My Top NaNoWriMo Tips

nano_participant_icon_largeI managed to complete the 50,000 word challenge back in 2007, and only once did I attempt to do it again. For those of you out there, hoping to complete this challenge, I offer some basic tips;

Have your plot outlined. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but writing like a madman (madwoman), you don’t want to find yourself midway through, and stuck on a plot point.

This was what stopped me the one time I attempted the NaNoWriMo again. A week into it, and the story sort of fell apart. I feel behind, felt horrible, and even found my creative writing wanted to write non-fiction anyway.

writersthoughtsThrow perfection out the window. Forget about spelling correctly, finding the ‘right word’, or formatting. Write like the flames of Hell are at your heels, and get the story out there.

Remember that is, after all, a rough draft anyway, and you’ll fix misspellings, punctuation errors, and changing words (and complete sentences) through the editing process.

writer01Find your writing ritual. I found a glass of Rum and Soda with a tiny lit candle at my lap-side, after my son was in bed, and the pets fed. This marked ‘writing time’, where my door was shut and I was to be left alone.

I preferred nights, but during the day, when my son was in school (he’s homeschooled now), provided me that vital alone time to write without interruption.

Don’t forget to back up! I knew of two authors who had their laptops quit midway through the month of November, all their writing completely lost. I strongly recommend a cloud drive (Dropbox) or a USB flash drive. It doesn’t hurt to install on the drive word processor like OpenOffice should you need it. This will enable you to use ANY computer and work off the USB drive.

Enjoy the Journey! I never published the novel I finished, but the time and effort of NaNoWriMo earned me something more.

  • I learned that I could write 50,000 words in thirty days. This averaged 1700 words a day, and more if I fell behind, but I could do it.
  • I learned that my husband and son were so much more supportive than I thought they’d be. (Hubby brought me coffee every day!)
  • I learned its important to be selective to whom you invite to join you in this challenge. A so-called friend became very competitive, instead of supportive, offering no support whatsoever. Even her husband made rude comments to me, midway through the contest.
  • I learned the value of writing crap. This is perhaps the most important element of NaNoWriMo, to give yourself permission to write crap so you can focus on the STORY, knowing you will edit later.

Post in comments your own experiences with National Novel Writing Month, and if you’re taking the challenge this year.

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Word count Worksheet

wordcountwritersjourneyHere is my first attempt at posting a free downloadable worksheet. This is a basic word count worksheet for you to use to help keep track of daily word counts.

Perfect for the upcoming NaNoWriMo.

Click the link below.

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More of the journey

007Writing fiction continues to elude me here of late. I’m a bit overwhelmed with the number of things that distract me or demand my attention.

I’m also finding it difficult to focus. This reminds me of those moments of throwing a handful of popcorn to my dog and she doesn’t catch anything. Too many choices, and feeling overwhelmed, and not doing much at all…ugh!

I still get ideas though. I continue to get some very neat ideas for short stories and novel length fiction, which gets compiled and stuffed in the ‘ideas’ folder. I only wish I can get my brain to work with my muse (or maybe its getting my muse to work with my brain?) and get some writing done.

The anthology is taking longer than expected (which is weird because I went through this last year). Formatted the submissions provides a challenge because inevitably members do not follow submission guidelines.

I like to note here that it is a great idea for authors to format all their documents to submission ready. This means;

- 12 point font

- One inch margins

- NO INDENTS (unless included in submission guidelines, which mine do not include).

- NO DOUBLE SPACED lines.

Some formatted, when done manually, rather than a setting, leave me the chore of having to go through the entire document and manually change each formatted whatever.

Imagine having to go through a 7,000 – 10,000 word document and manually un-indent each paragraph? Its so tedious.

We hope to publish in a few days.

As for other events on my journey, our next topic at the writer’s group is about witches and tarot. This isn’t so much specific but a general discussion on how many authors get the topic of paranormal wrong. I’m Wiccan, and trust me, it offends me when authors throw around the label of Wiccan as if it means witch and thereby a magical person who casts spells, sleeps with vampires, hunts ghosts or werewolves, and leads a much more exciting life than the average Wiccan faces.

And writing about Tarot (or seeing on TV or movie) you see the same old cliché’ as the Death card scaring people because Death is near. The Death card does not represent death. It represents change, sometimes for the good but sometimes bad depending on the other cards and its position.

And we’ll be covering all that. Members are very intrigued with the topic.

Well, I’ve rambled on for now. Please post in comments about your own journey. I’d love to hear from you.

