Why I Now Believe In NaNo

Lookit what I won.

In 2011 I wrote a post entitled, “Why I Don’t Do NaNo.”

NaNoWriMo, to the uninitiated, is the National Novel Writing Month. Each November writers are encouraged to plant the butt firmly in chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel. It’s been going on for several years now, and it always brings out a lot of excitement in writer circles.

In 2011 I talked about how it didn’t work for me when I tried it a couple of times. It was good for some people, but didn’t work for everyone, and I was one of those writers.

Fast forward to 2013.

Facebook was buzzing with my writer friends saying how they were going to disappear for the month because of NaNo. The excitement was palpable. Just because I said I wasn’t going to do it, I felt a pang of missing out.

Man, they were going to have all this fun.

Then on October 30, I thought, why not? I can try it again. If I get a few thousand words out, it’s more than I would have had if I weren’t writing. My main project was under going another round of revisions, so it was out of consideration.

But there was this new idea I’d been composting for a while. I even got to do some brainstorming on it with Jill Williamson on our flight back from the ACFW writer’s conference in September. Would the new idea hold water? NaNo seemed like an opportunity to play with it and see what could happen.

I jumped in.

For the first week, I kept up pace. A writer has to average 1667 words a day to finish the 50,000 on time. Then life started interfering and I fell off. Well, at least I had some words down.

Except I had a taste of success. Circumstances worked out. I kept plugging away.

By November 28 I had three days left and 10,000 words to go. Could I do it? Facebook friends were now cheering me on. My wife succumbed agreed to let me have time over the holiday weekend to hit the keys.

And on November 30 I clocked in at 50,077 words.

So, this is partially a self-indulgent, congratulatory post. Whoo-hoo, I did it!

But I also learned some things about writing.

I learned how to push for a deadline. My first novel was written over seven years. No sense of urgency there. Now I knew I could be dedicated and churn out some significant production if challenged.

I was able to explore a new idea. Obviously the first draft of everything is mostly crap, but it forced me to work through some plot points, and there are a few keepers in there. Of course, the chapter where I was stuck and decided to interview one of my characters for “word count” won’t make the final cut. But I learned things about Demarcus that I can use later on. It’s all good!

Having a minimal outline helps. I was drowning for a bit until I brainstormed a few plot points to get me out of a bunch of conversations over food. Even when one of the points was, “something bad happens now,” it helped me have enough structure to push forward.

I went from doing 1000 words on my best day to 5200 words. Again, they came fast and furious, and I hope they at least make complete sentences, but I got them out. Now the revision scalpel can come out.

So to me in 2011 – you were wrong. You can do NaNo, and with the right circumstances it does help you out. But enough of the blog post – you’ve got revision to do. Get cracking!

Have you done NaNo? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.

Things Work Out

Oh. Hello again.

Seems to be an annual thing – a monkey wrench in the blogging plans for posting every week. Well, at least this time I’m pretty sure I have a good reason. There’s a little story involved so pull up a chair if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled mayhem next week.

It’s supposed to be Writing Wednesday here. To tie it in, I’ll say now that I’m glad I didn’t try to do NaNoWriMo. But the story starts before this decision.

It has been a year for strange occurrences. From meeting in a traditional church setting to spending Sunday nights in a park, to my first writer’s conference, 2012 has been a different beast.

The good news is, the Lord is in control and He guides His people.

We’ll pick up in the summer when my wife and I are trying to plan for a trip to Disneyland we’ve been wanting to do for a while. As a homeschooling family, we have freedom to do it at alternate times when the crowds aren’t as big. We considered the second week of September, after Labor Day and the final big push for the summer crowd. I sat at the computer to look for places and crunch numbers, but nothing ever seemed right. In Christian circles we’d say I didn’t have peace about it.

We decided to postpone Disney until the spring. It would probably be too much since I was going to Dallas later in the month for the conference anyway.

It didn’t hurt that we hadn’t spent that money when our sewer backed up in the basement while I was gone.

That was fun to come home to, a dug up front lawn and displaced basement. My wife was a real trooper dealing with it while I was hanging out with writers. Not fun, but it would have been much worse if we’d spent a few thousand dollars a couple of weeks prior. It worked out.

Now we’re heading toward November. One of our family’s favorite artists is TobyMac. Even my four year old loves him. And the Winter Jam tour was bringing him and several other acts to Boise. Sounds like a good time for a weekend road trip. I got the time off from work and everything.

