NaNoWriMo Goals—Pay Attention

Routines for writers is a website dedicated to helping writers write more. We believe that if we set up routines for all aspects of our writing we will get more done, automatically.


In terms of my writing year, NaNoWriMo is the beginning. Writing this novel sets the pace for the rest of the year.  I know that if I routinely participate in NaNo, I’ll have at least one new novel a year.


Last year looked like this:



November—write like mad.

December through September—complete and polish the NaNo novel.

October—market the NaNo novel and start planning the next one.



Going into NaNo this year, my original goals were to be more organized (thanks to Karen Wiesner and her blogs) and to “win” by getting those 50,000 words down.


BUT, I can tell already that this year my NaNo novel will not take the whole year to wrap up. It’s starting off more organized and better written. I could only be talking big, but I think there is something to my routines. My writing muscles are stronger this time around.


So, as we reach the end of NaNoWriMo ’08 Week 1, I suggest we add another goal of noticing our writing routines.


Pay attention to how long it takes you to write a scene, a chapter, or get a certain word count. Are some days better than others? Can you kick out 3000 words on a Saturday, but only 800 on Monday?


You can make NaNoWriMo so much more than getting a novel written. If you are serious about writing you need to think beyond November 30th. Make it your goal to set up routines that you can carry into the rest of the year. Start by noticing your writing patterns and turn these into routines.


I wanted to do 2000 words a day so I could take Sundays off. I started off well, then fell behind and decided that the 1667 a day would be a more reasonable goal (who am I to argue with Chris Baty, Mr. NaNoWriMo himself?)


Then WEDNESDAY hit. I forgot about my Wednesdays. Busiest day of my week. When it came time to write I was too drained….but I had that goal!!! So I made myself sit and stare at the computer and type something like five sentences an hour. Ugh.


Then I remembered SATURDAY. That’s my day to blast through the word count. I have to protect and make Saturday a must-have-solitude-no-excuses writing day. I didn’t have to make myself stay up Wednesday until the wee hours after all. I decided to get some sleep and catch up later.


How about you? Do you see a pattern to your writing this week? Do you need to make some adjustments going into Week 2? Think about it and write down what your routines are: times, places, coffee flavor, music, etc. Then when your writing seems to be off, look at your routines and see what needs to change.

Over 30 Ways to Keep Kids Busy So You Can Write

Let’s get really practical today about our lives during NaNoWriMo! I’m talking to all you parents out there.


Keeping my kids busy this November will be my biggest NaNo challenge (aside from writing 50,000 words!) I’ve come up with a list of activities (way more than 30 if you count each entry) to tack up near my computer for those times when the kids are looking for something to do.


Please add your own suggestions to the comments section, then print everything out so you’ll have it ready to use!


Note: These are things my children can do with minimal supervision. Use your own discretion and don’t send me any cleaning bills!


1.      Crafts: -fuse beads

– kits

– box of random supplies, glue and tape

– Holiday decorations (Family Fun website)

– paper snowflakes

– Dot markers (like Bingo dabbers—they love these)

– Wikki Sticks

2.      Audio Books (listen while doing crafts)

 See if your library offers downloads

– Magic Treehouse

– Sisters Grimm

– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

3.      Movies—don’t forget home movies!

4.      Building projects


– K-Nex

– Erector set

– Blocks

– Bag of marshmallows + toothpicks

5.      Playdates with ________, ___________, __________

6.      Outings (take your laptop)

     – park

         –  play center at mall

     – fast food place with a climber

7.      Library (you do research, they load up on books and movies)

8.      Computer time (,,

9.      Wii/ Xbox/ etc.

10. Clean their rooms

11. Find 5 toys to donate (first they have to look through all their things, then they have to play with those toys “one last time”)

12. Go play with the dog

13. Decorate cookies

14. Magic sand

15. Moon sand

16. Playdough

17. Scavenger hunt

     – Find 10 things that are blue, or start with /b/ etc.

       (give prizes so they’ll do it)

18. Write their own books

19. Sign them up for classes like skating or piano and you can write while you are waiting for them

20. Make-believe fun:

     – restaurant

     – circus

     – zoo

     – store

     – beauty salon

     – house

21. Put on a puppet show for you—but they have to practice first

22. Film their own movie

23. Activity Bags (preschoolers)

     – group together like-toys or activities into bags or shoe boxes:

     – stacking toys

     – musical toys

     – for a zillion creative ideas like “toothpick punched art” go to this website:

       Preschool Activities 

24. Practice piano

25. Bean box—dried beans, scoops, cups, and a big plastic storage box

26. If you’re feeling brave—a bowl of flour, marbles, and cars

27. Bathtub and shaving cream

28. Let them talk on the phone with Grandma and Grandpa

29. Create an obstacle course with sofa cushions

30. Set up a mini-golf course with paper tubes and other recyclables

31. Build a box city—tissue boxes, food boxes, etc. Cut out windows and doors; make paper people and animals to live in the city.


