Thursday, October 8, 2009


It looks like we’re on the same track, Prairie Chick Karyn because I read your post after I wrote mine and although I thought it was the same at first, mine today is more like an extension of yours. Phew.

This week I’m engrossed in Seekerville’s
Book in a Week (B IAW). It’s something the Prairie Chicks writing group, the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, do in January. What it entails is simple: you clear your schedule, sit your butt in your chair, and write as much and as fast as you possibly can for the week.

If you’re standing their slacked jawed thinking about it, think about this, too – in 3 weeks, National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) starts. That’s right – you eat, sleep and breathe writing and at the end of a month, many will have a rough first draft completed. A full 55,000+ manuscript works out to a minimum of 1,833 words a day.

Yup, I can already hear your dissensions. You work outside the home and have laundry, meals and housework that just can’t be ignored, right? Maybe.

I believe in trade-offs. My mother says I’m spoiled but the truth is, it’s taken me years to train my family to accept trade-offs. Yes, it’s more work for me in the weeks after BIAW and Nanowrimo but during the time, I get so much written it’s worth it to me. I’ve also taken time to teach my kids how to cook and bake earlier than they learn during Home Economics/Life Skills at school. During previous summers, the kids made spending money by entering their baking in local country fairs. They know how to make cookies and squares for lunches. My daughter started college this year and everyone said I was going to miss her help. I do, I do, but I also have a 14 yr old son who’s stepped forward and has been proving his cooking skills this past week. Since Monday when BIAW started though, hubby has taken over the meals since he’d rather make it than watch teenager do it.

Baking shouldn’t be a problem as it can be made and frozen for the duration. And I know one writer who makes meals on Sunday and freezes 4 of them for later. In our house, depending on the cook, we could have spaghetti one day, hot dogs the next, followed by pizza and then frozen dinners. Not all of them nourishing but then our lunches basically consist of soup and raw veggies. And we have 2 fruit baskets on the go at all times. I can’t believe the amount of fruit and veggies we run through and no, I’m not complaining. One of my proudest memories was when eldest daughter came home, opened the fridge and exclaimed, ‘Yay! I knew you’d have lots of fruit and veggies. This is what I come home for.” Not exactly a declaration of love, but at least it fulfilled one of her basic needs.

In the weeks before BIAW/Nanowrimo, I will ensure the following are on my grocery list:
- lots of frozen dinners incl’g pizza
- pkgs of tuna/hamburger helper (the teen loves to cook these)
- cartons of eggs (hubby will short order cook for supper)
- pkg of pancake mix (teen will add mashed bananas)
- wieners and hot dog buns
- lots of bread for breakfast and lunches
- lots of snacks like granola bars, microwave popcorn and raisins

If you leave out a snack and a loving ‘I missed you today and we’ll talk over supper but I’m writing now so don’t interrupt me unless you see blood’ note for when your child gets home from school, chances are they’ll grab their snack and either watch TV or play a video game. If you’re the kind of mother who restricts TV and video games, I say again, it’s a trade-off.

Here are some more trade-offs:
- trade cooking for favourite/special meals after
- trade baking for favorite desserts and specials after
- ignore improperly folded laundry as long as it’s clean
- allow more TV, etc for kids (ensure parental controls are in place)
- promise babysitting later for babysitting now
- entice your kids with special outings in exchange for house cleaning

Let’s face it, most kids or even husbands, don’t clean as good as you would. But during these intense writing times when you’re on the clock, the main thing is that it just gets done. Dangle promises of special outings in front of them and then ensure you carry through or they’ll never believe you the next time. Special outings are places they really want to see/go/do but usually you don’t have time. In a trade-off situation, it rises to the top of the priority list. My kids will do practically anything for the promise of a day at the local hands-on Science Museum. Another treat is taking them to see a new release film since we usually rent older movies or go to the cheaper theatre and watch the ones released 6 months previous. What about an afternoon at the nearest wave pool or waterpark?

Sit down with your family before BIAW/ Nanowrimo and negotiate. It will be a valuable lesson to your kids in how the real world works. And if it’s just you and hubby and he doesn’t cook, clean or contribute, then all I can say is use your imagination.

