writing tips

A brief aside from Nanowrimo

Today, I felt like writing!

I really enjoyed the scenes I was working on. They went well and I felt like I was making some good progress, finally.

It’s day six. I’m 23,562 words in. And today I felt like I was making good progress! FINALLY, TODAY.

There’s this notion out there that you need to wait to be inspired, or that all your best writing flows from inspiration, or if you’re not moved to write then maybe it’s not the time.

In my personal opinion these notions are bunk.

The absolute unwavering key to writing–beyond that, to getting anywhere with your writing–is to do it consistently, as a discipline, until you can do as much of it as possible during the moments you have available.

People ask me all the time how I manage to be so prolific. And truly, to me there’s no big secret. Five to six days out of the week, I sit down and I write. For an hour and a half every day. I take my laptop to work, I sit down on my breaks and lunch hour, and I write. If I don’t hit my word count goal with that, I write at home, or I write at Starbucks.

Not every word is going to be wonderful. Not all of it is going to be the best prose or dialogue you’ve ever produced. Some of it may feel awful, or rough, or slapped on, or over-written, or too sparse, or an absolute agony to put one word after another like squeezing blood from that overused proverbial stone. But each word you put down is more words, and for Nanowrimo or a first draft in general, every word counts.

So don’t wait for inspiration to seize you by the balls, and don’t sit around and expect every day of the month to bring you a cascade of glittering word-stars pouring from the sky to illuminate each moment of your manuscript into something brilliant and sky-touched. That’s not going to happen, but what you can do is sit down and do the work. Making it to 1,667 words a day is work, and don’t let it discourage you. Because it’s only the beginning.

What are you waiting for? Go get your write-in on.

Making 50k

Can’t talk; noveling!

Like most writers short on sanity and long on ambition, I started Nanowrimo today. I’ve got the first 3,407 words of my novel off to a decent start but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve set reasonable goals based on when I’m working and my typical writing rate in years past, but I’ll be satisfied if I fall a little short of that.

This year I’m only working on one project, Dragonspire. My goal is to get a significant chunk of writing toward the first draft banged out, but as usual, I probably won’t finish the entire novel in November. And that’s totally normal–a usable first draft of a novel typically takes more than a month anyhow.

I have my own tips and tricks, but for tonight, check out Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things You Should Know About Nanowrimo. His tips strike a pretty good balance of practicality and motivation, in this veteran Nano-er’s opinion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve put you all on notice. I won’t be blogging this month unless I’m procrastinating from my writing. Have a great month, everyone!

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self

I had grand intentions to write this earlier in the day, and post in a timely fashion even, but it got busy (a good thing!) and I found myself with no time. And of course, in my off time, I was doing important adulty things like adjusting my budget and looking at emails. Back to night blogging.

Though not very far in the process myself, I feel like I’ve already come a long way and there are a lot of things I’ve learned since I first started. First a disclaimer: this is all from my process, things that have happened to me, things I’ve learned and taken away. They may not be the same for you, and your own experience may vary–but these are the kinds of things people ask me, and you may find them helpful. And so, a listicle!

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self:

1. Getting a submission rejected isn’t the hardest part

For years, and years, and years, the one thing holding me back from submitting anything, anywhere, was fear of rejection. I saw very talented friends submitting their fiction through the process best known to be tried and true successful, querying an agent, and getting rejection after rejection. From this, I held up rejection as the absolute worst, and figured it was better to keep writing fanfic forever than it would be to risk my original fiction and have it turned down. I already knew that being turned down that way would be like having my own self rejected, so I was pretty much willing to avoid that prospect indefinitely.

It took a real kick in the pants to get me to the point of ever submitting anything, and a direct invitation from an awesome person.

And when I got past the amazingness of getting accepted, I came to realize there were worse things than the prospect of rejection. Which, in the end, is really the process of finding the best fit for author and publisher and nothing more. And that “worse” brings me to my next item, which is…

2. The first pro edit will rip your soul to shreds

I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

The day I got my first pro edit back, I wanted to hide in a hole, never write again, take my manuscript back from the publisher and light it on fire, cry (I definitely did that), yell, drink a lot (I probably did some of that), and wondered just what the hell I had gotten into.