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Finding solutions for Procrastinating

procrastinateI’m a terrible procrastinator. I keep lots of ‘to do’ lists, but often do very little. This week, I’ve considered a number of reasons, and potential solutions to this problem.

Finding the cause of your procrastinating. When quitting the nail-biting habit (of 30+ years), I realized that it wasn’t the nail biting that was the issue; it was the nervousness that caused me to bite my nails. I think the same goes for my procrastinating. I figure out WHY I put things off, I can solve the problem.

Near as I can figure out, it’s a fear of failure, or worse, fear of seeing no results at all. When I published my first short story, I assumed friends and family would buy and leave raving reviews. I was wrong. That seriously blew me out of the water, led to my questioning of writing skills, and rethinking publishing ever again.

But not trying also leads to no results. This was the cold, hard truth for me. Whatever doubts cause me to put things off,  I struggle with trying to write through the doubts anyway. Didn’t I love writing? Didn’t I want to be writer? Lack of reviews (or bad reviews) shouldn’t deter that simple truth, right? If I like writing, then write for myself.

Do what you can handle. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount of things I put on my to do list. I then remind myself that I did it- I put the stuff on there, and I can just as easily prioritize and even cut out things I don’t want to do.

Of course, there are things I HAVE TO do, so they take priority, leaving me to juggle which items stay or go. Being an indecisive person, this often leads me into a nerve-racking task to make a decision.

Big projects end up being smaller, bite-sized activities. Some things get shifted to later to do in the week. And the big helper- ASK FOR HELP! I keep forgetting I have a son and husband to ask for help when it comes to chores.

Focusing can be a real issue for me. I might be bi-polar, ADHD, or just a flake, but sometimes focusing my thoughts ends up being a Herculean task.

026I keep a dry board next to my desk to write the important tasks, reminding me what takes priority.

The bottom area is for chores, while the top I put the most important things to be done.

Change your thinking. This can be tough to do, but with practice, you adopt better habits and thinking patterns. A good example is focusing on here and now, rather than the past. The baggage of bad experience can lend to fear and procrastinating, so shift your thinking to being in the NOW and moving towards the future.

I often journal, and will complain. Since it’s a word document, I now delete the complaining, and shift my focus to writing about positive, hope-filled writing. Its seriously changed my mood.

(It’s also cathartic in deleting the complaining too)

Shift from a ‘to do’ list to an ACTION list. An action list focuses on VERBS rather than nouns. Instead of ‘groceries’, I put ‘shop for groceries’. Instead of ‘blog’ I put down ‘write blog’ (and sometimes add specifics like “write blog about procrastinating’.

I’ll post more as I learn more, but in the meantime….I need to get started on my Action list.

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Author Branding

IMG_5588[1]A month ago, I shared with my writer’s group the basics of setting up a blog and/or web site. We discussed domain names, and what to add, but today’s post is about author branding.

‘Branding’ is ‘the process involved creating a unique name and image of a product’. That product is your writing, but also the branding is about you. It helps build recognition. Using a color scheme, specific fonts, and personalized graphics help people recognize you.

Should your site reflect your book or you, the author?

The answer is simple; if you are a one-hit wonder, publishing only that one book, then by all means, have a web site or blog about it. If, however, you intend on writing more than one books, articles, and other literature, you need to make your name the brand.

kingCheck out Stephan King’s site, where he has his name in a recognizable font, as a graphic, and an animated banner showing off his current publications. The site itself is his name, but the web site reflects all his current writing. You can find his previous publications, but he’s showing off what he’s doing now.

amytanAmy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, has a site that also includes her books but also her TedTalks and TV/Radio events, and even her personal story dealing with Lyme’s disease. The color and graphics are distinctive. Her site focuses on her writing, but also her heritage, her interests, and even her dogs.

butcherJim Butcher, of The Dresden Files , focuses on his book series. Graphics and titles includes the Dresden name, and although he writes other books, the emphasis is on the series that made his name popular. Take note the graphics are about his current novel.

As you can see through this examples, the authors are showing off their name, which is their brand, while promoting their current works.

Consider your future, as to what book or book series are you going to be known for.  What colors and graphics reflect you, as an author, or the book series you will write?

amazonauthorYeah, I know. I don’t do this myself. A Writer’s Journey focuses on writing, and posts stuff that writers might find interesting. (Oddly, not a lot about my personal writing journey.) Its because my name is Sharon Poffinberger. Its not eloquent. Its not easy to spell. I’ve published under that name, but I haven’t decided if that will be the name I publish for future works. Once I decide that, I intend on making some changes.

If you like this post, please share, and leave a comment if you have questions or thoughts you wish to share.

