The NaNoWriMo Experience


This November was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month.

People always talk about the community NaNoWriMo creates, and I believe it is a huge reason this program works. The forums are so helpful, and I found myself spending hours reading about people’s questions and answers and creations and stories. I loved getting to know other NanoWriMo-ers, and it helped to see that other people had the same struggles as me.

NaNoWriMo has been my first group-ish writing experience since I graduated from college. I am so thankful that people are creating places for writers to find each other and share stories. I have missed it more than I realized, and I will be participating in NaNoWriMo every year, and I hope to have a more successful year in 2015.

But what meant the most to me was what the experience revealed about myself as a writer. Here are just a few of the things I learned and obstacles I faced throughout NaNoWriMo.

Sometimes you don’t get your ideal writing environment.

Before NaNoWriMo, I somehow convinced myself that the only time I could write something halfway decent was in the morning after breakfast and drinking my first cup of coffee for the day. I thought if I wrote outside that time, it would be crappy and awful and worthless. But that isn’t true. I found myself writing after dinner, at midnight, during breaks at work. You have to write when you can.

Even more than this, sometimes you have a cat knock a glass off your desk. You have to stop mid sentence and grab a rag to clean it up, and when you get back to your desk the words are gone. Sometimes a child will run into your room and tell you they’re hungry, or bored, or sad and you must stop to help them. Sometimes your doorbell rings, or your laundry is done, or you have to pee. Life is full of interruptions, and it will be a rare day when you can write without stopping.

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Sometimes you get stuck.

There are days when you have no motivation at all. There are days when you stare at your computer, fingers floating over the keyboard, waiting for the first bout of inspiration to carry you through your 1,600 words for the day. And sometimes it never comes, and you drag yourself to bed, or to work, or to chores with a heavy heart.

NaNoWriMo gave me an understanding that everyone has that experience, even J.K. Rowling and Oscar Wilde (though he would never admit it), and everyone has to fight through it. And all you need is a small spark. This spark can be found in yourself, in others, in an event, or a word. It can be found anywhere, but you have to be looking.

Sometimes you think you’re a pantser when YOU ARE NOT.

I thought I had figured myself out as a writer in college (BA-HA-HA, I know I’m naive). I thought I needed a bit of an outline to get me going, and then the words would just come to me. That’s how it usually worked with short stories, at least. But novel writing is a completely different thing.

I had outlined my novel a lot, but as soon as I got to the point where my outline ran out, I was stuck. I had nothing to write about, and my characters were running around with no goal or point. NaNoWriMo taught me I’m a planner. And thank goodness I know that now and can write novels the right way for me.

Sometimes it is extremely hard to write in a room full of non writers.

While I was on this journey, I was the only one to keep myself motivated. No one in my household is a writer, and often when I voiced I didn’t feel like writing, instead of encouraging me to go sit my ass down in the chair, they said thing like, “Well you wrote yesterday!” Or “You need to give yourself a break every once in awhile.”

Not the most motivating thing in the world, bless their hearts. I know they were trying to make me feel like I had done enough, BUT IT WASN’T ENOUGH. You must write wonderful new words every day, or else you feel like you can skip a day every now and then and you CAN’T. Every day, write.

But most of all…

this experience reminded me that writing is HARD. And any day you sit down in front of a computer and melt words together to create something beautiful is a damn awesome day.

I didn’t win. I didn’t even make it halfway to 50,000 words. But I wrote everyday. I watched my characters grow and change and love and lose. And I remembered why I became a writer in the first place.

THE ART OF ASKING: November 11, 2014



On November 11th of 2014, Amanda Palmer’s new novel The Art of Asking is coming out. It is not available on Amazon, but you can preorder it here. She will also be doing a book tour.

If you haven’t heard of Amanda Palmer before, you have been missing out on one helluva-woman. She has worked hard to become a great musician, as well as succeed in the music industry without losing her soul.

This book has been a long time coming since her Ted Talk on discovering how to move through the music industry by accepting help from her fans. Trusting her supporters and creating a lasting relationship with them on stage changed the way she produced music, and the way she moved through life in general.

