Why NaNoWriMo is Good for You

In a matter of hours, National Novel Writing Month 2017 begins.  Feel the pressure yet? The excitement?  The judgment and criticism?

After all, why bother?  

This is the holiday season.  The clock strikes midnight on Halloween and the NaNoWriMo ticker starts ticking.  In 23 days, it will be Thanksgiving. 

And it's year-end, business-wise.  There are deadlines to meet.  Procrastinating clients will call in a frantic need for something yesterday. Happens every year.

So, is it nuts to add the goal of writing 1700 words each day for 30 days into the mix?  Am I crazy for doing this?

Well, sure, maybe. 

What I Get Out of NaNoWriMo

Here's the thing.  I don't dedicate my Novembers to NaNoWriMo because I'm planning on writing the Great American Novel in one month's time. 

I'm doing it for several other reasons, ones that I think help me and may help you, too, Dear Reader should you decide to join in the fun.  Things like:

  • It helps my self-discipline.  I keep to a schedule during the holiday season. 
  • It spurs my imagination.  Each morning, there is a fun and safe invitation to dream and fantasize all sorts of things.  Dogs that can talk; pink skies; mysterious passageways ....  And I can put them into plots, not just leave them in my daydreams.
  • It helps me see how much and how fast I can write.  As the chapters build, there is a sense of accomplishment.  Of doing something just for me.  Just. For. Me.
  • It helps me build a story without worrying about vocabulary, dialogue, setting.  I fly though the day's word count getting the story down for that day.  It's freeing.  I'm a storyteller and I'm not sure what's going to happen the next day. 
  • Finally, it keeps the Judgmental Bear away.  Oh, how I love to criticize myself!  Here, I know that I'm writing a bad novel.  It's supposed to be bad.  To make sure I keep this in mind, I do things like start each year's epic with the same sentence:  "On a dark and stormy night ...."
  • It's creative.  I draw maps of the village, I cut out photos of watches or cars or recipes or cats that fit with my storyline.  I collect them with disc-binding into this fun, zany scrapbook slash art journal.  They go alongside my words, which I hand-wrote last year and plan on doing again this year.  This disc-bound book gets big.  It's magical.  I add washi tape and vintage postcards and lace.  Done right, it needs a big fat ribbon to hold itself together.  I love this.
  • Bottom line, it's fun.  NaNoWriMo is fun.  And I need all the fun I can get these days, don't you?

For more, check out:

"Fast-Draft Writing for NaNoWriMo and Every Other Month," posted on September 19, 2017 by Writing Coach;
and all the NaNoWriMo online Pep Talks by writers like Dean Koontz, John Green, Sue Grafton, Tom Robbins, Meg Cabot and many more .


Cool Public Domain Image: Carnival Ride

This photograph is from the Library of Congress. It is found it the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive and has been released into the public domain. 

Disco Star Ride at Seaside Heights, New Jersey

As for using this image, details from the LOC:

Publication and other forms of distribution: John Margolies made the photographs in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. The Library of Congress purchased the intellectual property rights for the photographs with the archive and, therefore, there are no known copyright restrictions on the photographs. Privacy and publicity rights may apply. Photographs of sculpture or other works of art may be restricted by the copyright of the sculptor or artist.

Access: Subject to P&P policy on serving originals. Digital images are used in preference to the original slides, which are kept in cold storage for preservation purposes.

Reproduction (photocopying, hand-held camera copying, photoduplication and other forms of copying allowed by "fair use"): Subject to P&P policy on copying, which prohibits photocopying of the original color photographs.

Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by John Margolies, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-MA05-1]


Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

Less than two weeks until kickoff for another feisty November -- if you're planning on participating in National Novel Writing Month this year!

Details at their website -- and I've written some posts on NaNoWriMo, too, if you're interested.  


Dictating with Free Google Docs Voice Recognition Software

I hate to think how much money I've spent over the years on various headphone sets and updated versions of Dragon Naturally Speaking.

When I first purchased Dragon, I used the ill-fitting headphones provided with the package because the documentation explained this was best for accuracy.  It was vital to keep the mike in a set position near to your mouth, too.  You had to remember your placement each time you decided to dictate. 

It's even more depressing to think about how much time I spent reading speeches by John F. Kennedy and chapters from Alice in Wonderland into Dragon in order to increase the accuracy of my fancy personal voice recognition software. 

Nuance (the software maker) provided all sorts of lengthy content for this purpose.  It was interesting enough.  It was also time consuming.  And periodically, I would upgrade and have to go back to square one, re-reading Alice aloud once again. 

Time and money. I spent a lot of time and money on Dragon.  

But no more!  



I Adore Google Docs’ Voice Recognition Software

Right now, I'm dictating this blog post using Google Docs’ Voice-Typing tool.

And I’m amazed.  The accuracy is better than Dragon from the get-go.  I haven’t had to dictate a single speech or book chapter.

