Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ Category

Happy Writing New Year! (and setting writing resolutions)

In National Novel Writing Month, New Year's Resolutions, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation on December 30, 2018 at 6:00 pm

1230 Blog-Zoey1

Zoey the Cute Dachshund poses by a 2019 planner, a good place to start planning out writing resolutions for the New Year.

I have a bit of writing guilt, and every year, I try to come up with spectacular, amazing resolutions and a plan to make writing my main goal.

And then I slip up, slip behind and see the goal slip away.

I find, instead, that the other resolutions are easier.

In 2019, I plan to run a faster mile—I’ve already cut off a minute during my last two runs, but that’s because I run slow and with the downtime of the holidays have more energy.

I plan to eat healthier by foregoing samples at the grocery store (where I work weekends) and cookies at home.

And I plan to continue learning how to knit and returning to my hobby of drawing.

As for my main resolution, it’s a longstanding one. Since second grade, I have wanted to be a famous novelist but in 2018 did not work in a way to achieve that. I wrote in other ways. I wrote for work. I wrote a weekly blog. I wrote in my daily journal. I wrote poetry.

But I need to do my real passion type of writing … writing novels. So for 2019, I have a new planner and new plan for an old goal.

Writing Resolutions for 2019

My New Year’s resolution is to make my writing more of a priority, instead of fitting it in when I have time, just like I did last year. I had the same goal for 2018 and blogged about it then, too.

Over the year, I achieved revising one but not two of my novels. I kept up with the daily poem challenge though had a few times of playing catch-up. And I wrote short stories—I wrote three and 10 in 2017, so not an improvement. I also said I’d start drafting a new novel—I didn’t.

For 2019, I’m scaling back my resolutions so that they are achievable and I feel like I can carry them out with accountability. I plan to revise the second novel, keep up with the daily poetry and write six short stories. I also plan to pitch my revised first novel.

What are your writing resolutions for 2019? Do you want to join a writers’ group, write a novel or a few short stories, or participate in NaNoWriMo, a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November? Or if writing is something you don’t like to do and would like to try, how about starting with a class or one-day workshop or meeting up with a writing friend to get some tips?

Keeping to a resolution can be difficult, shown by the statistic that only 8 percent of those who make resolutions follow through.

Sticking to Your Resolutions

Here are a few ways to stick to your writing (and other) resolutions:

  • Pick a resolution that you want to do, instead of something you think is good for you or everyone else is doing (like writing novels when writing short stories is your preference).
  • Pick up to three resolutions instead of a long list that will be difficult to manage or even remember. That way you can focus your efforts on what you really want to accomplish.
  • Write down your resolutions and place them in a prominent place, such as on your desk or the fridge. Visualize how you will carry out these goals.
  • Break the goals into smaller steps that can be accomplished each week or month. If writing is one of your goals, start out with 500 words or a half-hour and build from there.
  • Be specific, such as planning to write two days a week for one hour each time, or to write 2,000 words three times a week.
  • Figure out your most productive time of day to work and fit your goal into that timeframe, even if it is for a half-hour. A lot can be accomplished accumulatively.
  • Check in every so often to make sure you’re meeting your goals and ask if any adjustments need to be made.

As you work on your resolutions, reward yourself as your efforts lead toward results that are tangible and measurable. Writing consistently week after week takes some adjustment, motivation and discipline. But then it will become habit and easier for 2020!

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A NaNoWriMo break

In Camp NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Writing, Writing Inspiration on November 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

This month is National Novel Writing Month, when writers aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I love NaNoWriMo, but this year I’m taking a bit of a break from routine writing.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo twice, in 2013 and 2015, and I’m editing my 2013 NaNoWriMo book and some of my short stories and having fun with the process of adding little details and cutting out large chunks (which I save, because I have a hard time letting go).

Basically each week, I’m doing lots of editing and a tiny bit of writing.

In the process, I’m finding that taking a break from serious, constant writing is necessary to get inspiration, to get motivation and basically to hit a mental Refresh. I’m writing in little flashes, instead of my regular routine.

