5 TIPS FOR SLAYING NANOWRIMO

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Confession: my first NaNo was in 2017 and this year is my second NaNo. Of course, I’ve done Camp NaNo for years (literally, I don’t think I’ve missed one for over three years now…) and often surpass 50k during Camp. (Actually, I wrote over 60k this previous September! One month before NaNo! What’s wrong with me!)

So, what’s the secret? What’s the trick to writing 50k in a month? Here are some tips. I hope they help…

PS. I WILL be posting about my NaNo YA fantasy/supernatural/horror novel, GOLGATHA, shortly!

1. YOU WON’T SURVIVE, SO DON’T TRY

Whether you wake up at 5 AM or stay up till 1 AM to crunch out words, consume ungodly amounts of coffee or coco, or have a whole notebook of outline and character sheets to guide you… You won’t survive. So don’t try to.

What do I mean? I mean that writing, at the minimum, 50,000 words in 30 days isn’t easy for anyone. And most importantly? It shouldn’t be. I don’t care if you can easily write 10k a day or if you can barely get 2k a day… the challenge is a challenge for a reason. So own the fact you’ll be struggling, in some way or another, and be ready. OWN the challenge. DO NOT compare yourself to anyone else because the journey isn’t the same for anyone else.

Maybe you struggle starting your first chapter: write three sentences for that chapter and skip to chapter two. Maybe the middle of your novel always gets you bogged down: write something drastic to get that climax wild and fun to pound out. Maybe you don’t know how to end your novels: so take this NaNo as a chance to be strangely unusual and end your novel in a way you’ve never done before. Whatever way you struggle, remember that you won’t be coming out of this challenge the same person. And you don’t have to be a beautiful sight once you’ve hit your goal. (Psst, it’s OK if cereal ends up in the fridge and milk ends up on the shelf.)

2. DON’T FORGET YOUR OUTLINE (EVEN IF IT SUCKS)

I don’t care if you’re a strict planner or a wild panster. I’m not trying to convince you to have an outline in this post, but I suggest it. Why?

It’s 11 PM. You’re sitting in your bed, covered in blankets. Cold coco on your nightstand. Blue Christmas lights twinkle on your bedroom walls. Your laptop, before you, with a blank page blinking at your exhausted goblin face. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” you whisper. “What do I write?”

Yo, this’ll happen with or without an outline, but guess what? Too many of these moments and you’ll be losing actual writing time, and you can’t afford that in NaNo. It’s war. It’s brutal. So be brutal right back. Have a basic plot, basic outline, or super detailed ones, before the month starts. So when the Blank Page and Mocking Characters disease grabs you, you can poke it with a stick and write on.

Remember, the outline can be altered as you write. The book may look entirely different from November 1st to the end of NaNo. It doesn’t matter. What matters is writing 50k. Doesn’t even have to be a good 50k. It just has to exist. Get that through your head.

3. MOTIVATE YOURSELF AND PREP UP, KID

Before NaNo begins, PREPARE AND MOTIVATE. Here are some epic ways to get ready…

  • MAKE A MUSIC PLAYLIST. I’m hugely inspired by music and love to have a playlist playing as I write. (Here’s my Spotify playlist for GOLGATHA, if you’re interested…)
  • MAKE A PINTEREST AESTHETIC BOARD. Because, aesthetics, yo. Having visual inspiration can be really cool, so spend some time getting it ready BEFORE NaNo. (No pinning during writing season, y’all.) (Oh, did you want GOLGATHA’s board…?)
  • KEEP NOTES. Even if you don’t outline a lot, or at all, etc… Jot down alllll the ideas before and during NaNo. Even if it is the smallest, strangest speck of inspiration throughout your day, or maybe you read something in a book you loved–write it down in a notebook or in the novel’s brain dump document. You never know when you might need that fuel later on.
  • STOCK UP on coffee, tea, coco, whatever your fuel is… STOCK UP.
  • GET SNACKS. I usually shoot for things that are easy to snack on while I write. (And, y’know, save the big bowls of ice cream for after I hit important writing mile stones…)
  • FRIENDS? Who needs friends? Well, if you’re someone who likes having NaNo buddies (and I’d suggest it), be sure to friend your peeps before NaNo! Even if you aren’t sure about being buds with anyone, friends can be super fun to word sprint/word war with. Plus, you can rally together before NaNo even starts and get excited! Scream! Flail! Cry!

