NaNoWriMo: Is the Stress and Craziness Worth It?

Some of you may wonder why writers would consider going through the torture of pushing themselves to write a complete novel or 50,000 words in just 30 days. Heck, even some writers wonder why other writers do it.

Is it worth it?

My answer is a great big, resounding YES!

Not only do you stretch your limits, but you learn so much about yourself as a writer and your abilities in the writing process. But the biggest payoff is the novel you have left. After editing and revisions, you have a great piece of work to hold up to the world and declare "I did it!"

Today, I sent my first completed NaNoWriMo novel to the Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense fast track even. My fingers are crossed, hoping, hoping, hoping for an acceptance. But, if that's not the response I get, I have an awesome book to send out to another agent or publisher.

Today, I'm happy to stand up and say "I did it!"

Now, go get ready for some NaNoWriMo love & success of your own!

NaNoWriMo: Why My Nails Are Blue by Marta O. Smith

Last year, one of my writers retreat attendees had the most awesome visual motivator. I asked her to share it with us. I'm totally planning to use it this year. Please welcome Marta Smith to Queen of the Clan!

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. In accordance, in a total departure from my personal style, I will be painting my fingernails a bright blue and they will stay that way until I hit the goal.

This is not as completely random as you might think.

 Several years ago, I participated in a writing workshop where the instructor talked about transference. You can take some small object, hold it and concentrate on the feeling or emotion you want it to represent. In this case it had something to do with motivation to write. I chose a round, flattened blue glass rock, about an inch in diameter, the kind you might use in the bottom of an aquarium. It was a deep blue color, somewhere in the spectrum around sapphire, cobalt, and ultramarine. There's a paint color for the Ford Mustang called Kona Blue Metallic that is nearly perfect.

 (On a side note, we also tried this technique in a weight loss group meeting once. The leader passed out some pretty rocks and told us they were to represent willpower. Unfortunately, my rock was the color of milk chocolate. Epic fail.)

 I left the little blue rock sitting on the base of my computer monitor, and every time I looked at it, I felt guilty that I was not spending more time writing. At that time, I was working full time from home doing medical transcription. It's a job that requires sitting for 8 hours a day in front of a computer, listing to doctors' dictations, and typing as fast as you possibly can, with 100% accuracy. It was both mind-numbing and complex. Most days, by the time I finished my regular hours, the last thing I wanted to do was keep typing. I barely had enough functioning brain matter left to decide what to make for dinner. Sometimes I could scrawl a few hand-written pages in the evening.

 I felt the talent I had been given was a "use it or lose it" kind of thing, and it was slowly slipping away. Sometimes I would try to write and nothing happened. Finally, I reached a crisis point. I was driving myself nuts. Something had to change and I was afraid it meant giving up writing. I knelt at my desk chair and prayed for something, anything, that would help me know what I was supposed to do. When I looked up, there was my little blue rock. But the impression that came into my mind was different this time. It was, "It's okay. Don't worry. You've still got your talent. It may take a while, but it will happen."

But that wasn't the end of it. Suddenly, wherever I went, I saw that color blue, or something close enough to it to remind me of the answer to my prayer. A highway sign, a box of Band-Aids, somebody's dress at church, a Christmas ornament, the tarp covering a pile of firewood, a sign at the grocery store. "It will happen."

The whole section from teal to blue to purple has always been my favorite part of the color spectrum, but now I have a special affinity for MY blue. I've even started collecting cobalt glassware and Blue Delft figurines.

So that's why, when I do NaNoWriMo this year, I will paint my fingernails with the closest match I can find to Kona Blue Metallic. "It may take a while, but it will happen."

What motivates you to pursue your NaNoWriMo goals?

Marta O. Smith is the co-editor of the book Values Stories for a Young Woman, a collection of true, inspiring short stories for teenage girls. Most recently, one of her short stories, "Angels We Have Heard On High," was chosen to be included in the anthology Sing We Now At Christmas, a project to benefit the National Down Syndrome Society.  Both books are currently available on, and perfect for giving as Christmas gifts.  Marta's blog is "The Last Word" at

Five Tips from a NaNoWriMo Veteran by Michael D. Young

NaNoWriMo is an excellent idea for any serious author. So much of the time, we drag our feet, only needing a little prod to get us going. NaNoWriMo does just that. I’ve done it every year for the past three years and have pulled off over 50,000 words every time. This year, I set the challenge to write 50,000 words every month for a whole year. I’m on track to meet my goal.