Right now, I’m working on writing prompts and a short story that became a sort of novella but isn’t a novel. It’s just a big fuzzy mess I can play around with, because I’m not working on it with a specific goal in mind. It’s there to work on when I step up to the plate to write—meaning, I’m meeting with my writer friends for a write-in or doing some mentoring with writing students.

Basically, it’s keeping me in the game until I’m ready to go off break and “clock in” rested, relaxed and refreshed.

Writing requires a lot of mental work, processing sensory details from the world, developing character identities and creating plotlines, and this work can be tiring without the balance of a three-dimensional life. Writing takes a great deal of brainstorming, thinking, evaluating, creating and, of course, revising.

Doing NaNoWriMo is a way to speed write through a draft of a novel or part of a draft, so that the characters and storyline are almost happening like real life, because every day, writers show up to do the inventing and creating. It’s quite the opposite of taking a break, but going all out for a project. That’s why I admire anyone who takes it on, both for the commitment and for the magic that seems to happen with fast, furious writing.

I did Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, when writers pick their word-count goals for the month. The first one, I did 15,000 words and the second, 20,000, which spurred me into writing a bunch of short stories, including the one that’s become a novella or something else that I haven’t figured out yet.

It’s all part of the process, going from rest and refreshing to serious, fully-engaged, fast, furious and also fun writing.

Final reflections on the 2015 NaNoWriMo

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Reflections on Writing, The Writing Life on December 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

I continued working on my novel past the Nov. 30 deadline for National Novel Writing Month.

I liked the discipline of aiming to write 1,667 words a day toward a 50,000-word goal. I liked marking my progress, seeing the results and knowing I was part of something larger—a community of writers trying to write fast and get that novel started or going.

I worked on my novel, “The Heat of Trouble,” as if NaNoWriMo were a six-week deal of daily word counts, because I wanted to finish it prior to my Dec. 11 surgery on my left hand. I had a looming deadline of finishing the book, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to type (at least two-handed) for seven weeks due do doctor’s orders.

When I started NaNoWriMo on Nov. 2 (not the 1st for me), I was at 34,000 words. I wrote 51,000 words during November, and now am at 100,436 words and still have a couple more scenes to write.

In other words, my book’s a tad too long.

According to Chuck Sambuchino at the Writer’s Digest , a novel can be 80,000 to 99,999 words “to be safe,” but anything over 110,000 words is too long or below 70,000 is too short. A novel 100,000 to 109,999 words might be too long but would probably be all right.

So, is my novel all right?

Generally, I try to write in the 75,000-to-90,000-word range, but this novel was a pantser with little planning, the approach I usually don’t take. My plot strings became a little entangled, and the characters took on larger roles or new characters showed up, most of it without my planning and as little surprises.

As I wrote, I realized I liked the pantser approach, because my self-editor went away and I just let the characters take over, with one thing leading to the next. I wasn’t looking far ahead for the outcomes, but let the book unfold as it wanted to (at least I think that’s what happened).

Taking this approach, I kept piling on the words. During the first week of December, I worked on my novel nearly every day, averaging 2,000-plus words each day and totaled 9,100 words for the week. I wrote 7 ½ hours, about three hours less than what I was doing during NaNoWriMo. I guess I needed that daily goal to push me even more, but at least I wrote a little.

The second week, I wrote 4,100 words and only could write for two days and didn’t finish my novel. This will give me something to look forward to when I recover.

NaNoWriMo reflections

In National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Discipline on December 6, 2015 at 12:52 am

I actually can’t believe I did it: I reached the NaNoWriMo finish line.

I wrote 50,000 words in a month when I’d been hesitant about signing up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, at the beginning of November. I’d been a third of the way into my current novel project, “The Heat of Trouble,” and now am nearly done. I suspect I’ll finish in a week or two.

