No No NaNoWriMo

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The beginning of December means the end of this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I had three previous attempts with one win (last year) with NaNoWriMo. I thought long and hard about entering again this year, and decided not to. And, while it might have been tough seeing all the updates and people reaching the goal, I think it was the right decision.

For one thing I’m still working on the novel I wrote last year. There are some parts I’m really proud of…but the ending horrible. My most recent attempt at “fixing” it included lopping off the last quarter of what I had and starting on writing a whole new second half for it. Not pretty. Very depressing. Very necessary.

There’s also a story I’ve been working on in bits and pieces for the last few years. It’s one of my sanity stories. You know what I mean, one of the stories I go to when I need to take my mind off of things and get lost in something. I truly love this story and most of the time the words flow pretty easily. Perfect for NaNoWriMo you say, nope — the novel you write can’t use previously written content. Since I already have five chapters and lots of snippets of scenes and dialogue that I really, really like, I didn’t want to start over from scratch – honestly it would feel like a waste of time to rewrite what I had rather working on what I don’t have.

Which leads me to the third thing, time. If you’re going to take on a challenge like writing over 50,000 words in a month, then you need to give everything you have to the task. My life is very different from what it was in November last year, each day is a new challenge with two kids being cyber schooled and living with my in-laws. That’s not good or bad, it just is. I knew in September when I started thinking about prepping for this years NaNoWriMo that I didn’t have the same fire that I did last year. My head and heart are pulling in too many directions for me to focus on writing for hours at a time every day.

And, I think that’s okay. In 2011 and 2012, I just pushed to write everyday and was happy that I did. Which is fine too. I knew those years that I didn’t have the kind of time I needed to get a novel written but I had the fire to write. This year I knew that my time and my heart weren’t where they needed to be, so this was the year not to push it. I think I would have felt worse not finishing this year, so why punish myself?

Would I have liked to, sure. Will I try again, probably. But I need to know that I have the right focus, and maybe more importantly the right story. This year just wasn’t the year.

Congratulations to the winners. Congratulations too to those to who didn’t make it but gave it shot, any time you get words out of your mind and out in the world is an accomplishment. Amazing effort by you all and you should be very proud no matter how many words are on the page!

I Did It or A NaNoWriMo Final Update

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I did it. I can hardly believe it, but I did it. I wrote my first novel. I did it in the crazed 30 day haze known as National Novel Writing Month. Now that I’ve done it I don’t know that I’ll do it again. Not because it was hard (which it is) or because it doesn’t fit my writing or lifestyle (it really doesn’t), but because I got out of it what I needed to, the knowledge that I could write a novel.

National Novel Writing Month Winner 2013 Banner

National Novel Writing Month Winner 2013 Banner

Note I did not say a good novel. What I wrote it pretty awful at this point. It needs major rewrites and editing, and that’s OK. Because I realized during NaNoWriMo this time (this was my third attempt) that the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs written down. The good part comes later (hopefully).

I, like a lot of us, have a lot of stories that I want to tell. But I have gotten so afraid that they aren’t going to come out the way that I want them to, or that people won’t like them, that I’ve been afraid to tell them. Thanks to those crazy 30 days in November of 2013 I’ve gotten over a lot of that. Maybe not completely. I’ll still be nervous sharing what I write, but aren’t we all? It’s like exposing part of our souls, and that’s tough no matter how you look at it, but before I can do that I have to actually get the stories out of my head and on to the page. This is something I now know I can do.

So look for more blog posts as I make my way back from my writing crazy writing adventure. I learned some interesting things about myself, about my writing process, a lot about how far I’ll go to procrastinate, and maybe most importantly – how far I’ll go to make sure my story gets told.

NaNoWriMo 2013

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I’m going to try my hand again this year at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those who aren’t familiar, it’s where you spend the month of November trying to write a 50,000 word novel (and no cheating by using something you started writing at an earlier date). It starts at midnight November 1st and ends at midnight November 30th.

Logo for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month starts at midnight October 31st and runs through November.

As is my usual style, I’ll be honest here and tell you I haven’t finished in my previous two attempts. In my defense, the first year I didn’t find out about it until after November 1st and started off the several thousand words off the pace needed to finish on time. Last year I was working for an organization that had their biggest event of the year in late November, there wasn’t much time for eating or sleeping and writing was luxury.

Instead, my goal each year has been to use the month to form better writing habits. To do things like carve an hour out of each day to write without interruptions. To get better at focusing when I do write so I can make the most of my time. Figuring what if tight outlines or free-flow works best (a kind of combination, thanks for asking). It’s really been a great chance to get to know me as a writer. Sure, I’d love to make 50,000 words, but I also know I have enough major stressors in my life that block the flow if ideas to let one of the things that let me relax become a major source of stress.

