Incoming Power Ballads

Well, this is it, guys. The end of (NaNo) days. The final countdown. The last few morsels of that whole enchilada that is November.

Our voyages have all been unique. None of us have had the same journey. Some of us stayed right on the line, diligently writing just short of two thousands words a day, but that is infinitely more challenging than simply writing fifty thousand words in a month. Some of us wrote big once or twice a week and used the days in between to prepare ourselves for the next big push. Some of us fell way behind in the beginning and rallied later in the month. Some of us have already written over two hundred thousand words.

Thanks for padding NaNoLanta’s count. It makes us all look a little better.

And some of us aren’t going to make it.

By now, you know that. You see the monstrous words per day necessary to win, and you know in your heart of hearts that you are simply not one of those people who can pull off a 10k day. Maybe you’ve tried some ‘creative’ word counting by adding in term papers, diary entries, grocery lists, anything you could think of, and it’s still not enough. Maybe you’re a purist and tried to get a big could of days on Thanksgiving, but Aunt Linda would not. Stop. Talking. You did your best and it wasn’t enough, or you slacked off and clearly it wasn’t enough.

Or maybe you’ve never hit fifty thousand words before and knew on November first you weren’t going to do it this year either. A lot of you do that, and I commend you for it. It’s admirable to participate in a marathon knowing you’re not going to win.

These are the WriMos I look to in these final days. Sure, NaNo is about writing fifty thousand words in a month, but it’s also about reaching personal goals and cheering each other on and sticking with it even when you know you’ll never cross that line. It’s about immersing yourself in a group that will support you no matter what you write or how you write as long as YOU ARE WRITING. Just because you’ve only written twenty thousand words, you shouldn’t give up now. That’s twenty thousand words you didn’t have in October, and that could be twenty-five thousand words by the time December hits.

And think of all the amazing things that could happen in five thousand words. After all, a great number of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are about five thousand, Heck, The Lottery is under four thousand words.

Remember The Lottery? The one where the chick gets stoned to death at the end so the town will have a good harvest? Even South Park spoofed it in their portrayal of Britney Spears versus the paparazzi. It’s good stuff.

So if you’ve gotten this far, if you’re devoted enough to NaNoWriMo that you’re still checking the forums and the NaNoLanta website on Day 28, don’t stop now. If you need extra motivation, 1980’s power ballads are great for that. Here’s a list to get you through:

Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins
Don’t Dream It’s Over – Crowded House
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor
Final Countdown – Europe
Flashdance (Oh What a Feeling) – Irene Cara
Holding Out For a Hero – Bonnie Tyler
Jukebox Hero – Foreigner
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us – Starship
St. Elmo’s Fire – John Parr
You’re The Best – Joe Esposito
O Fortuna – Carl Orff, which is well older but is absolutely the greatest motivator in the history of all music.

Let this soundtrack power you through these last couple days because YOUR WORDS NEED TO BE WRITTEN. And trust me, you won’t want to do them in December. It’s like sitting down after a long day on your feet. You know you want to keep going, but getting back up is hard. Especially when there’s all that holiday muckety muck to deal with.

If you need any more motivation, think of future you. The NaNoWriMo site saves your data for future years. Next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, when you’re in the middle of November and thinking about how you’re doing in comparison to previous years, do you want to pull up this year’s chart and think, “Oh, I just quit that year,” or do you want to think, “You know, I didn’t finish that year, but look at how committed I was to doing the best I could!”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want this year to be the one I quit on.

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Week 2 Procrastination: Soundtracks and White Noise

If you procrastinate as much as I do, you’ve probably found some exciting tunes on the NaNo Soundtracks forum. I’ve made playlists for nearly all of my NaNoWriMo novels, from a cheesy DDR-centric superhero mix my first year (2005!) to my most recent ones: 2013, 2014, and 2015. I like 8tracks, which lets you search for handcrafted playlists by tag, but I’ve seen people using everything from Spotify to their offline iTunes players.

So, what are your MLs listening to this year?

I (Rachael) am once again using 8tracks because it lets me share my playlists with friends, whether they have an account or not. Plus, I can play it on my phone without a subscription, and T-Mobile doesn’t count my music streaming with 8tracks as part of my high speed data allowance. I even get to put some pretty sweet album art on there. (This year’s is made with Canva, of course.)


