Preparing for NaNoWriMo

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Yesterday, I gave an online presentation on plotting for NaNoWriMo, for the India chapter. (To access it, just join the group on FB by clicking here.)

If you are a writer, chances are that you must have heard of NaNoWriMo. It’s a month-long challenge where writers across the globe aim to finish 50000 words in 30 days. So, if you break those words by daily requirement, you need to write 1766 words or roughly 7 MS Word pages a day.

From the time Chris Baty introduced this challenge, way back in 1998, novels were regularly birthed in the month of November. I personally know many writers who would have never written a novel, if not for NanNoWrimo.

Why 50000 words? An average novel is anywhere between 50k-90k words. If you finish the first 50k words, you are half way there. Considering that most writers suffer from procrastination, this challenge eliminates the “starting problem” and delivers a kick in the pants to get their muses show up for work. What’s not to love about a goal like this?

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But I get it. It’s scary to face that empty screen. How the heck are you going to fill it all up 50000 words, your mind demands, poking you in the ribs. Muttering an ouch, you try to ignore your doubts and put on a brave face.

Don’t.

Ignoring your mind’s questions is always a bad idea. That question is actually your sub-conscious asking you whether you are committed, whether you are prepared, whether you are writer enough to win this challenge. You have to answer it. You don’t have a choice.

It’s surprising how often we ignore this voice. All it needs is the assurance that you can do it.

It’s also surprising that, we would never think of showing up at an interview or an examination without being prepared, yet many writers just join in at the last minute (or join without any prep) and hope to win. Not gonna happen!

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Like all challenges, this one is also tough, it will test you and scare you and if you do not stand committed, it will break you and push you out (no matter how much you shrug it off as cest la vie, you will know that you failed and sometimes, that’s the bitterest of all criticism.)

So. Here are my top 3 preparation tips for anybody thinking to attempt NaNoWriMo this year.

1. Start NOW.

Never ignore your fears and doubts. Face them, answer them, tackle them. Tell your mind that you are going to do it – period. Because – ta da – you have a plan! What plan? Now is the time to plan. You have nearly 2 weeks until Day 1 of the challenge. Spend this time plotting your novel. How to do that? Get all your previous half-completed novels out and select one that’s the most developed. You have none? Then start plotting a fresh idea, something that has been on your mind for a long time. You don’t have one of those either? Go to Plot Generator, keep generating plots until you find the one that piques your interest, and start working on it.

2. Form a Habit.

The habit of NaNo Prep – this simply means you pick a time, ideally the same time (for me, early morning just after I wake up is the best time) and make it your NaNo time. Spend 30 minutes every day this month plotting your novel (you are encouraged to spend more time, but if you have only 30 minutes, then you better start writing!). Not only will this eliminate “oh my god what comes now, I don’t know!” moments during NaNoWriMo month, this will also set the habit of sitting and writing everyday in November. A couple of links given below talk about the same idea, so don’t skip reading them. The idea is to write 7 pages every day and that can happen only when you make it a habit.

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3. Be Ready.

Mentally, physically, emotionally – be ready. You want to be a writer? It ain’t gonna happen by itself. You want to complete a novel? It ain’t gonna write itself. You want to be famous, beloved, immortal? You need to do everything to make it happen. Get your laptop (or notebooks and pens) in order. Get your writing space (please tell me you have one!) in order. After you finish outlining and doing character sketches this month, save those notes in a folder and keep it on your writing desk, so that you can refer them any time. Look forward to editing your novel this January… that would give you the impetuous to finish the damn thing in November!

All others come later. You be prepared with a blurb and an outline, with a decent workspace and laptop/PC/writing medium, and you show up every single day next month and commit to writing at least 1800 words… your story WILL come to you. And that’s how you win a challenge ☺. All the best!

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Homework links:

http://allindiewriters.com/prepare-for-nanowrimo/

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-prepare-for-nanowrimo-to-outline-or-not-to-outline

http://storyist.com/support/howto/get-ready-for-nanowrimo/

http://thewritingcafe.tumblr.com/post/61873818642/preparing-for-nanowrimo

http://rinellegrey.com/preparing-for-nanowrimo/

Interviewed by Indian Express – Twice :)

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It’s showtime!

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by Indian Express – http://m.newindianexpress.com/chennai/347955

Part 2 was published just a few days ago, here – http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Weekender-Writing-Vakays/2014/10/09/article2468012.ece

The highlight of the latter link is writing retreats. Have you heard of them? They are, simply put, time off from routine life, where you just sit and…. write. typically, you have a retreat in a pleasant place, somewhere definitely out of your town/city, a place that will relax your stressed mind and stimulate your muse into creating more.

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You will also get to meet other writers (though you can opt out of socialising, if you want – no judgement!) and come away with great memories, and hopefully, a completed outline or a novel. To know more, you should read my second interview :)

So here’s the big news – I am hosting a weekend one in Auroville on Nov 15 and 16, 2014; specifically for fiction writers, it’s two full days of writing-related discussions, exercises and goal making. You can contact me for more information or browse event details at http://www.meetup.com/Childrens-writers-in-Chennai/events/193877312/

Hurry… only three more spaces remain!

 

Book 9: Saras and the Superstar – DONE!

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Plot: Can Saras the School cat become friends with and help the troubled Superstar the theatre cat?

Words: 9923

Status: THE END! For CBC 12×12, 9 books completed, 3 to go!