Only Six Minutes

I’m definitely in the write-slow camp. I credit it to all the years I spent as an editor. I can’t keep my hands from changing a sentence, a word, a punctuation mark. If I reread it, I’ll fix change it. This slows me down.


Write fast theory: just get the words on paper, don’t think too much, definitely don’t edit, let the creativity flow.


Write slow theory: plan it out, outline, polish as you go, be more organized, spend less time cleaning it up at the end.


How would you classify a goal of writing 2,000 words a day? Is that fast or slow writing? Based on how I write, I’d call it fast writing. But if you were Nicolas Sparks, you might think differently….


One of my favorite writing blogs is The Writing Life (click here) by agent Terry Whalin. He knows a lot about the business of writing and always has a good tidbit or two. This week he discussed an interesting article on Nicolas Sparks from Entertainment Weekly, Oct 10th edition (click here). Considering our topic this week, the following quote caught my eye:


“A novel takes him a few months to conceive and then five months to write. He sets a daily goal for himself of 2,000 words. He writes for five to six hours a day and types approximately 60 words a minute, which he says leaves him with 54 minutes an hour to stare at the computer and six minutes to actually write.” –from article True Believer by Karen Valby.


Really, is that all it takes? Six minutes? Piece of cake. Except the trouble is those 54 minutes aren’t really just staring at the computer—they are researching, dreaming, analyzing, watering the plants, planning the character arc, following the Hero’s Journey, etc.


I’m not a full-time writer, but I should be able to log at least an hour (or is that six minutes) of actual writing time a day. At 60 words a minute x 6 minutes I should aim for 360 words a day, or, about a page and a half. That actually sounds doable for me, the slow writer. Especially if only six of those minutes are spent typing.


What do you all think? Is Sparks onto something here? Using Spark’s formula, how much can you get done in a day?

Give me a Deadline, Please

No matter the routine, no matter the schedule, I need deadlines to get things done. Similar to what Kitty said in an earlier blog, it must be all the years of trying to meet school deadlines. When I’m under a deadline (real, or self-imposed) I suddenly find more time to write and I’m more focused in my writing. Time management becomes less of an issue.

In University I had an oversized semester calandar tacked to my wall. It showed four months at a time and I could easily plot all my assignments–especially those term papers. I still use a basic calendar to plot all my family and writing activities. I need to see all my due dates at a glance. Setting deadlines for myself keeps my projects moving forward.

What if you don’t have a “real” deadline? How can you keep yourself motivated with a self-imposed deadline? Well, for me, I put my critique group to work. These other writers have been great about giving me a deadline. What I do is figure out the next step in my novel writing process, then I ask one of my friends when she has time to look at my sample chapters or query. There’s my deadline.

This week I sent out a sample query letter and first chapter to Heather, one of my critique partners. I was supposed to have my synopsis, too, but I didn’t like how it turned out. She wrote me back that I had until midnight. LOL, it was the little push I needed. So I worked a little more on the synopsis to make it at least presentable and I turned it in to her.

I’m so glad I’ve got a group of writers to help me stay on track and keep moving forward.

My Top Three Time Wasters

1. The common cold. Fall is here and so is cold and flu season. I’ve lost five days to my current cold and today will be spent playing catch up. My sweet daughter was first to get sick and was so happy to learn I was sick too (someone to watch cartoons with, I guess). My husband was not so happy about it. So just a reminder to wash your hands, eat right, exercise, etc. Do all the tricks you know how to do to stay away from those germs. It’s hard to get much writing done when your throat is on fire, your brain is mush, and your hands are needed to hold the Kleenex.


2. Indecision. You can waste so much time not knowing what to do next. I’ve got two endings for my novel right now and I’m trying to decide which I like better. The choice I make affects the “logic” of the story. Same when starting a new project. NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching (more on that in future blogs) and I’m down to two book ideas. I’m pretty sure which one I’m going to write, but still, the other keeps floating around in my mind. Indecision might be what people call writer’s block—you just can’t decide what to write about.


3. Avoidance. It’s amazing all the things you can find to do when you are avoiding writing. My local library had that book Kitty was talking about a few blogs ago: Write is a Verb by Bill O’Hanlon. He has a great quote leading into Chapter 2. It’s a quote that needs to go up on my computer and any other location where I’m tempted to waste time! Here it is:


“It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something you’re not working on”—R.D. Clyde 


Focus on the One Thing

These tulips were all focused on the sun until I turned them for a picture.
These tulips were all focused on the sun until I turned them around to take a picture.

