NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 2: Focus Tools

NaNoWriMo is super fun. But it’s not always easy to get through the month. There are so many reasons to abandon the enterprise: work, kids, football, video games, government shutdowns… the list goes on and on.

But don’t give in! You can fight through the distractions… even the dreaded, yet sweetly seductive siren song of the internet. No really: you can avoid Facebook for 1700 words worth.

Yes, you can.

Stop shaking your head! I’m telling you…

Okay, look: here are some tools and methods to hold distraction at bay and become a NaNo winner!

Distraction-bashing Word Processors

The makers of OmmWriter say on their website that:

OmmWriter is here to serve you. Re-connect with your old friends Concentration and Creativity, and discover the bliss of single-tasking.

That’s exactly what you need to succeed at NaNoWriMo. And OmmWriter provides a serene, beautiful container in which to create. It features a simple full-screen text editor, soothing visual backgrounds, enveloping musical soundscapes, and keystroke sounds that will make you want to press on. It only does plain text, so you don’t even have the distraction of bold and italics.And it counts words. I go to this when I really need to bear down. Then I copy/paste back into Scrivener.

If that kind of visual and aural situation is not for you, try Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom. Same full-screen editing capabilities, in a much simpler form both from a sight and sound standpoint. You can change the screen and font color to create your own themes, which can be shared.

For more ideas for distraction writing software check out this article over at the American Genius.

Ways to Avoid the Internet

This is hard. Really hard. Sometimes you have to go with drastic measures.

Freedom. This is what we want: freedom from the temptation of the internet. Turn it on, set the timer, and it cuts off your network. The only way to subvert the app is to reboot. Not insurmountable, obviously, but will make you think hard.

SelfControl is another internet blocker to try.

Or you could try actual self control to avoid checking Twitter and your newsfeeds. If you find a way to do that, bay all means, let me know!

Pick Where You Work Carefully

The internet is not the only distraction. Your phone, family, friends, dogs, and work will all clamor for your NaNo time. Don’t let them divert you! Make sure that you choose a place to work that allows you to avoid all this. Is it a closet in your house? How about the local bar or café? The park? (I’ll post about methods of going portable soon.) Make sure that you try different places and setups until you find the one that you’re most productive in. But don’t be afraid to switch things up if you need too! The only thing that matters is the word count!

What are you going to do to make sure that distractions don’t crush your dreams of calling yourself a novelist? Let us know in the comments!

Next up: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Get You Organized

After that: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Help You Go Portable

Starting later this month (October 2013), I’ll be running a sale on all editing services! And at the end of November, look for another special offer for NaNo winners… both past and present.

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep? That’s a Darn Good Question.

Unless you’re an experienced author or NaNoWriMo veteran, I don’t recommend much in the way of outlining or other deep prep. NaNo works far better if you employ ‘discovery writing,’ that is: make it up as you go with as little to go on as possible, as opposed to planning thoroughly. (Gardener vs. Architect.) This is a fun way to write, as it is more like the reading experience: lots of surprises. It’s a blast when your characters start doing unexpected things!

But… a little prep can go a long way towards making sure you stay on track, and don’t get discouraged.

Experienced writers can do more prep if they like, but I do recommend that inexperienced folks keep it to the minimum. Still, it’s not a good idea to start from complete ignorance. Before November 1, make sure you know at least something about the following:

  • Genre – Deciding whether you’re doing an action-adventure or post-apocalyptic dystopia brings in a whole host of standard assumptions that you can rely on to help guide the story.
  • Setting – A ‘where’ and what that ‘where’ is like is super-helpful.
  • Basic Plot – Hero’s journey? Love triangle… or pentagram? Decide in general terms what will drive the conflict in your story.
  • Protagonist and antagonist – Who does the story revolve around? What are they like at the beginning? Where do think you’d like them to go? What are their primary internal conflicts? (David Farland on Characters (short but mightily helpful))
  • The End – Not everything, but something about the end, even just an inking of an idea can help keep you going when you get to the doldrums of NaNo (and it will happen!).

One more important thing to keep in mind: When you do get to the doldrums and your story stagnates, be ready to introduce conflict to keep your plot moving forward and your characters jumping!

Have fun getting ready for NaNo! Let me know in the comments how you’re going to prepare – or if you’re a vet, how you’ve prepared in the past.

4 Reasons To Do NaNoWriMo: Professionals

You’re already a professional writer/author with many worshipful fans. You fly first class… every once in a while. Your new iPhone 5s is gold for crying out loud! Why should you bother with NaNoWriMo?

Here are four reasons that you might:

  1. Get that novella or novelette done. You’ve been putting it off, but no more. If you can, set aside November to bang it out NaNo style. Then you can go get your Hugo or Man Booker prize. Maybe a Nobel. (Probably not.)
  2. Free-write a new concept or world that you have big plans for long term. NaNo can be the lab you need for nearly consequence-free experimentation. Just like in college.
  3. Try out something wacky or something that’s not your usual style. Usually write romance? Maybe give a techno-thriller a whirl. Been toiling away on an urban fantasy series? How about some Law & Order fan fiction? No judgement. We all need a break.
  4. Marketing. Tell your legions of adoring fans what you’re up to. Blog about it. Tell them about your trials & tribulations, as well as your triumphs. It’ll be great for them to see another side of you. Unless that side is kind of a jerk. Then maybe refrain.

What other reasons might you devote your valuable time to NaNoWriMo? Let us know in the comments!

