4 Reasons to Register for Camp NaNoWriMo

Just like NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo is a month long challenge. But I have to admit. I like it even better than NaNoWriMo. Why? It offers a bit more flexibility. No, you don’t get to pick when it starts and when it ends, but you do get to set your own goal. The best thing?

You Quit Procrastinating

Admit it. We’ve all got that goal that we set for 2021 that we haven’t even started. Camp NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to motivate yourself. I generally hesitate to register for NaNoWriMo. If I want to draft a young middle grade novel, it seems ridiculous to sign up for a 50,000 word challenge when I only need to write 20,000 words. But it does get me off my fanny. So does Camp.


But because it if flexible I am even more likely to sign up. You can set a goal of 10,000 words and finish your novel. You can set a goal of 20,000 words and write an entire early middle grade novel. You can set a goal of 16,000 words and write a series of essays. Whatever. And I have to admit that I like that flexibility.


Another great thing about this is that you publicly state your goal. That creates accountability which many of us need to keep writing until they end. Otherwise a shiny new idea but catch our eye and pull us away from a project that has gotten hard. And, let’s face it, writing is tough! Something that makes it a bit easier?


Whether it is your critique group, your accountability group or the people you connect with through NaNoWriMo, a community is essential. Your fellow writers get how tricky it all is. They will encourage you. And if you publicly mention a problem you may find that someone else has a solution that will work for you as well.

If Camp NaNoWriMo sounds like something you want to do, you can find out more about it here. Be sure to connect with me (Nonfiction Writer).


Butt in Chair vs Waiting for the Muse

Are you a writer who believes that you should write each and every day? Or do you write only when the mood/muse strikes you?

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I have to admit that I hate rigid rules like BIC – Butt in Chair. This is the idea that you put your butt in the chair and stay there even if the words don’t flow. Take up that writing posture each and every day and the words will eventually flow.

But I also know that writing only when I feel like writing probably would not be very productive. Writing is hard work!

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo knowing that I would not manage 50,000 words in one month. I don’t even need that many. At most it will take 25,000 words to finish a draft of my novel. But I signed up with the goal of finishing that first draft.

I am writing this on Monday evening. At this point I have written 9 days in a row. My goal for this time period was to write 835 words a day. That means that I should have a total of 7,515 words. I have 7,939 words.

That may not sound all that amazing but in this time I have also redesigned my web site (take a look around), planted a tree, and been standing driver for a friend who just had surgery. Given COVID, no one but the patient is wanted inside. So I drive her to the surgery center and go home. Then they call me an hour early and I go get her and drive her home. And then the next day she has a follow up…

It is shocking how little time has been spent here in my office. Some days not much writing happens. I think my “lowest” day is about 400 words. But other days, the writing flows. My best day is 1126. At this rate I will definitely have a draft done by the end of the month!

Butt in chair is definitely the way to go!


3 Reasons to Take Part in Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo - Writer - BadgeFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Camp NaNoWriMo, this is a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge that takes place twice a year, in April and July.  What’s the challenge?  You get to decide.

Maybe you need to finish drafting your novel.  Maybe you need to send out queries.  Whatever.  You set the goal.

Why bother?  Here are three reasons.


That’s right.  Reason number one is this year.  This incredible, over-whelming year.  I have to say, March and April I wrote and wrote.  Pandemic?  Pfft.  I had deadlines.  Now I’ve met my deadlines and gotten two rejections in three days. I need some encouragement and a . . .


I make my best progress when I have a deadline.  And I don’t mean my own deadline.  External deadlines are superior.  If it is just my deadline, I can find a reason to blow it off.  See, there’s this new opportunity that is only available for two months.  I signed up for a class.  My shower floor really needs to be scrubbed.  Nope, I need an external deadline to keep me moving.  And I am seriously Type A so this works even better because I am part of a . . .


Post your goal at NaNoWriMo.org and become part of the community.  There are events and motivationsl bits, but even if you don’t spend a lot of time interacting with your fellow writers, you have publicly announced your goal.  This means that other people can see whether I succeed or fail.  In truth, 99.9% of them probably don’t care but that’s not keeps me moving.  It is the fact that they could notice.  And more importantly, I notice.

