Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

In the press of NaNoWriMo

It’s November 6th and I’m working on my fourth NaNoWriMo novel. This year my project is the 4th book of my Funeral Singer series. Two previous novels in it were written during NaNo. Last year’s novel is in the O’Ceagan’s Legacy series, and sadly, it is still in the edit pile along with Dew Dropping Hour. I tend to impose deadlines on myself and right now, completing the Funeral Singer series is right at the top of my list. There will be one more book in the series to bring it to five total.  But more about that later.

In this post, I want to toss out my top 7 methods to surge past the infamous writer’s block. I actually compiled these for the most recent High Sierra Writers’ newsletter, so if you’re already seen them, then move along.

There’s really no such thing as writer’s block, you know. You just have to do it. And there are some techniques that work for me. If you’re stuck trying to write something, give them a try and see if they won’t help you past the road block. However, the writer’s block at the top of the page can be a serious hindrance.

7 Tips to Break Writer’s Block

From the experiences of Rene Averett

As I’m starting my 4th year of NaNoWriMo, I’m planning to complete the first draft of my next novel. I have “won” every year so far and have every expectation of completing 50,000 words plus quite a few more in November. Even while doing NaNo, writer’s block can set in. I have a few techniques I use to get past them so I will share my top 7 tips for anyone else to try.

1. Change writing mediums: If you’ve been typing on a keyboard, try writing with paper and pen. I find that it triggers my mind into using my creative side and words tend to flow more easily as my mind shifts modes. After a page or so of writing longhand, I can usually get back into the flow of the story and to the computer.

2. Move around: Get up, take a walk, or do something physical for about 15 minutes. Your brain may just need a break. Put on some music and dance or exercise. Sometimes this includes getting up and feeding the cat.

3. Refresh and ask questions: Get a cup of coffee or a glass of water and allow your mind to think about the scene. Ask yourself questions about it. Maybe you haven’t planned it well enough. Ask the basic reporter’s questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If you can answer them, then you might trigger the next part of your story or you can write a character back-story scene that gets you going again.

4. Take time for play: Play a game or do something creative, such as sketching, drawing, or cooking. Once again, this provides a break and allows your brain to work on the next part of your book.

5. Skip over the scene and go to one that is clearer in your mind: This works well if you’re a plotter. Often when plotting, you add scenes that you’re looking forward to writing while others are part of the necessary lead-up to that great scene. If the lead-up isn’t coming together, jump to the scene you’re really wanting to write. This often sorts out the troublesome scene in the process.

6. Turn off your inner editor: Easier said than done, but seriously, editing uses a different part of the brain and stifles creativity. Let your creative side go and just write.

7. Dream on it: If you’re having trouble with a scene, think about it before you go to sleep. Your brain will work on it while you’re sleeping and you’ll probably have the solution in the morning.

Hope these tips help you if you find yourself staring at the same line of your computer screen for a long time.

 

Read “Funeral Singer” for free!

Two years ago, on November 1st, I participated in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – for the first time and completed my novel, Funeral Singer: A Song for Marielle, which I went on to rewrite, edit, and publish in September 2015.  While I’ve written other novels, this was the first one that I published and it is the first novel of the Funeral Singer series.

As I begin my third NaNoWriMo writing frenzy, I am celebrating by making the Kindle version of Funeral Singer FREE for the first five days of November.

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Available FREE from November 1 through November 5, 2016 at Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B014QXQKSM

Gillian Foster is an energetic, bright young woman in her mid-twenties, who is trying to build a career as a musician and singer while paying the bills with a dog-grooming job. She’s pretty, sassy, and a hard worker.  With her band, Spicy Jam – Ferris and Digby, musician pals from college – she plays parties, fairs, events, and clubs whenever she get a booking. When an accidental fall results in a concussion that triggers a paranormal talent, things begin to change.  While singing at a funeral, she suddenly can see and talk to the deceased in an ethereal graveyard without missing a beat on her performance.

Convinced she is having hallucinations, she looks for a physical reason for the problem. While she won’t tell her bandmates or the handsome doctor she’s started dating, she does confide in her best friend, Janna, who believes in all things paranormal. As Gillian gets more jobs to sing at funerals, she encounters more deceased who need her assistance. One of these clients needs more than an assist to the next life.  She demands that Gillian find her murderer. Can Gillian find the man and what will she do if she does?

