Write healthy in preparation for NaNoWriMo

Like adopting a healthy lifestyle, adopting a healthy attitude towards NaNoWriMo is integral to your ongoing success. For many, NaNowriMo represents a pressure cooker environment of little sleep, bad food choices and too much caffeine. The results of this type of lifestyle, even for a week, is not conducive for free flowing creativity or low stress.

To keep the creative juices flowing, with both stress and energy at an acceptable level with minimal sleep, a western diet and its thought processes are not going to fuel the lifestyle required to juggle normal life and the pressures of NaNoWriMo and continue to the finish line without something breaking down.

As someone who has battled eating disorders, depression, weight issues and health challenges, I know only too well the power of attitude, focus and proper nutrition to support the body.  For those who are seeking balance or a healthier way of surviving NaNoWriMo, perhaps some of these tips will assist. Its never too soon to start these good habits either, so don’t wait till the 1st of November to test them out. 

Attitude

Your attitude will make or break you before you type the first word on Nov 1. Be clear with your goals and the reasons you are participating in NaNoWriMo.

Every day we make dozens of small decisions which ultimately spell out the difference between success in our goals, or failure. As soon as you get up or home from work, did you spend twenty minutes on the couch watching telly or goofing around on Facebook or spend that twenty minutes on a super charged word hit; typing as quickly as you can without editing? Small changes can add up to huge results.

There are some great programs available specifically for NaNoWriMo to push and challenge writers with procrastination issues; from timers with loud alarms which sound when you stop typing, to the cruel one that eats your words if you stop typing. Do a Google search or check out the official NaNoWriMo site and forums for suggestions.

Like training for a sporting competition, or reshaping your body, its how you spend  98% of your the time rather than being obsessed with the trip-ups which are realistically going to happen. It does not serve you, nor is it healthy to focus on the 2% of your time you spend on negativity, binge eating or  procrastinating.  What will normally happen is that you will beat yourself up and then give up… all for 2%.

Remember that consistency is important in achieving your goal. Just as when you are reshaping your body, if you only make healthy choices when you feel like it, then you won’t see much progress on the scales or in the mirror. Make the right choice even when it’s hard and you are tired. In most cases, you will find an extra burst of energy once you start to write and that by pushing through that resistance, you strengthen your resolve and it will be easier next time to fire up your laptop and punch out a few paragraphs.

Treat yourself with gifts or treats after you cross small milestones. This will motivate you to continue. Don’t wait for the 50K mark to pop the cork of a champagne bottle or a new fountain pen. After years of teaching people from preschool to adults, there aren’t many students who are immune to bribery in the way of a sticker chart and treats! Work out beforehand what your treats are.  They don’t need to be sugary or junk foods either – though to be honest, that works too. Treats may include a walk in the sunshine with no shoes on, a delicious hot bath filled with aromatherapy oils, a foot massage – its up to you how extravagant or simple you make them. For the sake of simplicity, make a chart or a pick list and when you achieve a goal – go straight over and choose something… and DO IT!

Focus

The NaNoWriMo word count can be likened to the bathroom scales used to measure one’s weight.  Just like those on their initial weeks of weight loss, many writers become obsessed with the numbers. Similarly, there are going to be days where those scales tip favourably and others when no matter what effort you put in, they remain stable.

Yes, NaNoWriMo is about setting those targets, hitting the daily word count and putting yourself under pressure to perform. However, make your plans to write realistically fit around your life, not the other way around. 30 undisturbed days to write would be nice, but unless you hang out in the mountains alone, its unlikely to happen. Sometimes circumstances change suddenly – a new job, a family crisis, moving house – and your planned routine doesn’t work. The trick is to be flexible and know when it’s time to tweak your methods.

Focus on what is important to you with your NaNoWriMo project.  Is it really to dish out 50K of hasty words, or 30K of thoughtful, considered ones? Is it to start your journey as a novelist or give you material for an anthology? Perhaps NaNoWriMo is really about proving to your family you are serious about your writing. There may be other ways to achieve these goals rather than focusing solely on the word count.

Proper Nutrition

No doubt we all “know” what to do and eat; however especially during NaNoWriMo, we don’t. This is when the body takes over and forces you to stop when you get cramps, fevers, sore throats and sniffles; resulting in more stress as your word count drops as you are too sick to concentrate or write.

Get your 5 vegetables and 3 fruit servings a day over and done with at breakfast. Explore green smoothies and juicing to boost your nutrition and vitamin intake. (see below for more information on these)  It will supercharge your metabolism and allow you to cheat a little on the sleep.

