Upending 2020 Disappointment

A week from today NaNoWriMo will begin. Writers across the globe will begin the trek toward 50,000 words (or more) written in one month’s time.

And I will join them.

I hadn’t planned to do NaNo this year. We were supposed to be at the beach for the first two weeks and although the weather this time of year can be sketchy, there are usually a few nice days. I had planned to do LOTS of reading and sleeping and chilling.

But then, in true 2020 fashion, a hurricane hit and damaged the building. And that ended those plans.

Side note: the condo is owned by a friend and the first two weeks of November aren’t exactly the hottest beach season. We got a screaming deal, and then all of our money back.

So, we’re stuck at home all of November. Thanksgiving is looking next to impossible with anyone we don’t live with. Based on how things look at the grocery store I’m not even sure we’ll be able to get a turkey for just us.

If nothing else, 2020 is turning out to be memorable.

Which brings me back to NaNo. I’m in. And it’ll be a cheater year for me. I’ll be winding up the first draft of a book already started and starting a book that is the follow-up to that one. And hopefully I’ll hit a total of 50k words.

Which will sort of redeem this shittiest of shit years. Sort of.

NaNoWriMo Prep Week

On publication of this post, we will have a little more than two days before the start of NaNoWriMo. You know what that means! Time to prep for real!


If you need meal ideas I have some suggestions here and here. This year I have another suggestion – EMeals.

I used EMeals back in the day when I was working and had two little kids. The pre-planned meals and ready to go shopping list were lifesavers. When I quit working to stay at home this was one of the things that got cut. Then Pinterest happened. And I did meal planning on my own.

But, y’all, I am overwhelmed by the same meals on Pinterest 476 different ways. Did you even know that there could be 476 tortilla soup recipes? Me either. I would scroll and scroll and everything was either unappetizing, unhealthy, a variation of the same recipe I saw 30 seconds ago, or an all-day affair. I don’t want to cook all day. Thanks.

Last week I went back to EMeals to get out of our dinnertime rut. And you know what? It’s even better!

I pick the meals from any of their meal plans – clean eating, gluten free, budget, paleo. The list goes on and on. Then, I can send the shopping list to Kroger Clicklist and once I load up my shopping cart I just drive over and pick up my groceries. At mealtime, I go into chef mode and the recipe is on my screen, step-by-step. As a bonus, most meals take 30 minutes or less. The food’s good and healthy and the family has been raving.

But you’re here for the time savings right?

The time savings here is incredible. I planned our week’s meals and did my grocery shopping in less than 30 minutes. It was another 30 minutes to drive to the store where an employee came out and loaded my groceries into the car, then to drive home. Considering that a shopping trip would usually take me upwards of 2 hours plus time to make the list and find the meals? That’s 90 minutes just off the shopping plus probably another 2 hours off the planning and list making.

So I think I saved about 4 hours out of my week and I have a plan for dinners for the week and they cook fast.

Yeah, I’m ready to win NaNo.


NaNoWriMo Meal Plan

I woke up this morning and stretched. The dogs didn’t wake me up to go out, so it was a good, full night’s sleep.

Then I realized it was Halloween.

October 31.

NaNoEve! Holy CRAP!

I need a plan…

Last year, I posted a few easy meals for NaNo, you can find them here.

Adding to that this week – bonus! There’s still time for you to run to the store tonight and grab the ingredients here to make a fabulous week’s worth of dinners!

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Vegetables – Crockpot. Veggies cook along with the meat. Morning prep. Don’t think about it again ’til dinner. Win!

Taco Tuesday – Use the taco recipe I posted last year. Make meat in the crockpot. Everyone assembles their own tacos.

Jambalaya – Crockpot again. It gets a work out in November.

Spaghetti – Mine’s easy. Brown ground turkey. Dump in a jar of your fave sauce. This week I am using a couple of spaghetti squash (cooked like this) and serving these roasted veggies. Because roasted veggies are easy, but make you look like an over-achiever in the kitchen.

Pizza Night! We have DiGiornio’s. It’s Friday and I’m tired.

That’s leaves you on your own for the weekend. Remind yourself that you need to eat leftovers, or make a sandwich.

Also, I don’t care what anyone says, kids will not be harmed by eating cereal for dinner.

Plotting & Planning

October is all about NaNoPrep for me. In past years that’s mean having a kernel of an idea and then sitting down on November 1st and pounding on the keyboard until I hit the 50,000-word mark.

