Tag Archives: NaNo

To Do or Not to Do NaNoWriMo?

Hey Epic Dreamers!
This is the first year in 6 that I’m not doing NaNoWriMo.  It’s become such a big part of my life that I’m emotional about not being able to participate this year.
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But as much as I would like to, my writing cycle doesn’t align with NaNo this year like it has in previous years. Usually I would time it so that I was ready to write a first draft of a story every November, but The Blood Debt is taking longer to get through than I thought and I don’t even have an idea for a new story (well I have a ton jotted down in a folder, but none cultivated enough to start a first draft of).
I wouldn’t have the time to work on edits and write 50,000 words on a new project as well anyway.
So, it looks like NaNo will have to be be skipped this year.
Even though I’m skipping this year for a good cause (editing my WIP) I still feel a bit like I’m giving up, quitting, missing out…
This will be the first time is 6 years that I won’t feel the satisfaction of adding yet another year to my winning streak and that irks me way more than it should.
I’ll just have to focus on the fact that NaNo is a tool to help authors start and finish books. It’s a means to an end. It isn’t completing NaNo that really counts but completing a manuscript….but oh how I will miss adding another  “finished” novel to my profile. 😉
How many of you are doing NaNoWriMo this year? (It’s okay…go ahead and rub it in.)

Join me for tons more fun, writing tips, and a glimpse into the daily life of a writer!

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Growing as a Writer: NaNoWriMo

If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo and you are an aspiring writer, you should go to their site and sign up right now.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Okay, really though, NaNo played a huge part in getting me to take my writing seriously and in motivated me to take my writing to new levels.

If you’ve somehow never come across this magical place and time for writers, I’ll explain what and how NaNo works.

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Let’s start for what this strange group of letters means: National Novel Writing Month.

It’s exactly what it sounds like; Writers from across the country band together to do the unthinkable and write an entire novel (50,000 to be more accurate) in a month.

It all takes place online, so no need to travel to another state of pay for a conference. 🙂

When does this mad rush begin? November! So for those of you who haven’t heard of it and want to try it, this is perfect timing. You can still do some last-minute planning before November and NaNo begins.

If you aren’t sure if you want to participate, well, I’m about to make you want to. 😉

 

Gives you a support group

Writing a novel can be a lonely process. Even if you aren’t writing a novel and write short stories or flash fiction for your blog, it can be difficult to find others who enjoy writing fiction like you do.

NaNo gives you a way to meet other writers so you aren’t so alone in this this solitary art.

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Pushes you to your edge

When I participated in my first NaNo, I’d never wrote 50,000 words in one project before. My largest story at the time was about 12,000 words. So yeah, taking on NaNo was a leap for me, but it pushed me to write more than I thought I could and taught me that I had more in me than what I was using.

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Sure that first NaNo project was a mess that I would never show anyone (I should probably go back and read it so I can get a good laugh), but with every year that I participated, my writing and word count per writing session improved.

I  began to create plots easier, get to the essence of a character faster, and writing scenes came more naturally.

I even wrote the first draft of my book, The Hashna Stone, during NaNo. 🙂

 

Gives you a rush of accomplishment

If you feel stuck in your writing, want to challenge yourself, or just want to explore working on a bigger project, NaNo is perfect for that.

I knew what I wrote for that first NaNo project would never be used for a published book (or even shown to a single person) but I’d never felt more proud then when I verified my word count and officially wrote my first 50,000-word novel (which is actually a really small novel, but it was a lot of words for a single story than I’d ever done before 😛 ).

If you don’t do it for another reason, do it to prove to yourself that you are a writer. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do it…that you take writing seriously enough to make it a priority.

Completing NaNo gives you a different mindset.  “Oh I’m just playing around with this writing thing,” becomes “I am a writer. There’s no reason I can’t write a book just like all the authors I look up to.”

Once you do that, writing a 140,000-word novel seems more possible (looking at you Hashna Stone 😛 ) and you go from aspiring writer to writer. 

All that said, you better join NaNo this November. *wink*

If you want to do NaNo together, look me up. I’ll be happy to be your NaNo buddy! My user name is AnnaFoxwrites. Or just click here

Oh, and since I’ll be busy novel writing, I won’t be posting for the month of November…as is my custom. 😉

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So, I Cheated on NaNoWriMo

Hey there Epic Dreamers! 
It’s been a while since I’ve said that. I think since early November. It feels good to be back after two months of auto posting. I hope I didn’t forget how to write a post. 😛

The month of November was NaNoWriMo, so I spent the month attempting to get 50000 words down. I’ve done this a few times before, but this time I made it harder on myself and tried to get those words out of a detailed outline and not a first draft, which is the best way to utilize NaNo. I didn’t do this on purpose (who would torture themselves like that?). I had just finished my fourth draft of The Hashna Stone the day before NaNo (Bad timing right? All those words going uncounted). But I couldn’t waste the opportunity to use the motivation NaNo gives to push myself, not to mention I really an addicted to NaNo and the thought of interrupting my winning streak was too much for me to bear. For every year won, a little flame decorates the year of participation. My OCDness wouldn’t let year  5 go without the flame.