4. MAKE TIME OR DIE

Pretty much every post for NaNo prep you’ll come across will mention “MAKE TIME FOR YOUR WRITING!!!!” and most people disregard this factor because “it is stupid and impossible”. But it’s vital.

Let’s be real, November isn’t exactly an ideal month to grind out 50k in a novel that probably wants us dead. You’ve got your job, you’ve got school if you’re a student, you’ve got Thanksgiving, and probably Christmas prep (if you rock). So, how do you find time to write?

  • WRITE EVERYWHERE. Wherever, whenever you can. No joke. Bring your phone, laptop, or a notebook wherever you go. Snag a few words in whenever you can. Every bit counts.
  • 5 AM OR 1 AM? If you can wake up early, pound out 3k before breakfast. If you can stay up late, do your word pounding then.
  • SACRIFICE THINGS. You need TIME to write… which means less time for other things. Write instead of binge watching The Office. Write instead of reading the next Mitch Rapp novel. Sacrifice other luxuries to do your work.

5. HAVE FUN AND BE SERIOUS

You’ll lose your mind! Don’t try and pretend you’ll come out of this challenge with all of your brain particles in tact! You won’t!

You’ll laugh till you cry at 12 AM watching stupid Youtube videos because you finished your writing goal for the day and your brain is a sack of rotten potatoes. You’ll cry over a scene that isn’t super duper sad but it’s cold outside so all things are 10x sadder. You’ll grab whatever friend online that’ll hear you rant and let them rant right back at you because you both forgot what the meaning of writing is. A HUGE tip is to REWARD YOURSELF when you have completed your daily challenge! Have some fun once the work is over. Try:

  • FAMILY TIME.
  • WORSHIP MUSIC + PRAY.
  • GO FOR A WALK.
  • WATCH YOUTUBE FOR TEN MINUTES.
  • A BIG BOWL OF ICE CREAM.
  • A NAP.
  • ORDER A STRAIGHT JACKET OF AMAZON.

Treat yo self! But, while fun and games and reward systems are all grand, BE SERIOUS. Don’t get distracted, do your math so you know how many words you gotta write every day, and don’t let yourself lose your drive Only you can write your novel, your 50k. Don’t lose heart or determination. Your novel NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN and do not let anyone tell you or convince you otherwise.

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Stay tuned for my post about GOLGATHA… and may you survive NaNo. If you’d like to be NaNo buds, I’m Angela R. Watts on the site!

God bless,

Angela

WHY HATING OUR OLD WRITING ISN’T CUTE

A huge attitude in the writing community is cringing at our old writing. I’m sure you’ve seen it. Maybe it was someone yelling “Burn my first draft with fire!” or a whole Youtube video dedicated to reading cringe-worthy old writing.

Why, though?

What is it about us writers that enjoy hating on our beginnings? Why do we have to see our first drafts or stories we scribbled as preteens as things to be burned? Because it’s not cute or funny, y’all. I don’t care how many likes complaining about old writing will get you on Twitter–it isn’t right.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin,” – Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

Is it a constant struggle not to wanna lock our first drafts away in a dark cave for the rest of our lives? Sure. A first draft isn’t supposed to be publishing ready. It is supposed to be EXACTLY what it is. A start. I’m the first to admit how ROUGH a first draft can be. You guys haven’t seen the first drafts of Seek, or the very first draft of The Divided Nation, which was titled AWAKE, and believe me when I say, they needed work. But you know what I won’t say? I won’t say they were terrible, because that’s quite disrespectful to say when I asked God to help me write them! 

Without our silly stories we wrote as a kid, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Without our rough first drafts, we wouldn’t be having the fourth draft of that same novel being ready to meet the world. My point being, don’t despite small beginnings. Don’t despise the raw, rough, jumbled starts because without them, we won’t go anywhere. I don’t care how ‘bad’ we might see something, if we wrote it with the intention to glorify the Lord, that is enough. Don’t forget that. God doesn’t want perfect. He wants us to follow Him.