It was, bar none, the most difficult edit of my life, not only because it had a lot of issues to fix, being my oldest manuscript (from 2003) but a lot of rewrites were involved, and I finished with a different editor from the one that I started with.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say the first edit is hard. It’s not like working with a beta reader (or maybe it is, depending on how intensely you work with a beta). They will catch things you never could have thought would still be in there, no matter how many passes you’ve already made. They will point out things you may disagree with, and it will be difficult to decide how to incorporate those edits. It might be hard to see the line where the edit is optional, versus highly recommended, versus required. Edits like publishing house style, of course, are always required.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it–I’m not sure if anyone has a good first pro edit experience. Maybe I’m wrong and someone will comment to prove that to me! The important takeaway is that it gets better, and easier. You get stronger and more confident, provided you learn from the experience and take that into each subsequent draft.

I’ve said before, Hemingway said write drunk, edit sober. I say read your edits drunk, incorporate them sober. It’s medicinal.

3. Be an author the editors WANT to work with

From the very first, uphill battle, though, my goal was to be an author that my editors would want to work with. After I was thoroughly tenderized from my first edit, I started to see the importance and merit in a lot of what I’ve begun to call their “tough love.”

It’s the editor’s job to see the forest for the trees. They have a bigger perspective, they have industry experience, and in many cases, they can spot the flaws and problems that are invisible to you and whatever friends have helped you get the manuscript to its second draft.

In order to be an author that people want to work with, there are some mandatory baseline items. You have to pay attention to your publisher’s house style. If they go by the Chicago Manual of Style, invest in a copy. Make sure your manuscript conforms. If they use emdashes, make sure to use emdashes–like so–instead of other formatting styles – like the space, dash, space, that I used to use – see what I did there?

Here’s the thing: your editor should not have to spend extra time on things that should already be done. Such as a single space between sentences, instead of the two spaces a lot of us grew up with. I think I just dated myself there. Microsoft Word’s find-replace can even fix that for you, so there’s no excuse.

Their job is to make your manuscript better. But first, don’t you want it to be the absolute best it can be before they ever lay eyes on it? Not only does it make their job easier, but they’ll see you’ve mastered the basics and they’ll turn their attention to places where your manuscript really needs work, content as well as line edits.

Conventional wisdom says never turn in your first draft. Conventional wisdom is absolutely correct. No one’s first draft is perfect. There are always things to find. If you don’t have people who can do a good, hard edit for you, there are writer’s groups you can join, or you can even approach pro editors and ask if they’ll do a sample pro edit for you, to see what you’re getting into. Many of them will do that, all you have to do is shop around. And this is also important, I think, to see whether you can work with a pro edit, or whether your reaction is just “No!!!!” But there’s a major reason it is so important to listen to your editor and work well with them.

4. The things your editor says are the things the reviewers will say if you don’t do diligence with your edits

I learned this the hard way with one of my own novels. Many of some negative elements in reviews for From the Inside Out mentioned things that were an initial concern of one of my editors, or things where I had made a half-hearted stab at things she’d asked me to do, but hadn’t taken that as far as I should have. And I kind of wince at all of the reviews that say “needed more editing,” because, well, that’s my fault. It wasn’t that the editor didn’t point out those things–it was that I didn’t incorporate them, or didn’t do them as fully as I ought to have.

Every edit for any manuscript I’ve had since then, I have paid scrupulous attention to my edits, asked more questions if I didn’t understand an edit, and made sure the editor and I were both happy with the final draft before it goes for its line edit. And I stand behind every manuscript I’ve had since then. And in my own opinion, working with my editors has gotten better and better. I hope they feel the same way!

When the editor asks for changes, it’s not because they hate your manuscript, think you’re terrible, or are trying to make your life difficult. It’s because the changes will almost certainly make your novel better. And if you’re not sure about that and feel very strongly about your original draft, the head editor is usually available for questions if a tie-breaker is needed. You’ve (typically) got the option to override suggested changes, as the author it’s your novel, but don’t forget the editor’s name is on that book too, as the editor. They’re invested in the edits because it’s their job to make you look good.

And when you look good, the reviews are good … usually.