Most of the month, I remained behind on my word count and even took a week off from work and caught up and got ahead, but just for one day. When I returned to work, I immediately fell behind again and remained there, and I questioned whether or not I should continue.

I then figured I started, so I finished.

During the last full week of NaNoWriMo, I cleared my schedule as much as I could and wrote six of the seven days, focusing on catching up. I did this by upping my word count from 1,667 a day to 2,000 or 2,500 or even 3,300 one of the days. I also told myself that I didn’t have to do this every day, just for a week.

Yes, I love to write, but there’s balance of work, play and hobbies.

By the end of the week on Nov. 28, I reached 45,939 words, short by 737 words to keep on pace. I had two days left, so I knew I could do it. I made a file for my NaNoWriMo writing and found I’d edited out 602 words, though I hadn’t done much editing, so that meant 300 more words of writing for each day.

On Sunday, Nov. 29, I wrote 4,819 words in three-and-a-half hours, my record for the month. That brought me to 50,758 words, but then with the shortfall, I ended up with 50,138 words.

And I finished one day early.

I finished! Yeah for me.

But I kept going on Monday, just because I wanted to wrap up my book before Christmas. I wrote 1,562 words in an hour, bringing my NaNoWriMo total to 51,700 words.

More yeah. Double yeah.

Almost there with NaNoWriMo!

In National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Discipline on November 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

Writing every day Monday to Sunday, especially after writing at work five days a week, was a bit challenging.

I felt worn out after work, especially with it being dark, but I pushed on for National Novel Writing Month. I found it hard to fit in writing every day between work, meals and going to the gym, plus anything social that I did. But I’d set a goal to write 50,000 words in November and was determined to stick with it.

I had staying power, all for the sake of virtual credit.

I came into the final full week of NaNoWriMo having written 31,845 words and behind by 3,162 words. I should have been at 35,007 words to be perfectly on track with writing 1,667 words a day.

The week was hard, and it was a challenge to catch up. Plus, I felt the lull, as if in some writing sessions, I had to strain to get the words. But I wrote anyway, letting the characters take over when they were willing. When they were harder to access, I kept writing and hoping my story would come out, however it wanted to.

Here’s my progress for the week:

Day 22: (Sunday): I wrote 1,717 in an hour-and-a-half, just a little more than the daily goal.

Day 23 (Monday): I wrote 1,872 words in an hour.

Day 24 (Tuesday): I wrote 2,410 words in an hour-and-a-half and started catching up, slowly but surely. I just knew I couldn’t skip a day if I was going to do this.

Day 25 (Wednesday): I didn’t write. I worked, went to the gym, met a friend and got home at 8:30 p.m., too tired to open up my laptop.

Day 26 (Thursday): I wrote 1,852 words in an hour, once again more behind.

Day 27 (Friday): I wrote 2,911 words in two hours.

Day 28 (Saturday): I wrote 3,332 words in two hours, feeling the pressure to catch up with only two more days.

So, now I’m at 45,939 words, short by 737 words of my goal of 46,676 words.

It was tough going, and frankly, I’ll be glad when this month is over, but I’m also glad I’m doing it. I’m almost there. Two more days!

Third week of NaNoWriMo (and feeling behind!)

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing Processes on November 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

I found the third week of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to be a struggle after two weeks of steady, easy writing.

I questioned where I was going with my novel, and I wondered if I was repeating myself, or just writing to be writing and getting in words toward a word count.

Because I have a full-time job, I’m used to writing one to three times a week, not every day. By taking on the 50,000-word goal for the month of November, I felt like I had to be on the ball with my next scene and think of ideas every day, because the current project is a pantser with the ending sort of planned.

As a result, it seemed like some of my scenes were forced, at least this week, but once I started writing, the characters and the story took over, so I just let it go as it wanted. One of my characters became a real snot, and I started disliking her, even feeling uncomfortable hanging out with her and seeing how she treated her sister, the main character.