Instead of cringing, rejoice that God brought you this far. Instead of complaining, have faith God will keep moving you forward. As Christian authors, WE are supposed to be the difference in the world, and a huge way of doing that is breaking the mold of despising our beginnings!

What are YOUR thoughts on first drafts? I’d love to chat.

God bless,

Angie

PS. Sign ups to beta read The Divided Nation (dysto/apoc novel) end in a few days and I really would appreciate some, as strange as it sounds, GUY betas! If you’re interested or know someone who might be, check out the link. Thanks! (Please note there are limited slots left!)

 

I REFUSE

I was nearing 30,000 words Monday for Camp NaNo. After really focusing my heart on the Lord for The Infidel Books, the words came pretty well and I felt that I wasn’t forsaking my plot and the foreboding for book 2 was a good start. I prayed hard to have faith when my doubts sounded so silly. I prayed God would guide my writing. I prayed to have confidence that even if this series only reached a select few people, that it would touch them, that God would only have the people HE needed to read it, read it.

Because of that prayer and trust in God, Satan has not left me alone. Do you know the feeling? When you know this is a thing God needs you to do–and no one else–but fears and doubts tug at you, trying to get you distracted and disheartened? You do, because we’re all human. But as Believers, we’re called to be BOLD. COURAGEOUS. 

I had finished writing a very, very painful scene that morning and found a song shortly after, called I Refuse by Five Finger Death Punch. I listen to them often, so this wasn’t out of this world weird. Still, it snagged my attention because of how, literally, spot on it was with the novel I’m writing. It almost freaked me out a bit. Here I was, worrying if what I’m writing needs to be heard or if I’m doing it right, and God just sends this song to confirm that, yes. Our words are needed. God gave us a voice not to be silenced. We have to make that choice because it will change things.

Skip a day ahead, I’m listening to the same song, and I realize something else. I refuse. I stopped matching the song to my novel and grabbed those two words with my spirit.

I refuse. I refuse to let Satan win. I refuse to be afraid. I refuse to let this go. I refuse to ignore God’s Voice. I refuse to doubt God’s Love. I refuse.

And when we make that choice, Satan has no power over us.

If you have doubts, don’t shove them away as silly, my friend. Pray. And you look those doubts and fears in the face and say, “I refuse you in the name of Christ.”

If you’re interested in beta reading The Divided Nation, here’s the sign up form, as well. ♥ If you have questions, let me know, and if you can’t sign up be can spread the word, I’d really aappreciate that!

God bless,

Angela

HOW TO STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR WIP

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I’ll be honest, I generally don’t have trouble staying focused on my WIPs. I try to limit my WIPs to one or two at a time, but I don’t have a hard time getting motivated for either (I just struggle with the idea of writing so much at once, considering my chaotic life, lol). I don’t lose interest in my projects because they are more than just bunny trails. However, I know people who struggle with staying focused and motivated for their WIP, and I hope my tips help you!

 

KNOW WHY YOU ARE WRITING THIS STORY

This is the most important question you can ask yourself when starting a WIP. Why are you writing this project? Is it to heal a wound? Is it to spread awareness? Is it to make someone laugh? Before you dive into a story, answer this question. And once you know why you’re writing, hold on. Hold on to the answer. Because writing isn’t easy. Words don’t always come flowing, plot holes raise ugly heads, characters refuse to listen, and deadlines can be pretty scary fiends. But guess what? You have a voice and you have to make the decision to use it, no matter what.

Hold on to the truth that God gave you a voice and you’re writing this project to glorify Him and spread His love. Remember every voice is different. God needs yours. Don’t quit.

 

MAKE SURE IT IS MORE THAN A BUNNY TRAIL

OK, and before you say, “Every idea starts off small!”–this is true. Every author has a different way of doing things, and starting with nothing and just writing what comes to mind on a whim might work for some people, and that’s cool. But if you don’t have a written plot, formed outline, and solid characters, it probably won’t be easy to work on your WIP. I strongly suggest…

Have a plot. It does not have to be intricate or the size of the Bible. All you need is your basics. The basics could just be your intro, middle climax, and a rough idea of an ending. But you need the plot!