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So I decided to use November to work on a detailed outline of book two of The Hashna Stone

The problem was that outlining starts with brainstorm, and while sometimes that includes sitting at the computer and word vomiting, it also includes a bunch of walking in circles while muttering to yourself. In the brainstorming process, there is a lot of time spent away from the computer. Needless to say, this didn’t help my word count. I did write a more detailed outline than what I did for The Hashna Stone (which I think will make the actual writing of the book easier, and it allowed my to do a bunch of cool things that would be a mess if I tried to figure it out in the first draft). I also did some world building and character development that added some words to my floundering word count, but in the end I was still about 10,000 words short.

So what did I do? I cheated of course. 

cheated

I took the words from the last three chapters I rewrote in The Hashna Stone and added it to my word count. 

This seemed fair because I did think about waiting for NaNo to write those chapters since it was only a week and a half away, but I couldn’t stand to hold myself back from writing. Life does that enough without me doing it to myself. So I went ahead and wrote them, naively thinking that I would still have enough words to write. 

I may not have the words, but I still put the time in. I could have blabbed on for 10,000 words about nothing, but I would have rather used that time to come up with terrible situations to put my characters in. When you spend two hours going over possibilities in your head and come away with two sentences, it’s unfair to measure success by a word count. In one month, I went from having no clue what would happen in the second book to figuring out everything from beginning to end.

So yes, I borrowed 10,000 words from the week before November and didn’t actually write all the words in November. But I did reach my goal for the month: to have a detailed outline. Moving forward with the story matters more than a certain number of words. Isn’t that why we do NaNo in the first place?

I guess you’re going to call the NaNo police on me and I’ll be put in a room with no laptop, no pen and paper, and ordered to refinance from writing while serving my time. 
But I still think it was worth it, just to have those little fires all in a row.

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NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer

This is the last installment of my little NaNo taught me series. We’ve already talked about why skipping scenes isn’t a bad thing and why it’s okay to write a terrible first chapter in spite of all the pressure to write a perfect one.

Today’s topic may seem counterintuitive. Can you even call yourself a writer if you only type 500 words an hour? How will your novel ever be finished if your a slow writer?

My answer is, you have to start somewhere.

My first year doing NaNo I thought writing 50,000 words in a month was impossible. I’d never written 50,000 words on a single project in my life. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of Mount Everest every day I reached 1,667 (which is how much you need to write a day to reach 50,000 words in a month). And if I happened to go 200 words over…I was freaking Wonder Woman!

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Fast forward three more years of NaNo and writing 1,667 words is no longer a challenge. That’s what I do on an off day. This year of NaNo I wrote 2,000 to 3,000 words most days. There were a few days I really nailed it and wrote 5,000 words. I actually finished NaNo on November 21, which was 9 days early.

Just to show you the amount of words I put out when I first started, here is a shot of the excel spread sheet I used to keep track of the words I wrote for a story I was working on in 2015. This wasn’t for NaNo (I don’t have a spread sheet for my first NaNo), but a project I started a few months after. From the small numbers and many skipped days, you can see why it was such a big accomplishment that I finished 50,000 words in a month.

Feb 2015

Two years ago, I only wrote 12,000 in a month. Now I can write that amount in a week.

Nov. 2017

It’s okay if you feel like a a snail slushing through mud could write a book faster. That’s how I felt when I first started, but if you keep writing you’ll build speed.

As great as speeding up my words per week is, the best thing doing NaNo taught me wasn’t how to put words down faster. It was continuing to write after NaNo was finished.

After my first year, the moment November was over I didn’t write a thing (besides blog posts of course). Two months went by before I decided to start another project like that. I’d ran my marathon. It was time for lounging on the couch with chips and dip.

What I learned from the last four years of doing NaNo was that you don’t just write seriously during November. The best way to finish your work in progress isn’t to have a super power of typing out 1,000 words in 30 minutes, but to keep writing continuously. Making writing part of your routine isn’t just something to do during November, but all year long. Keep the writing spirit as enthusiastically as Buddy keeps the Christmas spirit. 😉

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You may start out only writing 100 words a day, but if you keep at it you’ll find your words-per-day slowing increasing. Even if they don’t (which is as impossible as a weightlifter not gaining strength after dedicating themselves to training every day) you’ll still be farther along then you would have if you only got serious about writing one month a year.

