I’m Already Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo 2015. This November. Are you planning ahead?

nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 1 nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 2 nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 3 nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 4 nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 5 nanowrimo calendar Alexis Marie Chute author writer 6

Finishing Strong NaNoWriMo 2014

 

When I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, I underestimated how busy my life can get. I am a full time writer, artist and mother – and I always strive to give 100% to everything I do. I know, I know, my math does not add up. Who has 300% to give? Logically, it does not make sense, but on a more abstract level it does.

What I have discovered is that when I work at my passions, the joy I derive from them (and especially from my children) simultaneously deposits energy and happiness in my life while I withdraw from my reserve of time and effort. It’s a helpful equation.

This is how I am going to finish strong this NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately I am terribly behind, but I don’t mind working hard and late into the evening to jack up my word count to make the 50k goal. As I write my story, I turn off the editing and critical side of my brain and click away at my computer. Its rhythm is peaceful for me and I find the very act of writing deposits much back into me as a writer.

By letting go of perfectionism and focusing on the joy of writing and the love of the story, any writer may finish strong on November 30th or on any other day with whatever project that needs completion.

As the NaNoWriMo deadline approaches, write what fuels you and deposits back into your creative reserve. Let this balance roll forward and energize your each and every word.

Good luck!

 

Save the Date for a NaNoWriMo Write-In with the Canadian Authors’ Association in Edmonton

First of all, Happy Halloween! This spooky season is sure to ignite your creativity with haunting characters and unforeseen plot twists.

If you didn’t already know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts tomorrow – November 1st. I want to invite local writers for a fun event coming up on November 15th. Save the date! This year I am helping coordinate a half day NaNoWriMo write-in with the Canadian Authors’ Association Alberta Branch in Edmonton – and the event is open to both members and the general public.

 

Here are the details:

 

NaNoWriMo

Goal: Write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo software and connect with other writers. You’ve had a novel idea in your head and now is the time to bring your story to life.

Check out the NaNoWriMo website for more information.

 

Canadian Author’s Association Write-In

Date: November 15, 2014

Location: Idylwylde Library, 8310 88 Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta, (780) 496-1808

Time: Doors open at 12:20pm with event starting at 12:30pm. The event will conclude at 5:30pm.

Cost: FREE

Things to bring: a snack to share, friends (the event is open to everyone), and your pen and paper or laptop and charger.

Check out the Canadian Authors Association Alberta Branch website for more information.

 

Myself, along with the CAA Writing-Coach-in-Residence, Suzanne Harris, will encourage you as you find inspiration to get over the halfway hump of NaNoWriMo. Write alongside others also penning their novel (or just looking to get words out on the page) and find inspiration in the presence of shared struggles and successes.

It will be a day of breakthroughs in a focused community environment. Who said writing has to be a lonely endeavor? Short, facilitated breaks will give you motivation and energy to pound out the words.

Even if you are not participating in NaNoWriMo, come out and join in the fun and creative atmosphere.

I look forward to writing with you!

 

A Pep Talk for the 3 Day Novel Contest 2014

The 3 Day Novel Contest is not a marathon; it’s a sprint. It requires stamina, determination and vision.

The first time I participated in the 3 Day Novel writing competition, which is held every labour day weekend, I had a newborn on my lap and an outline in my hand. My husband was supportive and kept my three year old busy and delivered plates of yummy food to my desk at semi-regular intervals. I knew roughly where my story would take me, what characters would be major players, and my approximate plot arc. The rest of the details were filled in as I wrote. I didn’t sleep much that weekend – but having a newborn to care for and nurse prepared me well.

The weekend was an adventure of speed and imagination – and I enjoyed every moment of it.

To coach writers in preparation for the 3 Day Novel Contest, in the final days leading up to the challenge, my advice is straightforward:

Perfectionism is your enemy.

First drafts are not meant to be flawless. The most important concern at this stage is getting your ideas out on the page. Perfectionism, while unattainable, is a characteristic better saved for the editing stage.

You can edit later.

Turn off the left brain urge to edit while you write; it will slow you down and bog you in details that should not matter in the initial time of creative expression. While writing, let the ideas flow. You can critique your sentence structure, grammar and pacing later.