Lessons learnt from this month’s chapter book:

1.The story is about a studious, stuck up school cat and an uneducated cat living in the neighbourhood movie theatre. So I had an absolutely smashing time writing about my opinions on Indian education system and the movie culture in Chennai. I also had to be careful not to sound too manic or prejudiced, so it took some effort to get that balance.

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Two enemy cats

2. I had to make a trip again to the stretch between Srinivasa theatre and the Oxford school in West Saidapet, to get the “setting” right. Of course, the book is purely from my imagination but I have borrowed the setting :). It was a headache to do this on a hot day, but ultimately it helped me in getting a lot of details accurate.

3. What do you do when you decide to bury the hatchet and extend an olive branch to your enemy, but the other person is not interested to meet you mid-way? Writing about this dilemma actually soothed a lot of old hurts in my own life. And that’s why they say writing heals the wounds of both the mind and the body.

This concludes the first 3 books of the series… I had ideas for more, but am not going to pursue them until I sell these three first. Tall order, much? Hope springs eternal!

How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING

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writingale:

That old age – Those who can’t, teach – annoys me. I do a lot in my life, with the time I have in my hands, with the brain God has given me. And I love to teach. Does that make me a loser? I hope NOT!

Now, I am not saying I have academic credentials to teach (I probably never will, since I am now wired to only write, not study!) but I have several years’ experience in my field of expertise and it warms my heart to help others who are at the bottom of the ladder. Just my bit to make their journey a little easier.

Not only that, every time I hold a workshop, I learn something new from the participants. I am always amazed when that happens – the teacher becomes the student. The synergy happens, and its both humbling and exhilarating. In my opinion, if every qualified person in India tries to mentor just one fledgling under his wing, we would be a super power in no time.

Right, so that fantasy aside, here is an article on why How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING. It’s by Sudipta Barden-Quellen, an accomplished children’s writer and my old batch mate from the 2004 Highlights Conference in New York. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

IMG_5422 (1)It’s back to school season here in New Jersey (or, outside Philadelphia, as I typically refer to it) and that means big changes in my household. All summer, my kids and I are bums. We hang out at the beach, at the pool, at the mall. We travel, we sleep in, we do nothing. Summer is heaven.

But come September, my children’s lives change. Gone are the no schedule, no stress days and in their place we have wake up alarms, agenda books, and deliverables (and, it seems, a LOT of laundry!). The kids aren’t the only ones who go back to school—as a children’s book author, the school year means that I go back to school as well.

Every year, between school visits, Skype visits, and events like Dot Day or World Read Aloud Day, I connect with about 100 different schools all around the world…

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Books 6, 7, 8: Edited and done :)

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So… I am updating this section after nearly a hundred days!

You may remember that I had taken a break from CBC 12X12 after having completed 30 (first draft messy) stories in May, thanks to StoryADay.org. I was close to busting my muse’s back – writing a story every day kind of results in that! – so I decided I should use the next 3 months to edit and fine tune the stories. Here’s what I accomplished:

June: Adventures of Naughty Narada

July: Tales from St. Tessa’s

August: The Ark C/O Unicorn Avenue 

Now… on to a new story for September!

WriteOnCon (Aug 26-27, 2014)

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So what if you are too busy (or too broke) to attend a writers’ conference? WriteOnCon is a totally free, interactive online Writer’s Conference held annually during the summer.

DATES: Aug 26 and 27, 2014

WHAT IS IT?: WriteOnCon has been designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. It connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work. For more info, visit http://writeoncon.com/about/what-is-writeoncon

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HOW TO ATTEND: To attend the live events all you need to do is go to http://writeoncon.com/chat at the time of the event.

HOW TO ACCESS TRANSCRIPTS: If you are not able to attend the Conference live, no problemo – you can visit http://writeoncon.com/live-events/monthly-live-events and read the transcripts

Excerpts from the FAQ:

  • WriteOnCon really is 100% free to attend. Like them on their FB link at https://www.facebook.com/WriteOnCon
  • This is a free conference, and a lot of the information applies to all writers, so the more the merrier
  • You will need to register at http://www.writeoncon.com/forums in order to use the critique forums. Other than that, all of the tools you’ll need to participate will be available on the website.
  • The critique forums are limited to kidlit categories (picture books, middle grade, and YA) but the live events, blogs, and vlogs are open to everyone.

For more details, go to http://writeoncon.com/about/faq 

Productivity Tools for Writers

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writingale:

I cannot live without Google Calender. Or my E-Checklist on my phone. And that’s about as tech savvy as I can get, lol. I do have a scrivener sitting in my inbox, but the day after I bought the mac version , my iMac died and went to Apple Heaven, and I am currently working on a PC. Somethings are just not meant to be.

Here are some more productivity tools for writers!

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

Screen captures of GQueues (desktop and mobile), Harvest and BoomerangTechnology plays an important role in all of our lives. I’m always interested in what’s new and trying to implement the latest advancements so I can do more in less time. I’ve recently started using a few new services and I wanted to share my experiences with you.

GQueues

https://www.gqueues.com/

I am always looking to improve my time management skills especially capturing new tasks and prioritizing them. I’ve tried all manor of software and even as recently as 2 months ago, I was using a hybrid online-paper solution. Then a client turned me on to GQueues. Although not a Google product, you must have a Gmail account to make use of GQueues.  It is billed as “A full-featured online task manager for your Google Account and Google Apps account”. GQueues is fine as a stand alone task manager. It’s Getting Things Done friendly http://gettingthingsdone.com/ and similar to other online task…

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