Cheat on Sleep

Don’t kid yourself. No-one gets enough sleep during NaNoWriMo. An important fact you may not know about good quality sleep is achieved when you are in the Delta Phase. For most people who sleep 8 – 10 hours they only actually ‘get’ to Delta for around 30 – 45 minutes. The trick, therefore, is to get yourself to delta as quickly as you can and stay there for as long as you can. Learn some deep relaxation techniques to assist you in getting to this state – or look into the Pzizz. I’ve had an earphone unit for years and when really sleep deprived, they work a wonder as they bring your brain waves into a delta state within moments. There is a software based program which can be used for a 10 min power nap while you sit at your desk in front of your pc. The iPhone has a fantastic App (big smiles!!) for it. Choose a method which will support you and try it. Your body will love you for it.

Sufficient pure water

Not sweetened fizzy drinks or caffeinated drinks – pure, unadulterated water. If you are sitting inside, you will need about 8 glasses. Keep a water bottle by your laptop and every time you pause to think, it’s a signal you are getting dehydrated – so take a sip.

If you are seriously needing a fizzy drink, try sparkling water; or go and buy a ‘soda stream’ ( a kitchen utensil that carbonates water).

Coffee drinkers?  (I am the worst offender here). For every cup of coffee or caffeinated drink you imbibe – you *ought* to flush it away and out of your system with two glasses of water. The positive thing about this is that often the best thoughts and ideas are hatched while..errmmm… sitting…

Supplements

Forget the 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. The way the toxic farming industry is going, our produce lacks proper nutrition. Source either organic produce, or quality plant based supplements to support the stress NaNoWriMo will put on your body… and make sure you either eat them or take them!

A great ‘cheats’ snack is raw nuts.. Sorry – not the flavoured, salty or smoked ones. Walnuts and Almonds are especially fabulous for focus and prolonged concentration.

My secret weapon is Green Smoothies.

Since discovering them early last year, they have become a staple part of my day. Supercharged and full of pure, raw energy, they are the perfect breakfast for sleep deprived, nutritionally deficient NaNoWriMo participants, and particularly good afterward to wean those off all the caffeine and sugar many use to keep themselves going.

A good Green Smoothie is 60% fresh fruit blended with a high power processor with 40% green leafy vegetables and a little pure water. I’d suggest you start with a higher percentage of fruit until you get used to the ‘greeness’ . Also start with very bland greens such as baby spinach before you move on to silverbeet and kale.

If you are looking to get through NaNoWriMo without the assistance of junk foods and sugar, then seriously look at having a green smoothie a day. When your cells get what they need, and your brain, and emotions, and that desire for junk falls away one step at a time, you will find yourself buzzing with a new found energy – and perfect focus to write. For a step by step video and info on these click here

Again, these are the things I adopt on an ongoing basis to support my lifestyle, and may not suit everyone. However, I have a deep knowledge that without them, my emotional, physical and psychological health would be of a poorer state. No matter what you do, keep your NaNoWriMo in a healthy state until the end.  You owe it to your body (and your family), not to mention to the work in progress you are spending all this time and energy to create.

 

On Fresh Starts and Writing Adventures

Today, October 1, marks the traditional start to the official NaNoWriMo season. In years past, this entailed a day of anticipation while the event’s websites would be brought down, updated, refreshed, renewed and ultimately re-launched, unveiling new functionality and a fresh, clean slate for the several hundred thousand enthusiastic aspiring novelists to use to begin their new noveling adventures.

2014 may or may not see that extended, pulse-stimulating downtime of anticipation today, but nonetheless when the calendar flips to October 1 the hardcore NaNoWriMo enthusiasts among us can’t help but feel just a little bit more excited than normal. This is The Beginning, the start of something potentially new, something potentially awesome, something definitely not easy but something absolutely amazing.

Lest I get ahead of myself, let me provide a quick introduction to NaNoWriMo and my own experiences with it. For those who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month started in 1999 as a quirky challenge to encourage (read: provide plenty of guilt motivation) to finally write that book we all say we’re going to write someday. I won’t attempt to re-record the complete history of NaNoWriMo, as this has been done for us already: NaNoWriMo History

The rules were simple: Create a new, lengthy (50,000 word) work of fiction.

Oh, and do it in 30 days (November 1-30).

“Winning” is defined as completing that 50,000 word challenge by the last minute of November 30th.

Over the years, the rules have changed slightly from time to time, allowing for “NaNo Rebels” to continue works-in-progress or allowing for a more relaxed definition of the word “novel” or even “fiction”. The goal, however, has always been the same: write, write, write!