But this year is a little different. I finally have some freelance work coming up, but I’m not working full-time for an organization going full throttle towards the end of the month. I usually have at least a couple of hours to myself each day. I’m not saying it’s a sure thing, but things certainly look a lot better for success than they did last year!

No Stories For You!

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I’ll admit that it isn’t always easy to find the story in the content you producing, whether its video, instruction or marketing materials. Sometimes the content is so straight forward (or some might say dry) that it’s pretty much impossible to find the story in it. I get it, I’ve been there too.

Solid rivets

Not all content is riveting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve done a video on the test a single continuous weld (that was riveting – well it was welding, there were no rivets involved). I’ve worked on regulation and planning documents, there’s not much of a story there. Sometimes in instructional design you have to develop content on a subject that is so simple, or so complicated, or bounces back and forth between the two making it difficult to keep a good hold on the thread of the story.

So what do you do? In some cases you can wrap a story around the information. This works really well in instructional design and for writing things like articles and blog posts. Instead of finding the story in the content, you tell a story that you can put your information into. You can draw from case studies, interviews or real life stories if you have them. If not you can get creative and make one up. Be careful if you go this route, if you’re talking about real life information for adults you’re probably going to want a story that sounds like real life and truly believable.

There are times when circumstances, the information or the product don’t let you do that. It still doesn’t mean that the content has to be boring. Look at the audience, the medium and the delivery mechanism and see what you can do to make the information as interesting and compelling as possible. In these cases language choice, sentence structure, writing style, layout and visuals make a huge difference in making your content interesting and memorable.

Finding a story is still a great way to get your point across. It can be an entertaining, educational, memorable (and sometimes sneaky) way to get content to your audience. It’s just not always possible. When it’s not it doesn’t mean your content has to be boring.

NaNoWriMo Results

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I realize I’ve been MIA, my apologies. I was using every spare moment to work on this years attempt for National Novel Writing Month. The final results? I ran head-on with real life in the middle of the month and was unable to write for more than a few minutes for days at a time. I fell short of the 50,000 word goal, but I did more than double the total words I wrote last year! I also like this year’s results 100 times more than what I wrote last year, which I think is even better.

I’m going to keep working on what I’ve written. I’ve really enjoyed having these sort of organized bursts of creativity. It’s so easy to get focus on the day-to-day creative things you need for telling stories for a living that you forget how important it is to stretch yourself. You forget how amazing it feels to push yourself and leave your comfort zone.

To me that’s the most important part of NaNoWritMo – to help people who want a chance to let their creative flag fly a reason and focus to push themselves. To give us a little push, motivation and support to attempt something we wouldn’t think of otherwise.

So what about you? How did your attempt go this year?

 

NaNoWriMo Time Again!

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It’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month again! It’s a great idea – thirty days and nights of novel-writing in an effort to write a 50,000 word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30. It’s brought to life by the great folks at The Office of Letters and Lights. I took part last year, but didn’t find out about it until after it started, and adopted a modified goal of writing every day and getting as far as I could. I have to say I impressed myself with how far I got. It was total crap, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

I had great plans for this year. Story ideas, characters and plans, but so far I’m behind on the getting all the pieces together before November 1st, so I don’t have high hopes of reaching the 50,000 word goal. But that’s ok. It’s the trying that counts. It’s exercising your brain and getting to invent a world. It’s doing something that can give you a natural high. Sure it can make your loved ones a little miffed when you shut yourself up in a room trying to catch-up, but it’s sure a lot of fun.

The best part is that it’s free. Just sign up and you’re in. There’s even support from people online and in person. Everyone has dreamed of writing the great American novel haven’t they? Here is your chance my friend!

So, loyal band of readers…who will join me in the loyal band of writers?

Nora Ephron: Remembering a Ground-breaker

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I didn’t want today to pass without saying a few words about Nora Ephron. She was not just an amazing talent, she was a ground breaker as well. Yes, her smart and funny writing was amazing. She had an eye and understanding for telling stories as a director. But, most importantly, she was one of the first women to be considered a successful writer and director. She fought for acceptance, not by talking about needing it but by going out and being great. By being a force to be reckoned. By being too good to be ignored or denied.

The road still isn’t easy for any female in such a male-dominated industry, but Nora Ephron helped blaze a trail that women will follow for generations. Today the way ahead may be a little darker without her, but talented women everywhere will follow her lead and keep proving that women are funny. Women are smart. Women are talented. Women really can direct and write. And, they are strong enough to fight for their turn.

Thank you, Ms. Ephron, for the wonderful stories you’ve told, and the example you’ve set. You will not be forgotten.