NaNo Day 27: Focus

I’m back at school! Tomorrow’s the last football game of senior year, so my family dropped me off at my apartment on their way to another Thanksgiving celebration out of state.

I’ve spent the day trying to get caught up on things: Christmas shopping (all online, mind you; no Black Friday madness today, thank God), answering emails, working on my honors thesis, cleaning my room, cleaning the ancient icky food out of the refrigerator, etc., etc.

What this has meant is less time spent on NaNoWriMo today than I had planned. (Really, I had planned to spend the entire day on it.) But real life was stressing me out and I knew I had to get stuff done before I’d ever be able to focus.

Despite getting all that work done ahead of writing, I still was having a lot of trouble focusing tonight, though. All I wanted to do was watch Netflix or work out or even do more homework. (Really: anything but write.) And that lack of ability to focus was stressing me out all over again.

Normally when this has happened in years past, I’ve turned to my critique partners for help. That group of writers is all about the word wars. (Last year we got to the point where if you weren’t writing at least 1,000 words every fifteen minutes, there wasn’t even a point in competing.)

But this year none of my critique partners are doing traditional NaNoWriMo. And not being able to get my brain to let me write, sitting alone in my bedroom in an empty apartment with my family off having fun in another state–it all felt very isolating.

So I turned to the NaNoWriMo forums for the first time this year for help, and they reminded me that @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter exists, so I decided to check that out. And after doing endless word sprints from a little after eight until now, a little before eleven, I managed to not only focus on writing, but to beat my goal of 5.5k for the day.

I wrote 5,800 words in under three hours today. They are all pretty terrible (I was aware of how terrible they are as I was writing them), but I’m proud of them just because they’re there. On the page. And I am caught up and a little ahead and SO CLOSE to being done with NaNoWriMo 2015.

The main reason I love NaNoWriMo so much is that it’s such a community affair. For one month out of the year, writers stop writing alone and start writing alone-but-together. We attend write-ins, do writing sprints and word wars, compare word counts, and more than anything we cheer one another on.

I’ve been missing that aspect a lot this year, because of the no-critique-partners-competing thing. It’s hard to focus when you feel all alone. But tonight reminded me that I’m not doing this alone.

Over half a million people are competing in NaNoWriMo this year, from what I’ve heard. More than ever before.

If you’re feeling alone this NaNoWriMo as well, go out and find a few of those writers. Do a word sprint. Cheer one another on.

It’s incredible how much a little interaction with someone else spending the month with the same goal as you can help you focus.

Goal for Today: 5,000 + 500 (from yesterday)
Overall Goal: 47,000
Current Word Count: 47,352



NaNo Day 10: How I NaNoWriMo

So, today is the tenth day of NaNoWriMo, which means we are now officially one third of the way through the month. Crazy how quickly this goes, right?

If you read yesterday’s blog post, then you know that I spent Saturday writing as part of the Twelve Hour Word Sprint event I put on. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated–it was fun cheering each other on, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciated getting a lot of work done on my novel. πŸ™‚ (Also: CONGRATULATIONS TO MY FRIEND KIRA, WHO HIT 50K YESTERDAY!!!!!)

During sprinting on Saturday, Hannah and I actually headed over to a local write-in for a few hours, which neither of us had ever done before, and I HIGHLY suggest checking those things out, if you ever have them nearby. It’s difficult to focus in the dorm for a variety of factors (everybody’s being loud and having fun without you, you have nobody to guilt you into focusing, the whole of the internet is RIGHT THERE, etc, etc). On the other hand, the write-in was perfect for focusing, because it was a quiet environment, everyone in the room just sat there typing away at their novels with their earbuds in, and the only way I could access the internet was on my phone (which I did do a few times, but only to look up things and update my word count) (and look at Skype once) (but shhhh).

Primarily because of the write-in, which I was at for about two and a half hours, I got a lot written yesterday. Around 6k. Which isn’t as much as I would have liked, but I do also have all day today to try to get caught up, so if I can get a lot written now too, I should be able to at least get close to back on track with my plan for the month.

If you’ve been curious about this “plan” I have that’s different from NaNoWriMo’s official “write 1,667 words a day” policy, it’s basically that I tailor my word count goals for each day around what I have going on in my life. So because I have class all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I never schedule writing for those days. But I don’t have class on Wednesdays, so I try to write a lot on those.

Then there’s also the fact that I have a term paper due the day I get back from Thanksgiving, so I won’t have time to write over break the way I normally do (in previous years, I’ve pumped out 25k during Thanksgiving break). So my goal this year is to finish by Thanksgiving day so that I can spend the rest of break working on my homework. (I’m really nervous for this though, because I have a massive Spanish project due my last day of class before break, so I don’t know how much time I’ll actually have.) (Basically, all of my classes are conspiring against me this year to make NaNo next to impossible.)