I know, I know.  There are drawbacks to being goal driven.  I get that.  But I also know myself well enough to know that if I want to get this done . . . I’ve been fiddling around for months . . . I need to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo.  You can find me on their site as Nonfiction Writer! Is anyone with me?


NaNoWriMo: Half Way

We are just about at the muddled middle, half way through NaNoWriMo.  Whether you are doing the traditional challenge (50,000 words/month) or you are a NaNoWriMo rebel and have set your own goal, we are just about at the halfway point.  Like me, you may be wondering if writing a fast draft is worth the effort. Do these manuscripts ever see the light of day?

Librarians are amazing people who often know what readers and writers need.  Last night I walked into my local library and saw this display all about NaNoWriMo and published books that were written during this fast draft challenge.  Here is a list of fast draft winners for you to check out.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  It took Morgenstern three years and three NaNoWriMo challenges to pull this one off but it was well worth the effort judging by the many book clubs that have read her book.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  You can see it in the photo above.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill.  A best-selling fantasy novel.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  Rowell admitted she was unsure about the challenge.  This book is about twice the NaNo length but the content drafted during NaNo?  Most of it made it into the finished book.

Wool by Hugh Howey.  This one is also in the display above.

Three novels by Marissa Meyer:  Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.  I love this series.  Love it. It too is pictured above but as a flyer, not the print books which are almost on in circulation.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. A YA fantasy.

As with so much of what we write, I don’t think the question should be “can something of value come out of NaNoWriMo?”  I think the question should be “am I going to learn to rewrite what I drafted?”

Because, really, rewriting is the key to good writing.


My First Write-In and Why I’ll Attend Another

This weekend, a friend told me about a NaNoWriMo Write-in at her local library.  For those of you who have never attended a write-in, the idea is simple.  The library sat aside a meeting room for us to come write.  Five people gathered together and sat clicking away on their laptops or writing in note books.

Why bother with a write-in?  Sometimes it just helps to get away from your regular routine.  No one is ducking in to ask where their favorite jeans are or if you’ve done such-and-such yet.  When the writing gets tough, you can’t go do somethign else or at least not easily.  Besides, if you start playing a game on your computer, someone might notice.

Two hours of dedicated writing time in a special writing place worked.  I did two drafts of my picture book manuscript.  Is it done?  No but it is more writing than I’ve accomplished throughout the rest of the day.

I have to admit that I also went there to meet other local writers.  I already knew my friend, the organizing librarian.  And unfortunatey, I also met a shark.  For those of you who don’t know the lingo, a critique group shark is someone who makes sharp, biting comments.  Him I could have done without and because of him I was questioning going back next week.

But one of the other women asked me if I planned to come back.  “Your comment really helped me get going.”  It was good to know I had succeeded in encouraging someone.

And the other woman was looking for a critique group so I invited her to our group that meets tomorrow.  It was pretty awesome to meet two new-to-me writers.

Will I go back?  Definitely.

Check your local library and see if there are write-ins that you could join.  You may not make connections but even if you only get your writing done it is time well spent.


NaNoWriMo: Yay or Nay?

Well, it has happened.  I let two members of my accountability group talk me into doing NaNoWriMo this year.  But don’t worry.  I’m not ready to buy into the cult completely. I am joining as a NaNoWriMo Rebel.

Normally, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words on a new novel project during the month of November.  That’s great if you write novels and you don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  Fortunately my sister does Thanksgiving and I do Christmas.  AND I’ve got the cozy I’ve been trying to draft.  But the whole point is to write something new.

That’s where being a Rebel comes in.  Rebels want to get a chunk of writing done before the end of the year and they want the community support.  But they aren’t writing 50,000 words of a new novel.  One of my friends is drafting 5 5,000 word essays.  Another is working on a memoir.

Me? I’m working on my cozy.  Some time ago, I realized that I had botched my beat sheet.  I was so discouraged by this that I let myself be distracted by other shiny projects, projects that I had not started.  Not started, of course, means that they are without flaw.

I am using NaNoWriMo to get some work done on Send in the Sopranos.  I’m going to rework my beat sheet and get moving on the actual writing.  My goal is 25,000 words.  It sounds like a lot so I’m reminding myself that that is just over 1.5 Abdo nonfiction manuscripts.  I’ve written well over 1.5 of them so I’ve got this.  Right?  Right?!