Don’t be discouraged because you don’t write as fast as you would like to. You have to start somewhere. The more you do it, the better you will get.

I still consider myself a slow writer. I’ll never be Brandon Sanderson and write 300,000 in a year. But slow writers who keep writing will put out a lot more books than a fast writer who doesn’t write consistently.

No one said you had to be faster than a snail through mud. You just have to have the guts to keep writing.

 

 

NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to be a slow writer

 

Do you consider yourself to be a slow writer? What’s the most you’ve written in a day? If you want to pick up your speed, you should head over to an amazing little site I discovered called 4thewords.com. You get to fight monsters by word count. It’s super fun! I wrote 1,000 words in 45 minutes because of this site. 🙂

 

Other posts in this series:

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Skip Scenes

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

All the writing advice says your first chapter has to be perfect. It has to draw the reader in from the first line, introduce the main character and antagonist, give a feeling of the story setting and tone, give the main character’s goal, and ignite some conflict. And while you’re doing all that, you better not bore the reader for even a second or they’ll put your book down and never discover that twist you put in chapter 10 that would have showed them what a brilliant writer you are.

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Whew, sounds like a lot doesn’t it? That’s because it is a lot. So much rides on the first chapter that it makes us freak out when we go to write it.

We spend forty minutes trying to make that first line perfect. By the time we’re done with that, we’re ready to quit (especially if we are writing during NaNoWriMo and have a daily word-count goal to meet). We’re having trouble writing one line. How are we going to write a whole chapter and after that a whole book?

The beauty of NaNo is that it forces you to keep writing even if your writing is crappy. There’s just too much to cram into a first chapter for you to get everything on the checklist the first time around. That’s what the second and third drafts are for.

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The challenge is remembering that as you write that first draft of the beginning chapter. Especially if you’ve written a book before.

Why? Wouldn’t writing a book before make it easier to start another one?

You would think so, but I actually found it harder to be satisfied with the beginning of my story this time around than when I was writing The Hashna Stone this time last year. Maybe it was because I’d spent a lot more time discovering the world and characters of my first story so it was easier to get into it from the first chapter. Maybe it was because it’s been a whole year since I’ve written a first chapter and I’ve forgotten how messy they can be.

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It probably had something to do with the fact that I decided to write a fantasy romance and am completely out of my element. 😉

Whatever the reason, I couldn’t get the chapter to come together at all. The whole thing ended up being a list of everything a first chapter shouldn’t have. I didn’t describe what the main character looked like. I spent paragraphs describing her sisters. There wasn’t much actually happening in the chapter. A good 2,000 to 3,000 words (which was half the chapter) was the main character’s thoughts. And I did a lot of telling when I should have been showing.

But guess what? I’m glad I did it.

Yep, you heard me right. My first chapter was a total disaster and I don’t regret it at all.

 

Once the first chapter was out of the way, I could get on with the rest of the story (which I like to think is better than the first chapter). And once I got on with the rest of the story, I could discover things about it that I would need to foreshadow in the first chapter.

The thing is, I could have rewritten the first chapter 7 times and never gotten it to the point it needed to be if I never wrote to the end. I don’t know if this is a writing rule, but it’s nice when the beginning of a story foreshadows the end or having the end in someway mirror the beginning.

A simple example of this is in a short story (more like flash fiction I guess) that I wrote a few years ago very creatively called Red.

The first lines:

Red–the color of roses, the color of love. It was also the color of danger.  I didn’t see the danger though. 

The last lines:

Red is the color of roses. It is also the color of lies. My color is no longer red.

For a novel-length story, you might not want to have such blatant foreshadowing of what would happen in the story or such exact mirroring in the first and last lines, but you get my meaning.

Sometimes you can’t write the first chapter until you’ve written the last. And to get to the end, you have to write the beginning. Even if it’s terrible.

NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to write a terrible first draft

Next week we’ll be talking about slow writers. Last week was about skipping scenes, and if you haven’t read it already, you should. It was a pretty good post if I do say so myself. 😛

What do find to be the hardest part of your story to write? Beginning, middle, or end? In my first draft, it’s always the end. I never really know what’s going to happen. 😀

 

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s okay to Skip Scenes

Okay, so I have completed NaNoWriMo before, but even if I’m not a newbie I still learned a few things. I thought I’d share those things in a post, but I had so much to say about what I learned that the post turned into three (or maybe I just didn’t want to come up with more ideas to write about for the next few weeks 😛 ).

