Last Year, I Lost Faith in NaNoWriMo. This Year, I’m Getting it Back

2013-Participant-Facebook-ProfileLast year was my seventh time participating in National Novel Writing Month, the mad, worldwide dash to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Last year was also my second time not completing NaNoWriMo.

When mentioning that I was doing NaNo for the seventh time, I kept getting similar questions and comments that all boiled down to: In six years, how many novels have you completed?

The answer was one. One draft, which has been entirely trashed and restarted half a dozen times. It certainly never made it to anything like a final draft or publication. I had never been ashamed of that before, but suddenly I was. I looked back on six years of half-finished (if that) drafts of novels, ones I’d never gone back to, that were just sitting on my computer. I started to wonder if I had been wasting my time and if this was some sign of being an amateur.

I made the choice not to finish NaNo last year, in part because I was busy with school, but in even larger part because, after years of loving the pursuit of those 50,000 words, my excitement had given way to fear and shame.

I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year. As November approached and the NaNo tweets and Facebook statuses started appearing, I scrolled on past and thought, “No. Not this year. Maybe next.” I was still scared. I was still wondering if it was worth it.

But I was also feeling the desire to jump back in. There’s this buzz that comes with NaNo, this joy and excitement. One of my favorite parts of NaNo is knowing that I’m making this attempt with tens of thousands of other people all around the world. I love competing with my friends, obsessively checking their word counts as I up mine, texting them late at night to say, “Hey, my word count is down. Wanna do a word war?” Everyone was gearing up for that without me.

With a few hours to go until the start of NaNo, I decided to take the plunge again. I remembered a novel that had barely gone anywhere yet – just some ideas, characters, a couple thousand words – and decided it would be the my NaNovel this year. I watched the seconds count down to midnight EST.

It’s day 6, I’m at 9202 words, and I could not be happier.

Because here’s the thing: It’s true that I’ve only produced one completed draft out of NaNoWriMo, and it wasn’t even viable. It’s true that I have written some truly shitty words in November.

But you know what else I’ve done? I’ve learned. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that I can write 2000 words in 20 minutes if I use Write or Die on kamikaze mode. I’ve learned the kind of novelist I am. I know that I like having outlines, but I often hate writing them and I kind of love it when the story just comes to me. I’ve learned that novel writing does not come easily to me, not like short stories do, and I have to work three times as hard to make the plots and characters make sense. I’ve learned that I can write quality pieces quickly. I’ve learned that I can write shitty pieces quickly, too.

Maybe I won’t complete NaNoWriMo this year. Maybe I’ll hit week three and burn out. Maybe I’ll finish by week three! That would be cool, but I’d also kind of miss that frantic, last-minute “oh god let the NaNo site not crash so I can confirm my win” panic. It’s part of the fun.

Maybe I’ll really complete this draft and it will go to amazing places.

Maybe I won’t.

That’s not what matters. That’s not why I love National Novel Writing Month. I love it for the experience, for the writing, and for what it has taught me and will continue to teach me about myself.

I may not publish any of these novels, but I’m happy, I’m learning, and I’m writing.

What else do I need?

Merry Christmas! Have Some Apps!

Before we begin this post, some updates. I changed my Goodreads goal to the much more reasonable 80 books since I have that whole holidays and Dell Award thing happening. The widget sucks at updating, but I’m at 70 books now so that leaves me 8 days to read 10 books. That’s not so bad.

Now, on with today’s post.
I said awhile ago that I’d talk about apps for writers, and then I think I got distracted. But here, now I’m posting just in time for Christmas. If you’re scrambling for a gift to get for the writer in your life here in the eleventh hour, consider an iTunes gift card and this list of apps. (Note: Not all of these are iPhone apps. Just a lot of them. Even if you don’t have a Mac or iPhone, it might give you an idea of similar apps to look for.)

Since I really love all of these and couldn’t decide on an order based on quality, I’m going with my favorite kind of organization: alphabetical. Oh yeah. Are you ready?

agent obviousAgent Obvious (iPhone)
Price: Free!
Are you at a point where you want to sell your book or you’re thinking about wanting to sell your book? Or maybe you’re just kind of baffled by the publishing industry in general. Agent Obvious is a good app to get. It offers tips on agents, editors, and publishers, and generally gives you a lot of insight into the industry and how to present yourself. Some of these tips are so obvious that you might not have even thought about it. Super useful.

Baby Names (iPhone)baby names
Price: Free!
There are LOADS of baby name apps and books out there. I just happen to have and like this one. You can search for names using a criteria like meanings, origins, and popularity, and you can keep a list of favorites. The part I really love, though? The list of 1000 last names ordered from most to least popular.

dropboxDropbox (multiple platforms)
Price: Free!
Oh, Dropbox. It took me a little while to discover how amazing this is, but once I got into it – ohhh. Oh man. I have it on my Mac, my iPhone, and online. I put files into it and then I can access those files in any of those places. This is especially great for a writer because it’s like an instant backup system. I just keep my entire writing folder in my desktop Dropbox and as I write, everything is synced online and with my phone. I also have shared folders with multiple friends, enabling me to easily share stories and critiques. And when something’s ready to print, I don’t have to worry about a jump drive. I just get on any computer connected to both a printer and the internet, sign on to Dropbox on their site, and there’s the file I need. You do get a limited amount of space, with multiple ways to get more both for free and at a price, but as a writer I use a very small amount of my 3 gig.

