Preptober & NaNoWriMo

Photo by Jack Hawley from Pexels

Preptober. You see it everywhere. Or maybe I see it around because I am deep into YouTube for a project.

October precedes November, aka National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And now, the 31 days is the time to prep your space, your mind, your calendar, and your novel outline for November.

For me, preparing for November has always been a goal but never a reality. This year I invested in setting the groundwork.

I attended a workshop with the Silicon Valley RWA about preparing for Nano, and the presenter, Alexis M. Roark, framed NaNo in a new way.

“Go Your Own Way” was the theme of that talk. (Cue the Fleetwood Mac song here.) It’s okay not to write. It’s okay to do research or plotting and planning. It’s okay to chunk out time rather than words. I’m a big believer in the QTP factor I learned in the Write Better Faster workshop with Becca Syme. Question the premise. Check to see if what you’re being asked to do makes sense to you emotionally and physically. Everything doesn’t work for everyone. Everything can’t work. We aren’t cookie cutters, and the advice we get from pundits, best selling authors, and others may not gel with your contexts (life, job, family, social obligations, etc.). 

For me, this means that I remade NaNo into something that works for me. I’m doing a hybrid NaNoWriMo. This Nano about new words to finish and new ideas to plot.

During October, I prepared the things I need from November 1 to November 31:

  • A community — I’m trying to draft a cozy mystery in Nano and revise a holiday romance novella. I’m in a screenwriting class, so I expect to prepare pages each week. I have signed up for the NaNo challenges offered by RWA and SiNC.
  • A plan — I have two blocks (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.) and (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) dedicated to writing. Throughout the day, I do other challenges.
  • A goal — at least 30 minutes a day of writing and thinking and at least 500 new words a day per project
  • Paper — I’m going old school and using up my notebooks.
  • Lip balm
  • Plottr
  • A clean office or at least a clean desktop
  • Note cards for outlining and notes
  • Timer for Pomodoro sprints

Wish me luck! (It’s Day One of NaNoWriMo, and I have pushed out 1,667 words. Let’s hope this energy continues. I have things to write.) Are you doing NaNo this year? Let me know what you are focusing on this month.

Links & Loves for October


How to write almost anything, from a great joke to a killer cover letter via Pocket — This is a collection of great articles about the craft of writing — Bookmark it. 

The strategic side hustle via Harvard Business Review  Key quotation: “ …leaders who want to rise—and help their organizations thrive—need to find ways to expand their field of vision and build their knowledge, skills, and connections even as they carry on their daily work.”

The day I brought my knitting into the boardroom  — More knitting in business meetings, please 

Scrum your novel via Karla Tipton — 10 steps for plotting, planning, researching and writing for NaNoWriMo — I’m prepping my kanban board and planning on using this as a daily standup journal. 

Yes and no: Consent in love scenes via KJ Charles — “…consent isn’t simply an administrative preliminary to sex: it’s a discussion of what people want. The way consent is portrayed in sex scenes gives a massive amount of info about the parties involved. We can tell a lot about a MC and a relationship from how and whether they actively ask for consent, or seek it non-verbally, and when they do this.”

Writing While Black via LA Review of Books — “To write as a Black person in America is to sustain a barrage of gut punches from a community and industry that don’t do a great job transcending the larger inequities of the culture surrounding them. Writing is difficult and publishing hellish, but the path for Black writers is laden with unique indignities.”


I fell back in love with salt-and-vinegar kettle chips. We are #fancy over here. 

This new distraction-free writing tool (that I have an account for and didn’t realize it). You only see one letter at a time when typing. And because you set a word goal, you cannot see your full draft until you type all the words (via Ann Handley’s newsletter

Log-in emails. Received a heads up that someone in Indonesia was getting into one of my accounts. (Thanks, Hulu.)

This new yarn from Peaches & Creme that I found in Wall-Mart

The conference workshops at the RWA 2020 conference:

This Quotes & Questions game I found at Barnes and Noble (I purchased one on hopes and dreams and one on friends and family. One day, when I can meet people in person, I am going to pull them out for a fun icebreaker.)

So, I read…Verified Strangers by Lena Dunham

Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst

So, I read Verified Strangers, Lena Dunham’s romance novel after reading this article and reading the subsequent Twitter hubbub .