Personally, I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since November, 2006. That first year, I crossed that 50,000 word threshold just before midnight on November 30 (less than 15 minutes to spare) and it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life (I kid you not). Sure, the novel I wrote wasn’t great, and isn’t ever going to be great, but that’s not really the point. The point was to write it. When I started the novel, the idea felt amazing and workable. It felt like something I’d like to write someday. Rather than keep thinking about doing it someday, I wrote my amazing, workable idea into a novel. When I finished it… well, some novels just don’t work out, I suppose.

I’ve had various levels of success each year since then, with 2014 marking my 9th year of participating. I’ve “won” every year, but of the 8 completed novels, I’d say only two or three have any shot of going anywhere beyond the Microsoft Word documents that currently contain them. That said, they ALL have sections which may work (or have worked) as short stories or as launching points for a different novel someday.

Today we at Today’s Author kick off our annual NaNoWriMo Prep Month. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be putting together posts to help you prepare for your noveling efforts in November should you choose to tackle this event. But make no mistake: the things we are talking about are not related solely to NaNoWriMo. In fact, several of our authors have never and will never participate in it. Our goal is to help you plan for any project, short or long, to help you prepare for writing your next big first draft, to help you complete your first draft. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to write 50,000 words in November or 13,000 words, the goal is the same: start, write, finish.

So, let’s look at our calendar and take advantage of the clean, new month. If you’ve been working through a rough patch of writer’s block, let’s look for a renewal. Clean the slate and take a step back. Over the coming weeks, consider ideas you perhaps put on the backburner in the past and pull them out again. If you’ve been thinking about taking a stab at writing in a genre or style you don’t usually write… start learning the rules of that genre and generating ideas.  Give yourself permission to take a chance on these ideas, different styles, different formats… Stretch yourself and you may find a part of writing you’ve been missing (my example of this would be that in 2007 I wrote a novel that falls into the fantasy genre… a genre I never had interest in writing.  It is my favorite novel so far and has spawned a whole set of fantasy stories and ideas.  And it was on a whim that I decided to do that for NaNoWriMo 2007.)  We’ll help provide you with the tools to outline your new work (if outlining and planning are your thing) or to figure out where you’re going to dive in and start writing by the seat of your pants (if that’s your preferred writing poison). Either way, you’ll come out of this effort with ideas, plans and hopefully an enthusiasm to try NaNoWriMo for the first time, to do it again for the 3rd or 9th or 15th time, or to just write something new.

We can start right now, today. Here in the comments, anyone who has attempted NaNoWriMo in the past can share successes and failures. Those who haven’t tried it can discuss their successes and failures with writing anywhere or any time – Are you a seat of the pants writer who gets lost and can’t finish the story when it gets long? Are you a planner who loses interest after spending weeks outlining plots and characters? Do you have trouble keeping the idea that your first draft is a first draft and instead of just writing it you get bogged down in the details of editing it? Throw your questions, ideas and concerns out here in the comments – our community will definitely have ideas or answers and perhaps a post later in the month will address them in more detail as well.

T-Minus 30 days to NaNoWriMo 2014!

Write Now Prompt for September 30, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The man from the car service was waiting for her in the driveway, but she didn’t want to leave the house.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Looking for the Idea Lost and Found

It never fails.  I’m running on the treadmill or mowing the lawn or standing in the shower…and an idea for a story comes to me.  Not just “an idea”, but The Greatest Idea Ever.  The Idea which would lead to the best new novel/poem/story/script ever imagined ever!

It happened again this morning, the idea coming to me as I finally got my aching muscles loosened up after a long weekend of abusing them.  The idea was so simple, so perfect… it was going to write itself.  I had opening lines, the number of chapters, the main characters all there in my mind.  I kept going over the idea as the machine counted my steps and I was sure I’d get home and be able to transcribe it.

I got home, fired up the laptop, went to wake the children, took care of the dishes, let the dog out, fed the cats, watered the plants, started the coffee, drove the teenagers to school, updated the grocery list, sorted through some laundry issues, wrote a couple checks for school events…  When I finally sat down at the laptop, the idea — my perfect, amazing, fantastic, almost-going-to-write-itself idea– was gone.

Obviously, we can all see my mistake here: I shouldn’t have come home.  But getting past that, I sit here and wonder how many ideas have come and gone simply because Life with a capital L demands that we prioritize work, school, kids,  paying the bills, etc. above all else.  I certainly wish I could just close my eyes and do a Bing search in my brain to find that idea which just this morning felt like it was The One.  If there’s an idea lost and found, I’m sure it is full of stories that have not yet been told but are there just waiting for someone to reclaim them.

