Writing Survival Tips for IWSG Day, NaNoWriMo, and ROW80

National Novel Writing Month is here!

It's also Insecure Writer's Support Group's Day, and so, inspired by Tina Hayes' NaNo Survival Kit and Lauralynn Elliott's post on Tools of the Trade, I'm sharing my own Writing Survival Kit:

1. My favourite pen and a brand new notebook. The notebook can't be too shiny and pretty though; the more attractive it is, the more I worry that my words won't be good enough for its pages. Many times I'll start writing from the back of the notebook and only return to the front pages once I'm in the swing of a story and more confident in its development. Hence:

1b. Do what works for you. There's lots of advice out there for writers, but none of it seems to come with the important caveat that a writer need not follow any of it. Use all the -ly words you wish, while typing your novel on the back of a truck in the wind (a la John Cleese in that Monty python sketch), just do what works. That said,

2. Get the words down. I'm always frustrated by people who bemoan their writing to the point where they're paralysed before even starting. It's true what they say, you can't edit a blank page. Every NaNo reminds me all over again how important it is to write every day. It's only by writing all the time that a writer can stay nimble. It takes me a few hundred words into each session to stop telling, stop using cliches, and really get into a scene and inside the characters' heads

3. The Compuserve Books and Writer's Community. This is one of those stories I never tire of repeating: if my friend hadn't lent me Outlander, if I had let it languish in my TBR pile, if I had not read the acknowledgements and decided to check out Compuserve, then I might not have found the spark that led me back to writing after a two-year drought and might not be writing today.

It doesn't have to be Compuserve, of course. Any group of writing friends or critique partners will do, for writing exercises, idea sharing, commiserations, celebrations, and understanding that you have voices in your head!

4. Accountability. Some writers are disciplined enough that they get their words down and their editing done within self-imposed timelines. I, on the other hand, need outside pressure. I've sweat with Sven, I've joined Ning groups and Facebook groups, but the best to date has been A Round of Words in Eighty Days:

"A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. We are all different and we all have different demands on our time. Why should we all have the same goal? The simple answer is that we shouldn't. If you want to be a writer, then you have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to your changing circumstances. If that means changing your goals when your life blows up, so be it. ROW80 is the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life."

That's exactly what I did; when November came in I revised my goals. Though I still had a notebook and a half of Larksong left to type up, I've had to drop it. I feel badly, but it's also thrilling to be back on a drafter's high, writing every day and exploring the world of a brand new story.

I haven't found a title yet, though. For fun, I've been calling it The Ottoman Sultan's Captive, which makes it sound like a cliché '70s Harlequin!

And now, a break-up-the-text image!

Winter is coming (in the Northern Hemisphere); bundle up!

Are you doing NaNo or busy editing?
Please share your writing tips!


Trisha F said…
I'm doing NaNo as well, and I totally agree with your "just write" mentality. It's how I end up with so many rough - but completed - drafts. ;)

I'm pretty good at holding myself accountable. But I get soooo annoyed when I have to go out on a school night and can't get much, or any, writing done. Like tonight. ;)
Hi Deniz - he's an absolute sweetie - bet he will grab your attention a few times.

The points you make here .. seem so sensible - get on with it .."If you want to be a writer, then you have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to your changing circumstances. If that means changing your goals when your life blows up, so be it." The ROW80 - sounds a great idea .. I'd no idea what it meant - now I do.

Cheers and happy times writing around that bundle of joy .. Hilary
Tamara Narayan said…
Love that picture. Babies get the best hats. I'm about to start a new novel, but I need to do my research first. I'm determined to plot it out first to avoid my usual bloatfest. I agree that it's better to write badly than to stare at a blank screen. l feel more comfortable editing than creating.
A writing survival kit is what I need too! Just write is the name of the game, I think...
I am happy to follow such an interesting blog!
M.R. R. said…
I'm not going to do NaNo this year. But your reminder to do what works, that's good advice in itself. Keep it up!
I need the outside pressure as well. And you can't edit a blank page. Nothing to delete!
Carrie-Anne said…
I finally signed up for NaNo, after several years writing it off as not my thing since 50K is just a drop in the bucket by my typical standards. It's obvious I'll need to go back to do more worldbuilding, research, and character development after it's over. Right now I'm just pouring everything onto the page, after so many years of carrying this precious story in my heart and swearing I'd someday go back to write it properly.
dolorah said…
Butt in Chair is the only writing tip I have; and I don't always follow that.

"you can't edit a blank page" is so true.

What an adorable baby.
Chrys Fey said…
That picture is adorable! And I love that you said you worry that your words aren't good enough for a pretty notebook because I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I always want to buy a beautiful journal but then have no idea what would be worthy to go on the pages. That's why I stick to plain spiral notebooks. :)
Zan Marie said…
Do it your way, or don't do it! That should be engraved on every writer's wall. Thanks for reminding me, Deniz.

And for including the lovely little lady. She's adorable!
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks four lovely comments, everyone!

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