My routine gets upset at least twice a year: the start of school and the end of school. It seems I just get the routine down of balancing all my mothering, teaching, soccer-momming, and writing, then school is over and we’ve got extra time. A few weeks of getting the kids to stop saying, “Mom I’m bored,” and then the summer is over and we’re transitioning back into the school schedule.

These transition times can drive me a little crazy. If I’ve learned anything, it is this:

Focus on the one thing.

I recently had the revelation that since my LIFE is all about multi-tasking right now, my writing needs to be focused. I need to do just one thing at a time or I’ll end up with a bunch of half-finished manuscripts.

Take this blog, for example. It was my summer project. Kitty and Stephanie are already online with their own personal blogs, so I volunteered to work on the technical side to register the domain name, get the hosting, choose the blogging software, etc. It was something I needed to learn and it took up my writing time. I temporarily put my novel on hold so that I could work on skills I need for marketing my book one day. Now that the blog is up, my focus can swing back to my novel.

Hmm. As I’m typing this I’m remembering reading about a software program that helps you maintain your focus. It was on Randy Ingermanson’s blog…Let me go find it for you….Okay, here’s the deal. Almost a YEAR ago on the Advanced Fiction Writing blog they were discussing time management. Randy Ingermanson was talking about this idea of focusing on one thing. So, I guess it has been in my subconscious for about a year and I finally got it! Thanks, Randy! Click here if you want to learn more about the software (I’m more of a paper and pen planner so I can’t help you there) and you can read the part of the discussion I liked best.  

Routines—Make Them Automatic




3 month old Snickers
3 Month Old Snickers

On this blog we are going to target a number of areas in the writer’s life that need routines. My overall philosophy about creating routines is to make them as automatic as possible. If left to my own devices, I’d never get anything done. Well, at least nothing productive, save rearranging the furniture. Again.



This also holds true for when you have unexpected life changes, say a new puppy.


I’ve suddenly found that much of my day is consumed with following around our 3-month-old-and-not-housebroken shih tzu/terrier to see if she is about to make a deposit on the floor. I’ve gotten no writing-related work done except for the items that have firmly established routines. Aha!

Here is an example of something simple that I do. I am finishing up a middle grade novel and will be looking for an agent soon. But before I do that I have to analyze the market and research agents. This can be time-consuming (even with a market guide).

One way to track agents almost automatically is through my email subscription to Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf.  It arrives in my inbox every Thursday. That night I open a Word document where I am tracking agents and copy/paste any new information into a table that shows the agent’s name, agency, recent sales, and contact information.

I don’t have to go out and find the info. It comes to me automatically.

I’ve put together a nice list of agents along with a current list of books they have sold. This took me just a few minutes each week.

Anyone else have ideas for making your writing tasks automatic? I’m looking for some more good tips!  (Especially ideas for that write-every-day thing Stephanie keeps talking about.)

NaNoWriMo meets Flylady

To understand this new blog there are two key words you need to know: NaNoWriMo and Flylady.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could do Nano all year round?” began the conversation.

Nanowrimo is the website that challenges writers to write a novel in one month. You kill yourself trying to do it, but in the end you’ve got a novel. Last November the three of us dove in. Kitty and Stephanie both completed the challenge with over 50,000 words. I think I came in just under 17,000. Note: That counts as a novel for me since I’m writing children’s books!  Really, it does.  And I’m not even jealous of all the work they managed to do.


However, Nano is too intense. No one could survive 12 months of Nano.


Flylady is the website that helps homemakers set up cleaning routines to make housekeeping automatic. The idea is, once you’ve got your routines down, the house seems to take care of itself. Flylady is famous for “baby steps” and “you can do anything for 15 minutes.”

So, introducing Nano (getting words on paper) to Flylady (setting up routines) you get Routines for Writers! Setting up your writing routines so that the words seem to take care of themselves. Wouldn’t that be great?

The three of us have spent the last two years or so helping each other get more written. My NaNo novel has grown by many thousand words and I’m preparing to send it out to agents.

Some of my background? Well, in my LBK (life before kids) I was a working writer. I wrote computer help files and educational software content. On the side I sold (a small number) of articles to teen mags. My dream has always been novels. Now that my kiddos can keep themselves busy long enough for me to put two coherent thoughts together, I’m working on the dream.

Are you with us? Let’s encourage each other to keep our fingers on the keyboard.