NaNoWriMo: Last Day. You Can Do It.

In 2010, I did NaNo, but I also had a big Thanksgiving trip planned to California’s Central coast. It was an amazing trip, but needless to say, I barely got any writing done.

Before I left I had about 39,000 words. When I returned, I had about 40,000. I was pretty pleased with that, truth be told, but I wanted more. I really wanted to finish.

So I did. On the 30th, I had nothing planned, so…

Eight hours.

10,000 words.


It was a great feeling to get that done.

You can too.

Once more into the breach!

NaNoWriMo: Halfway home. Stuck yet??

Hi, everybody! Sorry I dropped off the map. Between NaNo and the nice little boost of editing and non-profit work you’ve been sending my way (many thanks to you all!), I’ve been busy. I suppose that as soon as I committed to NaNo and started running the sale on non-profit consulting, that work would ensue… but I have room for more! Please contact me today to get some great deals on editing. I am super-fun to work with, if I do say so myself. And as I recall, I promised you all a NaNo editing special. That’s still coming, I just needed to put it off a bit. Look for it around Thanksgiving.

End PSA. On with the post!

Today is the end of the first half of NaNoWriMo. Dun-dun-dunnnnn!

Hit the doldrums yet?! I hope not. But if you did, here’s a few more ideas to get you going again:

  • Write from a different/new character viewpoint. New blood = new story.
  • Do something random. Add a flock of menacing ducks. An angry bank teller. Have an alien invasion at the mall. Make all the zombies start getting better. You know… weird stuff.
  • Talk out your story situation with friends or family. Have them give you random ideas for new conflict and then draw one from a hat.

Or maybe this is you: “I missed three days, and am waaaay behind. Help!”

  • Don’t panic.
  • Worry even less about typos.
  • Worry even less about the story making sense – as long as you can keep it going in a good/fun direction.
  • Make sure that you end your writing day in the middle of a scene rather than completing it. That way you know what you are going to write right off the bat next session, and it will be easier to get going.
  • Remove yourself from your normal situations. For example: Use an app that counts words, but isn’t one that you typically use or go outside or to a cafe to write.
  • Set up a reward system. Make it good. What are your favorite little things in life? Do that for yourself.
  • A couple of cheapies, but goodies: stretch descriptions and conversations. Make characters wax eloquent about otherwise boring details in a fun way. Describe every hair on the back of the murderous cat that is the villain of your sci-fi, alternate history.

Whatever you have to do to get that word count! And that brings up the question: what are YOU doing to keep yourself going? Share in the comments! You might help someone achieve their NaNo goal today.

Keep going, everybody! You can do it! Have a blast.

I’ll try to post sooner rather than later, but I’ll not make any specific promises. And please send me some more work! 🙂

It’s Four Days into NaNo. How are you doing??

Hopefully better than me! I started day one like gangbusters, but fell off on day two. Too much outside non-NaNo life intruded. This is all too typical of NaNo. Day two can be tough: the shine is already off and many folks think: Wait. I have to do all that AGAIN?

Yes, you do, but it’ll be alright. Here’s some things that you may be telling yourself already and some tips to get through them. Because you’re so very wrong about what you’re telling yourself!

I’ll never be able stick to it.

Don’t say that. Of course you will! Some days will be better than others and some days will be… awful. Just know that tomorrow is another day. And make sure that you have a good support system in place so people can kindly shame you into continuing when you think you’re ready to give up. Laugh at yourself. Writing a novel in one month is crazy funny. And don’t forget: crazy fun. It’s supposed to be fun!

I’m Terrified of the Blank Page.

Don’t worry. No one is judging you, aside from – most likely – you. Put that voice aside and get creating. You don’t have to be William Faulkner or Stephen King right off the bat. Just be you. The world already has plenty of Faulkner and King; it needs more YOU. Put something on the page or screen and then put something else. Don’t stop. Just write. BICHOK it. That’s “Butt In Chair; Hands On Keyboard.” Go. No judgement allowed.

I’m still stuck. Any more advice, brainiac?