Kate shares her writing and NaNoWriMo playlists with us via Spotify: Music to Write By and Somewhere Only We Know: The Soundtrack

Lillian writes best without music or white noise. Rock on! (I’m way too easily distracted without music or white noise to block out the environmental sounds. You will always see me wearing earbuds during a word war! I have mad respect for anyone who can write without blasting techno into their earholes.)

Alicia says: “I listen to the Vitamin String Quartet station on Pandora. They do instrumental covers of popular artists. It’s nice because I’m comfortable with the songs but I’m not distracted by vocals.”

You can even spy on what James is listening to via (he assures me that the trippy space tracks are for his calculus homework, not acid trips, but I would never judge)! Click on one of the links on the right, and the site will even play youtube versions of his playlist or recently listened to tracks.

For more random playlists, there’s always Pandora. I’ve tried using StereoMood but haven’t found anything good yet. But hey, maybe you can’t write to any kind of music! That’s when I love white noise sites. My favorites are RainyMood, Coffitivity, and Soundrown. For finding music to put on my playlists, I use to search for topics. You can see my search for “volcano.”

How do you make your writing playlist? Is there an amazing new white noise site I haven’t found yet? I’m always on the hunt for the newest and coolest software and sites, so you should definitely comment and let me know what’s hip these days! (I’m also really uncool, sorry.)

lapixystix Has a New House and YOU’RE Invited! (some restrictions apply)

*21+ EVENT*

The All-Nighter is back and better than ever! On Saturday, November 12th, lapixystix and her Ken and Cyndi (no words missing there, she has a Ken and a Cyndi) are once again welcoming fellow NaNoLantans into their home for a night of writing, board games, and mild libations.

Here’s what you need to know:

What Exactly Will We Be Doing?

The big news of the year for lapixystix is she bought a house! Or, her Ken bought a house, but she manages it. The new house is a major improvement on the old house, so we’ll have plenty of space for lapixystix to run word wars in the upstairs common room and James (or Ken if James is actually writing) to run a fun social board game thing in the downstairs common room. We also have a hot tub and can make a bonfire if anyone is interested.

Since this is a night time event, we will not be doing a large food spread, but snacks for yourself and to share are welcome. This IS a 21+ event so you are also welcome to bring adult beverages, but please PLEASE please remember that THIS IS A WRITING EVENT NOT A KEGGER. I use the antiquated term ‘kegger’ to impress upon you the fact that I am not a college kid; I’m an actual adulting adult. Despite what Ken might tell you, this is night for writing, not getting wasted.

Ken is a bouncer. He enjoys bouncing, but I do not want him to bounce WriMos. I like you guys, and that will make me not like you.

Also, I cannot state enough how much we have a hot tub and that it is glorious on chilly nights. If you are interested, bring a swim suit. Despite what Ken might tell you, we are not having a naked hot tub night.

Can I Spend the Night?

Absolutely. I have four sofas, many air mattresses, and two rooms that are pretty much unused. We’ll have breakfast in the morning. It’s house tradition.

Do I Have to Spend the Night?

Nope, not unless you’re drunk, and we just talked about this. Come whenever, leave whenever. You just need to clear out in time for James and I to get to Sweet Hut in Doraville at 4PM.

Where Exactly Is This New House You Speak Of?

Marietta. Marietta Pkwy S and Powers Ferry area. It’s frowned upon to make addresses public, so contact lapixystix or JFCJames directly for an address and phone number in case you have issues finding the place.

I am the first house on the left. There is a big sun over my door and hopefully some balloons on my mailbox. I have plenty of parking around back. My driveway works best if you enter it after the mailbox.

Covers: A Brief History of My Fails

I’ll admit, this is my 11th NaNoWriMo, and I’ve only had any sort of cover the past few years. And 30 Covers, 30 Days? Forget about it! I don’t feel at all comfortable in a graphic designer role, and making covers is way out of my comfort zone. But these days, you need good visuals to pull readers in. Especially if you want to self publish or even just market yourself.

