NaNoWriMo: The Week 2 Slump

At some point, the nightmares came and I stopped sleeping well. They were weird and very stressful. After that began, my mood went quickly and my writing inspiration followed. Sleep isn’t just essential. It’s everything.

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It was Day 7 of NaNo when I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the day off from writing. I should probably explain that I work 12 hour days. I’m also someone who needs to write in the morning. On weekdays, I get up 90 minutes before I have to start getting ready from work, so that I can get through a solid 2,000 words before I go to work. On Friday I couldn’t make myself get up and I took the day off. While I needed the extra sleep, it started a complacency with my NaNoWriMo that is never a good thing. I had already hit 20,000 words and was comfortably ahead. On Saturday, I had planned to write a solid 5,000, as I had done the last Saturday on Day 1. I squeezed out a meager 1,800. On Sunday, I squeezed out only 3,600. Way short of my weekend goals.

My realization: Week 2 is hard! The initial excitement has faded and I’m deep into the trudging along phase. No fun. However, the important thing is that I at least get that 1,667 every day. Even with just doing that, I’ll finish well ahead of schedule because of writing so much in Week 1!


How to Survive Thanksgiving With Your Family

Ah, the holidays. A time of peace and relaxation surrounded by your closest and most important loved ones. Yeah right. Thanksgiving is the time for your sister to debut her new boyfriend (he’s a doctor), your cousin to show off that he’s lost twenty pounds, and your heinous uncle’s day to get a little mulled-wine happy and admit to things in his past that no one needed to know. How will you make it through? Follow these tips and you’ll be home free (well not really free, as you had to buy your cousin that tank of gas).

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1.  Carve not only the turkey, but your personal space.

You may think to yourself that you need space, but people rarely are open and honest with their family members about needing it. Yet, people generally will respect you when you say, “I really need a little personal time for a few minutes. I’ll come out and join you in a bit.” Revel in the solace of your childhood bedroom and reading your favorite middle school books for a few minutes. Go for a run or walk and soak up the solace. Is your family not respecting your boundaries even if you ask perfectly clearly? Tell them you have to send a few emails for work and need some quiet for an hour. People tend to be more understanding when it is work-related, rather than personal.


2. Refuse to do it alone.

Most people have a perfect vision of their holiday: After cooking the green beans, mash potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce (all from scratch and organic, of course) your family would see the beautiful table you set with brand new decorations, smell the amazing bouquets that you handpicked from your garden, and appreciate all of your time and effort. What will really happen is that you’ll be miserably trying to scrape together all the dishes and wishing to God that someone had offered to help. Even if Thanksgiving is at your home, make it a team meal. You can prepare the turkey and gravy, but ask your relatives to make the sides and dessert. Let them know that you simply cannot do it all, and as everyone will be eating it, everyone should participate. After all, didn’t the pilgrims and Native Americans share foods from both their cultures on that first Thanksgiving?

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3. Distract, distract, distract.

Feel like your Mom is about to ask you about that nice Billy boy you dated in junior high? Is he still available? You can sense it coming, so why not stop it with a pre-approved topic, like the new book you’re reading. Your Mom will have heard all of the good hype about Gone Girl and will love to hear your thoughts when you recommend it. Your grandfather wants to know your feelings on recent politics? Sense the impending doom and ask him to tell one of his war stories. When he hits the part about “those damn Commies”, you can sneak out of the room. You have the whole story memorized anyways.


4. Have a car.

Cars are stressful. Families are crazy. Everyone will have errands they need to run and things to pick up, so make sure, even if you are visiting Ohio all the way from California, that you have an accessible car to get out of the house. A rental car is simple enough to arrange at the airport, and then you won’t have to wait for your definitely-on-something nephew to pick you up from the airport on the way back from ‘oboe practice.’ Safety first, people.


5. Make firm plans.

Aunt Gladice really wants your opinion at the doctor’s tomorrow when she goes to have her warts removed. “Aunt Gladice, I wish I could but I already made plans to meet cousin Cheryl for Black Friday. So sorry to be missing your wart removal.” Having backups and cover stories prevents you from getting sucked into anything too awful. Schedule exercise in for peace of mind and a convenient story. Gee, you’d love to take your niece to get her ears pierced, but since you’re training for a half marathon in March and you haven’t run all weekend, you need to squeeze it in when you can.

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And if worse comes to worse, watch some of the classic Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Their awful Thanksgivings (Monica being forced to make 6 kinds of mashed potatoes, Chandler’s toe getting sliced off, and them all being locked out of the apartment with the oven and burners on) will make yours feel much better by comparison. Happy holidays!


NaNo Week 1: The Fervor

NaNoWriMo Week 1 has commenced. Here is what I’ve experienced so far.

1. Week 1 is the time to get ahead.

Invariably, the feverish enjoyment you experience in your characters will dim slightly as November hits the double digits. Use the Week 1 excitement to get massively ahead! On Day 5, and I stand 17,000 words into my story. I wrote 5,000 each for Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 1 and 2), and have written 2,000 each for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 3, 4, and 5). On Tuesday the awesome @NaNoWordSprints led me to write an extra 1,000 words which puts me at 17,000 (+change).

2. Be An Overachiever

A lot of people that I’ve seen on Twitter seem to hit their word count and then call it quits for the day. They call it reaching their goal, but I call it doing the bare minimum. We can all be honest: 50,000 words does not make a book. 50,000 words is 2/3 of a short-ish book or 1/2 of a long-ish book. Yet, everything all over NaNoWriMo’s site talks about writing a book in a month. I’m trying to accomplish a bit closer to this. Sticking to my goals, I should write about 70,000 words by the end of the month (even including all of the stuff that has gotten in the way.)

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3. Things will try to stop you. Don’t let them.

On October 29, my Grandpa passed away. He was very important and very special. We knew it was coming for a few months, which helped, but it would have been easy to say, “well that’s it. NaNo over.” Luckily, I didn’t. I channeled my upset into the story and told myself that I’m writing a story he would have loved. (Though he probably would have waited for the movie version to hit theaters, rather than reading the book!)

So now, in November, here are all of the things that are trying to take my writing time/focus:

  • my birthday
  • my parents and grandma coming into LA to visit me for 4 days
  • my grandpa’s memorial service, which I have to fly to and miss 3 days of work
  • thanksgiving
  • extra busy work schedule, because we are shooting our final episodes of the season (we’re talking working 14 hour days busy)

Any one of these things probably could have derailed me, if I chose to let it, but I’m not. And I’m even ahead on word count.

4. Use the sprints!

I mentioned above that the sprints bought me an extra 1,000 words after my 2,000 word weekday goal. However, it also pushes me through moments where I want to say, “Hmm… I’ll stop and think about how I want this to sound for a while.”

I particularly like the #1k30min sprints, which are targetted to get you 1,000 words in 30 minutes. No, this is not easy. I usually hit around 960 words in 30 minutes during these sprints, but the exercise is totally worth the time!

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Above all, guys, just enjoy NaNoWriMo! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And you get a book at the end, instead of an ugly Christmas sweater!