Here are some tips that will help you reach your own writing goals and feel the thrill of hitting that 50,000 word mark.

1.    Plan and Plan Well. 

 Imagine you are on a road trip and you are running late. If you drive very fast, you might just make it on time. Would you rather bring a folded map with you or a GPS? With a map, you'd have to stop periodically and make sure you knew which direction to take next. If you program your GPS, however, you will have directions for your entire journey, letting you keep your foot on the gas. Outlining before November is upon you is like taking your GPS along. You are going to have to work hard to reach your goal in time and so you can't afford the potential delays you will encounter if you run into writer's block. You will also be much happier with your final product. The rules of NaNoWrMo say that outlining is fair game. So why not give yourself the greatest chance of success?

2.    Tune Out Distractions. Facebook, email, blogs, etc…

These are all good things, but they are the death knell of NaNoWriMo. During this month, take the plunge and minimize distractions at any costs. That may include setting a time aside every day that is going to be the least hectic. This might entail getting up early or staying up later than normal in order to make this happen. I even downloaded a free program from the Internet called “Cold Turkey” which allows you to block certain distracting websites for a set period.

3.    Get ahead early on the month.

November is not typically a month that gets less busy as time goes on. The end of the month is replete with distractions, including Thanksgiving festivities, Black Friday sales and an approaching holiday season. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you'll make up for lost time near the end of the month. Instead, push the envelope of 1,666 words per day during the first two weeks of November. This will give you some breathing room just in case you can't take your eyes off the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

4.    Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. 

 As writers, it is easy to sweat the small stuff. When MS word underlines you prose with red and green, you figure you must be doing something wrong. You'll want to go back and tidy up, but I encourage you that, for the month of November at least that you choose to be colorblind. NaNoWriMo is about speed, not typos. Any time you go back to revise is time you will not be chipping away at your word count. There will be plenty of time to revise in December and the new year (unless the world really does end as the Mayan calendar suggests, in which case, I'll be glad that I spent my last full month on earth doing something that I love.) There is only one direction. In the words of a well-known hymn goes: “Onward, ever onward…forward, pressing forward…”

5.    Have Others Cheer You On.

The best way to stay motivated is to have other people who are excited for you. Let your family know what you are doing and give them reports on your progress. Do it together with your writing group or find new friends to collaborate with using the NaNoWriMo website.  This is a big undertaking and deserves to be shared with others. Their enthusiasm and excitement for you will help fuel your creativity day in and day out through the month of November.

Above all, have fun with it. Good luck, fellow writers! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Michael D. Young is the author of the novels The Canticle Kingdom and The Last Archangel. His inspirational non-fiction includes Sing We Now of Christmas and Portrait of a Mother. Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in German Teaching and a minor in Music. He puts his German to good use by working to build online German courses for High School students. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and his two sons. Michael enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the hand bell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Learn more about Michael on his website.

NaNoWriMo: How to Set a Goal that Works for You

I love National Novel Writing Month. It's a great way to kick your tush into gear and challenge yourself. The traditional goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

But what if you already know life isn't going to cooperate so you can achieve it. Does that mean you should just ditch the challenge all together?

No way!

Set a goal that works for YOU. 

If something major is happening that will require the majority of your time and attention, then adjust your word count goal. Maybe it will be to hit 25K. Setting a goal and putting a word counter on your computer desktop, blog or website, will motivate you to take 30 minutes to get out a couple hundred words. If you do that four times a day, you could average 800-1,000 words a day. Multiply that by 30 and you've reached your goal! If that still sounds like too much, then adjust the word count.

If you don't set a goal, then you may put your writing aside for the whole month. Give yourself the opportunity to take on the challenge.

What if you just finished another manuscript and don't have another one plotted out yet?

Well, you have two options: 1. You've got about 15 days to do some plotting and brainstorming, then just jump in and see where it leads you, or 2. You can set your goal to edit, rather than write. That's perfectly fine.

The important thing about National Novel Writing Month is to be working on your novel. Whatever stage your in, set a goal to give you a kick in the pants.

What's your goal for NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo: Plot and Conflict

The count down is on. Are you ready to pound out your novel?

If you're like me, then the answer is, well, not quite.

You see, I've been going through my story files and it's taken forever to narrow the choices down to THE ONE.  But now that I have THE ONE, I'm looking at it and all I have is a blurb about the main character and a couple of scene ideas. Which means I'm so not ready for NaNoWriMo.

What to do? What to do?

