Words of wisdom from Nanowrimo veteran Bethlyn Bechtel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Hi! My name is Bethlyn and this will be my second year participating in NaNoWriMo. My friend has asked me to “impart wisdom” upon her readers by sharing my tips, experiences, encouragement and anything else I can think of. This task has proven more difficult then I imagined and I have been sitting here, thinking, trying to come up with a good message for days. I haven’t done much Nanoing before, and although I did win my first attempt, I failed miserably at Camp Nano. What ideas could I share to encourage any newbies?

My first thought was to share with you how I plan out my story ideas. I have a strange way of corralling those plot bunnies, however. I call it “dream writing.” When I have an idea I really like, I start to focus on it. In fact, I begin to obsess over my idea and then, when I am ready to lay down for bed that night, all I can think of is that one idea. So, I start working it out in my head, impatient to start writing it. This little exercise is great for keeping all my ideas in my head, too, because I force myself to go over them again and again as I work out how to make them feasible. To help imprint my ideas in my brain until I have at least scrap paper on hand, I imagine myself writing out the ideas in order. In essence, I begin to write my story in a mental notebook. Eventually, I fall asleep, dreaming more of my story idea until I lose complete awareness of my thoughts. Therefore, I “dream write.” Somehow I doubt this will work for everyone, however, so what else could I share about my Nano experiences?

My next thought was to share about how my daughter, then six, joined in the fun last year and participated in the Youth Writers Program, which is NaNoWriMo for kids. Unlike regular NaNo, youth may set their word count goals. She, being in first grade, chose to strive for 1,000 words. After helping her, I think she could have done more. I was actually pretty amazed because she really kept a singular story line, although it wobbled some and there were discrepancies throughout the story. I found it very encouraging to help her, even though it often took away from my own writing. It was a great way to take a break without really stopping! Stopping can have this bad habit of making you not want to start again, especially for me! Together, we worked on her story, at least an hour a day most days. Sometimes she wrote stuff at school during recess, sometimes she typed. Most of it, honestly, she dictated to me and I typed it up for her. I found it extremely helpful to my own writing when I helped her though her thought processes until we could work out an actual sentence. I don’t mean editing, I mean helping her create a sentence, even if the grammar was incorrect or the sentence didn’t follow through. Everyone will tell you to write first, edit after NaNo, and that is what we did. However, like most first grade students, coming up with words is a big challenge and helping her there was helpful to both of us.

Not every NaNoer is a parent or a big sibling, though, so that isn’t the biggest help, either. I could say find a support buddy to help you. Drag your best friend into writing with you. Play big brother or big sister to someone else, but how will that work? Maybe it’d be grand, maybe no one wants to come and play. That is how I realized I could share my experiences. My experience boils down to a simple network. My own region last year made me feel unwelcome. I was instead adopted by a different region far from home. Invading their chat room day after day, I began to feel like I was one of them. Having the support of fellow writers was awesome! Without them, I could never have accomplished as much as I did, a 96,000 word story. On the home front, it was more challenging. My daughter, though supportive, had school. Sure, she was joining in, but only when she could. Her little sister, just turned one, got into everything. Mischief and Mayhem and stinky diapers distracted me every few moments sometimes. My Husband, though supportive in his own way, was anything but helpful in my endeavors to lock myself away and just write, write, write. He was supportive, yes; understanding, NO. That’s ok. You see, it doesn’t matter if you have a hundred people to support you or none; if they are in the room with you or not. Even if, like me, you can’t get to a single off the computer event; even if you feel ostracized from your own region; even if you are all alone, the NaNoWriMo forums are there and Hundreds upon HUNDREDS of Nanoers just like you are looking for fellow writers to support and encourage them.

My best bit of advice, the thing that really hit home with me last year, was to Reach out! Reach out; don’t be afraid to make friends. Don’t be afraid to fail, because not everyone wins…remember that old adage your teachers would tell you: “As long as you try your very best, you are a winner.” They were and still are RIGHT. I failed two Camp Nano Sessions. I think not having as much of a support network didn’t help me in the least. However, I had no support network because I failed to Reach Out and I failed to really TRY. I think that if I had tried, like I did last November, I could have gotten much farther, and so this month I plan to try twice as hard! I have reached out to another Local region and I’m still in contact with the region that adopted me last year. I’m going to Reach out. And whether or not I hit 50k, I’m going to WIN.

So will YOU!

About the author: I am Bethlyn Bechtel, a 28 year old SAHM from Pennsylvania (who makes Tonano a second home during Nano!!!) I have two daughters, age 7 and 2, who loves everything make-believe, which works out well with dress-up loving little girls! “I embrace my Inner Adult and let my Outer Child shine!” is my motto…for day to day life and for my writing as well. I love making friends, so feel free to look me up my Nano profile!

2 thoughts on “Words of wisdom from Nanowrimo veteran Bethlyn Bechtel

  • Excellent blog post, Hedgy! Very readable and comfortable.. If that makes sense. 🙂
    I’m looking forward to more chat this season, and some word wars!
    It’s a strange thing going back into nano each year, after you’ve done the first one… The first time it’s all about ‘can I do this?’
    But then it’s all about ‘can I do this again? And better? … Every year gets a little harder, not easier..
    I also failed the ‘camp’.. I’ve learned that I write in the winter months. Summer is for gathering experiences to write about 😉
    See you in chat!

  • Bethlyn

    Thank you, Hilary!!!
    I am beginning to see what you mean. Last year was daunting. “Is this really a doable thing?!” And this year is, “I did it last year! Can I do it again? Can I do even better?”
    I hope that your summer provided you with a plethora of plot bunnies.
    See you in chat!

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