5. Take reviews with a grain of salt. Or a block. Keep writing.

Popular opinion of most authors you’ll survey is “DON’T LOOK AT YOUR REVIEWS.” But if you do, for the love of God, be prepared and fully braced for negative opinions. Maybe they have a point. Maybe it’s like they read a completely different manuscript from the one you wrote. But either way, they will have an opinion, they will express it, and it may not ping you the right way. It may sting, or it may outright hurt and make you want to throw your keyboard on the ground.

But, really, what’s a negative review (or ten) going to change? The manuscript is done, it’s published. Once it’s out there, it’s open to interpretation. Some people will like it, some people won’t. Reviews let other people know what that person thought. In a way, they’re not really for you, they’re for those other people, the ones who might read your book.

Take what you can from the reviews, hold the good close to you and cherish it, and shake off the bad. What else can you really do? Wait, let me answer that: for the love of little green apples, do not, DO NOT, do not ever engage with a reviewer if they’ve left you any slightest nuance of a negative review. You may be tempted to engage with them and correct them for something you think they’ve said that is “wrong” about your story. It is not worth the shitstorm that will rain down upon you from the masses. It’s not your job to tell a reviewer that they read your story wrong. The story needs to speak for itself. Once it’s out there, that’s it. You had your shot, now it’s their turn.

Some other authors have advised having a third party screen your reviews, and share the positive ones. This is not a bad idea, if you know yourself and what your reactions to criticism (you feel unwarranted) might be.

At the end of the day, no matter what, reviews shouldn’t stop you writing. An author is someone who basically has to write, after all. Or, rather, an author is like a shark. Keep swimming or something dies.

That’s what I’ve got to share this week! I hope it was helpful, or at least gave a few of you something to think about. This is all a work in progress for me. Next year, I’ll probably have five new things I would have told the me-of-now.

Next week: tackling effeminophobia. What the heck is that, why is it terribad, and where does it come from?

Where inspiration flows

I want to work on two stories right now: my mecha story, Body Option, and the outline for a later submission call, My Sexual Superhero. Of course, neither of them is what I’m supposed to be working on right now. I need to finish Klaxon and really, really need to expand my outline for The More Plausible Evil, because I’ve been putting off taking that back to second draft for far too long.

“Waiting for inspiration” is a concept that many writers seem to abide by, but the best advice (for me) is to keep on writing, keep pushing on, regardless of the presence or lack of inspiration. Writing isn’t only a creative endeavor; it’s a practiced skill. One of the easiest, and most important, ways to get better at it is to write, and write, and write some more.

As such, my method tends to involve a lot of comprehensive outline work and linear writing. That’s not always what I need, though. Sometimes, when you push the wall, it pushes you back and you land on your ass.

While I was on vacation, I didn’t do any writing at all. I did a lot of thinking about writing (I can’t disengage that part of my brain ever) but we were out and about at all kinds of fun locations, places that were new to me, and scenic. I’ve got more than enough projects to keep me afloat for the next two years, but the ideas kept flowing!

The short list of what I came up with during my trip:

– A romance between a townie and a rich visitor
– A romance between an island resident and a tour guide
– A romance between T—–, a Japanese exchange student working at Japadog, and nightlife-loving K—–, which seeks destined to be only summer romance until K—– enrolls at a local Vancouver school
– A kickass witch with unconventional character flaws
– A story where the hero breaks up with his love interest before he goes on a doomed mission to save the world, and intended to send him a final message proposing marriage should he safely return, but his last message was cut off

Whether I’ll end up writing them at some future point is anyone’s guess, but I’ve got the inspiration, and it all came from different places and experiences on this trip.

When I came back, I chilled out for an extra day and didn’t even try to write. It was on the list, but I spent the day reading instead. And, as important as it is to write and be consistent and push to practice that skill, it’s definitely necessary to recharge the batteries, too. I’d driven for eight and a half hours the previous day, I’d been away from home for six days, and it was important to simply relax. Finally I let go and did that without guilt.

Today I started up Klaxon at the Core again and got right back into the full swing of things. I’m really pleased with the results, and getting to the creepy, intense parts of the story. I’ll definitely finish it this month.

As for The More Plausible Evil, I’m starting to suspect either the outline approach isn’t going to work for this one, or I’ll need to unplug the internet and shut myself in a room until I get the damned thing done. There is, after all, no waiting for inspiration!

You can find it all around you, but don’t ever depend on riding its coattails. The biggest part of writing is the hard road: sitting down and just doing it.