During Nanowrimo, I put up with a lot I wouldn’t normally accept but I’m rewarded, too. You have to sit down and decide for yourself how much you’re willing to give up in return for the benefit of being able to write without interruption.

I have yet to put a sign on my front door saying ‘Ignore the mess, it’s Nanowrimo month’, but that’s only because my kids will think I’ve given them permission to leave a mess. Afterwards, you may have to work extra hard to get everything back in shape but usually I’ll spend the first part of Dec doing that anyway in preparation for Christmas.

Do you use trade-offs during intensive writing periods? Are there any trade-offs you’ve thought up but haven’t tried and why not? What's stopping you?


Deb H said...

wooo Anita
awesome post. i'm definitely filing this away for future NaNoWriMo times. i've attempted NaNo three times and have failed miserably because i didn't dedicate myself to writing. i'm not even going to try this year, since i'll be concentrating on the new little addition to our family.
in the meantime: WOW, such practical advice. i will have to implement the training plan you've used as i get more serious about my craft. hubby can be trained and little Guppy will know nothing other than that mommy has writing times and Guppy times. well, that's the plan anyway *grin*

thanks for making a list and giving us such a good foundation for success with learning about trade-offs. what a blessing.

Karyn Good said...

Great post, Anita. You give lots of good tips on organizing the rest of the family for these intense periods of writing. :)

Very wise to plan out how things are going to work ahead of time. I'll have to give it some thought, come up with a couple of creative ideas for the month of November.

Thanks for the great advice and good luck with BIAW.

Vince said...

Hi Anita:

I have the perfect solution. Get a wife. During BIAW or NaNo go to work three hours early in the morning. Stay at work until 11:00 pm. Bring food so you don’t have to waste time going out to eat.

If you do this you will get to write as much as you possibly can and your wife will be able to get five times more done without you getting in her hair. It’s win/win.

Women are great! I have such an advantage I should write 100,000 words!


Helena said...

Great "extension" to Karyn's post, Anita. Since I'm toying with the idea of NaNoWriMo, and will definitely do BIAW in January, the tips are very relevant -- even tho I'm sure you're saying to yourself right now, "But she lives by herself!"

Okay, just imagine the trade-offs that I need to do (with myself). I have my favourite TV programs, so in an intense writing period, my old VCR swings into action and I get a viewing marathon after BIAW. It would be harder for a whole month, but I would probably schedule a day off here and there.

People living alone have to eat, too, so your tips for "easy" meals are welcome. It's not hard to convince myself that the laundry and vacuuming can wait until after, unless either one is a crutch used in a writing block situation. Amazing how housework can suddenly begin to appeal!

AVOID accepting invitations out for coffee, movie nights in or out, window shopping (hate that, anyway), volunteering for anything extra, and the list goes on. Mostly I need to learn to say "no" anyway, just to keep my regular writing routine alive.

Thanks for keeping what I think of as "writing binges" alive in our minds. They really do work!

connie said...

Wow Anita!No wonder you have books written and others don't. You are organized and have some great ideas for taking time to write.
Very best of luck to you and Karyn and everyone else taking this challenge.
All of you, please try to drop us a quick line or two to let us know how its going. Something like: wrote 6000 words to day. House burned down but was able to finish chapter before fleeing.
Try to get some sleep and take active breaks (collapsing on the couch and looking dead isn't what I mean)
Stay hydrated!
And remember that we are all rooting for you like mad
p.s. Vince - no wonder your wife loves you! You appreciate her

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Deb, I'm very glad to hear you'll be going back to writing after Guppy is born. Just a week left til the big day, eh? I remember not being able to sit still during this time.

Actually, you're right because it's like anything else... if you train from the beginning, it's a natural part of your life. Very much harder for some families to switch later on.

Prayers to you, Guppy and the new Daddy and thanks for the visit.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, I didn't take the time to comment yesterday, but kudos for taking on Nano next month. You now have these 3 weeks to prepare yourself and the family. Much better than deciding at the last minute and then scrambling.

BIAW is good but not the best. I'm using my laptop - you know, the one that crashed last spring - to write on and my mini to do the research. It works well that way. But last night after I went back to it after supper, a window was open and said something about Word having to close because a disk drive was left open. ??? This is the 3 or 4th time I've received this error msg but it's the first time it's created havoc because when I closed off that window, Word closed down. It said it was saving my document but when I started it up again, I couldn't find it. In fact, I can't find any of the autosave since noon yesterday.