Here’s the primary place I keep track of my goals and progress throughout the month. It’s taped to my desk so it’s very visible, and I check in with it a couple times a day:

desk goal sheet

I highlight daily goals in green if they’re at least 4k, pink for 2 and 3k, and yellow for 1k. I put a star beside days when, if I stick with my schedule, I’ll get behind the official NaNo word goal. Check marks go beside days I accomplished my goals (and if I’m ever actually caught up at the end of a week, I’ll put a check beside the weekly total as well).

The numbers in order, from left to right, are: Daily goal. Weekly goal. Overall goal to be at by the end of the week. Actual number of words I wrote that day. Actual overall I’ve made it to at the end of the day.

I also put my daily and weekly goals in my planner (I use this to keep track of more event-focused things), daily goals on a white board in my room I use for my to-do list (so more assignment-oriented things), and then, of course, I put my daily goal and overall progress on the white board on the outside of my door–I find that this has been helping me stay accountable for trying to keep up with my word count goals, because other people can see it there.

So basically, what it all comes down to is holding myself accountable for accomplishing my goals. Because I’m not following the official NaNo schedule, it can be a lot more difficult sometimes to say to myself, “You’re three thousand words behind where you need to be right now–you need to keep writing,” because I’m already ahead of where NaNo says I need to be. But I know my own personal schedule, and I know the days I’m going to have a thousand hours of homework to do, and I know that even though I’m a writer and I consider what I do to be work, school needs to come first (because otherwise my parents would not be happy campers, and in turn I would not be a happy camper).

How do you NaNoWriMo? Do you follow the official daily goals, or just write as you please, or make a personalized schedule like I do? How’s the month going for you?

day 10



NaNo Day 9: #12HrWordSprint

After some complications with writing last night (namely: I was really, really burned out from all the school stuff), I did manage to get a little over a thousand words written. Hannah and our friend Sam and I also made a new vlog, which you should watch, because it’s about an important issue in the United States today.


Basically: If you’re gay, you currently cannot legally donate blood in the US. This was a somewhat reasonable decision back in like the ’80s, because of AIDS and everything, but now that we have all of the screening and testing we do on donors and blood to make sure everything’s safe anyway, it doesn’t make sense to let this policy stay in place. Potential gay donors just want to help others–shouldn’t we let them?

If you’re interested in signing the petition to change the MSM blood donation policy, you can find it on the White House website here.

It’s currently 9:38 AM EST, which means that we’re about twenty minutes out from today’s twelve hours of word sprinting/Potentially An Insane Word War.

Because I’m really intelligent and good at keeping up with things, I just found out yesterday that NaNoWriMo is actually officially hosting their 2013 Writing Marathon + Donation Day today. That means all kinds of extra special write-ins are occurring all over the world right now and NaNoWriMo’s giving away some kickbutt prizes hourly for donating to support them (DO IT). Make sure to check out and keep up with the festivities today. It’s going to be fantastic.

Meanwhile, that means our twelve hour Word Sprint will unofficially be coinciding with the 2013 Writing Marathon, so how awesome is that?

Interested in sprinting, what a Word Sprint is, or the Word War? Details below:


About the Word Sprint

A Word Sprint is basically an event in which you try to write as many words as possible within a set amount of time. Generally you sprint with other people, but it’s not a competition against them–just you against yourself. It takes NaNoWriMo’s “quantity over quality” mantra to heart.

Today I’ll be sprinting for twelve hours, from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM EST, to try to get caught up on where I’m supposed to be in NaNo today (which is about 9,000 words from where I’m at now). If you want to sprint with me so we can cheer one another on, you can write for as much or as little of the event as you’d like/have time for. Because it’s a competition against yourself, you can check in to post how many words you have throughout the day, when you reach certain goals, etc, on the Facebook event, Twitter (using #12HrWordSprint), or here–or you can just keep your word counts to yourself. It’s completely up to you. You don’t even have to tell me that you’re participating if you don’t want to. The entire point is just to write.


About the Word War

On the other hand, if you’re participating in the Word War I’m potentially hosting today, I need to know by noon. That’s 12:00 PM EST. The Word War will only occur if I have five people sign up by then, and the final word count you turn in at the end of the day will be for all the words you’ve written between 10:00 AM and 10:00 PM EST. You have until 10:05 PM to get your final word count to me, which you can do by emailing me at [redacted] with the subject line “12 Hour Word War.” I’ll announce the winner in my blog post tomorrow. Winner gets a nifty literary-themed mug.

What is a Word War you ask? It’s basically the same exact thing as a Word Sprint, except that instead of competing against yourself, you’re now competing against other writers to see who can get the most words.

You can sign up for the Word War by doing one of the following:

1. Comment on the post I put up on the Facebook event saying that you’re participating (it should be really obvious which post that is, because in it I say something along the lines of “like or comment on this post to let me know if you’re participating”).

