For some of you, June is the beginning of summer vacations and the end of school days (or for those in the southern hemisphere, the exact reverse).
For me, it’s June Novel Writing Month (JuNoWriMo for short).
Last year I got involved with JuNoWriMo because I needed to get more work done on some old NaNoWriMo manuscripts. The people at NaNoWriMo were running camps for two summer months but acceptance of NaNoRebels hadn’t fully sunk in to the NaNo community then.
Well, those of you who know me know I tend to jump in with both feet when I find something I like. Although it was my first year, I went right in and help host sprints (although I wasn’t that active in the site forums). I had a blast! I even ran the CampNaNoWriMo simultaneously, clocking over 122K words for the month in two manuscripts.
I also learned some things (and with my ROW80 experiences, I have even more tools to use for this passion of mine).
One of these is how to best handle a sprint, not just for the day or the moment. But how to do writing sprints in general…
See, there are a lot of writing sprints out there, especially on Twitter. I like #wordmongering and the #teamsprinty sprints probably best of all because the communities are so close (the iWriteNetwork on Ning is wonderful too, but it involves adding another layer of process that slows down getting to the actual writing more than I like). Thing is, as much as I love these groups, I think they handle the health of the sprinter badly.
This may be a shock to you, but it’s not healthy to sit in one place and just fill pages with words for hours and hours a day. But it’s not just the days of writing. It’s the hours too. In fact… it’s a half hour and less.
So, may I modestly suggest some rules (call them guidelines) that I wish to see more often used during writing sprints, not just for WriMos but in general. (These do not all involve health issues, obviously.)
Rules? I thought We Just Had to Write
- Be prepared! Have playlists ready, have the caffeinated (or alcoholic) drink of choice poured and seasoned to taste, have a small snack available (nuts or something with a bit of protein and fiber and fat in it would be ideal–brain power demands fuel too)–this is not an excuse to just nibble. If all is going well, you’ll be writing too much to get that cup to your lips more than once during the sprint. The snack might end up waiting until your break.
- Be prepared mentally! It’s not enough to say have all your shit together. You need to have your head in the game too. Have an idea of where your story will head. Know what characters you are going to write about. Have a visual image of the setting and the situation ready to write. Have notes and pictures that you can look at if you need them. Be ready to dive in at the start of the prompt.
- When your sprint-host says to write–Write. Don’t check email; don’t stare at your keyboard–write–even if it’s “I don’t know what Sally is doing now”.
- If you don’t know what to write (next time–see rule 2), then ask your sprint-host for a prompt. We have them–lots of them. I like to use visual prompts of pictures and videos, but I also use text prompts. When you get your prompt, follow rule 3.
- Stop writing when your sprint-host says the sprint is done. Don’t write through to the next sprint. Sprints are usually spaced with a 5 to 10 min break. This break is for your health and comfort. Get up, move, stretch a little…. go to the bathroom, whatever. Do not just sit and type. The ideas will hold that long.*
- Talk to your sprint-host; yes, we are doing our own stories too, but we like to know what we can do to help make things better. We like feedback, encouragement, even banter. Twitter is supposed to be a social network not just another office.
And of course, I don’t have to make this a rule… Have FUN! Writers write because we love words and stories. If we didn’t, there are enough people who do who could do this work for us. We could just read while sitting on the beach drinking Mai Tais (okay, well, maybe not that). Thing is, writing doesn’t pay that much, not even when you start adding in the best sellers (if one adds in all the writing time before the big break and/or the money and time spent in promotion–well, more than a few are just starting to break even now).
Yeah? Well, My Muse Hates you now
OK, I hear you grumbling. My muse needs nurturing. I can’t get anything done without spending time in the flow. Yadda yadda… Being “in the moment” or “maintaining the flow” sound great… all of those streams of consciousness saying sound good wonderful, but the flow is actually pretty forgiving–especially if you nurture it well.
Make a Sunshine Date with your muse (or a cold cellar walk for the emo-types). Share a (skinny) latte with him/her… Invite your muse for a few minutes of dancing to a favorite song.
Make the breaks fun, and your muse will hang around and be happier about helping you when you get back to work.
* If you are that afraid you will forget, take a little piece of paper and scribble down a note or two while standing. The act of moving increases blood flow (which fires up the brain), and the act of writing helps build cellular connections that make remembering something easier.
Fellow ROWers probably will recognize the theme of this post as similar to that of my sponsor post this ROWnd. I am adamant about the need for us to take care of ourselves.
For the next month, since I’m involved in the JuNoWriMo, I will be spending a lot more time writing than I need for my Five Sentences (I still am–I do sprints on the computer and then add Five Sentences in a notebook before bed). The Five Sentences framework works though. I use at them end of my daily total (min 1667 words) for that extra boost.
Thing about this JuNoWriMo…. I’m actually editing as much as writing. Last fall, I made a very sketchy draft of Courting the Swan Song, more of a very detailed outline really. Now I’m filling in that outline, adding (and subtracting) words as they fit the Swan Song series.
This ability, btw, is why I love JuNoWriMo (and the redesigned CampWriMos) so much. It’s total word count on whatever project you need to work on, not word count on a new story.
In addition, my social media time is sky-rocketing because of the WriMo, but also becoming more focused. I’m still doing my rounds of Facebook and Google+, and I hope to indulge a touch more time on Flickr and Reddit, but will probably save those for once a week. Most of my online time will be Twitter-based. Most of my writing will start in 750words and then move to Scrivener (that pattern worked well for me last year, giving me an online rough copy and then a home copy for tweaking).
And lastly, I fully intend to retain time for family and friends, as well as my passions of reading, photos, piano, and guitar. Yeah… I can do it all.