Outlining. I know not everyone likes outlining. But if you are stuck in your WIP, having an outline might be helpful so you know where you’re going with the story and what happens next. Again, outlining doesn’t have to be a huge chore. I’m sure you’ll find many helpful articles on teenage author sites and all, but I also recommend this post by Abigayle Claire about outlining for those who hate it.

Limit yourself. If you have seven plot bunnies dancing in your head, you cannot focus on plotting one WIP. So jot down other ideas, but focus your willpower on the main project(s).

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As my next point says, the plot and outline will change as you write, but try to have a solid grasp on your theme and main points, so even if they change, you’ll then have a solid idea of what they AREN’T, too. 😉

 

BE READY FOR THE STORY TO TAKE OVER

We can have the strongest, longest outline and plot in existence, with intricate details, brilliant plot twists, and heroic characters–and our story can still change. No, no, it will change. If you have done the above tips and still struggle, maybe because your plot changed as you wrote, or a character changed a motive, don’t stress it.

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Stories come to life. Be ready to let it come. Be ready to listen to God’s nudge in your gut as you write. Yeah, it might mean extra work because you have to rewrite the whole story, or redo a whole character, but it is worth it. Don’t stress the troubles that arrive. Don’t be disheartened! Everyone runs into problems (even bestselling authors, OK?). What makes us writers is pushing through trials with faith that God’ll lead us. Keep writing. Keep trying. Keep learning.

 

SET ATTAINABLE GOALS

Running out of steam is a thing, y’all, and a helpful way to avoid running out of steam is setting goals you can reach. Set a daily writing goal that you can achieve. This will boost confidence and every word counts, so your story will grow, day by day, and before you know it, you’ll have a finished draft.

So when you’re lacking focus or motivation, set goals! Sure, they might change, but you’ll make progress and feel better if you reach your daily goals.

BONUS: make creative goals! “Today I’m going to create a mock cover for 30 minutes, just to see what I come up with!” “I’m gonna spend 20 minutes on my Pinterest storyboard today!” These things aren’t pointless (cover making is really fun, yo) and helpful, so have at it with creative goals, too.

 

ALLOW YOURSELF RECHARGE TIME

This goes with or without struggling to stay focused on your WIP–hard work pays off, but if you push yourself too hard physically, emotionally, or spiritually, you will need to recharge. So try to be honest with yourself: are you really struggling with your WIP, or are you struggling because you aren’t taking care of yourself?

Recharging doesn’t always equal a month long hiatus from your project. We can’t always allow that kind of time frame, nor do we always want to. Taking breaks from a WIP is often recommended (especially after first drafts!) but if you’re past that stage or haven’t even finished your draft and need more motivation, I suggest…

Pray. What better way to recharge and find some peace than turning on praise music and reading your Bible? Talk to God and explain what struggles you’re facing. Ask Him to guide your writing. God is our greatest Guide, Comfort, and Storyteller… So seek the Best! 😉

Take a walk. Yeah, an oldie, but a goodie. It doesn’t have to be a marathon. You can even wander around your yard aimlessly. But fresh air does you good. And who knows? You might even find the answer to your plot hole in the great outdoors.

Human interaction! Whether you just wanna chat about some real life talk, or a family member is super good at brainstorming, step away from the laptop and talk to real people.

Just chill for 20 minutes. Read a book. Sketch something. See how much water you can drink in five minutes (this probably isn’t healthy?). Watch some TV. Bonus points if the show is the same genre as what you’re writing. (I rarely do this. Usually I just watch funny things on Youtube *cough*The Office*cough*) But allow yourself a blip of free time as a reward for your hard work!

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I hope this was helpful, and thanks to everyone who suggested this post. 🙂 Feel free to share it with a friend who might need it!

God bless,

Ang

 

 

3 THINGS THAT STRANGER THINGS TEACHES US ABOUT STORYTELLING

The attention for the Netflix original series, Stranger Things, might’ve cooled down since the hiatus before the upcoming season 3, but I haven’t stopped thinking about the show. As I was playing the soundtrack, I started thinking about some things the first two seasons taught me about storytelling.