  • If you’re going to worry about quality anyway, try this: deliberately set out to write something you hate or is bad, as long as it’s within the context of your story. The trick is this: write the best nonsensical crap you can. Pulitzer crap. Once the juices are flowing again, you’ll just write your story.
  • Try writing about the noises you hear outside or in the office wherever you are.
  • Type what you’re feeling about being anxious and then put it into a character. Make sure that they overcome some part of their issues before the end of the scene.
  • Ask a random passersby for an idea on setting or character quirk or bad-guy doomsday scenario. Then use it verbatim. With permission.

Whew. I’m going to take my own advice here and get back to work!

What are you doing to get through your early NaNo roadblocks? Or what are you doing that’s allowed you to avoid them? Please share in the comments!

NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 5: Three Reasons I Write to Music

Not every writer likes to write to music, but many do. I am one of those.

Here are 3 reasons that I rock out to get my word count.

  1. Concentration. Music sort of walls in my head and helps keep aural distractions to a minimum. And that is something that really, really helps for NaNoWriMo – especially if you haven’t hit your daily word count goal for the day. Also, I never would have been able to do NaNo on a busy, noisy train without good headphones and loud music.
  2. Create different moods for different scenes. I have different playlists set up for different emotions. Need angry or determined? Cue up some raucous, kick-butt movie music. Contemplative? Chill electronic or trance. Romance? A playlist of 1970s movie love themes. It works. No, really, it does.
  3. Motivation. Sometimes it’s hard to get going, so I put on some music and wait for the muse to show. She generally comes riding in on the wings of heroic movie soundtracks.

Type of music is definitely important to me. Here are 3 of my favorite music types for writing.

  1. Instrumental Soundtracks. So many moods… and almost no words to get in your brain. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Hanna, Conan the Barbarian (the Schwarzenegger version of course), and How to Train Your Dragon are among my favorites.
  2. Electronic and New Age. Two different types of energy and again… no words. For electronic, I just put on Spotify or iTunes radio and go. For New Age… can’t go wrong with Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Air series.
  3. The music of the 1980s. Yes they have words, but I know all these songs from my childhood so well, that I don’t ‘hear’ the words any more. Lots of pep really gives me forward momentum. Your milage may vary.

(Why no classical? I can listen to some classical, but I find it extremely distracting since I have two degrees in French horn performance. All of my music theory classes kick in, and I’m down the rabbit hole of analysis!)

Please share you favorite writing music in the comments!

And that does it for my NaNoWriMo Tools series! Hope you enjoyed it. If you missed the other installments, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Scrivener 2.5 dropped today!

It’s NaNoWriMo Christmas, everybody! Keith and Co. at Literature and Latte have gifted us with a new Mac version of Scrivener.

Go get it here or in the Mac App Store. And see all the new goodies this version features here.

Highlights are OS X 10.9 ‘Mavericks’ compatibility (which is available free(!) in the Mac App Store), compile upgrades, import from Scapple adjustments, and what seems to be a fair amount of bug stomping.

New toys. Love it.


NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 4: Going Portable

I did a huge percentage of my first NaNoWriMo in 2007 while commuting by train. I did my third one largely on my iPhone with two thumbs and raucous movie soundtracks blaring through the headphones. I was working full time, not living the beautiful, flexible life of a freelance editor with a sense of humor, so I had to squeeze the writing into my schedule where I could. Like a lot of you will! The easy way to go is a laptop, but these days, that’s not the only way to get NaNo done. I started using my iPad and iPhone so much, that I don’t even have a laptop any more! (Mac Mini, since you asked.)

Portability is really big for NaNo, and here are some ways to go about it for your non-laptop portable device… and a couple for the laptop diehards as well!

Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive or other cloud-based file storage service

Just from a back up standpoint, one of these services is a must. My Scrivener file is set to auto-save like every two seconds and it is immediately backed up to Dropbox. From a portability standpoint, these services (potentially) tie into various word-processing solutions. (See below and here.)


This is the one that I use right now to get my Scrivener files portable. It’s a bit tricky to do, but it works well. Here’s a video that Keith made awhile back that describes the process. Please watch it carefully! It’s a hair cumbersome, manual sync, but once it’s set up, it works very well for heavy Scrivener users. One downside is a lack of formatting (plaintext only), but in NaNo, who has time for that anyway? (Another note: they are building Scrivener for iOS as we speak. And when it comes, there will be much rejoicing!)