The answer:  PLOT & CONFLICT

To succeed at NaNoWriMo, you need to have at least a general outline of the book's plot. Just to know where the story is going. This outline is not set in stone. In fact, it will probably take some twists and turns you weren't expecting as you write and get to know your characters better. But believe me, that general outline is a life saver when you're getting ready for a word sprint, but you aren't sure where the next scene needs to lead you.

I did some Googling and found some excellent resources to develop plots for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Plot Development and Profile Worksheets, Visualizing Collage and More by Iconclastic Writer

  • This blog post has AWESOME worksheets you can download for free. Isn't free such a happy word?
Tools to Help You Plot Your NaNoWriMo Novel by Jennifer Blanchard @ Procrastinating Writers
  • On this blog post, you'll find a bunch of different plotting techniques, including using index cards & the fabulous Larry Brooks Story Structure series.

Now, on to conflict - the wonderful device that drives your story. This is when you call up your writers group and host a brainstorming session. Write down gobs of conflict ideas - both internal and external. Josi Kilpack once said (and I'm totally paraphrasing & adding some of my own words - but it's her concept) that you need to put your character up in a tree. You start off by throwing rocks at him, then even bigger rocks, until you bring in a catapult and launch boulders at the poor sucker. Bring in the soldiers and shoot arrows at the dude. And just when you think he might surrender - set the tree on fire!

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict.

That is what you need to keep your story moving, flowing, and interesting.

So sit down and brainstorm, baby. Write down gobs of ideas to choose from, then you'll have the list to refer to when you get stuck.

Happy NaNoWriMo Prep!

How to Prep Your Family for NaNoWriMo

I consulted with my hubby, John (aka John Waverly), before writing this post. You see, last year he was the one who picked up the slack and took care of our family while I wrote like mad. He had some very good points that NaNoWriMo participants and their families should consider before November 1st hits.

Be Realistic

If you already schedule 4-5 hours a day for your writing, then you can probably stop reading this post right now. But if you're like the majority of writers out there, your writing time is probably more sporadic. Achieving your NaNoWriMo goal of 50K in 30 days takes a commitment equivalent to adding a part-time job into your schedule.

Think about it: If you write an average of 500 words an hour, then it will take 100 hours to hit 50K. But wait! We need to add in time for writers block, brainstorming, and, if you attend any write-ins, potty breaks and socializing. Let's say that's about another 20 hours of time. So now we're at 120 hours to achieve your NaNoWriMo goal. Which equals a 4 hour time commitment every day. Now me, I don't write on Sundays. I leave that day for church and family, which is especially important when I'm cramming so much writing time in the rest of the week. I try to write about 6 hours a day during NaNoWriMo.

Reprioritize Your Schedule

If you already work a full-time job - and face it, we all do no matter whether it's inside or outside the home - then you, personally, need to be willing to give up a lot during those 30 days.

  • No TV
  • No books
  • Cut back on the gym
  • Take the month off from volunteering at kids' schools
  • Postpone any Girls or Guys Night Outs
  • No movies (yes, this includes the next Twilight movie. Trust me, it will still be playing two weeks after the release)

You'll find a good chunk of writing time just by doing this. But it's still going to take more. And any free time you do have, should definitely be spent with your family and helping around the house.

Get Your Family on Board

During the writing challenge, you'll spend a lot less time with your family. The further you get into the month, the more tired, frustrated, and emotional your spouse will get. Trust me, I know. My hubby is THE most supportive writer's spouse I have ever met. Last year, I started out November by hosting a writers retreat out-of-state. I was gone for a week. Then the rest of the month, I went to write-ins 3 times a week and had online write-ins the other nights - not to mention the writing I did during the day. I slacked on laundry, have a very dim recollection of helping clean, and it was a happy day if I remembered to put in a meal in the crock pot. By the time the 20th hit, he was totally read for November to be over. Here's how we survived without getting a divorce.  =)

Before NaNoWriMo kicks-off, sit down with your spouse to go over both of your schedules together. Keep in mind that you don't get to take over the schedule just cause it's NaNoWriMo. Your spouse has commitments, too, and needs support as well. My hubby is the Cub Scout Master for our church. Each month he plans a pack meeting, hosts a committee meeting, and has a district meeting to attend. I made sure to be home to take care of the munchkins so he could fulfill those important commitments.

Both of you need to come prepared with lists of activities. For you, that will be regional write ins you want to attend, work schedules, and commitments you can't cancel. You'll need a list of activities for your kids and your spouse, too. Now figure out how you can juggle home and family responsibilities in a way that's agreeable for you and your spouse. Be sure to plan time for family time and work out a meal schedule. Our family budgeted extra money to eat out. Each week, we planned two crock pot meals, ate out twice, had two left-overs/whatever nights, and made pancakes each Sunday for dinner. We tried to make things as simple as possible to keep stress levels down.