Are you a cover pro, or is it something you’ve never thought of before? Perhaps seeing my progression from extreme suckage to less suckage will inspire you to make something awesome. Plus, I’ll link you to the tools that have helped me suck less each year! Read on to laugh.

thumbregan 2013 was the first year I had any kind of picture for my novel. As you can see, I really couldn’t be bothered to even put, like, words on my cover. I just threw a picture of my protagonist’s faceclaim, Tanit Phoenix, into the upload box. Yeah, I’m embarrassed. But I couldn’t be bothered to do a lot of things for that novel, including coming up with an original idea I hadn’t written 3 times before. (And given that this year I’m writing epistolary fiction about totally different characters during a different kind of apocalypse, well…. no comment.)


thumblandlineFor my 2014 novel, Landline, I apparently had a little more motivation. And it was a fun, different story idea for me! Phone sex operator gets saved by one of her callers, who’s actually a private investigator. I’m really not a romantic suspense kind of gal, but I had a lot of fun writing this. I also had a lot of fun making the cover, even though it’s not very good. I’m pretty sure I used PicMonkey, which I discovered a few months earlier while crying in my office at 9pm on a Saturday because my boss wanted a collage for social media RIGHT THEN. (I only worked there a few months, unsurprisingly.)

Anyway, PicMonkey looks like you can only use it a little bit before having to pay for it, but that’s not really true. I’ve used it hundreds of times to quickly edit things, even without any kind of account. I still use PicMonkey for quickly tinting images and putting text over them, but I’ve since moved on to something I like a lot more. What I don’t like is that PicMonkey wants me to go pro before using certain fonts of filters. Pro membership somewhere around $50 a year, and the software isn’t THAT good.

thumbgreeneyesI like last year’s novel cover a lot better, even though it’s really hard to see the text in the thumbnail. Like most covers, it looks a lot better full size. But last summer, I took a grad school course in “modern publishing,” and it turns out that self publishing is the way of the future. My professor had my classmates and I work together to make covers, and that’s how I discovered Canva. I also tried making a cover with the Amazon self-publishing site, CreateSpace, and it came out okay (but not okay enough I wanted to use it for NaNoWriMo). It’s really not a bad option. But Canva also saves automatically as a PDF, making it super useful if you want to use it for your CreateSpace book. I think Canva offers a lot more options, and the results look a lot more professional.

thumbvioletThis year’s cover was also designed with Canva. You can’t read it super well at thumbnail size, but it says, “VIOLET” and underneath that, “The apocalyptic correspondence of a teenage supergenius.” This is my favorite cover so far, and hopefully it looks halfway decent to others, as well. I ventured out a little more with Canva this time. The site has things you have to pay for, but I’ve never run into a situation where they asked me to pay for anything. I was nervous about the layouts with little dollar signs $ on them, but they let me download my cover without payment. It turns out that they only charge you a dollar or two for each picture you use from them. However, I recently found some really cool sites that have shiny free stock photos!

Pexels and Pixabay both offer some stunning stock photos, and they don’t care if you use or edit them for commercial projects. That means I can yank a photo from their site, put a cool color tint on it with PicMonkey, put it on my novel cover in Canva, and then upload it with my novel on CreateSpace… AND START SELLING MY BOOKS! No copyright issues, which there definitely would be if I tried to sell a book using any of my other covers.

There are some other neat tools for cover creation, but I haven’t used them yet. CoverCreator offers a free trial, but I can’t tell if you can actually download your stuff for free or if you can only play with it for free. Anyone have any experience with it? Alicia also mentioned that WattPad has some cover creation functionality, but I couldn’t figure it out. And of course, James is one of those frustratingly smart people who actually knows how to use Adobe Illustrator, SAI, Photoshop, CorelDraw, and inkscape. There are some other fantastic and FREE photo editing softwares out there, such as GIMP and Pixlr, so that’s good news if you’re naturally artistic. But I am definitely not, so I’ll keep using Canva (which, by the way, is sadly not paying me to make this post)!

What are you using to make your novel’s cover this year? How do the programs listed here stack up to your methods? Share your knowledge with us poor, non-arstistic writers!

The Wild World of Not Planning Anything Ever

Yesterday, Kate wrote this post about using Pinterest for planning. I read it with my usual mix of awe and “that sounds fake but… okay.” Don’t get me wrong—I have so much respect for planners. The idea of knowing what your novel will look like before you start writing it is incredibly impressive to me. I really admire anyone who’s smart enough to have it all figured out ahead of time.