Even more wonderful, I’m dictating as I sit comfortably in front of my laptop, the television chattering in the background and the dog snoozing at my feet.  No cords!  No headset!  No careful enunciation. Just chattering away. 

And the price is right!  It’s free!

Time and money.  I’m saving so much time and money with Google Docs.

Sure, I Still Have to Edit

Of course, I have to edit what I've dictated in Google Docs. That’s partly my fault, though: I have a bad habit of saying “next paragraph” instead of “new paragraph” for one thing. 

Editing was a must with Dragon, as well.  Who doesn’t edit after they’ve dictated?  Not sure having to edit the dictation is a drawback here.

You May Love Google’s Voice Recognition Alternative to Dragon, Too

So, Dear Reader, here’s the thing.  I admit I was a snoot about Dragon and assumed it was superior to the freebie tool in Google Docs. 

I was wrong.  I apologize, Google Docs.

And I am so happy right now: not having to wear a headset, as I'm speaking in a normal tone and my laptop's microphone is catching everything I'm saying.

It's wonderful.  I love this.  Maybe you will, too. 

Will I Use It For NaNoWriMo 2017? Dunno.

As for a National Novel Writing Month, I still plan on handwriting my novel again this year. I enjoy writing fast and sloppy with a pen and paper; that is part of my NaNoWriMo fun.

Still, as November progresses and my word count falls behind schedule, I may be tempted to dictate some of my stuff. 

I know the fact that I can dictate quickly into Google Docs, just staring at my laptop screen, and get this level of recognition and speed is something I'm going to remember.


Microsoft Word Add-In From Kindle: New Self-Publishing Software

Amazon is offering an Add-In for Microsoft Word (beginning with Word 2010).  From Kindle Direct Publishing, the Add-In allows you to do the following:

  • Format your manuscript by specifying styles like Chapter Title, Chapter Subtitle and others.
  • Save time by using pre-formatted sample pages like book title, copyright, dedication to complete your book.
  • Preview your book any time as it would look to customers reading on Tablets, Phones and Kindle E-readers before publishing.
  • Work in Microsoft Word and publish your .doc/.docx manuscript as an eBook or paperback with Kindle Direct Publishing.

Beta Testing for Both KDP Word Add-In and Kindle Create

It’s new, and it’s offered in beta, which means some indie publishers may nix using it right off the bat. 

Why?  Beta can be scary.  That’s because “beta” by definition means not all the kinks are ironed out of the product. 

However, if you are beta-brave, then you might like Kindle Direct Publishing’s Microsoft Word Add-In.

Kindle Create Still Available

This does not replace KDP’s original Kindle Create.  You’re free to choose between them.  In fact, Amazon explains that they are separate tools, and that files cannot be moved between them.  
The initial Kindle Create has been available for several months.   According to Amazon, Kindle Create allows you to do the following:

  • Quickly apply a book theme to match your story.
  • Detect and style chapter titles automatically.
  • Preview your book any time as it would look to customers reading on Tablets, Phones and Kindle E-readers before publishing.
  • Works with .doc and .docx files exported from applications like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages, Scrivener and others.

What They Offer the Writer - Publisher

Amazon explains that both these beta tools offer the writer-publisher a way to compile content into an e-book or paperback format. 

  • Each tool provides the writer – publisher with an opportunity to apply “themes” to your content (KDP themes listed are Classic, Modern, Amour and Cosmos).   
  • Both allow the writer “preview functionality” for phones, tablets, and e-readers. 
  • Either version enables the writer to create a table of contents using chapter titles. 

Kindle for Self-Published E-books

For many folk, getting your e-book published for Kindle e-readers and sold via the e-book market on Amazon.com is enough.  

That’s fine.  It may not be the best option for maximizing your exposure and sales, but focusing on the Amazon marketplace isn’t a bad thing. 

Which means Amazon offering a new compilation tool provided within Microsoft’s popular word processing software Word seems like a great tool for lots of writers.

I think I’ll try it out.  It’s on my task list, anyway.

Word vs. Scrivener

However, my real interest here is how this enhances Word for self-publishing.  It’s making it more comparable to Scrivener.  

Maybe the real news here isn’t the alternative in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) compilation tools.

The big deal here may be the new power of Microsoft Word to compile content for publication.  For some writers, will this be enough of a temptation to return to Word after they’ve been using Scrivener?


Free Public Domain Image: Earth From Space

I'm hoping to start sharing public domain images here each week that are interesting and from a variety of sources.  This image is one of the "featured pictures" from Wikimedia Commons.

The Earth Seen From Apollo 17

It's an example of a great photo that is available for free from Wikimedia Commons.  You are free to use it because it is in the public domain, as explained on the site:

"This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted....
"This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice. Unless its author has been dead for several years, it is copyrighted in jurisdictions that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada (50 p.m.a.), Mainland China (50 p.m.a., not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany (70 p.m.a.), Mexico (100 p.m.a.), Switzerland (70 p.m.a.), and other countries with individual treaties."

The Earth seen from Apollo 17