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Characters need conflict

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I really liked this graphic (but can’t remember where I found it). But it speaks to the point of what we need our characters to do in our stories; to develop.

In a twisted way, its our job, as authors, to push those characters to their breaking point, even beyond that point, because its through that we evolve.

They need to suffer a bit, just as we do in Life, to see where those strengths lie. Without conflicts, we grow complacent. Characters need the battles, the strive, and the struggles.

Without conflicts, there is no story.

Writer’s Prompt: Consider your own struggles. What of the three things did you choose as a result of that struggle? Did you overcome, grow stronger, fall apart, retreat, or did you find yourself defined?

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My Writing Space with Tips

003I decided to write about my writing space; otherwise known my ‘magical space’. Its not just for writing, though, but also work and homeschool.  I even keep a tiny altar for my spiritual well being.

My office is my sanctuary; it provides me respite for creativity and work. When not homeschooling my son, I’m writing, scrapbooking, crafting, blogging, organizing my meetups, or compiling all sorts of cool things I want to do (this is why I rarely if ever get bored).

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My first tip is using Command Cord Clips . You can use any type of hook but these specific types are for cords. I use this for my tablet recharging cord so it doesn’t keep falling on the floor.

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I have a number of storage drawers, the clear plastic kind, that can be boring and cheap looking. I use scrapbook paper inside the drawers to add a consistent look and color to my office shelves.  The labels I made from printer paper, but you can also use a Label Maker to organize your drawer’s contents. You can also use a dry board erasable marker. If the marker doesn’t seem to wipe off, use rubbing alcohol- it comes right off.

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This looks like an ordinary box (like a wrapped present), doesn’t it? But it serves a dual purpose. I can use it as a tiny shelf for my desk, but it also hides the surge protector I keep on the desk.

I often plug and unplug things like my iPhone, my Silhouette Portrait die cut machine, and and Fitbit thing to charge. But I also have my landline phone, routers, and answering machine all plugged into this thing. The box hides it all.

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See that mess? It gets all covered up nicely. And how I made it was easy;

Take a box that is large enough to cover the surge protector.

Cut out the ends so the cords can go in and out of it. You could cut holes, or cut out the back of it. You just need that space so the cords can go in leaving the box to sit flat.

Cover the box with wrapping paper, duct tape (there’s tons of neat colors now), or contact paper. Now viola! You have a surge protector all hidden from sight, while providing a tiny shelf on the desk.

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I live by my dry board on the wall next to me. I used my die cut machine to make the words ‘to do list’ and the flourish, as well s the divider. The top lists things I MUST do such as work, projects, and appointments. The bottom, I put my chores like washing dishes, walking my dog, or taking out the trash.

The corkboard includes all the writing projects, craft ideas, and my weekly schedule I make each Sunday.

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A larger command hook lets me hang up the headset I use on the wall within reach. It keeps it out of the way.

Take note of the bread tie used to keep the cord wrapped up.

Another vital tip I can share is using a USB hub. These are cheap and easy to use. You can plug in any USB compatible thing such as flash drives, printers, cameras, computer mouse, and so forth, up to 127 devices on one USB port. This lets you expand your computer/laptop.

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I have a four port hub plugged into my laptop which includes my wireless keyboard, mouse, printer, and die cut machine (not plugged in the photo). I can then unplug the hub…

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And plug into my Surface Pro tablet, and BAM! I can use the keyboard, mouse, and printer.

I prefer my wireless keyboard much better than the tablet’s keyboard (or touch screen) for writing.

I can also share an organizing tip I continually find on the ‘organizational tips’ online;

Stuff you don’t use regularly, gets put away and out of site. Things you use regularly need to placed in a ‘zone’, so when its time to put away, you know exactly where it goes.

I have a shelf for manuals and meetup stuff, with another shelf for craft projects, and another shelf dedicated to my business (learnthepc.net).

Even my drawers are organized by frequency of use, and specific to the drawer closest to me.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful. If you liked- please share, comment, and subscribe.

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An Interview of My Short Story (from the past)

myinterviewI’m not sure if I ever mentioned I was interviewed by a fellow writer, Roxanne Crouse. I high recommend you read her short stories on Amazon. She writes in the paranormal genre.

This interview happened after the writer’s group published our short stories, after the anthology we intended to publish went bust. I encouraged members to get out there and publish the short stories, and did so myself. The interview is about the Into the Shade short I published in 2012.

Her blog, SoMuchToWriteSoLittleTime, offers author interviews, book reviews, and her own take on her writing journey. Don’t forget to subscribe to her blog, and read her stuff. Its very good stuff.

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