NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is all over the Internet right now. Are you doing it? The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel this month. That means 1,666 words a day if you write seven days a week. That doesn’t seem like so much for me. I can spew out words in profusion on the days that I choose to write, but seven days a week? Including Thanksgiving? No, no, no. That kind of schedule is a quick trip to burnout land for me. I purposely keep my hands off the computer keys on Sunday and sometimes another day of the week because it’s not just typing. The brain needs to recharge. It needs to go back to the warehouse for supplies. If I get an inspiration on my non-writing days, I may boot up the machine, but I’m more likely to scratch it out on a piece of paper so I’m ready to go in the morning.
For some people, NaNo works. The camaraderie and the pressure to report progress every day can really help get you writing. You can even attend “write-ins” in your community to pour out the words together. No critiques, no craft discussions, or worries about marketing, just writing. It’s all good. Just not for me. Not this year.
I have started NaNoWriMo a couple of times and pooped out because I realized the novel I had started to write wasn’t what I was supposed to be writing at that point. I already had writing projects I needed to get done, and NaNo was just a distraction. Plus I think it’s more important to write well than to write quickly. This year, I’m immersed in a nonfiction project and don’t really have a novel noodling around in my brain. I’m still trying to sell the last one I wrote. Plus it’s November. I’m as busy as a dog barking at squirrels under the woodpile.
Challenges can be good. I have gotten many poems out of Poem-a-Day challenges, and I enjoyed last year’s A to Z blog challenge. Anything that gets us over the wall between not writing and writing is good. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, go, go, go. God bless you. May your words flow easily into a great novel that we’ll all read and love. But don’t feel guilty if you’re not taking the challenge this year. Do your own thing. Make your own challenge that fits your life and your writing goals. Finish that book by Christmas. Send out a query a week, write 500 words of prose a day, or write a poem every Tuesday. Or just keep doing what you’re doing. That’s probably challenge enough.
Now let’s go write.
Dear friends, I’m typing this on my laptop while lying on my bed, dog at my side, with my right foot encased in a splint and a fuzzy black slipper. I sprained my ankle when I missed a step down from the lobby into the bar at a local restaurant. No, I wasn’t drinking, but it makes for a good story, doesn’t it? Feel free to use it as a prompt and let your imagination go crazy. One woman, all dressed up in Christmas finery, a bar, a guy, a step, a scream . . .
It’s all material. I’m documenting the whole thing because I think it might be good to have a character suffer this malady, especially the first part of it because suddenly you. can’t. walk. Now imagine a bad guy is after him or her or they’re hiking far from home or they’re about to walk on stage . . .
On the nonfiction side, one could write about sprains. How common are they? What are they? How long do they take to heal? What about crutches? It takes a lot of strength to operate them. My arms and ribs are killing me. How old is too old to hop around on crutches? The ER doc never asked if I was okay with them. What tricks can you do to take care of things when you’re alone on crutches, which means you can’t carry anything? Should I sue the restaurant?
Of course, one could write poetry about the frailty of the human body, the ridiculousness of the situation, dealing with pain and disfigurement, and the need to ask other people for help.
Feel free to use any and all of this. Most of my energy is going into simple things like eating and getting dressed, but I am working. Why not? The daytime talk shows are tempting me, but I didn’t break my fingers or my brain, so why not write?
You can read about my adventure in detail at my other blog, http://unleashedinoregon.com.
I signed on here to write something inspiring about starting a new writing year. But you’ve heard it all before. Take some time this holiday week to look at what you have accomplished in the last year and make plans for what you will do next year. Set some goals and make a plan for how you will achieve them. What will you do this week, this month, this year? This is also the time to add up your writing income and expenses for 2014 and set up your record-keeping system for 2015. I use spreadsheets. Use whatever works for you, but keep those records. You will need them in April.
What do you hope to accomplish in the new year? What would you like to see here at Writer Aid to help you do it? I’m here for you. I welcome you comments.
Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration. Stay safe and come out writing.
Now let’s go write.
I looked up after Christmas and realized it was almost THE END OF THE YEAR. Oh no! Suddenly my newsletter is due in a couple days, I have to pull my financial records together for my writing business, and if I don’t use my free lunch at Georgie’s by Tuesday, I’m going to lose it. Plus I have all my regular work to do and bills to pay when all I want to do is take a vacation, preferably someplace warm. My teacher friends have another week to relax, but I’m a writer and a musician. That means I’m self-employed and need to get my act together for a new year.
If you’re a writer or any kind of artist, you’ve got some work to do, too. It falls into two categories: closing out the old year and planning for the new year.