While I don’t have many reviews on Amazon for it, the ones I do have give it a 4 1/2 star average rating.  A few of the comments about the book:

  • I liked this story very much. It’s very well written and has great character development. The author just made Gillian’s journey easily comprehensible. The use of two point of views (Gillian’s and the detective’s) paid off well. The suspense that was build kept me intrigued despite the plot being a bit foreseeable. – Amazon Reader Coral Fang
  • I’ve been reading this book as what I call my “lunch time book” but yesterday, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and read it straight through although I must admit, my curiosity got the better of me by chapter 18 and I swiped to the last two chapters, read the ending , then went back to where I left off. I once read that a good book or movie is defined by the ending whether one cares about what will happen to the characters when it’s done. “Funeral Singer: A Song for Marielle…” gave me that feeling and therefore I recommend this book to anyone and everyone and can’t wait for the next installment!!! – Amazon Reader Cindy Western
  • This is what a book should be, well-written, well plotted, with engaging characters. It was a privilege to visit this world. – Amazon Reader PRBC

If you enjoy a suspense story with a paranormal twist, here’s your chance to take Funeral Singer for a test drive. If you’re on Kindle Unlimited, the book is available there also, even after the five day promotion.  Find the book here.

Don’t forget that if you sign up for my mailing list, you will have a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card in my quarterly promotion.

Gaining Confidence and Words

NaNoWriMo week 1 stats. I am upwardly mobile.

Friday, November 7 marked the end of the first week of the National Novel Writing Month challenge for 2014 and it has been exhilarating for me.  I did post a few updates on my Facebook page, but don’t want to bore you with too much about it.  I will say that the Reno team is great.  Our fearless leader amazes me with the amount of time and energy she has been putting into getting the write-ins, both in person and on-line, organized and done.  Plus she has written her whole 50,000 words already and is now going beyond!  Great work, Alexandria King.  The encouragement really keeps you focused and pounding away on the keyboard.

What I have learned so far is that I can write close to 5,000 words a day without stalling too much and if I push a little, I can write through the stalls.  I have my techniques that work for me and it seems to be working.  The writing is not perfect and there are cringe-worthy parts that I will rewrite in the editing process.  The key now is to get the story written with the plot mostly working.  Any flaws, plot holes and inconsistencies can be addressed in the editing.

Why is this such a big deal for me?  It means that I finally have managed to turn off the internal editor to the point that it doesn’t slow down the creative part of novel-writing.  It allows me to write without losing the flow of the book and the characters.  It allows the characters to really come into the story and for me to begin to hear their separate voices and really “see” them.  Your logical brain is the editor and that’s not where your creative center is, so being able to turn that part off while writing frees up the creative brain.  And I suspect that while you’re relaxing and sleeping, the logical brain is busy trying to patch in the fixes to the weak parts of your plot because those definitely seem to get sorted out before it’s time to write them.

Another thing that does work for me is the pre-planning.  I started NaNo with a story synopsis that I wrote last month that pretty much outlined the whole novel.  I built the outline in Scrivener, which is writing software that I just learned about and bought in September.  I wish I had gotten this sooner. So, I set the novel up in chapters and scenes in Scrivener and it looks like this:

My novel in Scrivener with the cork board open showing the chapters.

When I started writing, I had a pretty clear idea of the start of the novel while from the middle section on was kind of hazy.  One of the really nice things about Scrivener is that it allows you to write in scenes that you can move around if you need to do without the hassle of cutting and pasting that you have to do in WORD. It’s a simple drag and drop with the corkboard open.  Another great thing is having all your character bios available without having to go to another program or another document to open them.  Same thing for locations and any research that you’ve done or need to do while you’re writing.  You can update these bits of information on the fly and refer to them quickly and easily.

So I can easily say that using this tool has made an improvement on my writing when it comes to organizing and adding to speed while writing.  It’s not for everyone.  For as many people in the writers’ group who love it, there’s just as many more who dislike or feel it’s not useful at all.  It’s one of those tools that if you take a little time to learn it, it can make your job much easier, but if you’re confused by the programming or just don’t see the value, then it’s worthless on your computer.

For me, it’s been great and I’m a huge fan.  This is not an advertisement and I’m not being paid to evaluate this product.  I’m just sharing something that has worked for me and I’m really enthused about.  I finished my sci-fi fantasy novel in October using Scrivener and to prove to myself that I could write at least 1700 words a day.  Even with the learning process of the software, I found it so easy to see right where I was in the book and to take those scenes in little bites, that I had my average daily word count around 2500!  With the extra incentive of NaNo and the write-ins, I am closing in on my 50,000 words already and averaging over 5,000 words a day!  It’s not the end of the novel I’m writing, as I expect it will be between 65,000 and 70,000 words in the first draft.  But I also expect to finish it by the end of November.