Well, let me not lie. I read parts of it. For pandemic me, reading twenty chapters of anything is an investment of time and space. Right now, I cannot give up that much time for most things I want to do.

Alas, I read most of it and most of the press about the novel.

Here are my thoughts:
A. I don’t think she understands the convention of the romance novel. (That’s apparent in her Twitter explanation about the serial novel. She listed Forever by Judy Blume and Danielle Steele books as romances. That is a stretch. Her reference points lean to women’s fiction, and there is nothing wrong with that. But those ain’t romances.) A happy ending (don’t Google that term) is required for a romance novel. That is how the Romance Writers of America defines what a romance novel is. That is the expectation that romance readers want, which is how you can tell a romance fan from the people who like The Notebook. With all of the digital ink spilled about this being a romance, I can tell that Romancelandia is not her realm.

B. I expected the story would be awful, but I was surprised. The story was not bad. She can write. I would expect that from the creator of Girls. But platform does not trump convention or happily ever afters

C. People voted on what they wanted to happen next. (According to the Hollywood Reporter article, “After the chapter is published each day, readers will be able to vote on the Vogue Instagram account on where the story should go next, a decision that Dunham will abide by.”) But when the people choose for the story to end in a haphazard puke of words, sentiment, and non-declarations of love for now, it is not a romance.

D. I stan an artist who is always on their grind like bad brakes on an old-school box Chevy. Lena Dunham is one of these people. I don’t immerse myself in a lot of her work, and I find her to be a bit precious and privileged. But she knows how to keep her name out there and how to be creative in spite of obstacles and resistance. I respect that.

E. Have mercy. It has an average ranking of 2.7. I feel infinitely better about my work. Everything cannot be a home run. Every book can’t be a five-star bestseller and award winner.

F. It’s brave to take direction from readers.Writing an interactive romance novel is daring. But it is not new. Serialized fiction has existed. Serialization like The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, and Dickens interests her, and she said so herself. She’s not a pioneer, but she is credited in significant articles for “her innovation.” Le sigh.

G. Vogue should have given the space and virtual ink and publicity to an actual romance writer or celebrity fan.

Links & Loves for September 2020

Here are some reads, websites, videos, and more that have given me joy and inspiration.

Links worth a click, a read, or a listen:

Will you allow underdog thinking to determine your next move? — Wanda Abney (via Creative Mornings)

“In choppy seas, it’s better to mend the sails than return for a total refit.” (via The Guardian)

Neil Gaiman on how stories last

Advice on getting unstuck 

Loves worth checking out:

“Silence will not save you” T-shirt from Philadelphia Print Works

This decadent cookie recipe

This virtual white board that I can use when plotting, planning, or teaching

Click this button and get an amazing fact. And another. And another. And another (via Mental Floss)

“Song Association” games on this YouTube channel will have you looking up new artists and new songs

A new and free stock photo site? Gimme. 

This petty and pretty Instagram that highlights the 1-star reviews of U.S. National Parks

The Jealous Writer, The Envious Writer (o.g. post)

I don’t know where this post went, but surprise! It’s back.


I have a moral failing, a vice I indulge in more than I should admit.

I am a jealous and envious writer. I see so many people hashtagging their writing sprints (#amwriting, I see you and associate your 7 a.m. tweets with smugness, joyfulness, and productivity). I know so many people writing, designing covers, editing, and launching at breakneck speed. I see so many people I know publishing and being successful at it. (Don’t ask me whatever the hell success is. I know it when I see it.) <span id=&quot;selectionBoundary_1572656451114_507372809754794&quot; class=&quot;rangySelectionBoundary&quot; style=&quot;line-height:0;display:none;&quot;></span>

And I am…not…productive at all. I’m not doing anything thanks to high levels of commitment to a stressful (yet rewarding) job, general anxiety (have you seen the dumpster fire we call this world?), and a laziness associated with burnout.

So I’m going to turn this envy and jealousy into something productive.

I am going to follow the example of The Jealous Curator and turn &quot;jealousy into get-your-ass-back-into-the-studio inspiration.&quot; (Well, without the studio. I have an office, but I would have to clean my office and excavate my desk from 10 years of clutter. But same concept.)