Then my wife and I talked about the details. It was going to conflict with some other events. We could do it, but it would be tough. The concert didn’t require tickets purchased ahead of time, so we scrapped the plans. Again, it wasn’t only the schedule – we didn’t have peace about it. It wasn’t what we were supposed to do.

I also thought about participating in NaNo this year. I haven’t had good luck with it before, but on October 30th I wondered if it would be a good idea to get something out there. I did a trial on Halloween, writing 600 words of gutter trash and realizing (hopefully for good) that NaNo just doesn’t work for me. Anyway – I decided against that too.

Both of these lost opportunities turned out to be a good thing.

You know how there are always contests where people win trips and crazy things. Do you ever hear of anyone winning those? Not me…

Until November 1st.

When I got a call at lunch while at work, I didn’t expect the following:

“Do you remember the Facebook contest you entered to win tickets to the Boise State/Hawaii game on Oahu? Because you won. You and a guest will be going to Honolulu next week. What do you have to say?”

My response: I guess I need a babysitter!

We actually won a trip to Hawaii! It does happen. (Now everyone is flocking to Facebook to like every contest they can find. Who knows, it could happen to you?)

These are little things in the scheme of life – not going to a concert or postponing a vacation. Why would God be speaking to us about such things?

He cares about His people. He cares about the little things. He speaks to His children today. He knows the future.

I’m thankful that we didn’t go to Disneyland. I want the experience with my family, but September would have been a disaster. It was bad enough as it was, but we had the money cushion to deal with it.

I’m thankful we didn’t go to Winter Jam. A bunch of our friends went and had a blast. I’m sorry my kids missed out. But…I think I’ll take a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii over that.

I know there are people out there still recovering from Superstorm Sandy or going through other horrible things in life. Why is God doing these little things for me when others have such huge issues in front of them?

I don’t fully know. We all have our storms in life. I’ve had mine. So has my wife. There are seasons to everything. I know Jesus weeps with those who have lost much and wants them to turn to Him. He brings blessings to the believer and the non-believer. Storms can hit the righteous and the wicked.

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m thankful that my God is holy, wise, and loves me enough to give me a nudge in the right direction when I can’t see the pothole or pot of gold just around the bend.

Mahalo Lord.

Things Work Out

Oh. Hello again.

Seems to be an annual thing – a monkey wrench in the blogging plans for posting every week. Well, at least this time I’m pretty sure I have a good reason. There’s a little story involved so pull up a chair if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled mayhem next week.

It’s supposed to be Writing Wednesday here. To tie it in, I’ll say now that I’m glad I didn’t try to do NaNoWriMo. But the story starts before this decision.

It has been a year for strange occurrences. From meeting in a traditional church setting to spending Sunday nights in a park, to my first writer’s conference, 2012 has been a different beast.

The good news is, the Lord is in control and He guides His people.

We’ll pick up in the summer when my wife and I are trying to plan for a trip to Disneyland we’ve been wanting to do for a while. As a homeschooling family, we have freedom to do it at alternate times when the crowds aren’t as big. We considered the second week of September, after Labor Day and the final big push for the summer crowd. I sat at the computer to look for places and crunch numbers, but nothing ever seemed right. In Christian circles we’d say I didn’t have peace about it.

We decided to postpone Disney until the spring. It would probably be too much since I was going to Dallas later in the month for the conference anyway.

It didn’t hurt that we hadn’t spent that money when our sewer backed up in the basement while I was gone.

That was fun to come home to, a dug up front lawn and displaced basement. My wife was a real trooper dealing with it while I was hanging out with writers. Not fun, but it would have been much worse if we’d spent a few thousand dollars a couple of weeks prior. It worked out.

Now we’re heading toward November. One of our family’s favorite artists is TobyMac. Even my four year old loves him. And the Winter Jam tour was bringing him and several other acts to Boise. Sounds like a good time for a weekend road trip. I got the time off from work and everything.

Then my wife and I talked about the details. It was going to conflict with some other events. We could do it, but it would be tough. The concert didn’t require tickets purchased ahead of time, so we scrapped the plans. Again, it wasn’t only the schedule – we didn’t have peace about it. It wasn’t what we were supposed to do.

I also thought about participating in NaNo this year. I haven’t had good luck with it before, but on October 30th I wondered if it would be a good idea to get something out there. I did a trial on Halloween, writing 600 words of gutter trash and realizing (hopefully for good) that NaNo just doesn’t work for me. Anyway – I decided against that too.

Both of these lost opportunities turned out to be a good thing.

You know how there are always contests where people win trips and crazy things. Do you ever hear of anyone winning those? Not me…

Until November 1st.