Vancouver, B.C. was beautiful and I hope to post a few pictures soon. Everyone have a great rest of the week! Two days until Pacific Rim for me. I’m so hyped about the movie, I did a jaeger-inspired manicure.

Where the hard part begins

Concrit is hard…but it’s the most important aspect of writing, and I don’t think I can over-stress this point.

I’ve heard so many people say, many times over, that writing your novel, just getting it all down, is the hardest part.


Respectfully, I disagree. Writing is the easy part. Writing comes naturally. Even self-editing, to a point, is easy because it’s proofreading for yourself. You know what you meant; you see what you expected to see. The absolute hardest, most challenging aspect of writing is, hands down, receiving and incorporating constructive criticism. The hard feedback. Your editor’s content edit.

My editor friend Amanda Jean has made a post regarding editing basics here, for the curious, or those new to the editing process. It’s from the editor’s perspective, and I’m going to touch briefly on the process from the author’s side of things.

In her post, Amanda mentions that the content edit “rattles the bones of the manuscript,” and when you get your novel back from that kind of shaking, what do you do?

Everyone familiar with the old Hemingway saying? “Write drunk, edit sober?” I’d say read your edits drunk, incorporate them sober.

The very first professional edit that I got back was probably one of the hardest blows I’ve ever received as a writer. I am not exaggerating one tiny bit when I say that I was utterly devastated. It was just so much. It was like a mountain of red. The more comments I read through, the more numb and horrified I got!

Looking back on it, I can admit that the manuscript needed a lot of work to bring it up to publishing standard. At first, that work–heck, even the prospect of that work–seemed insurmountable. I had issues, questions, and hell, even a few instances of “no, you’re wrong!!” How do you even begin to tackle that, especially when it involves a lot of work, even re-writes?

Back then, my reaction was basically to roll around feeling very sorry for myself before I started to piece things back together. I didn’t really have a method. It was more fumbling around in the dark, at that point.

Now, my practice is to read through the edits, and set them aside. Give things a chance to sink in a bit. Go through them a second time, and jot down questions for the editor, if you have them. Some edits are mandatory, like grammar or style; some are subjective, like re-phrasing, trimming clutter, removing scenes or adding them.

Sleep on your questions for the editor. You may get some insight if you let things mull around in your head for a bit. That often helps, too, if some re-writes are being asked for, but you’re not sure where to start.

When you’re ready to start, email any questions you still have for the editor, get your answers squared away, and prepare to dig in.

My preferred way of incorporating edits is to set aside large blocks of time and just go through them change by change. I use Track Changes, so I go through accepting changes (those damn commas!!) and resolving editor comments, tracking my own changes so that my editor can see what I’ve changed so that they can perform a final review.

Some of those subjective changes are where it gets dicey. What if your editor makes a change that you don’t want to incorporate? When it comes down to it, you’re the author. However, something to keep in mind is the fact that if something came up on the editor’s radar, it’s more than likely something that will pull your reader out of the story, or otherwise cause something to snag. Depending on your relationship with the editor, you can discuss it with them. You might also want to discuss it with a third party or two and get some outside opinions.

After working with concrit for over a year now, I’m starting to develop what I feel is a good sense for when to incorporate the crit, versus when to stick to my guns. On a recent manuscript that I received, my editor axed the epilogue. On my first read-through of the edits, my gut response to that was “NOOO! MY EPILOGUE!” (That’s the second time that’s happened to one of my stories, by the way.)

By the time I got through the linear edits and reached the epilogue, though, I was able to hit “accept” to axe the epilogue without regret. The story was definitely stronger without it, and the ending I’d crafted in the final chapter was a better place to leave it, overall.

There were two other places in the story where the editor recommended I trim a scene here, take out an element there. I made the case for keeping those things, and received a “fair enough, we can keep them” in response. Happily, I work really well with my editor, and I let them know at every step that if they thought further changes were needed, or if they felt strongly about cutting something I defended, I was willing to be flexible.

The editor usually has a wider view of things, more objective distance, than the author who’s so close to the manuscript and knows exactly what they meant to do, but not necessarily how that came across.

What this means is, frequently, the editor may be telling you things you don’t want to hear about your story. Even, to a point, things that you disagree with. And this is what makes concrit so hard. What do you have to incorporate, and what should you, even if your instincts first say “NOOO?!”

