Monday, October 26, 2009

Gearing Up For NaNo: Fortification

Main Entry: for·ti·fy
Pronunciation: \ˈfȯr-tə-ˌfī\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): for·ti·fied; for·ti·fy·ing
Etymology: Middle English fortifien, from Anglo-French fortifier, from Late Latin fortificare, from Latin fortis strong
Date: 15th century

transitive verb : to make strong: as a : to strengthen and secure (as a town) by forts or batteries b : to give physical strength, courage, or endurance to c : to add mental or moral strength to : encourage d : to add material to for strengthening or enriching
Hunker down, everyone, NaNo is coming.

Yesterday I went to my very first local NaNoWriMo event. I have been a part of NaNo since 2005, but I've never gone to a Boston event because the scheduling was never compatible... I just don't do weekend events as a general rule, because that's family time. (Even before I had my daughter, my husband used to travel a lot, and the weekends were often the only real quality time we had together.) But this weekend the event perfectly coincided with Serious Girl's naptime, and my husband held down the fort -- see how I'm keeping the theme going here? -- while I went to meet the other crazy writers.

Boston Wrimos who attended the first meeting each got a goody bag in exchange for providing a writing prompt on an index card (to be used at the various write-ins* during November as extra inspiration) and standing up and giving a 30-second elevator speech** describing what our NaNo novels are going to be about.

An aside: these speeches were so awesome, I cannot tell you. Even the people who came up and said "I have absolutely no idea yet" managed to be funny about it. How is it possible for so many people to be so creative in such different ways? I love writers. But I digress...

So, the goody bag was filled with many things designed to fortify us Wrimos as we strive to meet our goal:
  • A pen and index cards, for when ideas catch us unaware;
  • A NaNoWriMo progress chart;
  • Candy (in my case, two Tootsie Rolls);
  • A writing prompt;
  • A word prompt;
  • An inspirational writing quote (in my case: I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. -- James Michener);
  • A "NaNo buddy" -- one of those little capsules that grows into a sponge animal when you drop it in water;
  • Three NaNo-themed stickers for adorning laptops, desktops, or supportive family members/pets; and
  • An envelope marked "Break Seal Only In Case of Emergency"... contents unknown, but someone at the meeting said it saved her in 2006.
This is so thoughtful and clever and supportive, and I am so happy that the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons for my area did this. Now, I already carry a pen and small notebook around with me at all times, and I have an Excel spreadsheet program that I use as my NaNo progress chart... but what else does a writer need*** to write, especially when on deadline?

When I was preparing for the bar exams (NY and MA), I ate a steady diet of Pep-O-Mint LifeSavers -- the large, individually-wrapped kind -- and I unwrapped entire bags of these candies so that I could eat them during the exam itself without making rude crinkling noises (we were allowed to bring food so long as it was not noisy or messy). I haven't needed that level of sugar fortification in a while, but I imagine that the massive supplies of hot cocoa mix in my pantry are going to come in handy in November...

I also recommend that Wrimos have the following books handy during the month of November:
  • A novel you love, preferably in the genre you're writing. Not something so amazing that it depresses you because you'll never be that good. Something aspirational-yet-achievable. That's why you're writing, right there. To make your readers feel the way this book made you feel.
  • A novel that sucks, preferably in the genre you're writing. You can do better than this! Hell, you are doing better than this! And this joker got published! Ha! Keep writing, you'll beat the pants off this book.
What do you need to write, especially for extended periods of time? Caffeine? Sugar? The heat or air conditioning turned extra-high or -low? A little mascot under your computer screen? A video to distract the kids? Tell us your secrets of success!

* Write-in = a meeting in which people get together and try to do nothing but write (ah, peer pressure...)

** Elevator speech = the super-short description every writer should have prepared in the event that s/he someday ends up in an elevator with his or her dream agent, and the agent says, "okay, tell me about your novel before I have to get out at my floor" (DING!)

*** Fine, we don't need anything besides a pen & paper or a computer, but there have to be a bunch of supplies that make writing easier for each of us, right?


  1. Hi Carrie,
    Thanks for friending me at NaNoWriMo. I'm a little slow as yet and haven't even located the user profiles.

    Having never done NaNo, I'm taking the low-key approach. In fact, I've already switched ideas from a sequel of one manuscript to a prequel of another.

    Looking forward to learning more from a veteran like you!

  2. I definitely need Coca Cola. And chocolate. :0) And soundtracks to provide sweeping, beautiful music.

    I'd love to be a part of NaNo one day. It won't be this year, but it sounds like a lot of fun!

  3. I have to have music and space to curl up and just let the words pour out. Right now, I have to write at work and it gets distracting doing so between phone calls. But it gets words on the screen so I guess I shouldn't complain too much :)

    Good luck with NaNo! I have an idea and that's about it! I was going to plan, but I decided to just let 'er fly!


  4. Hello Carrie,

    Appreciate getting good tips from a NaNo veteran like yourself. You're doing a good job.

    After my last daughter moved out of the house I took her old bedroom and started building my writing fortress well before I had ever heard of NaNo. But since I started writing my blog and signed up for NaNo I've gone into high gear. My fortress is designed to be an office space that is professional, but homey and comfortable. I brought up a bookshelf from my garage and now have a library at hand that is well stocked with reference books and select fiction and other books. Got my music/ media station next to me and even a couch if I need to take a break. I essentially have my little writing apartment that I can hole up in. I think this is getting to be the most organized I've ever been. I'm ready--bring it on!

  5. The meeting sounds like it was a blast! See, once again your lawyerly skills are convincing me I need to do NaNo! :) However, with rewrites, I just can't squeak it in this year!

  6. I went to yesterday's event and loved it! I described it to my husband as the nerdiest thing I've ever been to ... but in a totally joyous and exciting way. You actually gave me your raffle ticket, and thanks, because I won the barrel of monkeys!

    I definitely agree with your tips. I just finished re-reading Judy Blume's "Just As Long As We're Together" (my all-time favorite YA) for inspiration.

    This is my first NaNoWriMo, and I think I'm definitely going to need the write-ins and forums to get me through this (yay peer pressure!). I just can't wait to see this novel that I've been outlining and pre-writing for almost a year finally in full form.

    Look forward to seeing you at the write-ins!

  7. Okay, everyone raise your hand if you are jealous of Lee's writing space... yeah, me too.

    Jody, I normally claim that one can ALWAYS make time for NaNo, but I would like to officially state that you and anyone else who is in the middle of his or her first 3-book deal are probably too darn busy -- and busy writing, no less! -- for NaNo. You are off the hook as far as I'm concerned.


  8. Lauren, thanks for dropping by! I'm glad my raffle ticket was a winner -- I would have liked to stay, but in the end I timed it just right, my daughter woke up exactly 5 minutes after I got home!

  9. TIME! that is what I need to write. And I wish I could buy more of it :)

    Congrats on doing NaNo thingo. And all the best for it.