When I got a call at lunch while at work, I didn’t expect the following:

“Do you remember the Facebook contest you entered to win tickets to the Boise State/Hawaii game on Oahu? Because you won. You and a guest will be going to Honolulu next week. What do you have to say?”

My response: I guess I need a babysitter!

We actually won a trip to Hawaii! It does happen. (Now everyone is flocking to Facebook to like every contest they can find. Who knows, it could happen to you?)

These are little things in the scheme of life – not going to a concert or postponing a vacation. Why would God be speaking to us about such things?

He cares about His people. He cares about the little things. He speaks to His children today. He knows the future.

I’m thankful that we didn’t go to Disneyland. I want the experience with my family, but September would have been a disaster. It was bad enough as it was, but we had the money cushion to deal with it.

I’m thankful we didn’t go to Winter Jam. A bunch of our friends went and had a blast. I’m sorry my kids missed out. But…I think I’ll take a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii over that.

I know there are people out there still recovering from Superstorm Sandy or going through other horrible things in life. Why is God doing these little things for me when others have such huge issues in front of them?

I don’t fully know. We all have our storms in life. I’ve had mine. So has my wife. There are seasons to everything. I know Jesus weeps with those who have lost much and wants them to turn to Him. He brings blessings to the believer and the non-believer. Storms can hit the righteous and the wicked.

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m thankful that my God is holy, wise, and loves me enough to give me a nudge in the right direction when I can’t see the pothole or pot of gold just around the bend.

Mahalo Lord.

Why I’m Not Doing NaNo

Call me Scrooge if you want.

November is the month writers come out of the woodwork, participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to the uninitiated). It is a great time of fellowship with fellow writers, all encouraging one another to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. There are groups that meet all over the country and internationally. It is a big deal in the writing community.

And I’ve learned I need to sit it out.

I’m not saying NaNo is bad at all. It can help people who have always wanted to attempt a novel to take the plunge and start writing knowing they have company. Experienced writers can use it as a jumpstart to a new project. Technically, it is supposed to be a new project and not a previous work, but I know many people use it as a time to get more writing done.
I’ve found it doesn’t work for me.
I’ve tried it twice now. One time I participated in a group and made some friends there that I still keep up with on Facebook. It just doesn’t help me in my writing. Both times, I’ve plowed ahead trying to keep to the 1667 daily word pace required to finish in thirty days. Both times, it drove me into a wall with my writing that took me a couple of months to get around.
I don’t know why it makes me crash. I’ve realized that forcing it won’t work for me. I was even tempted to try it again this year, but a good article by my friend Becky Miller helped me identify my problem during NaNo:
…the pace doesn’t allow the new writer to collect himself when the story bogs down, to learn what might be the problem, and to discover how to get out of it.
I will be trying hard in November to keep BIC (butt in chair) and press ahead with my story, especially since I’m in a good place with my plot. I’ll be cheering on all my writing buddies doing NaNo as well. I just won’t be going for the 50,000 goal with you, but best of luck to you!

Have you done NaNo before? If so, how did you do? Please share!

Why I’m Not Doing NaNo

Call me Scrooge if you want.

November is the month writers come out of the woodwork, participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to the uninitiated). It is a great time of fellowship with fellow writers, all encouraging one another to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. There are groups that meet all over the country and internationally. It is a big deal in the writing community.

And I’ve learned I need to sit it out.

I’m not saying NaNo is bad at all. It can help people who have always wanted to attempt a novel to take the plunge and start writing knowing they have company. Experienced writers can use it as a jumpstart to a new project. Technically, it is supposed to be a new project and not a previous work, but I know many people use it as a time to get more writing done.
I’ve found it doesn’t work for me.
I’ve tried it twice now. One time I participated in a group and made some friends there that I still keep up with on Facebook. It just doesn’t help me in my writing. Both times, I’ve plowed ahead trying to keep to the 1667 daily word pace required to finish in thirty days. Both times, it drove me into a wall with my writing that took me a couple of months to get around.
I don’t know why it makes me crash. I’ve realized that forcing it won’t work for me. I was even tempted to try it again this year, but a good article by my friend Becky Miller helped me identify my problem during NaNo:
…the pace doesn’t allow the new writer to collect himself when the story bogs down, to learn what might be the problem, and to discover how to get out of it.
I will be trying hard in November to keep BIC (butt in chair) and press ahead with my story, especially since I’m in a good place with my plot. I’ll be cheering on all my writing buddies doing NaNo as well. I just won’t be going for the 50,000 goal with you, but best of luck to you!

Have you done NaNo before? If so, how did you do? Please share!