"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Monday, October 31, 2011

Countdown to NaNoWrimo: Helpful Do’s and Don'ts For Your Success

It’s finally here, tomorrow is the start of NaNoWrimo!
Most writers by now are familiar with this month long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  But, if perhaps you are new to hearing about this strange acronym, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, click here to discover a whole new level of writing.
Last year was my first year as a Wrimo (that’s what the writer’s who participate in the challenge are nicknamed. I did not misspell Wino!) and I wanted to share with those of you who may be returning to the challenge or attempting it for the first time, things I learned from my experience.  
I’ve put together a list of my top do and don’t tips that helped me push through the challenge, and when November 30, 2010 arrived, I had completed the first rough draft of the second novel in my middle-grade series, The Clara Jeane Mysteries.  
Let’s explore:

The Unknown Author’s Top Four Do’s
Do set a writing goal each and every day: 
There are thirty days in November and when equally divided they equate to approximately 1,666.7 words a day.  Does that mean you have to write that many words a day?  

Absolutely not.  

In fact, in my first day, I wrote over 5,000 words.  But by setting a numerical goal you commit yourself to at least achieving, and in some cases, exceeding your daily goal.  I found there were some days I far exceeded my goal, which helped me on days when perhaps something arose or I just couldn’t muster the motivation (yes, unfortunately, you will have days like that).  
Go for it, you just may surprise yourself!      
Do allow yourself to freewrite:  
Recently, I wrote an article about the art of freewriting click here.  Basically, freewriting is a skill writers use to let their creative side have full reign when it comes to putting words to paper/screen; without allowing their critical side to interrupt and point out errors.   
So go ahead, ignore those misspelled words, incorrect commas and awkward sentences!  Remember the end goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  
Time for a did you know moment!  When Stephen King writes a new story he does so at full speed ahead, puts it away for six weeks, and then begins the rewriting process.   
Do take a break:
It’s vitally important for your mental health, and your physical health, to take a break.  Take a walk around the block, spend an hour a day at the gym or take time to find out how your loved one’s day went.  Whatever works for you to relieve stress or recharge your creative juices, do it! The writer’s life can tend to be a secluded one, but only if you allow it to!  
Do allow yourself to extend your word count by spelling out contractions!:
This tip is a fun one.  In fact, I discovered it through connecting with other Wrimo’s last year.  It was an eye opening experience for me to write out contractions.  I never realized how often they are used.  

Go ahead try it, it’s fun!

The Unknown Author’s Top Four Don’ts 

Don’t stop to edit along the way:
This tip goes hand in hand with allowing yourself to freewrite.  Don’t allow your self-editor to join in the NaNoWrimo fun.  They have plenty of work to do when it’s finished.  In fact, many months worth!  So let them go on vacation, they’ll need it! 
Don’t be afraid to write the end first or the beginning last:
Many writers, I for one, sometimes have the ending in mind before they even start to write a story.  If this happens to you, create a file folder with the title of your novel and within that folder have individual files of scenes that come to you as you write.  Then when it’s time to put it all together, it’s simply a matter of cutting and pasting.  I have written several novels this way and it is a time saving skill.  
Don’t get distracted by Twitter, Facebook or surfing the Net:
Actually, this tip works with or without NaNoWrimo.  Social networking has become a very important tool for writers to gain recognition, but at the same time, it has become a deterrence and often times an excuse not to write. 
Making the decision to write a novel in a month is a big decision for any writer, and even though there are no repercussions other than you fail the challenge if you don’t succeed, a lot can be said for self pride.
My mother was right when she used to say, “‘spend your time wisely.’” 
Don’t forget to thank family and friends for their support and understanding and most importantly don’t forget to eat turkey come the 24th! 
Unless you live in a household of writers, chances are the one’s closest to you, although they support your efforts, may not completely understand your deep seeded desire to write a novel in thirty days or what it takes to make your desire a reality.  

It does mean missing a dinner once in a while and many days turned to night and nights turned to day; holed up in a room creating a new world and bringing people to life through the strike of a keyboard or the stroke of a pen.  

But when all is said and done, no matter what, when November 24th arrives, sit down to a table surrounded by your family and friends and give thanks to them and their support.  And if you’re like me, you’ll give an extra thanks for the opportunity to live in a country where you have the freedom to seek your dreams and make them a reality.
Good luck fellow Wrimos, and if this year is not the year for you, hopefully, some of these tips will help you in your everyday writing.
Until next time,
Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!
T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ramblings of a Writer: The Art of Freewriting

Freewriting is a technique used to allow a writer to literally, get something down on paper. The technique is often times used to help overcome writer’s block or to see what ideas come to mind when one allows themselves to turn off their natural critic side of the brain and give full reign to their creative side.

Let’s explore:

Lately I haven’t been publishing as many blog articls as I would like to but I’ve been so busy lately with wriint and editing and Friday flash fiction which I reallt enjoy doing because it has helped me to learn to write faster and it also helps me to stay in a constant frame of creaitivy which I think is important to any writer. I hope to get back to a regulear schedule because I miss my blogging companions but it is also important to keep on writing and writing and writnng. I really don’t like seeing all the red underlines but I also like turning of muhy internal cridict and not worrying about changing every little word as I write-

That is freewriting in a nutshell. No need to worry about sentence structure, grammar, spelling or if it makes any sense. I let my mind type what I was thinking and the words just flowed out. Now it’s your turn, go ahead and try it! What did you discover?

The first couple of times I attempted freewriting, it was very difficult to turn off my critic. I constantly wanted to hit the backspace button and fix the word or add a comma or edit its meaning. One day, I got an idea to make a deal with Mr. Critic. I agreed if he allowed me the opportunity to just let my creative side run with their ideas, I would come back later and let him do his job, and it worked!

When I find times where I feel my writing is stalling or the story needs to find its way, I go into freewriting mode and let my creative side do their job. Not only has freewriting been an amazing experience for me, it has also helped me to improve the speed at which I write.

Lesson learned? As with any story, there are two sides to writing. The fun side and the working side. By allowing your critic side to take a vacation while your creative side works is the fun side of writing; the artistic side if you will. Then once you have something down on paper, whether it’s a story or a blog article, it’s time for your critic to go to work. That is, the working side of writing. 

Unfortunately for the creative side, it never really gets to take a full vacation like Mr. Critic, it gets more of a restful nap. After all, Mr. Critic may be good at polishing, but he’s not so good at plotting, creating characters or twisting!

Although freewriting is a technique, it can have a profound effect on the content of your writing. In other words, you may surprise yourself by what is hiding deep down inside of you when you’re not constantly monitoring your every word. Some writers consider themselves to be a vessel for which the words can flow from, rather than the creator of the words. No matter which side of the fence you are sitting, it is worth finding out what you say when your critic is on vacation!

If you’ve never tried freewriting, or if you have but it’s been a long time, take a little time during the week to set aside twenty or thirty minutes to just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about what you say, how you say it or whether your “T’s” are crossed or your “I’s” are dotted. Then set it aside for a day or two before revisiting it. You just may be surprised what was hiding inside wanting to come out!

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author