breathless speed, the kind of speed that doesn’t let you pause and think, or ruminate on your success/failure.  The more you think (or over think) the slower you are likely to be because the thoughts and nit picking will slow you down.


Get busy

Schedule other things in your life, fill it up.  The more you have to do, the better because the more you will want to/need to cram into what little time you have left to write.

Also, the act of being out in the world is damn inspiring, walking inspires genius (so does working out – I’m pretty sure physiologically working out is good for your brain).  Taking time to let your mind work away in the background can be the very thing you need.  Don’t shy away from a social life, be inspired by it instead.  The more you force yourself into the writing without breaks or time to think the more clunky your thoughts will become.

Always schedule time to breathe.

Get bored

I bore easily.

As Ben can attest to, I need constant entertainment.

This is probably one of the main reasons I write so fast, because I get bored of my stories.  Not because my stories are boring (at least I hope not) but because there is only so long I like to linger in one spot.

So try getting bored.  Get bored of the word you are struggling with and move on.  Get bored of the sentence and keep going.  Get bored of the chapter, the situation and keep it fresh.  The more bored you are, the less you are likely to hang out with the same ideas forever.  Moving on is the best remedy for boring situations.

Relinquish attachment

I like to move.

I have changed apartments once a year for the past six or seven years.  Each time I move I toss out everything I possibly can (or sell it) and go into the new space fresh.  It’s liberating.  Stuff is just stuff, it means nothing in the grand scheme of things.  This state of mind, this relinquishing of attachment serves me well in writing too.

Words are just words.  They can be tossed out or rearranged like furniture, depending on your needs.  My ability to throw out things, items, objects, that I may have found important once allows me to quickly cull my words.  If a sentence isn’t working, I’ll cut it and start fresh with just the idea.  This allows me not only a certain amount of brevity, but a lack of attachment that I find speeds up my entire process.

Note:  If you have attachment issues and still want to try relinquishing as an experiment, just save drafts so you can go back and linger over your lost words once you are done NaNoWriMo.

Plan, a little

I’ve been running through the opening line for my NaNoWriMo project for the past week.  Just the first line.  The rest is broad strokes, open ended but with a vague idea of where I’m going.
I find a little bit of planning goes a long way, but too much can spoil the fun.  I’m writing a project with my Mother-in-law during the month of November which necessitated more planning than I’m used to.  But I don’t mind.  In my head it seems to be working out.
I don’t want to get stuck.  I don’t want an insurmountable surprise hurdle half way through.

A basic structure is a good idea and knowing the end is key.  Just enough to be ever so slightly bored.  To feel as though the story is slightly written, but still be left with some unexpected moments.

Dream big & positive

Before I even start a book I tend to think big.

I like to think about my potential audience, if I can sell it.  How it will be appreciated.

I don’t write to be famous or make loads of cash and I certainly don’t think anyone should (because good luck with that).  But it’s nice to imagine that some day your work may be read, enjoyed and even awarded, because who doesn’t like to be recognized for their talents and efforts?

I give you full permission to dream big, to imagine your adoring fans and your book/movie deals starring the hottest movie stars you care to imagine.  Because who knows?  And it’s always nice to have a little extra incentive to get writing.

Fuck your word count goals

Keeping track of work count is fun, but it can also be bad.
You have a story to tell, not a word count to achieve.

When Ben and I work out, Ben knows he has to work out for half an hour at least.  He used to watch the clock and as soon as it hit half an hour he would start feeling tired and give up.  So he started turning the clock around and magically he went for longer.

I’m not a psychologist, but I reckon that seeing your daily word count goal achieved will make you more likely to slow down once you’ve hit the mark and that’s just not good enough.

Try re-working the goal in your mind here’s some ideas of new ways to frame it that will probably get more out of you:

• Start writing after breakfast and write until you are genuinely hungry for lunch
• Give yourself a chapter goal – a chapter a day for example (especially good if you have a more concrete story outline)
• Write until you can’t physically write anymore
• Write until the idea is complete

Get competitive

I recently heard someone referring to completing their NaNoWriMo goal as ‘winning’ and I thought: fuck yeah.  I want to win the hell out of this thing.

I’m very competitive though, some people don’t care as much about winning as I do.

But in my heart I believe everyone cares at least a little about winning.  Find that time when you cared about winning something, whether it was the swim meet in grade 3 or the heart of your lover.  Find that and remember that feeling.  The elation, the high of competition.

Then go for the gold.

Win, win, win!

Open the document

This is the first hard part.

This is the one that gets me sometimes.

If you’re afraid to do it, it will never get done.  So just open the damn document and get typing.  I promise it isn’t as bad as you think.

So there you have it.  Some tips from a fast writer.
Have any more?  Let me know below!

P.S. If you actually want to be a writer, don’t use NaNoWriMo as a crutch – read THIS to catch my drift.

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The Finished Book Itch

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Finishing a book makes me itchy, restless, ready for the next thing.

It was just the first draft (of my third book) and it was just yesterday I completed it, but today I’m going a bit nuts.  I want to edit, but I want to take a break.  I want to write something new, but I want to finish the old one first.  Also I don’t want to start anything brand new because I’m launching into NaNoWriMo in a couple of weeks and although I write fast, I don’t think I write that fast.

It’s all very distracting, but the thing is it’s not actually distracting me from anything.  I had a list of things I needed to do once I’d finished the book.  I did them all in two hours.

I ate lunch, took a Bugs Bunny selfie (see above), then I was so impatient to write something, I decided on this blog post.

I feel as though I’ve been neglecting the blog, which is a shame, but in the past couple months that I’ve been neglecting the blog I’ve written two books, so it’s not all bad!

So the itch.  It’s kind of like a tingling in my fingers.  A searching feeling in my brain like I’m scanning for something I’m not quite sure of.  A couple short story ideas are floating to the surface, ideas I tucked away for later, but everything feels very absent, and itchy.

Here’s what happens when I get the itch:

– I tweet more…pictures of my lunch anyone?

– I blog more, in a more spontaneous way…this blog post is a perfect example, it’s what I’m thinking and feeling.  Right. Now.

– I bug Ben more…taps, pokes, kisses, repeating his name over and over…and over.

– I get comment-y…I have a deep desire to comment on everyone’s Facebook posts.

– I get the deep urge to clean things (and throw things out)…cleaning’s kind of my default, cleaning or working out.

– I crave more exercise…what’s better for the restless itch I ask you?

– I try to find things to organize…which is hard when everything’s already organized.

Damn the itch!

Honestly, after a moment’s reflection, I think it might have something to do with my desire to be doing something useful at all times.  I don’t want to ‘waste time’.  It makes it difficult for me to relax in general and maybe that’s a bad thing.  It’s certainly good when there’s writing to do, because I will get that shit done, but the part I really suck at is taking a break to relax.  I guess I could try to change my personality.  You know, try to chill out a bit and not be so frantic to move on to the next thing, but it’s just who I am.  So in the meantime…more blog posts and twitter pics for everyone!

Do you get the itch?  What do you do to alleviate it?