I am equal parts jazzed and horrified that I have signed up for this.  Yes, I truly want to work on this story but fiction in intimidates me.  Nonfiction, I can do.  Fiction is unproven territory.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, be sure to send me a buddy request.  I am, no big surprise, Nonfiction Writer.


5 Minutes a Day: NaNoWriMo

Do you plan to take part in NaNoWriMo?  For those of you who have somehow missed the phenomenon that is NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month.  During the month of November, each participant commits to drafting a 50,000 word novel.  No, you can’t rewrite something you’ve already written.  No, this isn’t the time to finish up something you’ve started.  When you sign up, you are committing to draft at least 50,000 words of a NEW novel.

I’m not going to be doing NaNoWriMo for three reasons.

  •  I will most likely be rewriting a book I just got paid for.
  • I will most likely also be rewriting a book that is due at the beginning of November.
  • I already started drafting my novel.

That said, NaNoWriMo can be a great program to get you started.  But be sure to spend some time planning your story.  Yes, planning.  Here are 5 five-minute tasks for you to complete before November 1.

  1. Decide which of your great novel ideas you will pursue.  If you are as busy as I am, the temptation is to spend October getting things done with little time spent thinking about what you are going to write.  After all, I have a notebook with 261 story ideas in it.  No, really.  I just checked.  261.  To be successful you have to know which story you will draft because you have some prep work to complete.  That leads me to …
  2. Write a premise or elevator pitch for your story.  In broad strokes, what is it about?  Where does the tension come from? What is the character’s goal?
  3. Spend some time getting to know your main character.  What does she want more than anything?  What is on the line if she fails?  What stands in her way.
  4. Are the stakes high enough?  Is her ambition big enough to carry a book?  Because if not you may have troubles making that 50,000 word count.  Take a good look at what you’ve laid out and increase the stakes as needed.
  5. Outline.  I can hear the pantsers screaming from here.  I’m not saying do a detailed outline but do jot down the broad strokes.  What is the inciting incident?  What is the climax?  I know it is out-of-order but those are the two points I tend to start with mentally.  What attempts does the character make to solve the problem?  How does she fail?  For some people, this is enough to get started.  If you aren’t one fo those people, spend a few more five-minute sessions laying things out.

NaNoWriMo.  It’s doable especially if you’ve done some prep work.


Writing Challenges: These are both new to me

writing-challengesAs all of you know, I love a good writing challenge.  Hint:  NaNoWriMo?  Not a good challenge.  Storystorm?  An excellent challenge.

What’s the difference between good and bad?  Do-able while maintaining my sanity.  Here are two challenges that I just discovered.

Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo).

This one is all about reading picture books as research for writing picture books.  Having just looked at the reading list, I’m trying to decide just how do-able this is.  The first four days list 10-11 books/day.  Now, I have a library card and I can request titles.  But I can only request 25 at a time.  Yeah.

That said, I want to discover how other authors use mentor texts.  I love the idea of mentor texts but I’ve never found it terribly successful.  I think that 95% of the problem is that I want to follow the mentor text too closely as if it was a template.  I’m hoping that this challenge, even if I can’t get every book ahead of time, will help me understand how other author’s use mentor texts and how they can be more helpful in my own writing.

This one starts Monday, February 27.
The Chapter Book Challenge (ChaBooCha).

This one is NaNoWriMo for children’s writers.  In the month of March, you are challenged to write a complete draft of a YA or MG novel, chapter book or early reader.  I’m signing up for this because I want to see what is what and how it differs from NaNoWriMo.  I’m hoping it will be less insanity inducing than NaNoWriMo.

Intelligently enough, they encourage you to start with an outline.  I’m going to work on Iron Mountain.  Of course, I can also get an early reader roughed next month because those don’t take nearly as long as finishing my young adult.  There are blog posts and a Facebook group and I’m looking forward to see what kind of information they put out there.

Hopefully one of these will interest some of you!




chrysanthemum-991625_1920What is the saying about the well laid plans of mice and men?  I actually looked it up and found this in the American Heritage Dictionary. 