Not this year!

Star of Time came together so much better with a detailed roadmap. In hopes that the same will hold true for Star of Fire, I have spent the last couple of weeks nailing down some specifics.

I have used Take Off Your Pants to map out the major happenings and then flipped over to Super Structure to map out the guideposts. In fact, I actually nailed down the “Q Factor” and “Final Battle” moments this morning.

Having this map helps me to more fully “see” the story and know what’s coming and what needs to be foreshadowed.

It was funny, marrying these two techniques have really helped me, since when I hit a wall with one method I can flip to the other method and come at the block a little differently.

I’m right on goal to finish plotting Star of Fire by Friday. Since the cover for Star of Time is already done I can work on tying up loose ends and prepping for November 1 when the work really starts again!

Camp NaNoWriMo | April 2016

I would say that April was a rousing success!

I surpassed my goal of 30,000 words and won Camp NaNoWriMo. But, that’s not even the best part.

The writing this month has been easy. The plot just works. The characters are full and interesting.

This is the first time ever that I have been excited about a book at the end of a NaNo month. I feel like I will have the energy and desire to keep writing into May and finish this book. Then edit the book. Then publish the book!

I’ll be back next week with an actual report on April’s numbers – hours spent writing, words written, and average speed.

Now, I am off to celebrate!

Camp NaNo Check-In

Today is the halfway point of camp. I feel like I am in a really good place. I passed the halfway point yesterday toward my goal, so even though my word count today was a little on the low side (yard work…) I’m okay.

I think the best part of all of this is finally feeling like this book might actually be good enough to make it past the first draft stage. Like, I mentioned to my husband that he might get to read this one.

​He was excited. I think.

Post NaNoWriMo Funk

December is a dark time for me as a writer. It happened last year and I thought maybe this year would be different, but so far it hasn’t been.

I just don’t want to write. I want to do anything but write. Even cleaning has suddenly become more fun than writing.

I think part of it is just needing a break from that world. I want to catch up on the books that I want to read and the movies and shows that I missed in November. And let’s not even talk about the metric ton of clothes that need to be washed. All of the stuff that got pushed aside in November comes back exponentially in December.

So, like last year, I am giving myself space. I’ve written a bit here and there. I charted the plot and filled some holes. I’ve done a little research. I read. I’ve watched TV. I’ve washed approximately 11,546,003,762,739,346,272 loads of laundry. And dried them. They’re all still waiting to be folded.

I’m baking Christmas cookies and reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to my kids. I’ve decorated and hung Christmas lights. And finally starting to feel like Christmas isn’t out to get me.

And like last year, I rest in the knowledge that in January I can jump back in with fresh ideas and eyes and really get rolling.

If you don’t hear from me then, send help. The mountain of laundry probably avalanched and buried me.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Winner’s Circle

It’s been 50,000 or so words since we last chatted. And over a month. I always overestimate how much I am going to want to blog during the month of November. The reality is that I am fully focused on that 50k goal and there just isn’t much left over for blogging. Will somebody remind me of that next year, please?

The truth is that beyond reaching 50,000 words (and no, I will not stop saying it) is that I learned something this go round about how I write. That little insight is key to how I will approach every book from now on, forever and ever. Want to know what it was?

I don’t have a solid plot until I hit at least 40,000 words.

I know. It sounds so weird. But this is the second time this has happened and it’s just… that can’t be a coincidence, can it?

I always have an idea of what I want to write about when I start a book. There’s a question and an answer and around 85,000 words in between the two, give or take. I write mostly in a linear fashion, starting with what I see as the opening scene and moving forward with my characters, trying to find the most obvious path from start to finish. Usually around 30,000 words into it, I start to panic.

This panic sets in because I now have a 30,000-word plot that is three-quarters complete. It’s also just straight main plot. And it’s disjointed. There are holes. There are unanswered questions. There are plot changes halfway through. In other words, it’s a HOT MESS of a first draft. It doesn’t feel coherent. It doesn’t even feel like a book. I forget characters and drop threads. It’s awful.

I keep writing.

That’s the key right there. I want to ditch the whole thing. Throw it in the digital dustbin and start anew with the zombie cleaning crew story I have bubbling in my head that sounds so much more fun. But, I remind myself that it’s NaNo, and I want to get to 50,000 words (did I mention that I won this year?) and I only lack 20,000 words and I can do it.