Alas, there are no easy answers for that question. This is one of those cases where everyone has to find their own path. Something really important to keep in mind, though, is the fact that it’s editor’s job to help make your manuscript better. They’re not in it to tear you down or make you feel bad about your writing – they’ve put a lot of work into editing. (Seriously, a lot of work – and editing is often a thankless task.) They’re putting in the work to help bring out the best version of your manuscript in order to get it published.

What gets it there, though, is the way you incorporate those edits and craft those re-writes. And in the best of all possible outcomes, it’s something that puts a smile on your face and has you writing your editor an effusive thank-you note for helping it get there.

And don’t forget the drink. Every time you despair, raise a glass and keep editing. And no matter what, keep writing!

Using MS Word Track Changes, with visual aids


This evening’s post is about a tool that I use quite a bit in both my jobs, the day job and the writing job, and I’ve heard through the Twitter grapevine that there are a number of writers who haven’t heard of this tool, or don’t know how to use it.

I’m taking it upon myself to provide a layman’s guide to MS Word’s Track Changes feature. Once you start using it, it’s hard to imagine editing, or incorporating edits, without it!

Click any image to make it larger. Sorry the embedded images are so small.

Step One: Turning On Track Changes

Best to start simply. I’ll run through all three steps in Word 2010 as well as the older version. Below, you can see Word 2010.


In the upper menu, locate the Review tab and click on it.


The “Track Changes” button is right in the middle of the review toolbar. When you hover over it, it lets you know the keyboard shortcut as well as what it does. Click Track Changes once, and you turn it on. After you’re done incorporating changes and using the feature, click it again to turn it off.


Once you’ve turned on Track Changes, anything that is added or deleted will be tracked in a different color. (Usually red, if you’re the first person making changes.) Deletions will be strikethroughs. There’s also a handy line on the left-hand side to let you skim through and notice paragraphs that may contain tiny changes, such as comma deletions/additions.

Step Two: Accepting and Rejecting Changes

Using the Accept/Reject changes feature took me a bit longer with Word 2010, because they made separate buttons for “comments only” vs “all changes.”


Over on the upper right part of the toolbar, you have the review buttons. When you click “next,” it highlights the next change that your editor made.


Here we have the “accept” button highlighted. The “Accept” button in Word 2010 will accept the editor’s proposed change and automatically move you to the next one. This is a fantastic feature when you have a lot of edits to get through but, like me, you’re a control freak and want to look at every single one of them. ^_^


And here you can see I’ve gone through several edits and accepted each one of them, bringing me to the comment. There are a couple of things to do with your editor’s comments. My personal preference is to leave the comment there if there’s something I’m adding to resolve the comment. Track changes is still on, so my editor will see what I’m adding in response to her comment. In this case, it’s a comment I’ve resolved in the previous volume, so I don’t need it. Click the “Reject” button highlighted in the circle.


The comment disappears, and the next comment is highlighted. Now I’m going to show you how to delete the comment, but add a change to resolve it. The editor made a suggestion about something my character would be very likely to do. In this case, I rejected the comment…


…and I added a little to the sentence, incorporating my editor’s suggestion.

Step Three: Adding Comments

The third feature I’ll show is how to add your own comment. This feature is especially useful if you need to reply to a comment that your editor made. Rather than replying in the editor’s comment (which they wouldn’t necessarily notice), it’s better to add your own, so they can use their own review pane to go through your comments in turn.


To add a comment, select a chunk of text. Usually you’ll be selecting a specific sentence, paragraph, or passage to which your comment applies. Notice the “new comment” button above.


After you’ve highlighted your text, click new comment, and type away! Here I’m adding a comment to my own document so that, when I go through and self-edit, I remember to consider adding more detail.

And that’s using Track Changes for MS Word 2010! Here’s a quick rundown of the same features for the older version of Word.

Step One: Turning On Track Changes


You may need to add the Review buttons from the Tools menu, I’m sorry I skipped that step. Basically I always have the Review toolbar open on my old Word program.

Here, I’ve circled the Track Changes button to show you where to locate it on the toolbar and turn it on.


And a quick example of some changes I made, with Track Changes enabled.

Step Two: Accepting and Rejecting Changes

There are no separate buttons for comments and changes here. The arrow keys will take you to and from every change and comment in the document.