Ostensibly a note-taking app, it’s cross platform and works nicely with… you guessed it: Scrivener.

Google Drive/Apps

You could just write the whole thing in Google Docs. Works on your computer, phone, tablet, and probably your Xbox360. Downsides? Need internet connection to stay updated, though there is an offline mode for computers.

LogMeIn Free

This is great to use on your work computer. During your lunch break, of course! (Wink, wink.) Why use a stripped-down setup on the go, when you can beam in to your meticulously crafted NaNo mission control? Works great on computers and very well on tablets. Smartphone experience is a bit compromised, but more than doable if a brainwave hits you while on the bus.

A reader clued me into this one, and it looks lovely. You need an internet connection, but Yarny’s desktop web interface is uncluttered and simple to use and they have a free iOS app. It actually reminds me of a web version of Scrivener. You can tag and search, color code, move chunks of text around easily, and more. You can export to plain and rich text, as well as straight to ePub. And it counts words.

So many ways to go portable. How do you do it? Let everyone know in the comments!

(Only one more NaNo Tools post to go, and it’s going to be a fun one. Sorry… it’s a surprise!)

NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 3: Get Organized

I know. know. I can see you squinting at me.

I said that too much organization for NaNoWriMo was a bad, bad thing.

But some of you are going to do it anyway, either because you have the experience to make it work or because you’re freaky control freaks (not judging, truly) and need to know what’s coming for your story to feel comfortable.

Here’s the thing: organizational tools are also super-helpful if you really get in a snag mid-month. And it will likely happen to all of us to some degree.

Here are some of my favorite organizational tools for noveling. (And remember, I’m a Mac guy, so these will mostly be for that platform. Please, please chime in with options for PC in comments!


This is the mac daddy of all organizational tools for Mac (see what I did there?). You put your thinking down in documents called ‘idea spaces,’ and they are awfully powerful. You can do hierarchical lists, mindmaps, and tables; pull in pictures, video, audio, PDFs, Word docs, weblinks… all in the same space. Everything is customizable, so you can change the backgrounds to colors or pictures or tiles, make a bright green list, or a rainbow mindmap. I find the visual stimulation inspiring. It’s especially great for worldbuilding and creating characters. Head over to Zengobi’s website to see just how powerful Curio is. And, it seems to be on sale right now. Go get it.


This little gem is made by the guys that brought you Scrivener, and will be great to help you get out of a jam in the middle of NaNo. At first blush, it seems like a mindmapping tool, but it’s really not (though you can use it that way). I didn’t understand what it truly brought to the table until I started using it. Scapple allows you to quickly get bursts of information and ideas down… with zero hierarchy. This allows you to then find connections that you didn’t know existed. I can imagine getting stuck in the story in November and using this to get me out of it. Just put the current story and character elements that are tripping you up into their own little chunks, start throwing out some ideas. You’ll find the connections between them in no time… and those connections will generate story. And just like that, you’re back on track.

Mindmapping Tools

I’m not much of a mindmapper, and I don’t have a dedicated mapping program, but here’s a handy link to a recent article on some good options. If you cotton to mindmaps, let us know how you use them and why in the comments!


Scrivener again?? “You’re obsessed!” you’re saying. Yes, I am. It’s great program for writers. And it organizes too. Its basic text-handling structure is an outline, and it has both outline and index card views. And there’s more: a section dedicated to research documents (which don’t count against your word count), as well as character and place sketches and more. Since the text is married to an outline structure, moving scenes to a better position is a snap.

Personal Wiki

This isn’t for NaNo necessiarily, but I thought I’d mention it. A personal Wiki can be a great tool to use for worldbuilding. Imagine having an encyclopedia that you wrote yourself with everything about your world including all the internal links that make Wikipedia the beautiful time-suck that it is. You’ll have to learn the Wiki markup syntax, but if you’ve ever even dabbled in HTML or a similar markup language, then getting up to speed won’t be at all difficult. Here’s a PC Magazine article about how to setup and use personal wikis.

Whether it’s for NaNoWriMo or not, what tools do you use to stay organized as you trundle through your text?