While the show isn’t for everyone, and I’m no way saying for my followers to go watch it, I’m a fan of the show–so far. I’m disclaiming merely because I have no idea what season 3 will hold and am no way condoning the unknown. I enjoyed the first two seasons because they had soo many great lessons to learn… as a writer. What are those things I’ve learned? It is time for…

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DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE WILD

Do not be afraid to write anything, period, about anything, ever (as long as God says it is OK, ha). What do I mean? I mean that 1.) There’s nothing new under the sun. 2.) So WRITE WILD.

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It is OK to be cliche sometimes! Cliches in Stranger Things included: big bad things, little town. Big bad government with lots of secrets. The nerds/geeks get bullied all the time. Most of the parents (EXCEPT JOYCE! SHE IS QUEEN!) have no idea what is going on. Are cliches always good? Nah. But guess what? They don’t always lessen the quality of fiction. The cliches in Stranger Things didn’t make things less realistic. So why are writers so afraid of being cliche sometimes? Cliches aren’t the enemy, y’all.

It is OK to be wild and strange! Writers are creative beings. The sky is the limit! Some strange things Stranger Things had was: how diverse the cast was (kids/teens/adults all in one inter-woven story? yes please). Not everyone made it out alive. Not every main character was even likable or had heroic motives. The monsters weren’t cliche-scary. The spiritual ties were very real. Don’t be afraid to get wild, creative, inventive, crazy–just go for it. Don’t be afraid if it isn’t very ‘realistic’. If you’re writing spec-fic, fantasy, etc, you’re job is to twist reality. So go twist reality!

 

DON’T UNDERMINE YOUR AUDIENCE

If you’re a writer who markets your own books, you know how important it is to find your target audience. Stranger Things had a broad audience, since the characters are in three groups: middle schoolers, highschoolers, and adults. The story built off of the other groups because no one could find all of the puzzle pieces alone. It took all of them to push the story onward. Where am I going with this? 

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Let’s be real. A YA marketed novel probably isn’t going to be picked up by many mature adults. An adult mystery novel probably won’t be picked up by a teenager. The obvious reason is because different audiences want different things.

While it is important to know your audience and give them what they want, don’t undermine them. Don’t think “They came for a YA romance, so I can only write a bunch of fluff or a bunch of angst.” Don’t worry so much to fill your check-list of ‘This Is What My Audience Wants’ that you fall flat and don’t write your story. Challenge your reader. Give them something to think about. If you’re writing a romance, make it a bit more than that. If you’re writing a mystery, make it more than that, too. Stranger Things was a hit because it mixed in more than one subplot and focused on the heart of the story, challenging readers to think.

 

DON’T CLOSE THE (CURIOSITY) DOOR

Think of your favorite book or TV show. Why is it a favorite? What theme clings to you? What character shined brightly? Did the story make you laugh, cry, etc? WHY? Why did things stick with you, and what would you have done differently? Storytelling is a craft, a gift, something that is inside you, but it will never be perfected. Humans aren’t perfect. So don’t strive to be. Don’t write the perfect story. Write your story. Write a good one. 

Stranger Things tapped into many important story telling techniques: strong character motivations, building anticipation and foreboding future situations, and using sensory details to capture people’s attentions. While writers can’t use an epic soundtrack to set a mood or portray emotions through lighting, we can use sensory details, spatial description, and set the mood in other ways. We can keep learning, exploring, and experiencing new things–it all helps. If you want your reader to remember your story, or get them to laugh, or get them to cry, or get them to see God’s hope–you have to tell them a story. You aren’t writing a nonfiction book or a police report or a recipe. You’re writing a story. And it isn’t easy. It takes effort, work, blood, sweat tears. You might wonder how much longer you can rewrite the same story.

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But keep that door open. Keep faith in God, yourself, and the power of your story! Don’t skimp out on building up a scene. Don’t bog readers with information, but give just enough description where they want more. Don’t make a character give too many secrets, but make the reader wish they did. There is power in storytelling. So give it thought, and when it comes down to it, trust God to show you when the story is complete. Not perfect, not the new bestseller, not the next C.S. Lewis–but finished. You told your story the best you could, glorified God, and it is enough. Somebody needs your story. And that’s why we tell them.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this post, friend! Feel free to leave your own thoughts (or, if you’ve seen the show, fangirl with me).

 

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God bless,

Ang