If you have older kids, get them in on the meeting too.They are much better with schedule changes when they've been in on the decision making and are more willing to help out with extra chores. Usually. If the moon and the stars all align just right . . . or if you provide the right incentives. Which brings me to the best part . . . 

Set Goals & Rewards

No one wants to mess up their happy routine, but they'll grin and bear it for someone they love . . . especially if you create rewards that include your spouse and kids.

Pull together a family meeting and together set rewards for when you hit certain word count goals. For example, when you hit 10K host a root beer float party. Might I also suggest that when you hit the halfway point (25K), that you let you kids have a movie & popcorn night while you take your spouse out on a celebratory date night. Both of you take a break - no talking about writing or schedules, just a night of fun and laughter. And of course, there's the big pay off when you hit 50K. Plan something that your family loves, but doesn't get to do very often. Maybe it's a night at the movies, a new family Wii game, or taking a weekend vacation. Make NaNoWriMo as fun for your family as possible.

The Most Important Things

Communication is key. Talk often with your spouse and munchkins. Express your appreciation for their support. If someone is stressed out or upset, be willing to set aside your writing for a few minutes and let them vent. Give them hugs. When things are settled again, get back to work. Nothing is more important than your family, but your family can accomplish anything when they work together.

NaNoWriMo: Step Up and Accept the Challenge!

It's that time of the year when the air is crisp, roads are lined with a gorgeous flaming foliage, and writers worldwide prepare to be thrust into the hellish adrenaline rush of National Novel Writing Month, affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo.

30 days of scraping every single spare moment to reach the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.

What? You think this doesn't sound like that big of a deal? Did you miss my reference to hell?

My friends, we're talking about a brand spanking new manuscript. A novel the writer has done nothing more than (hopefully) plotted out. When November 1st hits, writers everywhere glue their fingers to the keyboard and create the very first sentence that will lead them on a journey to fill over 100 typed pages. 100 pages! When was the last time you heard a student complain because he had to write a 10 page report in three weeks? They are wimps compared to the awesomeness of NaNoWriMo competitors.

But . . . but. . . . but . . . 

No excuses! You CAN do this! And over the next few weeks, I'm going to blog about HOW you can reach, conquer, and surpass the NaNoWriMo 50K goal. Now, repeat after me:




Now get your mouse over here and click on this link to sign up for NaNoWriMo!

There are a few important things you need to do while you're on the NaNoWriMo site:

  1. TIME ZONE: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Edit User Settings". It's very important that you set your Time Zone. If you don't set it correctly, it can totally backfire on you. Especially if you're in the final hour of NaNoWriMo and finally hit your 50K goal, then go to verify your win on the official website . . . and you realize you put in your time zone wrong and your account is closed. I know people who've had this happen and it's major, major suckage. So do it now, do it right, and then you can do the Happy Happy Dance and claim all your fabulous prizes at the end of the month.
  2.  YOUR REGION:  "Set My Home Region". Here you can choose the region closest to you and join. There are a couple of reasons to do this. It's fun to see how many writers are in your area. You can also track how many words your area has written compared to other areas. The best part is your region sets up Write Ins. These are locations where the region captains have talked with businesses, libraries, etc to set up times for NaNoWriMo participants to come together. There's quiet writing time, a bit of socializing and - my favorite part - writing sprints! Last year, my goal was to attend two Write Ins each week - and they were totally worth it!
  3. NOTIFICATIONS: Under the tab "My NaNoWriMo", go to "Set My Notifications". The automatic settings have you unsubscribed to all notifications. I recommend that you subscribe to the Prep Talks, NaNo Videos, and your region emails.

There are some fun things you can do while on your NaNoWriMo account, too. You can fill out your author info, give a blurb about your book, and connect with other Writing Buddies. Towards the end of October, check out the Fun Stuff tab. There you'll find updated badges to post on your blog or website, a word count widget, and other great stuff.


The Truth About Parenthood

Last week, I was interviewed about parenthood by a friend for one of her college classes. The questions were thought provoking. I wanted to share them, as well as my answers. Please share your thoughts and answers to any of the questions in the comment section, too.

1. Given attacks from the world on marriage, families, gender, and the role of a father/mother, are there specific challenges for you in maintaining the role of a father/mother?