Here, the first change I made is highlighted.


Click the “Accept” button to accept the change. If you click the downward arrow beside it, you get the option to accept all changes in the document. I only recommend that option if you’ve read and agreed with all changes. My preferred method is going over each change individually, but your mileage may vary.


Here, the previous change has been accepted. Unlike Word 2010, you have to click the “Next” button to get to the next change or comment.


After accepting a few changes, I came along a change that I’m not going to incorporate exactly. So, here, we’ll click the “Reject” button.


I made a different word choice, and Track Changes is still on, so the editor will be able to see that change.

Step Three: Adding Comments


Pretty much the same! Select your text.


Add your comment. And there you have it!

Hope this has been somewhat helpful. If you’ve got other tips and tricks, or handy Track Changes tutorials of your own, feel free to share the word. And do let me know if this helped you in any way. 🙂

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone – go out and enjoy the super moon!

Nanowrimo: a pep talk

Nanowrimo Pep Talk – Six Steps to Success!

Okay, crazy person. You’ve signed up for Nanowrimo. It’s too late to bemoan what the heck you were thinking. Now, it’s time to forge ahead, blaze your trail of glory, and join with that hallowed, elite class of individuals who have forged the path before you, said “YES WE CAN,” and wept like teething babies as they worked their fingers to bleeding nubs in the service of a higher power. The merciless writing muse, that is. There’s probably a mixed metaphor in there, somewhere, but I’m plowing onward with the story, as you will learn you must do during the harrowing trip that is the twisting path that will lead you through Nanowrimo.

50,000 words in thirty days. By this point, the goal may seem insurmountable. The reality of a largely blank manuscript has set in, you may be a bit behind the curve, and worse yet, the word counts of your peers may be depressing you all to hell. How do they do it? How will you do it?

I’m here to tell you. There are six principles I’m going to touch on. Then it’s up to you to do the rest.

1. Budget “me” time

As a successful veteran of ten Nanowrimos, a prolific fanfic writer, and a newly-published author, I am frequently asked “how do you do it?” (I also have my sanity questioned on a regular basis, but that’s off topic. …OR IS IT.)

My answer is simple and unvarying. When I have a word count goal, such as during a ‘Wrimo, I sit down, put myself in an environment isolated from any potential distractions, and reserve a block of time that is dedicated to writing, and only writing.

Every day.

For at least an hour and a half.

During a normal work week, I bring my lil’ laptop to work and on my breaks and lunches, I sit down in the break room (bringing headphones as necessary to allay distractions or noise) and I sit down and write.

This is step one. Sit down and make the time. If you can turn the internet off, turn it off! If you can put up a “keep away” sign, put that sucker up! Music, no music, isolation, crowded coffee shop – sit down for that dedicated block of time in the environment where you know you can be most productive.

2. Do not stop to read

You don’t have time to re-read what you’ve written this month, tempting as it is. I speak from experience – down the path of re-reading lies madness. You will, inevitably, get caught up in either editing; or questioning yourself and the worth of every single word you’ve written thus far.


You’ll have time for reading later. What I recommend for Nanowrimo is this: when you sit down to do your writing, in that budgeted me-time in the aforementioned step, open your file and read only enough of the preceding portion to get you jump-started in your writing.

It’s okay to do other kinds of reading, of course. Technical papers. Homework. News. Other authors’ fictional works. Pep talks.

But under no circumstances should you read your own writing during this month. I’d go so far as to extend that ban to any of your own writing, whether it’s the story you’re working on, or not. There’s no sense in poking the bear – in this case, the bear being that pesky little internal editor whose sole function in life, right now, will hold you back.

3. Buddy up

If you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to say that you’ve already halfway accomplished this step.

Some people gain strength through competition, and comparing their performance to others’. Some people function better when they partner up to trade words of encouragement and to share the load.

No matter how social or hermetically-inclined you are, buddying up during the month of Nanowrimo will help you to achieve your goals.

But, simply signing up for Nanowrimo is only half the journey. Make sure to participate in some of the opportunities the site is offering! Checking in daily with your word count, no matter how big or small, will help you keep moving forward, which is what this month is all about. Dropping in on a forum thread or two can help you with word wars, write or die exercises, and simply the opportunity to network and brainstorm with other writers.