Anyway, here is my progress for the week:

Day 15 (Sunday): I wrote 2,754 words in two hours, struggling at first and feeling stuck, but then once I got into it, I kept writing. I reached 24,725 words, short 275 words for the 25,000 goal at the halfway point. I didn’t have the energy to write more; plus, I had an errand to do.

Day 16 (Monday): I wrote 2,130 words in two hours, and again it was slow-going at first, but it picked up after a half-hour or so. I reached 26,855 words, getting ahead for the first time. The goal was to be at 26,672 words, meaning I pulled ahead by 183 words. At least it was something.

Day 17 (Tuesday): I returned to work and had so much going on after work, including my book club meeting, I didn’t have time to write. The result: I’m behind again.

Day 18 (Wednesday): Again, I didn’t work on my novel, because I mentored a student, and we did a short story writing exercise. At least I wrote something, but not for my novel.

Day 19 (Thursday): I finally had a chance to write and wrote 1,861 words in one-and-a-half hours. I reached 28,716 words, short by 2,957 words but getting back on track.

Day 20 (Friday): I wrote 2,056 words in nearly one-and-a-half hours.

Day 21 (Saturday): I wrote 1,073 words in 45 minutes, but then a poetry reading I wanted to attend got started at the same coffee shop where I like to do my writing. I reached 31,845 words, short by 3,162 words.

Up to this point for NaNoWriMo, I’ve remained behind, except one day, and then I got busy and got behind again. The thing is, once I set a goal, I try everything I can to make sure I follow through. I’ll keep plugging away toward that 50,000-word carrot stick.

Getting behind on NaNoWriMo (but still feeling good about it!)

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Shelley Widhalm on November 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

I actually hadn’t planned to do NaNoWriMo in 2015, but enough friends asked me if I was doing it I felt like I should at least try.

In 2013, I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time, writing 51,004 words during the month of November, but in 2014, I didn’t have an idea for a project, so I decided to skip—plus achieving the writing of 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month is a big commitment, requiring lots of time and energy.

This time around, on Nov. 1 during the first day of the month-long endeavor, I had other plans that didn’t involve writing—excuses, excuses—but on Nov. 2, I procrastinated but by 5:30 p.m., I was ready to go and wrote 2,182 words in one-and-a-half hours, making up for a few words from the day before (the idea is to write 1,667 words a day). It felt good to write, especially since I hadn’t touched my novel since mid-October while working on editing another novel.

On Nov. 3, I planned to put in another day of writing, but I worked nine hours and got off at 6 p.m. when it was dark. I was so tired all I could think about was going to the gym and to bed. Then on Nov. 4, I returned to writing, feeling way behind. By that day, I should have been at 5,001 words and by the end of the day at 6,668 words.

Instead, I was at 2,043 words by the time I finished my one-hour, 15-minute writing session, bringing my total to 4,225 words, short by 2,443 words. But I knew I’d catch up soon.

By day 5, the on-track count would have been 8,335 words. I wrote 1,904 words in one-and-a-half hours, bringing my total to 6,129 words. On day 6, I wrote 1,058 words, and on day 7, 1,053 words, almost the same as the day before.

My writing for the first week totaled 8,240 words. To be on track at the same daily word rate, the number of words would be 11,669 words, so I’m short 3,429 words (though it’s the work and sense of accomplishment that really counts).

With each day, I found the writing becoming easier and easier. Maybe because I allow myself to make up whatever comes along, not worried about the outcome.

Writing daily and fast turns off the editor, causing me to get lost in the story, almost as if my fingers aren’t typing. By writing daily, I become immersed in the story, not having to go back and review what I wrote the day before or in earlier chapters.

The flow becomes more immediate by taking on consistency from the continual input, instead of from a scattered, occasional approach. I’m more cognizant of my story and the story details, so I don’t mix up names and places, even though I do write them in a separate notebook. And I take on a more consistent tone, pace and voice.

Though it’s a lot of work, NaNoWriMo helps the writer get into the story quickly from the focus on word count, instead of thinking of excuses or getting that separation of time and space from a work drawn out over months or years.