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NaNo Prep Time

Published October 21, 2017 by Ashley Townsend

 

writer

Can you believe it’s almost November? o.0 That means NaNoWriMo is coming up in less than two weeks. It also happens to begin the same day I consider to be the start of the Christmas season, and I don’t even mind dodging the angry fruit you pre-Christmas haters want to throw at me. I’ll make Christmas fruitcake from it. ^_~

A lot of prep-work goes into the month of October to make sure that I stay focused on my project. It isn’t always easy, so aside from the usual tactics—like limiting social media, upping caffeine abuse, etc.—I’ve introduced several other helpful tricks into my October planning. They help to maintain my sanity and allow me to be prepared for NaNo so I’m not scrambling at the eleventh hour to accomplish last minute tasks.

The Hobbit Hole

I try to cram as many social engagements and catch-up phone calls with friends into October because I will basically be a hermit starting November 1st. Social calls may resume on December 1st, and please bring coffee to the creature with the blood-shot eyes and the hands that phantom-type words onto an invisible keyboard.

tom and jerry sleepy

Writing Inspiration Playlist

Whatever is on this playlist basically becomes the only music I listen to during November. Although it keeps you in the write mindset *laughs hysterically at vague joke*, listening to the same music nonstop for 30 days can make you want to turn on all the fans, have the popcorn maker going, and crank a blow-dryer on high to drown out the same loop of songs. Since these noisy distractions can be counter-productive—and send your energy bill skyrocketing—I make sure to have variation on my playlist and create it before November begins. Don’t waste time scrambling to design a playlist late in the game; save yourself the trouble and do it beforehand so you can dive into your story Nov. 1st with the perfect background inspiration guiding your fingers.

old piano

Goodies on my playlist:

~ “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron

~ “Running if You Call My Name” by Haim

~ “All We Ever Knew” by The Head and the Heart

~ “Dreamers” by Oh Gravity (thanks to Katie Grace leading me onto it!)

~ Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Limit Your Social Media

It’s a given, but as much as I love chatting with friends online or sharing photos of books on Instagram (see what I’m reading here), I can’t let myself fall into the social media rabbit hole during NaNo. I’ve made the mistake of spending more time chatting about my manuscript progress than actually writing it, or adding to my novel board on Pinterest.

Ways to stave off the decent into the rabbit hole:

~Prepare blog posts beforehand. It’s a lot of work, but you don’t want to stress blogging deadlines while trying to nail your word count. You can always fine-tune them later!

~Plot, plot, plot. Now, you know I’m a plotting-pantser and can’t stand to box myself in, but having a good idea of sequencing and character development for your 50,000 words gives you a goal to hit and helps to keep your focus to stave off the call of the web.

~Have a cache of photos on your phone to post on Instagram the days when there just isn’t time to stage a book tower.

~Create templates for social media posts on FB and Twitter, and consider having pics selected on Pinterest to add text from your MS to as you go along (use a formatter like PicMonkey). I have a few that I’m considering using next month that you can check out on my Jungle Princess Pinterest board

Creative Detox

Although it’s incredibly important to stay on-task and in the writing mindset during November, you can’t spend every single moment at your computer. Instead of losing your head, try to find activities that allow you to take a mental break while still encouraging your creativity.

reading

Ways to keep your sanity while maintaining your creative mindset:

~Go on a walk to clear your head and think about your story. Your brain will get a cramp if you don’t give it some fresh air!

~Take a nap listening to your writing playlist, or paste a chapter of your work in progress into a text-audio reader (like AlReader or NaturalReader). You can rest those tired eyes and get in some extra editing by hearing your writing out loud.

~If you want to escape into a book or film, do it! Treat yourself after a hard-fought day of writing to a mental getaway, but consider entertainment that is about writers or books, or even ones that just generally put you in a happy mental place so you can return to your manuscript creatively recharged and inspired. I’ll have a post up soon with some recommendations for my favorite writing-centered entertainment.

Now that the prep-work is set and the playlists have been created, it’s time for the most important part of NaNo: Go write that novel!

writing

 

 

 

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The Indispensable Author’s Arsenal

Published September 9, 2014 by Ashley Townsend

Writer header

I’ve been writing like the dickens lately—school and fun related—so I apologize for my negligence, Sweet Readers! Good news for you loyal fans, though: I literally just received the final edited copy of “Chasing Shadows”!!!!!! Huzzah! I have until Friday to look over the final edits and give the okay for the book to be printed, so it’s a bit of a race against the clock right now. . . . Hmm, much like Sarah in “Chasing Shadows.” Although, if I fail, a medieval kingdom won’t fall into the hands of a bloodthirsty ruler or unravel the very fabric of time and history, so I think I got the better end of the deal. 😉

Because of this, I’m in crack-down mode again and have basically spent until 1am the past two nights poring over the manuscript and making sure everything is copacetic It’s a little scary to know that this will be the last time I get to make corrections to and improve the sequel, but I’m giving this one up to God, guys (don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten my post about letting God take control from a while back). It has also been incredibly exciting to be inspired to write or add things to Book III in the Shadow Trilogy because of something I read in “Chasing Shadows.”

