NaNoWriMo Prizes, Motivation, and Fun — Enter Here!

| Posted in NaNoWriMo |


It’s November 1, and if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, you’ve probably already started knocking out words. I thought it’d be fun to give away some prizes to help motivate you during your journey. How about some Amazon gift certificates? And maybe a couple other goodies?

Here’s how it will work:

  • Post a comment here with your email address and a link to your NaNoWriMo page (i.e. mine is If you like, tell us about your book and your goals. Other writers with common interests may want to “buddy” you.
  • Every Friday (the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th), I’ll randomly pick a winner from those who are on target with their word counts. That winner will receive a *$25 Amazon gift certificate. That means four chances to win if you keep up with your word count.
  • In addition to the weekly prizes, at the end of the month, I’ll give away a $50 gift certificate and a copy of Scrivener (the software I’ve been using to write for years) to a final lucky winner.
  • Lastly, I’ll be giving away some random $5 gift certificates here and there during the month to folks who keep popping in and commenting on these blog posts (keep using your NaNoWriMo address, so I know you’re a participant). If you buy from independent authors, that’s often enough to get you a book or two.

All right, that’s it. Easy rules, right? Let me know if you have any questions, and get to it! 🙂

*If you win and you don’t have Amazon in your country or simply prefer to shop in another store, let me know and we’ll work something out.

Update: You don’t have to write your email address in the body of the comment, just in the form where it says email. That way I can see it but the spam-bots of the internet can’t!


Mini-winners of a $5 Amazon gift certificate:

$40 gift certificate winners:


NaNoWriMo Prep: How Do You Write More in Less Time?

| Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing |


I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times, but this’ll be the first year in a while that I have a full-length novel project that’s ready to get rolling on Day 1 (I’ve done novellas the last couple of years, but I’m ready to break ground on a new book in my Emperor’s Edge world), so I’m excited to participate. I’m planning to do some giveaways (Amazon gift certificates and maybe some copies of Scrivener) for folks who keep up with their word count, so make sure and stop by here for details next week.

If you’ve tried NaNoWriMo before and haven’t finished those pesky 50,000 words in the month allotted, perhaps you’d like some tips on how to get more written in less time. I always feel like a bit of hypocrite when it comes to productivity tips, since I a) don’t write 10,000 words a day like some authors and b) am the master at dinking around on Twitter, Facebook, and, ahem, “researching” on the internet during writing time. But, hey, I have published ten novels and however many short stories and novellas in the last three years, so that ought to count for something.

So, without further waffling, here are my tips for finishing those 50,000 words in one month:

1. Plan out the scene before you sit down to type

Some people outline and some people pants (that being short for writing by the seat of one’s pants). There’s no right way (though I got a lot more efficient when I started doing at least a rough outline before getting started — at the least, things get easier if you have the ending scene in your mind before you start… know the end, and you can find a way there), but what I do know is that you’ll be a lot more efficient if you know how the scene you’re going to write today goes before you sit down to type.

Showers, dog walks, mindless commutes, treadmill time at the gym… these are all good places for planning that next scene. You’re going to be doing at least one of those things every day anyway (I hope that shower thing is a gimmee, anyway), so make use of the time. When you know what happens next for your characters, you’ll find yourself zipping through the words.

2. Turn off your internal editor

With NaNoWriMo and the first draft, it’s about getting the story down, not about making it pretty or wondering what your critique group will think. Don’t worry about changing every instance of “was” to a more engaging verb. Don’t worry about describing settings and characters in clever and evocative ways. Don’t worry about being clear and concise. Get the story, dialogue, and action down. You can edit and fill in the details later. If you believe Dean Wesley Smith, writing fast and not doing much editing might be the best thing for your story.

3. Research later (or before you start)

If you’re writing historical fiction or something that requires a lot of research, I recommend getting the bulk of it done before NaNoWriMo starts. For the little questions that inevitably come up as you write, you can throw a **LOOKUP LATER** note into the text and leave it for later. Most of those minor details can be researched and double-checked once the first draft is done. I’ll even put something like PLACEHOLDER1 in for a name I can’t remember, rather than taking time away from writing hour to look up a minor character from two books back.

4. Use timers for spurts of focused writing

Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s true, true, true for me. On those rare days with nothing scheduled where I have from dawn to dusk midnight to get in my 3,000 words (or whatever the daily goal is), it’s not uncommon for me to be in bed with my laptop at 10pm, trying to get the last 500 in.

I’m often most efficient (and sometimes most prolific) on busy days where it’s tough to find time at the computer. If I know I only have a half hour here and twenty minutes there, I’m less likely to waste what time I do have.

Whether you’re busy or not, you can use a timer to create a sense of urgency and force yourself to focus for X amount of time. If I set a timer for 30 minutes and order myself not to screw around online, just to write, I can be impressively efficient (at least by my standards). Sometimes it’ll almost be a race. How many words can I knock out before the timer goes off?

You don’t need a special app for this. Just Google, “set timer 30 min” or whatever your chosen time is, and your web browser will start counting down. If you’ve planned your scene ahead of time and know what needs to be written, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get during that little spurt.