Drink lots of liquids.

If your body gets run down, your writing will suffer. Creativity is a mental and physical engagement. Be present, mindful and aware of your body, taking care of it as if you were running a race. Water is essential.

Get some exercise.

This can be achieved by literally running to the bathroom after all the liquids, but, seriously, getting up, stretching and flexing your muscles is tremendously important. You will be challenging the muscle of your brain but getting the blood flow throughout your whole body will make all the difference.

Trust your imagination to fill in the gaps.

At this stage of the writing, don’t worry if you accidentally changed the eye colour of your main character part way through your manuscript. Don’t worry if you are unsure how to end your story or how to get your protagonist from point A to point B. As you write, your imagination will give you solutions to the problems perturbing you and any errors can be fixed later. Free write to see what will come out of you but don’t worry. Worry inhibits your best writing.

Believe in yourself.

Write a novel in three days? Yes, it is possible. You can do it. I have done it, lots of people have done it, and so can you. Challenges are fun and push us to the limit. It’s worth the effort. (Even if you don’t “finish” your novel, if you survive the weekend and gave it your all, that’s something to be proud of.)

Have fun.

The 3 Day Novel Contest is not meant to be work. It is a fun weekend getaway (in your office or at the coffee shop); a chance for writers to do something silly and goofy like write a novel in three days! Go with the flow. Make it a game. Also, join in the conversation about the writing process by tweeting using #3DayNovel. I connected with a few individuals during the weekend and we ended up continuing the conversation and starting an online writing group.

Well, do you accept the challenge? Tomorrow, Friday August 29, is the last day to register.

I believe in you! The 3 Day Novel Contest is upon us. Good luck!

 

 

MFA Reflections: I’m a Booklover at Heart

There are so many things I love about grad school. The keener in me jumps for joy, for one. I absolutely cherish the immersion in my passion for creative writing and the challenge to improve. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is that this improvement has seeped into every area of my creative practice as writer, artist and human; how I read books, the way I appreciate art, the descriptions I chose when telling my friends about a really amazing experience.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Things I have learned 2 Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Things I have learned

The reading part is one indulgent pleasure of school. Oh boy, I sound like a nerd – but I love that I have an excuse now to brush off other things to curl up like a cat and read (although I’m more of a dog person). At my school residency in June, a friend introduced me to the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore. It was two levels of row upon row of books. Pure eye candy.

I never thought I’d compare the spines of books lining the walls to a great work of art – but they are sublimely beautiful to me.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Writing

I’ve always loved reading, from as young as I can remember. Summers were spent cradling the pages of novels throughout the warm days till I went cross-eyed every night. And what else is there to do in winter for someone who hates being cold? I have an almost photographic memory and because I imagined all the stories I read, I can still see many of them, like movie clips in my mind.

As a memoir and personal essay writer, I read a lot in these genres. There are many sad stories out in the world. Maybe this is because the challenging moments define us and reveal the people we are, that at the core of the human experience we want to become our best, most happy selves and thus we search for meaning. My first memoir, which is so close to the finish line in editing, is a challenging story. What I’ve starting to work on now is more cheeky and definitely more scandalous (wink, wink) – but in the end they are two stories that connect. One could not have been without the other.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Best American Short Stories 2013

Right now I’m taking a needed break from reading memoirs to delve into short stories. I love the short story form. There are so many craft techniques that jump out at me. Currently I’m working my way through The Best American Short Stories of 2013 and up next is the Best of the 21st Century… which is a mighty large volume.

Writing speaks to the reader, it calls to the child in us who read for pleasure before life got busy and complicated, it plants new ideas and waters the old ones. Writing sings.

What does good writing or your favorite book do for you? And please, please tell me about your favorite book stores and which worn spines decorate your walls like art.

Happy reading day!

 

My 3 Day Novel Contest Experience

 

It is now one week from the time I began tying my 3 Day Novel Contest story. I do have to say, I really miss my characters. I want to give them a call, ask how they are doing, see if they want to hang out and catch up. It’s as though their lives have continued on and I am missing out on the action.

Coffee became a staple for this non-coffee drinker. My husband made sure I had a warm cup at all times. 

