Sunday, December 06, 2015

Five Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

1. Start with an outline

I used to be a writer who never outlines. That makes it very hard to finish a time-limited exercise like NaNo. While a ton of scenes still seem to come out of nowhere when I write, it was extremely helpful to me to have "beats" of the story to aim for. On days when I didn't have any ideas, I looked at scenes I hadn't written yet, and tackled them.

2. I wanted to quit so many times

I was under par just about every single day until the end. When I reached 25,000 words, I realized that all that work I did, I was going to have to do over again. But I kept going. By making a daily habit of it, I made it less of a chore and just a part of my routine. And this was actually the first year, out of many, that I completed the goal. 

3. It takes a village 

Seeing everyone's tweets and posts on various websites was incredibly helpful, encouraging, and at times just the reminder I needed to keep writing. In the future, I want to plug in with a writing group. 

4. It's just a draft

With a writing exercise like NaNo, writing an entire novel in a month, you have to forgive yourself for a lot of dead ends. I told myself that something ought to be salvageable. On Dec 1, it's better to stare at 50,000 words (even if only some are usable) than a single blank page.

5. Back it up

One copy on your hard drive is not enough. Look into cloud storage, have a back-up drive, e-mail the story to yourself as you go, print it - whatever you do, make sure it's secure. My cats jumped on my keyboard a lot, and my computer isn't as young as it used to be. Don't let one glitch wipe out all of your hard work.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comments or tweet me @lauraebradford. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New words throughout the years

So the Oxford English Dictionary added some new words recently. I don't think I've heard of cakeage (I know it as the bland, descriptive "cake cutting fee"), but I use hangry and fast-casual all the time - probably even in the same conversation. I've heard many of the other words or phrases numerous times, without ever stopping to think if they were "official" words yet.

It's interesting to see how language evolves over time. The year 2012 gave us such gems as earworm, a music favorite of mine - and how did we ever converse without referring to our bucket lists or game changers? That year had a lot of negative words about the economy, so I'm glad that now things are (a little) better and we can focus on the important things in life - food.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Could you write for 1,000 days in a row?

I just finished reading the post 1,000 Posts in 1,000 Days. My initial reaction? Amazement. I don't think I could keep a habit like that going for nearly 3 years. Even after 30 days, I tend to fall off the wagon.

But writer Bradley Charbonneau's post is extremely motivating.  "One day at a time," he wrote. "Through sick days, bad WiFi, low batteries, a creative mind full of zero original ideas, I made it through."

It reminds me of the "No Zero Days" system. It works for fitness, for language learning, and especially works for the creative arts. The idea is to just keep moving - that if you stop once, you're more likely to stay stopped. An object in motion and all of that.

Some writers don't abide by that at all. Some take weekends off, others walk away from the page when they're stuck and seek inspiration elsewhere.

But part of me wants to write every day. I get a great idea, jot it down, but then someone asks me something and I'm right back in the real world. Just now, I had to walk away from this post for a few minutes to get something, then one of the cats meowed and wanted to be petted, and I saw that the shrubs outside were getting tall and needed to be trimmed.

But I came back to this post. The cat is happy enough sitting beside me, and it's almost dark - the shrubs can wait until tomorrow (when it's cooler out, anyway). I'm not sure I could write 1,000 posts in 1,000 days, but maybe I can write a few more.