It just goes to remind me and everyone to save on a regular basis - like every 10 mins! I started the week by saving regularly on the laptop and a flashdrive but by yesterday I'd become lenient. Or should I just admit lazy? And considering this laptop failed me before, I haven't been exactly wise. I'm just grateful it was only 4 hrs missing yesterday.

Good luck, Karyn. I'll be encouraging your progress. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

LOL Vince, you do bring up a good point. Hubby would never worry about his hours when he's working. He says I shouldn't worry about it, either. (I really am blessed to have such a supportive partner.) But I think it's human nature for the woman to feel guilty about time away from her family.

This was exactly the premise of the 1972 movie A Couple Takes a Wife starring Bill Bixby and Paula Prentiss. When the real wife's hours at work interferred, both protags agreed they needed a wife to take care of the home. Yes, it was a comedy but that movie has stuck with me because of the effects of that one decision.

All I can say is, you got lucky, Vince. Enjoy it! :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Good phrase, Helena, writing binges. That's exactly what they are, aren't they?

And because you live alone, it may be harder for you to buckle down especially if your friends think you shouldn't be 'lonely'. Many people just don't understand that there's a difference between the need to be alone and lonely, just like you can be lonely in a room of people. It all comes down to your attitude. And yes, learning to say no is a big part of that. Perhaps, though you could use trade-offs with your friends too? Like if they won't pressure you into joining them you'll have them over for a 'completion' party or tea when the month is done?

Yes, these writing binges work. I've written my best 'stuff' during them. :) Thanks for sharing about single people Helena. I truly hadn't even thought.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Connie, you should've read my Nano reports that first year. I was so caught up in Charley's Saint when I brought the boys on set for a TV series, I'd sit out in the van and write. The temp dropped below 0c/32F, it got dark, and still I huddled in the back and typed.

This morning I'm slow getting started. I'm not exactly lying on the couch bleary eyed but close to it. A very sore throat yesterday indicated I'm getting sick. In order to get a full night's rest, I took some NyQuil and didn't wake up until after the bus picked up the boys. Even now, hrs later, I still feel drugged. Not good. Especially when I have to rewrite yesterday's words. sigh

And yes, I'll give reports about my progress, but only if I'm doing good. LOL.

Thanks, Connie, you made me laugh. :)

Janet C. said...

That's a ship shape house you run there, Anita. Great ideas and suggestions.

Since I'm not doing NaNo, I'll file your post away until January when the SRW does BIAW.

Good luck with the remainder of your BIAW with the Seekers. Sorry to hear about the laptop :(

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Janet, there's a big difference to planning a 'ship-shape house' and actually having one, though. LOL

re my laptop - it's been acting weird since the spring. And it's sooo sloooow. That's why I'm so grateful for the mini. But I'm going to use my laptop as much as I can just for writing. I just have to remember to save my work. A good lesson for everyone to remember.

I'm interested in what you'll be writing in January, Janet.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Good luck with your writing "binge". I also find these binges to be very productive, and I really wish I could join you this November.

You are so right in taking the time to not only prepare meals, but to also prepare your family for NaNoWriMo. Without our partner's/children's cooperation, it's impossible to participate in something like this.

And Vince you are so lucky!!!

Best of luck to you. Don't forget to backup!


Anita Mae Draper said...

Sorry I didn't get back to you last night Jana, but I just couldn't stay up so I took some NyQuil and hit the sack. Hardly able to talk this morning and now snow on the ground. sigh.

Yes, I guess our spring retreat at the abbey would count as a writing binge too, eh. I sure got a lot of work done then. After you left, I went in and took the drawer off the floor that you'd used as a foot stool. As I carried it down the hall, other mbrs were saying they'd wondered why it was on the floor and where it had come from. :)

One thing I thought of as I read your post was the Slow Cooker which is a wonder during Nano and BIAW especially if you can just throw the ingredients in without much prep. I find the Company's Coming cookbooks are good for that.

Thanks for stopping in, Jana.