Accepting You’re Not a Planner (at ALL)

That said, I’m completely incapable of planning. I barely even know what I’m writing about when I set out. I usually get a vague idea, and then things come together once I start writing it. “Um, so I think I want to write about a pregnant superhero… living with her wife… on a secret island.” From there, I usually Google pictures of gorgeous island cities while crying over how long it’s been since I took a vacation until my brain figures the rest out. “Why do they live on a secret island? Is the wife a secret government scientist? Is it a whole community of secret government scientists? What if my protagonist feels isolated because she’s not a scientist? Do they make fun of religious people like her? Oh! Maybe the loneliness drives her to make friends with other supers on the island…”

Truthfully, that example is pretty much the most planning I’ve ever done for any story. If I make it that far, I pat myself on the back and take a well-deserved three month break before writing a single word. Oops. But it’s a good example of how my brain processes things, I think. I often joke that my subconscious is a better writer than I am, because it’s usually not until I send it off to someone else that I even realize half of what I’ve written:

“I love the way you use sunlight over and over again as a symbol for the ‘blinding’ emotions!” (Wait, I did that? Wow, you’re right! I’m awesome!)

“The parallel between the cookies at the beginning and end was amazing.” (Oh snap, you’re right! I did book-end the story with symbolic cookie eating!)

“This character’s arc is so beautiful. I loved how the cat slowly becomes the replacement for the kid they lost at the beginning.” (Huh, I never even thought about that.)

Turning Coasting into an Art Form

Of course, I attribute a lot of this luck to voracious reading. Just like you can accidentally absorb a good sense of rhythm and an impressive vocabulary from reading, you can also absorb a nuanced grasp of plot and symbolism. But that only gets you so far.

For me, planning stifles all of my strengths. It just kills my whole writing process. When I was younger, I took all the prep advice to heart. I mean, you’re a bad writer if you don’t outline, right? What kind of author starts page 1 without knowing her characters’ favorite colors and tragic backstories? But the results of my planning were lackluster at best. Planning sucked all the fun out of writing for me, and I found myself dreading each chapter as I came to it. (It doesn’t help that I’m NOT a linear writer at all!) The years I planned were, almost always, the years I lost NaNoWriMo.

Now that I’m a more confident writer, I trust my process. I’ve found I do best jumping all over the place, writing whatever I’m most excited to write at that exact moment. I don’t start on page 1 without knowing everything about my characters; I start on page 113! I only write linearly and form a half-baked plan when I’m going back through and finishing the book. And that doesn’t happen until December (or if I run out of ideas to write near the end of November).

Harnessing the Power of Virtual Scrapbooking

So how does Pinterest help with my process? It’s just one of many tools I use, but it helps me passively work on my novel whenever the inspiration comes to me. Whether I’m scrolling through tumblr or researching an article for work, I frequently run across things I want to toss into my story. Pinterest works like a writer’s notebook for me. Using the browser extension, I just pin it to the relevant board (like this one) and continue procrastinating working on other things. As you can see from my example board, I can pin images and articles about every aspect of my character: breastfeeding, lesbian parenting, fashion, Catholicism, island living, personality type, hairstyles, superhero memes.

I don’t have any rules about pinning stuff. Should I make a board for the entire story or for each major character? Should I pin just aesthetic stuff, just research stuff, or everything that vaguely reminds me of the board’s topic? The answer is always yes! I do whatever works for a given situation, and I change my mind frequently.

Then, during November, I can skim through my Pinterest board and be instantly inspired. The visual factor really helps me snap instantly into writing mode. And if I’ve saved a cool infographic or article for research purposes, I just search my pins for it. It’s way easier than digging through a hierarchical bookmark folder labyrinth.

Staring Blankly but Calmly into This Year’s Void

TBH, I haven’t made a board for this year’s story. I’ll probably do that during November, when I run out of ideas but am not ready to start the linear fill-in-the-blanks process. For now, I’m way ahead of my average! I already know the protagonist gets back the London, and I’m pretty sure she’s gonna shoot the antagonist. I feel like such a planner this year. Time to take that hard-earned three-month break.

Do you use Pinterest? Have you found a way to collection inspiration and research that you think is way better? Let us know! (I’m always looking for the newest and shiniest stuff.)