It’s funny or sad or…something…  I never put pen to paper on this story that came to me this morning. Never really got to know the characters or their world. And yet, the feeling of loss is big because they are gone.  I mean, they’re still “in there” somewhere, but the whole thing is out of reach.  On the good side of the ledger, it’s been a long time since I felt like a creative idea that good was there for me.  Now I just need to find it again and hope that it’s while I’ve got a laptop or a pen or my phone nearby.

What tricks or methods do you use to help remember ideas that come to you when you simply cannot record them immediately? I’d love to hear what works for you.

 

Write Now Prompt for September 26, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

Everyone at the high school reunion stared at his scar and awaited his story.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Coffee Talk: Let’s Talk about Writing

brainstormingSeveral members of our community wrote in and suggested that we have an occasional post where we simply talk about writing.  New or less-experienced writers often have a lot of questions about crafting stories or editing or publishing and can benefit from hearing from more-experienced writers and their efforts in those areas. Similarly, experienced writers can get stuck in a rut where writing is more of a chore than a joy and they can benefit from new ideas, tools, methods and energy from other writers.

So, let’s take today to just talk about writing.  Do you have trouble with some aspect of writing? Do you struggle with a particular tool you use when writing? Are you lacking a tool for some aspect of it?  Do you have a particular tool or writing process you’ve found to be a tremendous benefit to your writing efforts?

We have a vast community of writers with many levels of expertise and experience, and each of us has something to offer and something to learn.  So, grab a cup of coffee or tea or whatever your beverage of choice is and let’s share some ideas, questions and answers here in the comments.

 

Demystifying Proofreading

Getting a story or document “proofread” holds a certain mystery as the lines between beta reading, proofing and editing are often blurred and misunderstood. There are several stages a manuscript enters on its way towards submission or publication. After the author has acted upon the suggestions of their beta readers and self-edited, sending the work to a proofreader to review before it is handed to their editor will ensure that their editor can focus on structure and elements without being distracted by grammatical errors. With editors fees normally being charged per hour, minimizing lower level, time wasting tasks will maximize the skills the editor has to offer. A proofreader’s fees are generally less than an editor, due to the type of checks and tasks required and is often a fixed fee, rather than an hourly rate.

Proofreading can be defined as identifying and correcting typographical and grammatical errors. A professional proofreader will check the work a few times, looking for different aspects each sweep. These include checks in:

  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar.
  • Name, word and term consistency. A proofreader will ensure that a characters name is spelled the same way each time, that the author has consistently capitalized specific words or terms.
  • Layout. Proofreaders check that font choice and size along with the page layout remains the same across the entire document.
  • Style guides. Often submissions to literary agents or competitions have very strict style guides to adhere to. A proofreader can ensure that these have been followed.
  • Dependent upon the length of the document, checking that the table of contents match with page numbers.   

It’s difficult for an an author to do a thorough proofread of their own work as often they are too close to the text, story and characters and will overlook errors without realizing it. A fresh pair of eyes will spot inconsistencies and mistakes quickly.

It is important for the author to have clear communication with their proofreader to outline the expectations they have for proofing the manuscript. Generally, a proofreader will read the document quickly and jot down questions and queries they may have arising from the first sweep.  Often these notes are inserted into the document as comments using Word Track Changes.  It is up to the author to address these queries and to accept or reject any alterations made to the original manuscript.   

A quick Google search will turn up pages of proofreaders with varying fees. Personal recommendations through your writers groups, or the writing professional body in your state are better methods of sourcing a reliable proofreader than choosing a random service based on an attractive website. Most countries have a society of editors and proofreaders which can be contacted for qualified professionals.

Many authors believe that proofreaders only check for grammatical errors.  Whilst this is a basic element of the role, a good proofreader has a grasp on a wide range of topics, has an extensive vocabulary and the ability to express ideas and images concisely. Not only do they need to be both tactful and confident in order to challenge an author on word choices, a proofreader needs to disciplined with their time and be able to deliver their skills with a quick turnaround.

Write Now Prompt for September 23, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The change in seasons from summer to fall affected more than just the colors of the leaves.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

The Writers Circle: Collaboration

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Have you ever worked on a collaborative writing project? How did you and your partner(s) handle the writing process? Did you ever have disagreements about plot direction or character traits, and if so, how did you work those out? Were there any tools you and your partner(s) used to make the collaborative writing process easier to manage?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

 

Do you have an idea you think would be a great topic for a future The Writer’s Circle post?  Do you have a question you’d like to ask our authors?  Fill out the form on our Contact Us page to share your ideas and questions.

 

Write Now Prompt for September 19, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

When he went to call for help, he found that none of the phones were working.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.