You guessed it! I’m in “Author Mode” (adj: an intensely concentrative state where all things not directly pertaining to writing/reading/editing are ignored to make room for writing/reading/editing functions of the brain. Also includes functions necessary for coffee consumption). Over the past few weeks, I’ve devised a few key concepts that have become my mantra while writing, and also a few tricks of the trade necessary for those long hours spend with pen in hand. I call it:

The Indispensable Author’s Arsenal

(Say that five times fast!) I did a variation of this Arsenal a long time ago and have kept at it since, adding my own improvements. Feel free to use this code of awesomeness for yourself while you read and write, and don’t forget to add “Chasing Shadows” on Goodreads before it comes out in the next two months, become a fan on Goodreads, and keep coming back for the release date of “Chasing Shadows.” ^_^ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22545313-chasing-shadows?from_search=true

 Get creative

time to create

Set goals and ask questions: Is this necessary, does it add to the plot? 

goals

Caffeinate (it’s capitalized because it’s important)

coffee and writing

Find inspiration in other works

inspired by reading

Get rid of distractions

distractions

Drink more coffee

coffee

Stay crazy and honest in your passion for the craft

stay mad

Remain true to who you are as a writer

stay true

Never be afraid to dream big

dreamer

And for that, you need more Coffee!!!!

coffee, final

Surround yourself with good people–they’ll lift you up and inspire you

friend usefriends

Keep disciplined

deiscipline

Never, EVER give up!

don't give up

write for a living final

 

Whether There Be Weather

Published October 2, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” John Ruskin

This is a sweet quote, and all, and normally I would agree. However, the weather (or lack of any change in the temperature) has left myself—and most of San Diego—in desperate need of reprieve from the mundane 108 degrees on Monday, 106 degrees Tuesday, and so on. I mean, for the love of all that is holy! It’s October! And it’s also been too hot to bake inside, something most of you know is a favorite pastime of mine, so we’ve taken to baking in the barbeque; we’re actually pretty good at it, too. Okay, reining myself back in before I go off on some incensed viral tirade about how I haven’t worn jeans or any variation of a shirt with sleeves since April; the heat is make it verrrrry difficult to practice my Fruit of the Spirit Challenge this week, so hopefully I can cool down—literally—by Friday. Anywho, the purpose for today’s update is to share with you all the joy I find in weather, and maybe I can pretend that I’m sitting in a pile of fluffy white snow and not contemplating dumping a bucket of ice over my head.

My younger sister, Katie, and I were discussing our favorite months while we baked (not literally, unfortunately) and made iced coffees in the kitchen. It got me reminiscing about what weather used to feel like, that moment in September when you look outside and suddenly know that autumn is here with winter close at its heels. As a kid when we lived in Colorado Springs, I always loved October. Each year on my birthday—tomorrow, by the way, and gifts are accepted!—it was always perfectly cool, and nearly every single birthday, there would be this incredible fine mist that would let you know winter was on its way, and I loved that.

Most of the leaves had fallen by then, leaving a carpet of reds and golds and pale yellows, though some golden-red stragglers still clung to the branches, swaying gently in the crisp passing breeze. Katie and I used to rake piles and piles of dried leave in our front yard and launch ourselves across the grass into the mounds. I even remember the smell in the autumn and early-winter air; somehow the crispness of the temperature heightened every incredible scent in around you, and the mulching leaves scattered in yards and across the street gave the air with this delicious, spicy aroma that made you think of pumpkin patches and hayrides and being a kid in autumn. Everything about it was, in all honesty, magical. When you’re young, everything is exciting and enchanting, and October was always that way for me, though I always looked forward to the coming of winter.

The first snow usually came in the middle of the night. Starting about a decade back, when Katie and I woke up in the morning in the Springs and saw that beautiful, powdery dusting of white spread over our small part of the world, we would smile at each other, grab a quilt—whether or not it was actually cold inside—beg our mom to let us have hot chocolate for breakfast, and then curl up on the couch together and sip our cocoa. It was our way of acknowledging the arrival of winter, and it was an even better excuse for some liquid chocolate. Then the first actual snow would hit, and by “actual” I mean enough powder for a kid to really play in, and it would send all the adults into panic mode because they weren’t sure if the roads were too icy to drive to work on before they realized that the driveway needed to be shoveled before they could even back the car out of the garage. But for us kids, that was when the world of fantasy was opened to us.

 

My sisters and I built forts the size of Smart cars that were connected to tunnels that went all over the deck, and we made ramps down the steep wooden stairway out back for smooth sailing on our boogie boards and sleds, though sometimes it was a little too smooth; Dad was a trooper and fixed the fence right up! Don’t underestimate the architectural genius and ability of a couple winter kids, though. We spent a solid week or more on some of the structures, and our igloos were so solid that someone could lie on the roof without it caving in or our dogs could barrel through the tunnels without knocking the walls loose. Ah, yes, we were quite the experts at snowmen and snow angels, as well. There was this insanely breathtaking hush that would fall over our part of the world when it snowed, a perfect quiet that—I don’t know—makes you want to smile or weep. It sounds silly, but it’s true. I remembering lying out front, the imprint of my half-finished angel beneath me, and I would just stare at the piles of snow on the branches above, filling my lungs with the exhilaratingly cold, crisp air and listening intently to the world around me. It was so perfectly quiet that every sound was distinct when the world slowed down like that, and it was then, lying on a powdery bed of white, my back wet with snow and my face warmed by the ever-present sun, that I would dream and imagine and create stories in my head. For me, the weather inspired me and opened this endless sea of possibilities. It was perfect for a kid who likes to dream.

The other day someone who had never seen snow before asked me with this terrified, wide-eyed gaze what it was like having to live with it? I just smiled and replied with one word: “Magical.”      

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