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  • I am trying to write a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month. So are a few thousand other people in the Camp NaNoWriMo program. Why? The reasons vary. I suspect brain damage to be very high on the list.

    And yet, I find myself hating the experience only about 75% as much as I thought I would. In fact, so far I’ve found it to be quite enlightening. Because the pressure to vomit out a thousand words or so every day has driven me to develop a number of, well, let’s call them “techniques” that help keep the ol’ word count ticking upwards. These are just variations on time-honored methods that great authors have used throughout history, but not everybody knows about them (I didn’t). So I thought I’d share them here, in the hopes that they’ll help you add bulk to your next big writing project, whatever it might be.

  • Okay, quick recap: Last week Blair manipulated me into trying to write a 50,000 word novel in one month following the Camp NaNoWriMo protocol, and then she promptly went on a two-week vacation.

    Now that one week has passed, I’m glad to say that my word count is on track, I have spilled very little blood, and I’m only crying very late at night when no one can see or hear me. I’ve also learned a few things that I hope will help me on this and future writing projects, and maybe they’ll help you too, so here they are:

    1: Quit wasting time on stuff that you can figure out later. For example, I have always hated coming up with character names. I just don’t have a knack for it. Some of the names I rejected for my story include: Endicott Ramblesby. Pete Bott. Martha Refrigeratorface. Parker Halmurmisson. I just can’t do it. But with the time limit imposed by this project, I decided not to expend precious temporal units on inventing names, I just did my best and moved on. It was quite liberating.

    2: Get organized. Reading the NaNoWriMo message boards and corresponding with other, uh, NaNoWriMoers, I’ve been amazed at how much prep work some writers do before they actually begin writing their manuscripts. Lots of people create note cards with character info on them. Some do the same with plot points so they can shuffle things around and try different combinations. Plenty of writers invest a significant chunk of time compiling research so it will be on hand and easy to access when they’re writing. There are software packages like Scrivner that can help you do all this digitally. As we discussed last week, I personally am not prone to a whole lot of this type of frontloading. But I am starting to rethink that. I do know that if I hadn’t hammered out an outline before starting this venture, I’d be lost by now.

  • RC: Hi everybody, Rick Chillot here. You know what I like? Free time, sanity, a pain-free spine, a good night's sleep, what's left of my hairline...the list goes on and on. So when I came across the one-month-novel-writing event Camp NaNoWriMo, from the people behind National Novel Writing Month, my horror could not have been greater. And yet, I kept thinking about it. Is it truly possible to write a 50,000 word novel in one month? What would that experience be like? Would I absolutely hate it, or just moderately hate it? In the end, it seemed the only way to punish myself for even considering this was to sign up and try it, with the hope that the emotional scars would prevent me from making similar decisions in the future.

  • For National Library Week, we asked some of our authors to reflect on the libraries in their lives. Here's Ben H. Winters (The Last Policeman) on his:

    Last weekend I took this picture of the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, in Columbus, Indiana, about an hour from where I live in Indianapolis. Like a lot of buildings in Columbus—a small town with a  rich architectural tradition—this building is a masterpiece, built in 1969 by I.M. Pei.

  • Authors have a way with words, but these authors have a way with music, too, whether acting as the opener for a band or playing in one themselves. Here are six authors that have a musical side as well.

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    Oh no. It’s almost here! Valentine’s Day. It’s the Hallmark holiday that encourages you to spread romantic cheer throughout the land. Are you ready to shower your lover with romance? Having trouble figuring out what to get your significant other?
     
    Fear not! Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be like Mission Impossible. In fact, it can be quite simple. There is no need to overthink or grandiose this holiday any more. Still, everyone loves to be a little romantic every now and then, and Valentine’s Day is the best day for that.
     
    What better way to put in some genuine romantic effort than writing your partner something? If you’re a writer, use your talent to give your significant other something very special this year. Being the skilled wordsmith that you are-- you could easily construct something that will make your partner swoon. Sure, you could buy them a teddy bear or a mediocre box of chocolates—but you can do better than that!
     
    Here are a few fun options for you.

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