Need to know what kind of car wrecks could cause traumatic amnesia? Questions about governmental procedure on inheritance? Tap into your writing group. You may be surprised at the answers you’ll find.

Best yet, turn to the community when you’re feeling high or low. We’d love to share your successes with you. And we’re only too happy to lend an ear, or offer advice if you want it, when you’re feeling like the whole thing is overwhelming on top of life, which doesn’t seem to stop moving when you most want it to.

No one writes in a vacuum, and we’re here to help.

4. Set goals – and achieve them

So, 50,000 words, huh? Seems like a lot. It might seem impossible. Enormous. An unyielding, insurmountable task.

You’ve probably seen the break-downs. The daily target to get you there at the end of the day should be 1,667 words, each day. That’s probably a little more manageable, right? 1,667 words. Wow, I’ve already hit nearly 1,000 just with this pep talk, and it doesn’t seem like that much, right? (If I was really clever I’d figure a way to shoehorn it into one of the stories I’m working on, but I’m too much of a purist.)

Sitting down to do 1,667 words all at one go may still seem like a difficult hurdle. It’s often easier to accomplish tasks when you break them down into smaller chunks.

So, let’s sit down to do a word sprint in the morning. During that time you would normally sit and go through your newsfeeds over coffee, or read your LJ or Tumblr or whatever other activity, set it aside for writing instead. Do a word sprint. Whatever seems reasonable for that block of time, set your goal.

Now you can mark off 300 words for the morning! Or 500, or 130, or 777. Whatever you’ve written in that word sprint, that’s your start for the day.

Sit down later in the day with more dedicated time. Don’t read, and don’t try to think too hard about what you’re writing. Sit down, visualize your scene, and pour yourself into the act of putting one word after the other. Pretend that it’s write or die, and if you sit thinking too long about your next word, your doc file will start erasing what you’ve got down there already. Better yet, go to a site like the actual http://writeordie.com/ or to http://writtenkitten.net/ for incentive.

All right! More words! Add them to your total and keep going.

Put one word in front of the other until you reach your goal. Make use of that “me” time, sit down, and march those words toward the 1,667-word daily finish line.

5. Rely on your support network(s)

Make sure the people in your life know what you’re doing this month, or you will drive them crazy, and probably yourself as well.

Your support network can be literal, in person; or it can be figurative. Your support network is the vital lifeline who will cook for you, or pick up a few extra chores for you, or say “tay, why don’t we order a pizza so we can write instead of cooking?” Oh wait – that’s my house.

When your support network knows you’ve signed up for this project, they can help cheer you on. They can remind you to take that “me” time you need to budget every day – or stay out of your space and respect the fact you’re taking it. They can remind you to take breaks, lest you gnaw your own arm off because it’s been that long since your last meal.

Check in with friends or family both to keep you on course, and so they can help you take sanity breaks.

The road to 50,000 words is paved with loved ones making your path smoother. Well, optimally. You can also check in with your support network to let ’em know they’ve got to stay the hell out of your way.

A P.S. To your family/friend/roommate/spouse: feed the cat; see you in December.

6. Celebrate your success

Toot your own horn. OFTEN. This is like your battle cry. Did you get two hundred words done when you sat down for a writing sprint or a break? This is AWESOME! Cry to the masses, “WOOHOO!” Tweet about those 200 words like you are the first person to ever accomplish this!

Each milestone is important, and it matters.

It matters because it gets you pumped. There will be days, and times, during this month when you feel like a failure. (Or maybe not, but then you’re one of those lucky exceptions.) So it’s your job, and ours too, to celebrate each thing you achieve and encourage you to stay at the top of your game!

Did you exceed your word count goal for the day? Brag about it! Tell your friends. Tell your parents, kids, neighbors, boss, co-workers, spouse, significant other, that cute person down the hall – whoever will listen! When they stare at you blankly when you cry joyfully that you’ve written 1,700 words, and they ask “How much is that?” reply triumphantly, “It’s a lot!” (Optional addition: “And I am awesome!”)

This is not a month for focusing on what you haven’t done. This is 100% completely and totally the month for celebrating what you have done, are doing, and continue to do. And I encourage you to glory in the accomplishment of each and every day.

You ROCK Nanowrimo, don’t ever forget it! And we are so proud of you!