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Monday, November 8, 2010

NanoWriMo, Butt-in-Chair and More: Tools to Get You to Just Finish Your Novel

We're kicking off this blog with a month of posts about novels. I have to confess I had my doubts about being the debut poster on this topic, because although I love novels and although I've even had three several-hundred page nonfiction books published (as well as assorted picture books), I've never actually managed to finish any of the half dozen novels I've started.

For anyone out there who's like me, I'm here to tell you about some of the tools/tricks I'm using right now to help me finish at least one of them. Though maybe you should take them with a grain of salt until I actually get a first draft completed...

  • NaNoWriMo November, in case you've been avoiding all writing-related sites recently, is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is an unbelievably cool idea/organization: you write a 50,000 word novel. In a month. Yes, 30 days. From scratch. For those of you who also hated math in school, this works out to 1,667 words a day, which may not sound bad, but is in fact a lot of words if you are really good at distracting yourself with trips to the refrigerator, trips to the bathroom, trips to the coffeemaker, more trips to the bathroom, and oh, heck, even trips to the laundry room. Fortunately, if you go to the nanowrimo site and sign up, you get tons of emails inspiring, encouraging, nagging, scolding you, etc. until you get your daily quota done (and post it on their counter thing). 
    • Not much of a joiner, you say? November's a terrible month for you? Want to keep working on something you already started? No worries. You can: a) do nanowrimo unofficially (like I'm doing with my son - we nag each other with no need for gobs of emails); or b) you can do a mini version (set your own target word count or write a picture book or something); or c) you can join one of the Plan B groups, like the janowrimo people, who go through a similar process in different months, not even just January; or d) cheat, and pretend you just started, which will make those first few days very easy, but the last ones super tough. 
  • BIC HOK TAM This is a mnemonic I first heard about at a writing conference years ago - and it remains the most effective tool I know for successful writing. It stands for: Butt-In-Chair; Hands-On-Keyboard; Typing-Away-Madly. And in the end, it's the only thing that works. To remind myself to settle in and work, I decorated my writing chair (shown above) with buttons, making it a button chair. Get it? Hilarious I know. (I was nice and spared you a view of my butt in the button chair.) Here's a close up:
    • It is about the easiest craft ever. Find some spare buttons or cut them off the shirt of your worst enemy (preferably when he isn't wearing it). Grab a hot glue gun. Apply dots of glue to the chair and stick the buttons on (dot, stick; dot, stick - the hot glue sets up quickly). Don't worry about being all arty about it - just get it done. That will put you in the right frame of mind.
  •  Yoga I'm not much of a New Age-y person, but I've got to say yoga is great for stressed out writers. It teaches you to focus, helps you work out the kinks from sitting in your button chair too long, and reduces the stress you feel from trying to beat the nanowrimo deadline. If you're prone to carpal tunnel or other desk jockey ailments, I strongly recommend the great exercises to prevent repetitive stress injury you can find at My Daily Yoga.
  • A Tree House
Okay, not strictly necessary. But a place where you can get away from your every day responsibilities and people looking over your shoulder is a big help. A couple years ago, I took over my kids' old treehouse playhouse, painted it, added curtains and some nice furnishings from my neighbors' trash (yep - even the Oriental rug, which is in better shape than some of the rugs in my house, came from the trash), and got the electrician to run wiring to it when he was here fixing some other stuff, and now I have the perfect writing get away, when the weather cooperates. Which it magically is this week!
Of course, when all else fails, there's always the inspiration/reward of chocolate. Preferably Linder's Dark Chocolate with a Touch of Sea Salt...
How about you? Anyone else have great ideas for a kick in the button chair?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information, Carol. I participated once in NaNoWriMo. Your post has motivated me to give it another try.