“No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Usually when I approach NaNo, it is all a bit slap dash.  I’ve just come off a deadline and I dash in at the last moment and manage to rough about 8000 words before I lose my way in the story.

This time I actually planned.  I scrapbooked the novel, creating pages for my characters and my setting.  I didn’t get as far as I would have liked on material culture but I got a bit of that done as well.

Just as I was sitting down to work on my outline, I get hit with a rewrite.  It was due two days into NaNo.  No worries.  I could do that and then get the outline done.

Are you laughing yet?

By the time I got the rewrite done, I was a teeny-weeny little bit toasted.  As in completely fried.

Then we had three deaths — a family friend, a friend’s mom, and a friend’s wife.  I guess you could say that at this point I am deep-fried.

For two days I tried to work on my novel.  I managed to outline about 25% of it and wrote two and a half pages.  That’s something like 700 words which is much less than the 1600+ words you are supposed to write each day.  And it is really bad.  Not so bad that I’m going to throw it away because it helped me pull somethings together but it is only a wee bit of what I need to accomplish given that I should be about 15,000 words in.

The killer is that I really want to work on the book.  But right now?  I just don’t have the energy to do it.

Instead of writing, I’m doing some more research on the material culture.  I’ll get more information on how they do things — cooking and the like.  I’m also working on my outline using the Plot Whisperer to nudge me along.  I know I can do it but I am equally certain that I just can’t do it right now.

Does that make me a NaNo failure?  I don’t much care for the world failure.  I think I’ll just consider myself a late bloomer, like a mum.



It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Or the Joys of Three Act Structure

basil-rathbone-402601_1280As I get ready for NaNoWriMo, the last step that I’m confronted with is creating an outline.  There are several different types of outlines that you can create.  Each one is “the only way to do it,” according to one group of writers or another.  Here are two of the most common.

Scene outline.  Some writers outline their novel scene by scene.  This means coming up with a list of events that take place in your story.  It gives some writers the safety net they need.  For others it saps their creativity.

Plot Point Structure.   Other writers create more of a plot point structure.  This is similar to a scene list but makes sure that certain key events are present and accounted for in the most effective order.  This is what I’m creating for Iron Mountain.  The plot points that I need to note are:

Act 1.  (Roughly 25% of the story)

  • The hook:  Pull your reader into the story.  Get the reader to start asking questions.
  • Inciting Event: This event sets the story in motion and leads to …
  • The Key Event: The event that forces the protagonist to take action.
  • 1st Plot Point:  This is either at the end of Act 1 or beginning of Act 2.  There is a change of surroundings.  It is a personal turning point for the protagonist.  From here there is no turning back.  The main character is driven out of her comfort zone and into the world of the story. Some people call this the “Tipping Point.”

Act 2.  (Roughly 50% of the story)

  • Strong Reaction:  The character has a strong response to the 1st plot point.
  • First Pinch point:  Sometimes called a “Stress point.”  This is where the antagonist makes his reach and power known.  He does something that narrows the protagonist’s choices.
  • Turning Point/Second Plot Point:  This marks the midpoint of the novel.  It should be about halfway through the story. There should be a change of direction for the characters.  This is where your protagonist quits reacting and starts acting.  She takes charge.
  • Strong Action: This new direction and stepping out on the part of the Protagonist is expressed through a strong action.
  • Second Pinch Point:  Sometimes called a stress point.  Once again the antagonist makes his power known and he again narrows the protagonist’s choices.
  • Third Plot Point.  This comes at the end of the 2nd act, beginning of the 3rd act.  Things are set forward leading to the climax.  This is a low point for the protagonist.  Perhaps she has been confronted again by the antagonist and lost.  There could be a betrayal.  Her confidence is shaken.

Act 3:  This is where the pace picks up as we move toward the climax.  (Roughly 25% of the story)

  • Plan.  Your character has taken some time to regroup and now has a new plan of action.
  • Climatic Moment.  This point is the highest point in the drama of the story.  It fulfills the dramatic promise.
  • Wrap up.  Wait!  Things aren’t over yet.  Here’s where the reader finds out what happens next for your characters.

Some people start with the plot point outline and then move into a scene outline.  That’s what I’m going to try to do.  Wish me luck!