Closing out the old year:
Finances: If you make any money with your writing, you need to report it on your income tax. You can offset that income with your writing-related expenses, but only if you’ve kept track of them throughout the year. I hope you have. If not, start now. It doesn’t matter whether you do it by hand in a notebook, put the numbers in a spreadsheet, or use a program such as Quickbooks, but you need to keep records and keep your receipts. That way, if the IRS questions your return, you have the paperwork to back it up. While you’re at it, take a look at what you earned and what you spent. Is it out of balance? What can you do better next year?
Files: If you’re like me, the paper piles up and so do the computer files. Now is a good time to sort through it all. Put current projects close at hand. File or toss the rest. Clear the desk for a fresh start. It’s also a good time to purge unneeded emails and computer files.
Year-end report: Unlike big companies with stockholders and boards of directors, writers are not required to report to anyone about our year’s accomplishments, but it’s still a good idea to look back and see how you did. What did you write? What did you publish? How did you progress in your writing career? If you kept writing all year, consider your year a success.
Planning for the new year
Finances: Now is the time to buy a new ledger, start a new spreadsheet, or open a new file in your computer program to record your income and expenses for the new year. You might want to set a budget and income goals. Think about what you can do to spend less and earn more.
Setting writing goals: As you start the new year, what do you hope to accomplish in your writing in 2014? Will you finish that novel? Submit more articles? Start a blog? Take a class? Write it down and give yourself deadlines, then post your goals where you will see them every day.
Then . . . Go Write.
I have updated my resources page with more books and more links. Click on “Resources” above. If you find any errors or have additions to suggest, please let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan. 2 is the deadline to sign up for my online classes, listed under “Classes” above. I’m offering courses on blogging, columns, opinionated writing, and writing and selling freelance articles. If I don’t have enough signups by Thursday, the classes will not be offered this term.
Happy New Year to one and all!
It’s October, the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year. Three months left. What have you accomplished this year? Are you ahead, behind or exactly where you want to be in your writing?
This year has gone quickly, hasn’t it? Soon it will be Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then 2013 is over. The weather is changing, the hours of daylight are decreasing, and there’s a real temptation to slack off, to coast to the end of the year. But I have a better idea. Let’s use those last three months, 90 days, to finish the year with a flourish. If we were football players running behind or only one touchdown ahead of the other team, would we relax in the fourth quarter? No way. We’d go all out to score some serious points. The game isn’t over until the last second ticks away.
Maybe this fourth-quarter push is why so many writing challenges occur in November. The most famous is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in which people engage in marathon writing sessions in an attempt to write a whole novel in a month. There are also several Poem-a-Day contests, the most famous of which is run by Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer. Engaging in one of these contests is one way to cram a lot of writing into a short time. I’ll probably do the poetry challenge again because I do get more poems written than I would otherwise.
But maybe you already have something else you need to be doing with your writing. Have you been working on a project that you’d like to get done by the end of the year? Is there something you’ve been meaning to start and haven’t yet? Did you really hope that you would sell more articles and earn more money this year? Sit down and have a staff meeting with yourself. You still have three months, one quarter of a year. What can you do in that time and what is your plan to get it done?
What’s our fourth-quarter strategy to win the writing game for this year, to approach New Year’s Eve knowing we’ve done our best?
If you’d like to tell us your plans in the comments, we’d love to hear them. Sharing your intentions may help you to follow through.
I still have a few copies of Freelancing for Newspapers available for just $10, including postage. Part of my fourth-quarter game plan is getting rid of excess book inventory. If you’d like a copy, email me at email@example.com.
Once a week I am offering three quick tips that you can take and use right away. For those of us who would rather be writing than reading blogs, this is a place you can grab something useful and get back to work. If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments section.
Everyone who writes and/or teaches about freelance writing offers the same basic information, how to find ideas, write queries, do research, write, revise, yada, yada, yada, but the Renegade Writers tell you the stuff the rest don’t tell you. Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell, who have turned one Renegade Writer book into a collection of books and blogs, offer advice, free e-books, e-courses and other goodies at http://www.therenegadewriter.com.
You guessed it: The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success, now available in print and as an e-book, will tell you all the good, bad and ugly about freelance writing. And don’t stop at this one book. They have others, including The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster and A Renegade Writer Kick in the Ass: 30 Riffs from the Renegade Writer Blog to Help you Bust Your Excuses, Light a Fire Under Your Butt, and Become a More Motivated & Productive Freelance Writer.
Be a renegade writer yourself. Close your eyes and picture your byline on the one thing that will make you feel like a successful writer. It could be a book, an article, a short story, poem, script, or song. Now open your eyes and write for at least 30 minutes about what you need to do to make it happen. The word “can’t” is not allowed.