Enjoying the Woods

I’m sure some of you realized I was posting lyrics from Into the Woods in several of my past emails.

It just works so well for NaNo and our novels.

Your character (and you) are given a task and you must go into the woods to complete it. Unlike the play, we get 30 Midnights instead of 3.

You know this story because it’s been told many, many times and veteran Wrimos all agree:

The path is straight,
I know it well.
Into the woods,
And who can tell
What’s waiting on the journey?

It’s exactly what we’re doing here. And not only that, but like Red, The Baker, Jack, and Cinderella we don’t really want to do this. We kind of have to do this. If we want our wish (50,000 words of novel) we have to go into the Woods.

I’ve been entering the woods for nine years now and it’s always much the same.

The way is clear,
The light is good, 
I have no fear,
Nor no one should.
The woods are just trees,
The trees are just wood.
No need to be afraid there—
There’s something in the glade there…

Just ignore the distractions and relax with your writing in the evenings and when you have time. Even if you fall behind, get waylaid by a handsome prince or devoured by a wolf, you can come back with a few word sprints and be on your merry way.

It’s times like this I wish I could write all the Pep Talks and therefore give you the important verse each week as it comes up, but I’m not so I will just remind you that in the end “all that seemed Wrong was now Right and those who deserved to were certain to live a long and happy life — Ever After.

Unless, like most of us, you do NaNoWriMo again.

But everything you learn there
Will help when you return there

Seven Midnights Gone!

The light is getting dimmer — I think I see a glimmer.

The Prologue on Youtube
Ever After on Youtube
Finale on Youtube

The Secret of the Second Novel

Okay, here it is. I’m spilling the big secret to my success during NaNoWriMo.

I write a second novel.

I know. It’s cheating. The Rules clearly state that you start with a new novel on November 1st and write it from beginning to 50,000 words.

Oh wait, I couldn’t link that to the FAQ because they changed the rules a couple years ago.

Traditionally, NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. It may be an arbitrary distinction, but we’ve seen that novelists do better (and have more fun) when they’re free from the constraints of existing manuscripts. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate!

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.

That continues the previous allowance for short shorts (as long as they are related) but it’s still not what I’m saying.

I’m saying have a second novel to write in tandem.

A lot of people are mortified by this idea. Professionals say ‘oh god no’, but professionals get a day off, during NaNo, there are no days off. You can’t step away from the project for more than a few hours to work out the kinks you find in chapter 12. What you can do is move to another project.

Normally this would be a bad idea. Working on another project distracts from the first and means you won’t have 50k of either at the end of the month. Someone might say ‘do some worldbuilding’ or ‘edit the earlier chapters’ but neither of those things will help increase your wordcount significantly (though editing a vomit draft does increase your wordcount, not reduce it).

Having and working on a second project means you can continue to write even when your main project is getting tired and allows you to start to enjoy your characters again.

Maybe this means adding some new words to a previous project, maybe it means writing a short story about how your characters got married. In the end it’s about getting more words down and hitting our arbitrary goal for the month.

How to Host a Write In


A write-in occurs whenever novelists gather at a coffee house, library, hot dog stand, all night diner, or similar venue, for the purpose of working on their novels. In between bouts of furious typing (or scribbling), we commiserate over wordcount and brainstorm ideas. The point is to get you out of the house, away from distractions, and writing. Caffeine, interesting strangers you can put in your story, and socializing with fellow wrimos is a bonus.

Regularly scheduled write-ins will be occurring at coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants throughout the region.  To see a schedule of the write-ins and other NaNoWriMo events in the area go to our calendar.   If none of these write-ins in your area and at your convenience, we encourage you to schedule your own.