Stay with me to see if I make it.  And then I’ll begin the editing process in December.  Hint:  I won’t be editing the book I’m writing this month, but one of the other two I have written and ready to be edited.

Please leave me any comments or ask any questions you might have about this adventure in speed writing.

Character Building and Inspiration

Monument at Lady of the Snows Catholic Cemetery, Reno NV -Photo by R. Averett

A little under two weeks until the start of NaNoWriMo on November 1st and novel prep is underway.  I will be writing the first book in, what I plan to be a series, called Funeral Singer: A Song for Marielle.  It’s a paranormal mystery, think a Ghost Whisperer type of story.  I am so excited about writing this story and I have the plot worked out, although stories do tend to take side excursions on me as I am writing.

Character

This past week was spent with the characters more and getting the background for them worked out.  I am still adding to them, but most of them have names and histories and are beginning to “come to life” in my brain.  You know you’re succeeding when they start talking to you.  I think I am getting close to at least my main character speaking up.  That’s always a fun time in the writing process.

Even though my NaNo Reno group met on Friday to work on plot and characters, we didn’t really plot much or do much character building, but did get better acquainted and talked quite a bit about writing.  Two of us had signed up for the webinar on using Scrivener for NaNo that was presented by  author Joanna Penn and Joseph Michael, who offers training on the program.  I have been using the program about a month now and absolutely love it for any writing project.  But this webinar showed us quite a few tricks and learning how Joanna has used it during NaNoWriMo was a bonus.  So, we talked a little about the cool features in the program and how much more there is to learn about it.

Inspiration

Grave monument at Old Hillside Cemetery, Reno NV – Photo by R. Averett

Yesterday, I went out with the roomie looking for a little inspiration in, of all places, cemeteries.  I also wanted to get a renewed sense of the feeling in the mausoleums, chapels and along the rows of graves, new and old.  As I was taking a few photos, I had the feeling that I was intruding at times.  I found myself offering prayers and well wishes to any ghosts that might still haunt these areas.

I went to the Old Hillside Cemetery near the University of Nevada Reno campus.  Graves in it date back to the Civil War era, but it is a sad-looking place.  Fences surround the various sections of it to prevent vandalism.  Oddly, there were a few newer-looking gravestones for very old graves so the families of these people are trying to maintain those graves.  I’ve heard that there are some who wish to move the graves to a new location so that this area might be used for student housing.  Stories relate that there are at least two ghosts who haunt this graveyard and possibly more.  I am not prone to seeing ghosts, but there are times that I do feel a presence.  I also believe that moving the grave will not move the ghost with it.

One of the cemeteries was the Catholic one at the north of town. I stood among the graves of the innocents, the babies that had died, some not even one day old and yet offerings of flowers showed that they were still remembered and loved.  One grave of a 12-year-old girl, who died several years ago, had a freshly carved pumpkin and autumn flowers on it.  Very touching.  I want to remember all of this when I begin writing my book in November.

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

keyboard

I only heard about NaNoWriMo, the big writer challenge where authors attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, about two years ago when a friend of mine did it.  Then over the summer,  during one of the writing classes I took, the subject came up again.  While talking about it, I began mulling over the idea of joining in this November.  NaNoWriMo is a condensed form of National November Writers Month and is a widely spread campaign to encourage writing.

For the most part, I don’t produce a lot of words a day.  If I did, that novel would be getting completed much sooner than it is.  I am also not a consistent writer, so I thought that maybe, just maybe, this challenge might lead me to form a better writing habit.  And if I succeed, the next novel I have in mind will be completed in first draft form.

If you do the math on this, the challenge is to write an average of 1,667 words a day, give or take.  It really doesn’t sound like much until you sit down to write and those words take a while to add up.  One of my biggest hurdles is turning off the self-editor when I write.  I can spend more time deciding which word I want to use than actually writing a paragraph of story.  Those word choices, action changes and other items that take a good story to a great (or at least better) story can wait until the editing phase, but it’s hard to tell myself that when I’m writing.  And re-reading what is already written will also trigger the self-editor and waste more time plus stifle the creativity somewhat.  At least, it does with me.

So I am gathering information and tips, and  I have an online seminar on the subject coming up later this month, to help me form a battle plan to achieve my goal.  A terrific resource, I think, is our local NaNoWriMo group that is scheduling group writes where we can meet with other writers, chat a bit and write like crazy for three hours.  We’ll see how that goes.  And I’ll report back here on my activities leading up to the write-a-thon as well the various writing events that occur during the month.

Of course, in the middle of all of this writing in November is the Reno Comic Con, so I’ll have to come up with a strategy to get the writing in on those three days of convention-going.  Sleep?  Who needs sleep?!