Besides actually writing my story, which was a fabulous rush, an exciting push; I loved every minute of chatting on Twitter with my new writing buddies. I had not anticipated this wonderful dialogue of encouragement, page and word counts, and silly late night writing frustration. It was beyond a highlight for me and I hope to continue the conversation with these awesome people.

 

I had pages and pages of my story outline, written by hand, to focus me through the process. It was the best decision I made to prepare before the clock started ticking.

 

A few reflections on writing the 3-Day Novel Challenge:

 

  • My outline was my best friend. I could not have pressed through in the tough moments, the times when my brain was so tired that I nearly lost my plot’s direction, if it was not for the guiding hand of my outline. It said to me, late at night, “Now where do you think you are going?” in its gentle but caring manner, “Get back over here and refocus. You’ve got a job to do. Get your characters moving.”
  •  Time pressure = less writers block. I had written about writers block the week leading up to the 3-Day Novel Contest and I do believe this mental preparation made a world of difference, especially the positive affirmations and tips for combating the block, but really, the rush of the weekend meant I had no time to even get caught in a jam…
  • But when I did get caught, some wise tweeters encouraged: keep the plot moving, introduce action. I found this advice a life saver. Introduce action. Action moves the story forward, gives your characters something to do, something to talk about.  It was revolutionary for my story where my protagonist tended to get a little lost in her head.
  • My twitter buddies, many who have done this contest many, many times before constantly posted page and number counts. This was both a distraction and an encouragement for me. When others surged ahead I cursed my poky finger’s pace and got worried that my word count wouldn’t count for much. At the same time, I felt camaraderie with other writers who were on the same page, so to speak. It also helped me realize that I was not alone (a lot of us were on par). These updates were a double edged sword, but apart from their distracting and motivating properties, they were simply a lot of fun.

 

I found a new treat! The flavour didn’t last long but it was a sweet reminder of my childhood self.

 

This last week has been spent recovering with sleep and family time but I have very wonderful memories of my first 3-Day Novel Contest. I am excited to develop my story.

The shortlist and winners will be announced in January 2013. The grand prize is book publishing – the dream of every serious writer. If my novel is not the winner, I will still be sending it out into the world and I will keep you posted.

 

These are the happily kicking feet of my two month old co-writer who insisted I have regular breaks throughout the weekend.

 

My co-writer made sure I took the crap out of my story.

 

Each day I stuck a post it note on my computer with a page number goal. This was helpful motivation despite the fact that I didn’t reach my ultimate goal of 100 pages (but I was not far off).

 

I encourage anyone to try the #3DNC for the experience alone. It was an amazing journey and I am very thankful to my family for helping with my kids, not bugging me too much but also providing food (THANKS MOM!) so I could be a part of something so special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Day Novel Contest

The 2012 Olympics will be followed up with another competition requiring the highest form of mental athleticism; it is the 35th Annual 3-Day Novel Contest which will take place over the September long weekend. It is called “The World’s Most Notorious Literary Marathon” and I have registered and paid my dues. The contest is less than a month away and my mind is already swimming with characters, lost in in exotic locations, and formulating an ambitious plot for the 72 hour race.

The challenge: write a complete novel in three days.

Challenge: accepted.

How am I feeling about this intense competition? Nervous but excited. I am antsy to begin and am already visualizing how the long weekend will play out. Will I sleep in my desk chair? Have a reserve of non-perishables and water mere arms reach away? The biggest challenge will be my newborn.

Yes, that’s right; I am embarking on this grueling competition with a two month old. He may get the best of me while I am in the grove of a scene OR could provide the needed break every two hours forcing me to stretch my legs and take a breath. I foresee us both spending the weekend in the office and doing the dance of feeding, sleeping and writing together. He may offer valuable advice at 4 in the morning. It’s a good thing I am already accustomed to waking at all hours to feed him. All I can say, we’ll see how it goes!

I will be tweeting as the contest progresses so follow me on Twitter (@_Alexis_Marie) to stay abreast of the action.

You can learn more about the 3-Day Novel Contest at: http://www.3daynovel.com/

Wish me luck! Hopefully I can finish and share my completed work in the not too distant future!