The next two post will be about writing terrible first chapters and being a slow writer, but today’s is about (I bet you’ll never guess) skipping scenes while writing your first draft.

Should we skip the scenes that are giving us trouble or will the writing police come to our door and take away our manuscript for reckless writing?

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s okay skip scenes.

Don’t feel like you have to write every single scene out if it isn’t coming to you. Some scenes play out in your head as clearly as if it were on an HD 40-inch flat screen TV and you can write every detail and won’t need to change much in the second draft. Other scenes are on an old black and white televisions set with a crooked antenna and there isn’t much coming through but static.

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Don’t feel like you have to sit there for an hour watching static. You could try to pound out a full 3,000 word scene and become frustrated when it turns into a repeat of itself every 400 words because you keep rewriting the beginning, or worse, a blank page because you just can’t seem to picture what the characters do at this point.

Or you could simply skip it.

But isn’t that cheating? How will my novel ever be finished if I don’t write anything?

I’m not advising to do this for ever scene that gives you a little trouble. Sometimes you do need to wade through the static until the picture becomes clear, but I’ve found that it can be counterproductive to try to force a scene to happen that just isn’t ready yet.

When I’m writing a story, I have five or six crystal-clear scenes. They’re usually the scenes that started the story and get me excited to write in the first place. Like J.K. Rowling’s image of a little black-haired boy on a train started the Harry Potter series.

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The majority of scenes are a little foggy, but become clearer as I write them. They are a bit like those scratchcards you have scratch off to see if you win. It takes some work to uncover, but the scene is there.

Then there are the blanks. Scenes, that no matter how hard you try, remain blank in you head. For me, these scenes always happen at the end of my story. For The Hashna Stone, it was all the scenes in last two chapters or so. In my outline they were something like, “Everything is explained. The end.”

In the story I wrote for NaNo this year I knew how the very last scene would go, but I didn’t have a clue what the proceeding three or so scenes would be. I assumed that once I got to those scenes in the first draft they would come as they did for The Hashna Stone.

They didn’t.

I typed a few lines. Deleted them. Stared out the window. Typed a few more lines. Decided I didn’t like them but couldn’t delete them because I would never reach my NaNo word-count goal like that.

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Finally, I wrote an explanation of what might happen in that chapter instead of trying to write the scenes out.

I didn’t write out a conversation:

“Why are you always burning my grilled cheese sandwiches?” Bob asked. 

“How I’m I supposed to make grilled cheese and mop up the mess that your muddy boots left all over the floor?” Marsha was really sick of him blaming things on her that wasn’t her fault. 

Instead, I wrote:

“They had a fight about her burning the grilled cheese. Marsha feels annoyed that he keeps making a big deal out of it and that it isn’t her fault.”

That way I can move on to a scene that I can actually rack up some words on instead of just staring at a blank page.

Sometimes a scene isn’t working because you don’t know the characters well enough, or because there are some things you’ll add to your story in the second draft that will be built on in that scene.

don't know your characters...who are you?

Say I was trying to write the scene above, and I knew that I needed Bob and Marsha to fight and that Marsha would feel unfairly blamed, but didn’t know why Marsh would feel that it wasn’t here fault.

I could try to force the scene and write something silly about how Marsha wanted Bob to make his own grilled cheese sandwich or that she hated grilled cheese and didn’t care how it turned out.

Or I could write a line about what I need to happen, then in the second draft when I discover that Marsha is a clean freak whose requests for Bob to take off his muddy boots are always ignored, I can write clear scene now that I know the motivation behind the action. Even though it isn’t urgent to mop up some mud, Marsha resents Bob’s negligence enough that she chooses to clean the floor over cooking for Bob. If he doesn’t care about her wishes, why should she care about his?

Suddenly this scene comes to life and what was stiff actions and robotic dialogue becomes authentic.

Some scenes just aren’t ready to be written in the first draft, and that’s okay.

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It's okay to skip scenes

 

How did your NaNoWriMo projects come along? Did you ever skip some scenes in your first draft and regret it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Other Post in this series: 

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer

 

I Really Shouldn’t do NaNoWriMo this Year, but it’s so Addicting

Today is a very special day. November first marks the beginning of days filled with typing frenzies, word-count goals, and long nights in front of the computer hammering out the next scene in your story.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time again. Time for writers around the world to quite procrastinating and actually, well, write.

I’ve participated for the last four years but this year I questioned if I was going to do it or not. For the previous years NaNo came at the perfect time. I had either just finished up a project or not working on anything so I could start a fresh draft of a story, which is perfect for the seat-of-you-pants, quantity-over-quality style so prevalent in NaNo.