2. Comment on this blog post saying that you’re participating.

3. Tweet at me on Twitter saying that you’re participating: @Julia_Byers

Again: You must sign up for the Word War by noon, eastern standard time, if you want to participate today, because the Word War won’t happen unless five people sign up for it by then. If the Word War does happen, feel free to post your word count throughout the day just like the sprinters, but make sure you send your final word count in an email to me by 10:05 PM EST with the subject line “12 Hour Word War.”

Update (12:06 PM, 11/9/13): Unfortunately it looks like we don’t have enough people for the Word War. Sorry, but thanks to all who signed up. Let’s still have fun sprinting, all right?


I’ll be posting updates about my word count throughout the day on the Facebook event and on Twitter using #12HrWordSprint, and I’d love it if you did too. πŸ™‚ Also feel free to leave updates in the comments. Whatever works for you works for the event.

day 9

Happy sprinting/warring!



NaNo Day 7: The Sunshine Award (+Potential Word War?)

While yesterday wasn’t the most fun thing to ever force myself through, it was productive. I talked to my professor about the thesis for my Spanish essay, finished the essay, did some other homework, and, oh yeah, wrote like 2.5k on NaNoWriMo.

So while I’m still 5,000 words behind my personal goal for Wednesday, I did catch back up with NaNoWriMo’s goal for the day, and I’ve been working this week to get as much of my weekend homework out of the way as possible so that I’ll have more time to write, then.

Interested in joining me for some Word Sprints on Saturday? My goal is to write from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and I’d love for you to join me for part of the day. (Plus, if five people let me know they’re interested in turning the Word Sprints into a Word War, whoever wins at the end of the day gets a fun literary-themed mug from me.) (I’m setting the bottom limit at five because I know that’s quite a few to get going in a day-long Word War, and therefore if we get that many, dude, you will deserve the prize.)

Sign up for the event on Facebook here or let me know in the comments, on Twitter, etc. If we do get enough people for the Word War, at 10:05 PM eastern time on Saturday I’ll check through all your awesome word count updates to see who’s written the most throughout the day. That should give you enough time to log those last minute words and post your final count on Facebook, Twitter, or on my NaNo blog post for Saturday (more details coming the day of the event).

In other news: Earlier this week one of the super cool writers who attended WriteOnCon with me this year, Craig Schmidt, nominated me for the Sunshine Award!

Sunshine Award

Rules for the award:

  1. Include the award’s logo in your blog post.
  2. Link to the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer the 10 questions about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10 bloggers.
  5. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

And here are my answers to the questions:

  1. Favorite color: Pink.
  2. Favorite Animal: I swear this question was invented for the sole purpose of forcing me into a mental breakdown. Some people were Disney Princess kids; I was a Disney Animal kid. But if I really must choose, I guess I’m obligated to say guinea pigs. And I will explain why in a future blog post (which means you’d better stick around, ya cool cat).
  3. Favorite Number: Seven. When I was about to turn eight, I kept getting confused and telling everyone that I was turning seven instead, and it’s been my favorite ever since because, you know, obviously my subconscious was trying to tell me something. (Also, my birthday is on a twenty first, which is a multiple of seven. And important things, both good and bad, in my life tend to happen on days that are multiples of seven. So I figure I might as well roll with it, right?)
  4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: I’m a big fan of smoothies, especially those of the strawberry banana sort.
  5. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: At this point in my life, I don’t do that whole “alcohol” thing. No judgement against people who do, obviously, but right now I like feeling in control, and that’s one thing alcohol is not very good at.
  6. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook–it feels a lot more personal than Twitter, like I’m talking to friends instead of coworkers. (Also: I’m a novelist, so doing stuff in 140 characters is a bit of a challenge.)
  7. Passions: Writing and reading, obviously. I also adore theatre, and movies, and traveling, and critiquing things. (If I get to tear a good movie to shreds, it’s been a good day.)
  8. Prefer giving or getting presents? Giving, definitely. I always feel really awkward getting presents, but if I can give someone something that they really want or that they need, it’s an incredible feeling.
  9. Favorite City: New York, New York–my dream is to live there someday. πŸ™‚ But I’m also really partial to Chicago, and most others. I’m a city person, through and through. I like the busyness.
  10. Favorite TV Shows: Glee‘s my number one (even though, let’s be honest, it’s gotten less and less good with every season and also is a bit of a mess). I also watch Once Upon a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Pretty Little Liars, Agents of Shield, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and occasionally a couple others. Oh, and lots of HGTV. I used to not be a TV person at all, but then my parents made the mistake of giving in to my pleas for a Netflix account, and it’s been downhill from there.

And now I’m going to be a loser and not nominate anyone specifically, because I don’t have the time to go searching for links and all that right now (la clase de Espanol is calling). So: I NOMINATE ALL OF YOU. GO FORTH AND BE SUNSHINEY.

day 7

Hope you’re having a great day!