Category Archives: NaNoWriMo


It’s November, but after the last two years of half-hearted NaNoWriMo attempts, I learned my lesson and didn’t even sign up this year. On the bright side, I’m 80k words into my current work in progress. (Except that many of those words will need to be changed in the second draft…) I haven’t touched it since mid-summer, but it’s been calling to me louder and louder lately.

This week I got a new laptop and installed Scrivener, so now I really have no excuse not to be writing. However, computers are a great tool for procrastination… instead of writing, here’s how I spent my first night with my new toy:

Doesn't Sir William look thrilled?

Doesn’t Sir William look thrilled?

Then I thought Sir William might enjoy modelling more if he had a sweet new outfit to show off, so I got him ready for the holidays:

Xmas kitty photobooth


You can see that Comma got into the fun, batting the jingle bell dangling from Sir William’s tiny little antlers.

… it’s only mid-November, guys. This is going to get way worse before it gets better. Oh well, as long as I find some time to squeeze in a bit of writing in between all the photo sessions…

Don’t break the chain!

Confession: I thrive on deadlines. In all the jobs I’ve ever held, I have never missed a single one. My first book owes its very existence to the publisher extending me a contract (with a deadline!) before I’d finished the manuscript.

But without a firm deadline, I flounder. By the time Fractured was published in November 2010, I had started on a couple new projects but wasn’t making much progress. I attempted to flesh one out for NaNoWriMo 2010, but quickly lost steam. In 2011, I was busy with wedding planning, and the most I managed was a short story (and only then because there was a submission deadline!). After the wedding, I took another shot at NaNoWriMo… but this time, I didn’t even last a week, and produced about a tenth of my 2010 effort: less than 2,000 words.

In January, I boldly dragged out my manuscripts from both NaNoWriMo attempts and proclaimed that I would, indeed, become a disciplined daily writer in 2012. That goal went the way of everyone else’s New Year’s resolutions: dead in four days. I continued to attend monthly Torkidlit meetups but was starting to feel like a fraud. To be a writer, you must write, after all.

And then in late February one of my friends posted this article on Facebook: “How Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem.” The method it describes is not new: it’s called “don’t break the chain,” and it’s very simple:

  1. Print out a blank monthly calendar.
  2. Set a measurable goal.
  3. For each day you achieve your goal, place an X on that day of the calendar.
  4. Don’t break the chain of X’s.

I printed out calendars for March to December, and started on March 1st. My goal is 200 words a day (minimum) or half an hour of revising (though I consider that an “out,” and have only used it once–my priority is finishing the first draft). Here’s my calendar for March:

And here’s the rest of the year: looks a little daunting, but also exciting!

So far, I’ve written over 9,100 words in 26 days (an average of 350/day). Progress is slow but steady, and the word target has had the bonus side effect of shutting up my internal editor so I can focus on getting the first draft done and then going back and rewriting most of it. The biggest benefit, however, has been making writing a daily habit: something I’ve struggled with for far too long. It’s too early to declare success, but at least I feel like I’m finally on the right path.

If you’ve also tried the Don’t Break the Chain method or have your own productivity tip to share, leave a reply below!

"Yes, Sir William, I'm AWARE that this was a long post. No need to rub it in!"

NaNoWriMo 2011!

It’s that time again! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo to those of us crazy enough to sign up for it. (My profile: jo_words.)

Last year was the first time I both signed up and tried to write daily for the entire month. I fell far short of the 50,000 word goal, coming in around 20,000 or so, but that’s still 20,000 words I didn’t have at the beginning of the month.

My goal for this year is 30,000 words: that’s 1,000 words per day. I’ve written 1,842 words in two days, so I figure that’s realistic. The novel I’m working on is one that I’ve had in my head for about a year and a half. I tried to produce a first draft at the beginning of last year’s NaNoWriMo, then gave up and started a totally new story instead. So perhaps this story is cursed? Oh well, doesn’t matter–I’m starting it again from scratch, and this time around it will get written. Or else.

NaNoWriMo: halfway point

It’s November 15, and I have written 12,410 words in two weeks. (Plus another 4,500 words of guest posts and interviews for my blog tour, but that doesn’t count. Hmpf.)

This is actually just under half the amount of words that NaNoWriMo participants are aiming for by this point (25,000). My NaNo account helpfully calculates exactly how many words I’ll need to write per day to finish by Nov. 30, and the number keeps climbing. (It’s gone from 1,667 to over 2,500. Daunting!)

But instead of feeling defeated, I’m feeling proud. So if you’ve fallen behind with your NaNoWriMo project and suspect that, like me, you probably won’t end up with 50,000 words in the next two weeks, don’t despair. Here’s what I’ve already gained from two weeks of (almost) daily writing; perhaps you’ve accomplished more than you thought, too!

  • I’ve written 12,410 words. Who cares if it’s not 25,000 words? It’s 12,410 more words than I would have written had I not been doing NaNoWriMo!
  • I’m writing daily, or almost daily. Which means that I think about my stories more often: even when I’m not writing, a corner of my subconscious is busy figuring out the next scene.
  • When I write daily, it’s not as daunting: it’s okay if I only produce 350 or 500 words, because all those little amounts add up fast! (I’m enjoying writing on my subway commute to and from work.)

I probably won’t have 50,000 words by the end of November. I’ll probably be lucky if I have 25,000. But no matter what my final word count is, I’ll be happy to have written anything at all, and I hope that this exercise will keep me writing well into December, and January, and February…

So join me and write on, everyone!

Yes, I caved to NaNoWriMo

Way back in 2002, I decided to enter the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, which was then hosted by Anvil Press. The rules were simple: write an entire novel in just three days, over the Labour Day long weekend. Sleep is for the weak.

I took up the challenge and churned out a short novella that I thought was pretty good (though I haven’t touched it since). I entered again the following year and produced a shorter novella, which I wasn’t pleased with. The third year, I gave up on the first day. After that, I was conveniently too busy with Labour Day long weekend activities to even think about entering again.

Anyway, I can’t remember when I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those in the know, “November” to everyone else). It was probably around the time I was competing in the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest for the first time, because I remember scoffing at taking a whole month to do what I was setting aside a single weekend for.


Almost a decade later, I am older and wiser, and this month I’ll be trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. The goal is 50,000 words (works out to 1,666 words/day), but I’d be happy with 30,000 or so. I got off to a slow start with under 800 words yesterday, but today’s a new day!

Feel free to follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo website. (Unless you’re just doing it to laugh at how few words I’ve written. That would be mean.)