 5. Get ahead at the beginning

Early in the month, you’re enthused about the new project, and the words fly from your fingertips. If you hit your 1,667 words on Day 1 and still have time to write, do it. Try for 2,000 or 2,500. Try for another 2,000 on the next day and maybe 3,000 on each day of that first weekend day.

As the month wears on, there will inevitably be busy days when you can’t find time to write, and in the U.S., you’ll have the craziness of Thanksgiving weekend. It’s hard to sneak away and write when there are relatives flooding the house.

You may also struggle to keep the words flowing as you get deeper into the story as well. If you’re like many people, you’ll find those first few chapters easiest, because you’ve been thinking about them for a while. The middle can be a slog for all of us, that time when the end isn’t yet in site and we’re starting to hate the novel and have this-totally-sucks thoughts (Yes, it happens to all of us!). If you got ahead early on, you’ll have some leeway during the more challenging second half of the month.

All right, those are my not-so-concise tips. If you have any to add, feel free to post them in the comments.

NaNoWriMo Success Tips (have any to add?)

| Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing |


It’s the beginning of November, and, for a lot of us, that means the first day of NaNoWriMo, a self-inflicted torture worthy project where we attempt to write the first draft of a novel (50,000 words of one anyway) by the end of the month. No, it doesn’t matter that this is a hectic time for many people. We are writers; we will conquer!

I did NaNo last year and knocked out the 50,000 words, and I usually write 1500 to 2000 words a day anyway when I’m working on a first draft, so I thought I’d throw together a few tips here for those who might be new or who’ve participated before but not met the goal. (If you have tips of your own, feel free to add them at the end.)

NaNoWriMo Success Tips:

Get ahead early

You’ll probably find the writing comes easiest in the first week, because you’ve been thinking about this novel for a while. You know how the first chapter goes and maybe the first few chapters. You’re excited about the project, and you’re excited about NaNoWriMo. This is the time to get ahead i the word count. It’ll be a little extra cushion for later, when life gets in the way or you just get stuck in the story (it happens to the best of us).

Write every day

Try not to blow off any days. If you write every day, you’ll need to pump out about 1667 words before bed each night. Perhaps not a “piece of cake,” but a manageable goal. If you miss a day, you’re suddenly looking at over 3200 words that need to be written the next day. That’s a lot. If you put things off and say you’ll catch up on the weekend, it’s even worse. You’ll start to hate the whole process, and maybe give up, if you’re looking at a Saturday where you have to write 7,000 words because you haven’t gotten any writing in since Monday.

Instead, try to write every day. You’d be amazed at how much you can write in 20 minutes if you’re focused. Even if you don’t make the 1667 words that day, at least you made some words, so catching up isn’t quite so difficult.

Don’t put off starting until the end of the day

I’m a night owl, so I know all about saving writing for the end of the day, but it’s easier to reach goals when you’re able to knock out a few hundred words before you get going in the morning, a few hundred more on your lunch break, a couple hundred before dinner, etc.

You may actually find that you’re more productive this way too. If you know you only have 15 minutes to spare before you leave for work, you’ll sit down and write without screwing around. If you start writing at 8pm, and know you have the rest of the night to work, you might check email, play a few rounds of Scrabble on Facebook, tweet with your buddies, etc. The length of time needed to complete a task tends to expand to fill the length of time allotted. This is why some of your best NaNo days might be on a hectic Thursday instead of a Saturday where you have nothing else planned.

Don’t obsess over having your entire novel outlined in advance

If you didn’t get your entire novel plotted out in October, don’t stress about it. A lot of us who write full outlines end up deviating from it by Chapter 3.

If you know where to start, and you know how it’s going to end, you can probably find a road to get you there. In fact, there’s a quotation about that. E.L. Doctorow: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Use your time away from the computer productively

Most of us can’t sit at the computer and write all day. We have work, family, and various obligations that keep us busy, but you probably do have some hours during the day where your brain doesn’t need to be 100% focused on its current task. Time where you’re exercising, dog walking, commuting, etc.

Use that time to work out the next scene in your story so that when you do get a chance to sit down at the computer, you’ve got the next thousand words or so all planned out, and there’s no need to dawdle.

Only write the good scenes

Most of us don’t enjoy writing exposition, the stuff where we explain the world, the setting, the characters’ histories, etc. And don’t forget the transition pages where we feel we have to show how the characters got from Destination A to Destination B (even though absolutely nothing integral to the plot happens during those pages…). Well, guess what? If it’s a slog to write, it’s probably not going to be that interesting to read either.

Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing tells us to, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” You’d be surprised at just how much exposition you can leave out without any sort of confusion on the reader’s part. And you’ll have an easier time staying excited by just writing “the good stuff.”

Worried that you’re leaving out something important? You can always add it on the next pass. You’re writing 50,000 words and most novels are in the 70-90,000 word range (SF & F are often over 100,000!), so you’ll probably want to go back and flesh things out later anyway.

Worried that you’ll get confused if you leave gaps in the narrative? Using a program like Scrivener (there’s a free trial for NaNoWriMo participants) lets you name all your chapters and scenes and see them over in the sidebar, so it’s easy to jump around and find things. (If you decide not to buy Scrivener, don’t worry about losing access to your work; you can compile it into a Word file before the trial runs out.)

All right, that’s enough of a list from me! Are you an experienced author or NaNoWriMo veteran with tips of your own? Please share them below!

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