Evernote.175x175-75Evernote (multiple platforms)
Price: Free!
I’m actually using Evernote right now. It’s what I use for notes in class, and to keep all of my blog posts organized. You make notebooks and notes, and it syncs with pretty much anything you want it to. I just have it on my Mac and iPhone, but they have other options to check out. With this and the WordPress app, I’ve written and posted blog posts just from my phone. I kind of love it.

f-ing word of the dayThe F-ing Word of the Day (iPhone)
Price: $0.99
This is, perhaps, not for the little writers among us. It’s a pretty standard word of the day app, with a 6-day memory (though you can favorite words to keep them around forever). The difference is that the examples for the words are foul and often sexual. Fun way to learn new words, though.

goodreads_appGoodreads (multiple platforms)
Price: Free!
If you don’t have a Goodreads account, you absolutely should. And if/when you do, you should get the app. You can search for books, update your lists, check on activity, and even scan the barcode on a book to add it to a list.
My-Writing-Spot_iconMy Writing Spot (iPhone)
Price: $4.99
Yeah, yeah, if you have something to write on the go and you have an iPhone, you can just use the Notes app that comes automatically installed. But I really like My Writing Spot. You make a new document, write in it, save it. You can email it anywhere and, my favorite part, it keeps track of your word count.

3405-1-oxford-american-writers-thesaurusOxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (iPhone)
Price: $24.99
I know. Ouch. That price is going to be a bit much for most people to swallow for an app, but I’ll tell you why I was willing to spend that much, why I’m happy I did, and you can make your own decision. The Writer’s Thesaurus is like a regular thesaurus, but better. It gives you synonyms that work in the context you’re looking for. It helps you find the words that have the right feel. So basically you’re carrying around this amazing little thesaurus in your pocket with thousands and thousands of synonyms and, oh yeah, it updates wirelessly. You’d pay $25 for a hardcover thesaurus, so why not for this?

scrivenerScrivener (Mac or PC)
Price: $40 – $45
Scrivener is my favorite writing program. It used to be that I only used Microsoft Word and had a million different documents and had to scroll around in a whole novel. Scrivener lets me have one .scriv document per novel (at least, that’s how I do it) and then one for my short stories. One .scriv document holds all of my drafts, all of my notes, and all of my research. If you’re an organization junkie, this is the program for you.

self controlSelfControl (Mac)
Price: Free!
Do you ever have trouble concentrating on your writing because the internet is there, distracting you? You might try to turn off the wifi, but if you’re like me, you just keep thinking, “I can turn that back on.” On SelfControl, you make a blacklist of the websites that most tempt you, select a time from 15 minutes to 24 hours, and turn it on. Those websites are blocked, and I me Add Mediaan blocked. Turn off the program. Restart your computer. Hell, delete the program. Doesn’t matter. You’re not getting on those websites until time runs out.

word tyrantWordTyrant (iPhone)
Price: $2.99
Do you ever set writing goals for yourself? Like, 3000 words on short stories this month, 6000 the next, plus 2000 words of blog posts and 10,000 on that novel? Maybe give yourself a couple thousand for miscellaneous words? How do you keep track of all that? Easy. WordTyrant. You create however many projects you want, set your word goal, and it keeps track. There are graphs and everything. You can set goals months in advance, and go back to any month you need. It gives you the number of words you wrote every day you entered a count for. Totally worth the three bucks.

mzl.cmloraxx.175x175-75WriteChain (iPhone)
Price: Free!
This is another way to keep track of your words. It’s also a way to get yourself to write every day. You tell the app how many words you’re aiming to write a day, what grace period you want to give yourself, and then you start entering your word count every day. Every day that you meet your goal for the day is a link in the chain. If you go past your grace period, then the chain breaks and you start all over.

write or dieWrite or Die (multiple platforms)
Price: Free! – $10
If SelfControl isn’t working for you, this is something else to try. It’s especially useful for NaNoWriMo when you really need to up your word count. You can do this online for free, or download the desktop version for $10. Set an amount of time to write for, the grace period, and the level of punishment. My favorite way to do it is 20 minutes, maximum grace period, kamikaze mode. What this means is that if I stop typing for around I think 5-10 seconds (not sure), the program starts deleting what I’ve written. There are other punishments – annoying sounds, blinking – but the only one that works for me is kamikaze. It’s like capital punishment for writers and it keeps me going.

writing promptsWriting Prompts (iPhone)
Price: $1.99
Finally, an app for when you have no inspiration whatsoever. Grab this, and you get 60 sketches, 285 scenes, 600 text prompts, and 400 random word prompts. It will also randomly search for a news story. You can go for a specific type of prompt or go for random. You can favorite ones that you particularly like, and if you get inspired, there’s a place to write. If you need more, you can buy them.

Hopefully, some of these will interest you and help you with your writing. I know they’ve certainly helped me.

There’s not going to be a Tuesday Reads tomorrow, so I’ll be seeing you next week! Now go have a great rest of December, whether it’s Christmas or anything else.