So I make an agreement with myself. If I make it to 50,000 words and I still hate it, I can set it aside and write the zombie book.

But then magic happens at around 40,000 words. The plot gels. Side plots reveal themselves. The characters start demanding attention, and the whole thing gets a whole new level of excitement. It’s at this point that I can sit down with pen and paper and chart out the plot and figure out how to get to the end, which is even more exciting than the zombie cleaning crew discovering a dead body after hours.

It happened with book one of this series, that I hit 50,000 words in October, and now again with book two (50,000 words in November – winning NaNoWriMo). If anything, this tiny thread of a pattern just amps me up to bust out another book, knowing that if I can just get to 40,000 words it will be okay.

I wish this were easier. I wished that every day in November when I would sit down in front of a  blank screen in Scrivener and not know what to write next. I wish I had some magic formula, but I don’t. The cold, hard truth is that if you want to write a book you have to sit down and just start typing. Or writing, if that’s your jam. You just have to keep typing until the words make sense.

NaNoWriMo Easy Meals

I don’t know about you, but somehow I get surprised by dinner time more often than not. I’m not sure how it happens, but it sneaks up on me and I am left scrambling for something to feed my family. They’re HANGRY, I’m frustrated, it’s not a good time.

Since I know this happens on the best of days, I am positive that it could easily be a daily occurrence in November when I am neck deep in NaNoWriMo. I need a plan. So, I’m compiling a list of meals that I can throw together quickly. And since I am making them for myself, I figured I would share here.

Easy Red Beans & Rice
This isn’t an authentic cajun recipe, but it is mild enough as a base that my kids will eat it. I add some additional Tony Chachere’s and hot sauce for my husband and me.

BBQ Marmalade Chicken
This one can be made crock-pot style or in the oven. I recommend crock pot. Throw some quick cooking rice in a pot at dinner time and heat up some mixed veggies as sides.

Alfredo Chicken Tortellini
Another quick recipe. I serve this with some french bread. You can buy the stuff from the bakery and heat it up or the stuff in the dairy case in a can. Either way, it’s quick!

This recipe makes FOUR POUNDS of taco meat in the crockpot. Great! Tacos tonight for dinner with some Mexican rice. Then have taco salad the next day for lunch. Nachos can be dinner the next night. Or portion the cooked meat and freeze for later this month. You can’t beat batch cooking during NaNoWriMo

NaNoPrepMo 2015

For the second year, I am participating in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month in November. This is important because today is October 1st, or the start of NaNoPrepMo (or NaNoPlanMo, whatever. You get the idea).

NaNoWriMo is all about writing that novel. You know what I’m talking about – that one great book that’s been bumping around in your head for years. In one month you sit down and bang out 50,000 words. Boom! Book done. It sounds terrifying, but if you break it down, it’s only 1,667 words per day. Or 2,000 words per day if you don’t write on weekends. It’s totally doable (just silence that inner editor for now, okay?)

This month is all about prepping for NaNo. Since that’s the case I thought I would share a little bit about my plans for this month running up to the busiest month of the year!

Finish The Damn Book

This month I will finish out the first draft of my current work. I need to finish this book. I want a clean slate for NaNo and I want to be working on something that’s exciting to me again. Plus, the excitement of having a finished first draft in the drawer will be a great push going into November.


I am writing a series of books. The plan is for seven books in total. Each book is set in a different time period, so there’s a LOT of research for the series as a whole. The book I am currently finishing up is set during the American Revolutionary War. Book 2 will take place during the lead-up to the Great Chicago Fire. I mean, totally different time. Totally different place. So I have a LOT of research to do on the times and what life in Chicago was like then.

The good news is that for NaNo I only really need a general feel. I’ll use brackets for questions and ideas that need further research and just really focus on the story and plot. Getting that down during NaNo will allow me to go back and add layers of information and detail in the editing phase. So, I’ll be researching, but it won’t be exhaustive.

Plot Overview

This month I will sit down with my handy dandy note cards and work out some plot tangles and points. This general outline will be my guide for NaNo. I already have the question – can they stop the fire? – I just need to fill out the rest of the plot and disagreements and conflict and sub-plots. You know, the easy stuff. Ha!

Character Sketches

Since this is book 2 of a series, many of my characters will carry forward. But, the location is changing drastically so it will require the introduction of new characters specific to the time. They’ll need their own problems and voices and conflicts.

So, this is how I am getting ready for NaNo. What are your plans? Are you a plotter or a more pants?