I think the biggest challenge is letting my kids, extended family and others around me realize that I love being a mother and that I believe it's one of the most important roles I will ever hold in my life. There are many who try to put other titles (work positions, etc) above that of being a parent - but in the long run, anyone can take your job and do it as good or better than you can. But no one can replace you, your personality, and the impact you can make on your children's lives. I wish more people understood that.

2. What are some of the most important contributions you believe you make to your family through your role as a father/mother?

 The biggest contribution I make is showing my kids I can be me (relaxed, fun, stressed out, whatever) and that they still love me. Just like I will always love them no matter what choices or challenges they face in their future. I hope my children realize that no matter what their individual personality or future journey brings, that they can be themselves and lead incredible, valuable lives.

3. From your perspective, what are some of the most difficult challenges or demands associated with being a father/mother?

The most difficult challenge I face right now is figuring out when to stand up for or help my children versus giving them the opportunity to figure something out and possibly stumble on the way. Letting them be independent is sometimes so hard!

4. What specific counsel from your church leaders to fathers/mothers do you find especially meaningful

 To find balance in life. Church leaders who emphasize reviewing your priorities, daily schedules, etc and seeing if they are in accordance to what you truly value is the best advice ever. Every few months I do a personal review and my husband & I do a review together twice a year.

5. Will you share a couple of things about your role as a father/mother you would want a young father or mother to understand?

 Parenthood is a journey. Each stage is unique, with different challenges and blessings. No matter if you're raising typical kids or kids with special needs, enjoy every step. When life gets overwhelming, take a deep breath and move forward inch by inch. Have a constant prayer in your heart for guidance. Most importantly, be each other's best support. Love each other, take care of each other, and laugh together often.

6. What are some meaningful ways you like to be supported by your spouse in your role as a father/mother?

I love it when my hubby takes care of dinner clean up and getting kids ready for bed so I can take a hot bubble bath. A 20 minute soak can be so rejuvenating! Another thing I love is that we have quiet time when the kids are sent to bed. This is when they are still settling down for the night (reading books, etc). During that time, my hubby and I will play board games, snuggle on the couch while we talk or read, or put on a comedy show while we fold laundry together. We take time each day to reconnect with each other. I love that so much.

7. What is one thing husbands and wives can do to support one another in their roles as fathers and mothers?

 First, talk to each other about your family's expectations, family rules, possible consequences for misdeeds, etc. Be on the same page. Then NEVER contradict the other parent in front of the kids. If dad says they lose TV time, Mom backs him up - and vice versa. If you have a problem with a consequence or the way something was handled, then talk about that in private so you can be on the same page in the future. If the kids see respect between mom & dad, then they show more respect as well.

8.  Relative to the role of a father/mother, what are a few important lessons you have learned?

Lesson #1 - Parenthood is not at all what I expected. So whatever you were thinking it would be, throw it out the window and go with the flow of reality! Lesson #2 - Being a mom is amazing and the absolute hardest, most emotional role ever. Prepare to survive by stocking up on chocolate, bubble bath, Advil, Kleenex, and an unlimited minutes cell phone plan. Lesson #3 - Each child is individual and unique, but each is a beautiful child of God. He loves them so much. Treat them with love, respect, and compassionate guidance.

My Hubby - The Bad Guy

My husband tried to kill me last night, but I lived to blog about it today.

You see, the mafia was after me. They tracked me down to where I was living in a quiet town with my sweet little family. They demanded my life. I was terrified. A cold sweat trickled down my back while I tried to devise a plan to escape alive - and keep my family safe at the same time. And what did my hubby do? He tried to shove me out a window so they'd have easier access to me without harming the kids.

Thanks, sweetie.

It's always a different scenario involving either a plot to leave me (slutty girlfriends galore have paraded through my dreams), throw me out to the piranhas (Literally. I didn't want to go near a pool for a couple weeks after that one) or kill me off  (Hubby's signature dish: homemade ice cream laced with poison).

Poor hubby doesn't know what to think about all these violent dreams. Especially after years of them. In reality, he's the most amazing man. My best friend. We are so in-sync, we rarely have an argument and each night, he holds my hand as we fall asleep.

Personally, I think because he's my hero in every day life, my subconscious needs to spice things up in dreamland.

Yesterday, hubby made an interesting comment though. He asked if I've written down my dreams because they'd be interesting for book plots.


I have a new goal. I want to write a whole series of books that are based off different ways my hubby has tried to kill me off. I could fill an entire bookshelf. How funny would that be? You never know where (or how) inspiration will strike.