A few of my favorite songs of Amanda’s include “Missed Me”, “The Killing Type”, and “Girl Anachronism”. Not to mention “The Bed Song” and “Do You Swear to Tell the Truth The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth”. Just all of it. Go listen to all of it. She’s got a unique sound, a big heart, and a world perspective that leaks into all of her music.

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I freaked out when I saw this.

She goes out of her way to try to connect with her fans, including being extremely active on Twitter. Apparently, she wasn’t always that way according to this blog she wrote on hitting a million followers. She often does random Ask Amanda sessions and announces spontaneous concert times and venues. Even throughout her book-writing journey, she asked her supporters for help when she was stuck.

But what I like most about Amanda is she is unapologetically and tragically real. I have never met Amanda before, or even been to one of her concerts (despite various efforts), but through her music and her social media presence, I have fallen in love with her. And she doesn’t know me, and she may never know me, but she cares about me. It’s an unspoken understanding she has with, I would venture to guess, all her fans.

And so, I support her in whatever ways I can. And today that means spreading the word about her new novel coming out. Watch the Ted Talk, and if you like it, buy the book. Support her if her like what she does, and practice literary citizenship. Because if we aren’t there for each other, who will be?

Acts of Literary Citizenship: A Twitter Adventure

For the past week, Haley Muench and I were put in charge (yikes) of the @LitCitizen twitter account.

Running social media for myself is one thing. Running a Twitter account for a broad concept which has a strong community is quite another. We needed a plan. We needed to figure out what the community wanted to know about, what they wanted to know from us.

Have you ever tried to figure out what people you haven’t even met want from you? It’s some pretty difficult stuff.

Then, we thought of Acts of Literary Citizenship. These are actions that people can take to show their dedication and passion for the literary world. After all, what good is a passion for something if it isn’t shared?

As our professor, Cathy Day‘s, class has evolved,  a list of about 40 Literary Citizenship Acts were already compiled. We added about 10 more due to our twitter experiment, and I think they are pretty brilliant.

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Just think.

If people would do one of these acts once a month, the entire literary world would benefit. Being a writer myself, I understand how vital having a supportive community can be. So many writers give up on dreams (and possibly extremely wonderful books) because they feel like they don’t have a shot. All it takes is one person to say, “Hey, this doesn’t suck.”

Literary citizens and these acts of literary citizenship could change the life of an author (and therefore the life of a book).

Thanks to the wonderful additions to our list from our witty followers, we are now up to 50 Acts of Literary Citizenship. As a class, we hope to have 100 by the end of the semester. Which means, we may need your help. If you have an action that would help spread the word about authors, books, artists, or freaks, let us know in the comments below.

We’d love to hear from you.

Help Artists be Artists, but Keep Your Secrets

Artists need other artists. We just do. Otherwise, who else will encourage us to drop everything we’re doing and chase a caravan of gypsies? Or buy a cat for the sole reason that when it walks across the keyboard, maybe it will come up with something brilliant?

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This is the one I chose. A little useless, but he’ll get the hang of it.

Literary citizenship is about helping artists be artists. We need support. Without it, too many promising people give up on their dreams. In order to support those people, we have to speak out! Talk about the anchor sculpture made of chewed gum and the book that made you cry.

As a senior in college, I have accepted my fate as a confused and lost soul in the world of politics and rules and professionalism (but I’m very capable). I am in the reminiscence stage, remembering what I’ve learned and where I have come from. One of the greatest memories I have is of creative writing workshops in class. Other writers, just like myself (meaning new and still gooey), would tell me all kinds of skills to improve and techniques to try. The realization that outside of the University no one cares dawned on me pretty quickly.

What will I do without my classroom full of wonderful minds to help me sculpt and pick and sift through my work?! How will I survive?! BUT WAIT, there’s Social Media. And of course books such as Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.

Literary citizenship is about being connected. TALK to people on the Internet and try to help them with whatever it is they need help with. Share techniques and ideas and motivation. SHARE ALL THE THINGS.


Except maybe your secrets. Keep your secrets. Keep the tricks that make your craft soar. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.