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This time around however, I was working on the fourth draft of my story and didn’t want to start something new and time consuming that would distract me from working on the revisions.

But those blasted “Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo?” emails kept coming in my inbox and making me feel like I was missing out. So I fell for the bate and visited my NaNo page, and all the nostalgia of previous years came rushing back.

I simply could NOT miss out on all the panic, stressing over word counts, and feeling like Thanksgiving is a waste of  precious writing time that comes with writing a novel in a month.

So just a few days ago, I decided to give writing a novel I haven’t even slightly planned out. Not even in my head.

I’ve never done this before, so it could be the biggest disaster, but I really couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to reach that 50,000 words this month.

For the rest of the month, I won’t be following the normal schedule. Instead, I’ll be posting every week about something I learned while doing NaNo last year. Hopefully, these posts will motivate you to finish if you’ve decided to do it this year and inspire you to keep working on your writing project whether you are doing NaNo or not.

Wish me luck! And good luck to all of you doing NaNo this year!

Getting Past Week Two Doldrums of NaNoWriMo

I know I said I was taking this month off from blogging to focus on NaNo, but it’s week two and you know what that means: writing doldrums. The excitement of week one has faded but you’re too far from the end to find the motivation to push yourself.

So the doubt rolls in and you wonder if you should have tried this writing-a-novel-in-a-month thing. You could be eating ice cream and binge-reading novels that other people have already put in the hard work to create. You decide that you never should started this dang novel and you are going to quit.

Well, I’m here to tell you don’t. Don’t give up on your novel just because it isn’t new and shiny anymore. You started this because you have a story to tell. Because you’ve daydreamed about one day writing a book, and finally decided that this was the year you’d actually do it. Unless you’re doing this because of a dare. In that case, go ahead and quit. Dares don’t turn out well.

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If you’ve committed to finishing this novel, then you should stick with it (pun intended :P).

“But, I’m way behind on my word count. And my writing sucks! I just can’t find the motivation.”

Everyone has had those thoughts at least a dozen times during NaNo. You’re not alone. We all fall behind in our daily word count goal. We all write things during our first drafts that we’re pretty sure an ape with a crayon could write better. And we ALL have days when we don’t feel motivated.

This is my fourth time doing NaNo and I still face those things (though my lack of motivation usually happens at the beginning of the third week…giving myself a pep talk early 😉 ). There are plenty of sections in my writing that I know will have to be completely rewritten, even while  I’m writing it, and there are some days where I fall into bed without writing a single word.

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But guess what? I wake up and write the next day. Because if you keep writing–even when what you put down is a mess, even if you fall behind on word count, and especially when you don’t have the motivation–it will get easier.

You won’t stop writing messy first drafts; It’s part of the process. You will, however, stop judging yourself so harshly for the mess your first draft seems to be in. You’ll realize that, just like all creative processes, it goes through a stage where it seem like a kid playing with finger paint. You are throwing in ingredients for  a cake. You are sketching an outline for a drawing. You are smearing on paint for background that will be a painting once you come back and add in the details. Don’t sweat the small stuff now. Just get the words on the paper.

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“When writing a first draft,  I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.”–― Shannon Hale

You probably won’t stop falling behind on your word count goal. I’ve never had a thirty-day streak where I reached 1,667 words every single day. Some days I write 2,500. Some days I only got to 100, or didn’t write at all. That’s alright. We aren’t robots programed to write a certain amount everyday no matter what. Sick days happen. Working overtime happens. Staring at a blank page while your mind frantically yells, “Write something! You have to leave for work in ten minutes!” happens.

But you know what also happens? Days where scenes come alive in your mind and you not only get in double your word-count goal, but you enjoy every minute of it. But you’ll never have those perfect days if you let the bad days keep you from sitting down to write again.

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Which brings me to my next one of your concerns…Motivation.

Waiting for motivation to come up behind you, wrap you in its arms, and drag you to your writing chair is a terrible way to get your novel finished. You are only going to motivated 20% of the time. The other 80%, you have to write anyway. The more you show up to write even when you don’t feel like it, the more you will feel like it.

It’s sort of like eating a cookie. You take one bite and you want another. Take a second bite and you really want just one more. Take a third bite…oops did I just eat the whole thing?

And that’s how you finish NaNoWriMo, my friends: one bite of cookie at a time. (And you don’t even have to count the calories 😉 )

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I hoped this helped! I’d love to know how your NaNo projects going. Did you get in a bit of a slump this week? Or are you still putting those words out like a NaNo pro?

See you at the end, Epic Dreamers!