4 Reasons To Try NaNoWriMo: Amateurs

“I’m not a writer.”

You and many others like you said it, but I don’t believe you or them! Here are four reasons you should try NaNoWriMo:

  1. If you’ve ever said to yourself: “Hey… wouldn’t this be kinda cool to see in a movie or story?” Of course you have. This is your chance to finally create that show-stopping scene involving dolphin ninjas, their alien abductors, and the original Broadway cast of Les Mis.
  2. A new challenge for you and your friends. Make it social. Throw some writing parties. Talk trash. (Your character’s mama is so stupid…) It’s more fun with other people. (Sign up for NaNo at their website! There are forums and local writing groups for fun and moral support.)
  3. To find the story lurking in your heart and brain and guts. They say that we all have one good novel in us. I say we all have more than one… but you have to have a good reason to get that first one out. With NaNo, you can. No muss, no fuss.
  4. So you can say: I am a novelist. Maybe you won’t get published or self-publish, but you did it. You wrote a book. And isn’t that freakin’ cool?! Yes. Yes it is.

What other reasons do you have for writing your book? Let us know in the comments… and happy writing!

NaNoWriMo is coming. Are you ready?

NaNoWriMo2013ScrivScreenshotIt’s coming.

It’s time to write the novel you’ve always wanted to write.

Don’t fear the blank page!

Sign up at NaNoWriMo.org today, then follow along here for tips to get you ready. And when your masterpiece is complete on November 30, come back and get it polished up by The Refined Word.

And get Scrivener, a great tool for novel-ing at the speed of NaNo.

Link

As writers, we’re always looking for something, some system to not only increase our productivity, but also increase the quality of said production. There are tons of ideas about this floating around on the web, from the micro-level minutiae of Getting Things Done-type systems to the time-based systems like the Pomodoro Technique.

But maybe the answer is in biology!

Check out the link below. As a former professional French hornist, I can attest that this kind of productivity rhythm works. What works for you? Shoot me a link in the comments!

Why You Need To Unplug Every 90 Minutes | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

5 Random Writing Rules You Can Often Ignore

It has been said – by me, incidentally – that the road to hell is paved with writing rules. Too much adherence to the many rules that are out there can cause paralysis of action in your daily routine, stilted prose… or even the dreaded writer’s block. But writing rules are interesting, and there is truth in nearly all of them.

I was looking around for a compilation of various author’s writing rules and ran across this article in the Guardian from a few years back. I think I remember reading it the first time. Then, as now, I’m struck by both the consistency and the contradictions. Read through to see what I mean. With so many rules, they can’t all be right, right? Here are 5 writing rules (not all of them from the article, lest you think I’m senile) that I think can be ignored or modified:

1. Never start a book in the middle of a fight scene

This definitely depends on the book genre, but the conventional wisdom on this is that you can’t care about a character you don’t know yet, so a fight scene is emotionally meaningless. I think that this is an odd idea. The fact that the author is showing me a (probably main) character in danger from the beginning makes me care more. And you can make your opening fight scene heavy with incongruous character self-reflection or pithy banter that can give the reader important information they need in order to get to know that character quickly.

2. Avoid prologues

If you’re writing epic fantasy, this rule is right out. A thriller or romance probably doesn’t need it, but a prologue is too good of an opportunity to establish an epic feeling or introduce history to your story before debuting the main character(s). Brandon Sanderson confessed to sneaking in three prologues in his Stormlight Archive series opener, The Way of Kings. There is a Prelude, which serves as the prologue to the entire series, the Prologue of the book, and Chapter 1, another prologue-esque section. And you know what? The book doesn’t suffer for it. Robert Jordan became increasingly notorious for his lengthy prologues in the Wheel of Time series. So don’t worry about it in Fantasy. Fans of the genre almost expect it.

3. Write only when you have something to say

This depends on what is meant by ‘something to say.’ If you have a philosophical idea that you want to get across, well you better have an engaging story to use as a vehicle.  If you have no story, then your fiction is going to be a non-starter. But how many great stories or novels have come out of free-writing exercises? Was there a plan there from the outset? If there was, it was probably extremely thin.

4. Stop reading fiction, read non-fiction instead

Ridiculous. If this rule (which is in the Guardian article) was less crazy, I would have ignored it. But, come on… Fiction writers want to write fiction because they enjoyed reading it so much. Why stop? And besides, it’s important to keep up with the trends and styles in your genre and make sure that you aren’t rehashing something that some other author has already covered in the same way you’re planning. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read non-fiction. By all means, be as omnivorous as possible in your reading, so long as it’s quality.

5. Eradicate all adverbs

This will be the most controversial of my stances, I’m sure. But adverbs, within reason, are fine. It’s true that most adverbs shift emphasis away from good action verbs, so certainly don’t use them in speech attributions like in a Tom Swifty: “I don’t remember which groceries to get,” Tom said listlessly. Adverbs are a quick way to make prose seem more poetic, but don’t  fall into that trap overuse them. And that’s the key: never to excess. Look… adverbs happen. Even the great adverb abolition crusader Stephen King occasionally drops one on us. And he pointed out in his glowing review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that Rowling’s use of adverbs was “endearing rather than annoying.”

Writing rules aren’t bad things, but watch out for them so that your writing doesn’t get wooden. You’re better off taking a few to heart, then adding your own rules as you gain experience. Or you could follow Neil Gaiman’s ‘rules’ and be just fine.

What are some writing rules that irritate you? Let me know in the comments!