  • Pick a public place to write in. Public libraries, coffee houses, or bookstores are all good choices.  Choose a location and time that is convenient for you.
    • If others can attend, that’s great.  If not, you’ll have dedicated writing time at a convenient location.
    • You may have access to an unusual write-in location such as the Morgan Library (formerly part of Caltech’s library system – I’m sure we had nothing to do with that ‘formerly’) or the entirety of Disneyland (aka ‘The Happiest Write In on Earth’).
  • If you know that a large number of people plan to attend the write-in you are hosting, as a courtesy, try to give the management at your venue a heads-up and if needed, make a reservation. You may want to approach the management anyway; they might have advice on the best times to schedule events and they might even be open to helping publicize it.
  • Some of the local libraries are part of Come Write In and may want someone to help host. Feel free to approach the MLs if you have an interest in helping out, or just want to know who the CWI contact is
  • Commit the time to be writing in said public place for at least two hours.
  • Post the location and time window in the L.A.Regional forum (nanowrimo.org/regions/usa-california-los-angeles, preferably the current ‘Write Ins Guide’ Thread) as far in advance as possible. Don’t forget to give some information about how to recognize you, say by wearing a red carnation or a chic NaNoWriMo t-shirt or placing a stuffed lemur on your table.
    • If you have planned your write-in at least a few days in advance and posted it to the Write Ins Guide, it will be added to the regional calendar with as much of the information you provided included.
    • Be sure to add the street address for chains, since there are probably six of them on any street.
  • Show up at least five or ten minutes early with your laptop or pad/pen and stake out a table or a few chairs.
  • Flag down anyone looking a little lost and writerly and say hello. If they are wrimos invite them to join you. If they are not, tell them about NaNoWriMo so they might consider joining in next year.
  • Bring a power strip to write-ins so several wrimos can plug into a single outlet.
  • You might have participants quickly introduce themselves and mention where they are in word count and in their novel’s progress.
  • Consider adding writing games to the write-in:
    • Word War – Bring a timer and maybe a list of generic writing prompts. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes, read the prompt out loud, and have everyone write as much as they can until the timer runs out.
      • Word Wars can also be done without a prompt. Even if a prompt is given, it is very optional.
    • Box O’ Doom – A word count challenge tool.  Place a bunch of word counts in a box (on slips of paper, google doc, rocks, or whatever).  To start a challenge, draw from the box, but whatever you draw, you have to do.  There is no bargaining with the box of doom.
    • Huzzah balls – These are crumpled up newspaper balls with a trailing strip of ribbon or paper. People set a goal for themselves in the write-in: a word count to achieve, a difficult scene to write, a character to kill, etc. When they achieve that goal in the write-in, even during a word war, they exclaim “Huzzah!” and toss the huzzah ball into the center of the table. Everyone applauds the accomplishment.
      • Check with your venue’s noise rules before using huzzah balls.img_7155.jpg
    • Consider having little prizes for the winners of the contests. Homemade crafts and small trinkets are always a hit.
    • Some wrimos are more interested in socializing than writing. Declare a Word war to spontaneously end the chatter.
    • Consider having everyone take turns reading a short paragraph from their work in progress. It can be VERY interesting to see what people are writing. However, this should be entirely voluntary and it should be OK if someone chooses not to read.
    • Stick around and write until your time window is up (some participants show up late; it is sad to go to a write-in and not find the host who committed to be there), then go home.

    Sometimes a half a dozen people will show up, sometimes no one shows up. Either way, you can make a dent in your wordcount! It’s EASY and anyone can do it!


    • If possible, RSVP to the host by posting in the forums to the write-in announcement or via PM. That way the host will have some idea of how many chairs to save and who to watch for. This is not required, but it is helpful.
    • Remember that this is NOT a formal, organized party. You don’t need to sit with the host. Some venues are small and crowded and wrimos may end up scattered throughout the room.
    • If you can’t find the host, don’t stress, just settle in and write anyway. Look for stuffed lemurs or kiwis. NaNoWriMo Stickers on laptops are also common, as are t-shirts from previous years.
    • If the write-in is in a coffee shop or restaurant, please spend some money. The proprietors are not getting any kickback from NaNoWriMo, so please support their establishment. A drink for 2 hours is fine. Maybe a appetizer if you are there longer.
    • If the write-in venue allows outside food, feel free to bring a snack or snacks to share.
    • Remember to write! It’s exciting to meet other people who share your passion for writing, and it can be tempting to chat for the entire session. However the point of the gathering is to write, so please be respectful of people who are trying to focus on their novels.
    • If you find that available write-ins are not convenient for you, for whatever reason, consider hosting your own!

I drafted this a few months ago, I think I borrowed a lot of this from Naperwrimo, but I think you might notice a few regional adjustments I made. -Xander