NaNoWriMo Aftermath: Make a Killer Pot Roast

Photographed by Julia Freeman-Woolpert and Madaise, respectively. Used with permission.

Now that I can finally see my feet because my distended belly from all the turkey and general holiday goodness has gone down, I have a chance to convey my mostly positive feelings about National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.

They are summed up in three quotes* about writing:

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” -C.J. Cherryh

“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.” -Marchette Chute

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”-Colette

This is also what I’ve come to judge my own writing by. I don’t know of anyone who simply tosses words on paper and serves them up to a publishing company ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered to readers. The movement itself is a fantastic idea, but any good thing can be—and sometimes definitely is—taken advantage of.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought it was the name of an ancient Native American burial ground. Wisconsin is full of cities and towns based off of Native American names, so I had reason to believe it might be connected with one or the other. Try saying Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Wauwatosa, or my home city, Milwaukee. Maybe you can—they have a tendency to roll right off the tongue.

Before I was inducted into the secret society that is NaNoWriMo, I thought of book writing as something organic, like making a nice pot roast. Seasoning it (writing the words, taking a break), trimming any fat, putting it in a pot, browning it (revising, editing, taking another break), and finally finishing it with garnish and serving (prepping for publication or recreational reading after more revision, then selling).

Everyone has a different way of making pot roast, meaning you use vegetables or maybe you choose a different type of seasoning. But some of those steps are vital. If you skip putting it in the pot or trimming the fat, you’re going to end up with a hot (or cold) mess.

Sometimes this is what happens after NaNoWriMo—skipping the trimming and vital preparation to go straight to garnishing and serving. Instead, participants should see NaNoWriMo as a starting point and a huge head start to a wonderful book.

That said, NaNoWriMo is a movement that I am excited to join the ranks of again soon. Whether participants actually do finish their 50,000 words is one thing, but knowing that people across the globe are toiling the same way you are, pushing out pages like gasps between labor pushes, has a certain allure.

It is a source of fragile inspiration welded together with iron determination to reach a goal. I find myself wishing that I could fully devote myself to participating this year and anticipating next year when I’ll probably have a chance to.

According to the NaNoWriMo history on its website, which reads almost like a novel laughing at itself during the process, NaNoWriMo started in 1999.  It quickly took off and grew into a hugely successful movement.

I can admire the spirit of the twenty-one creators who quickly matured from idealists into entrepreneurs. If they hadn’t risen to the occasion, the movement would probably never have the momentum it does now.

Part of the reason why NaNoWriMo is so successful is that the movement continues to operate out of the same idealistic and creative spirit it started with. The history examines the trials, pitfalls and adjustments the creators had to make, but for the most part, the vision has remained relatively unscathed. That alone is commendable because it’s difficult for many movements to achieve.

However, the freedom, raw natural talent, and inclination to cast off limitations, albeit within a limited deadline, has continued to make NaNoWriMo a success. The trade-off has spawned thousands of novels, a few of which have been published by major companies.

If you participated in NaNoWriMo last month, invest in your literary pot roast. You will probably feel just as fulfilled as if you made an actual pot roast and ate it with family.

*quotes are used with the permission of logicalcreativity.com

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Survival of the Savviest: Black Friday and Cyber Monday Edition

Photo Credit: Weliton Slima. Used with permission. 

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, many of you will immediately whip out a white board and start plotting your own Mission Impossible: THE BLACK FRIDAY.

But before you don your incognito gear and prepare to drown yourself in copious amounts of caffeine for that super-new-mega-big screen TV that will probably come down several hundred dollars in a few months, I have some advice.

My shopping style is defined in two words you would never expect to see in the same sentence—compulsive but economic. I believe you should never have to pay more for something if you don’t absolutely have to. A dirtier word for this would be a minimalist.

My grand advice is don’t do it, it meaning Black Friday. The reason is two phrases: Black Friday online and Cyber Monday.

In the past five years, these two phrases have become my secret weapons during November. I no longer need to go out into the bitter cold and willingly become the poster child for walking pneumonia.

Pros:

  • You won’t need a tent.
  • You’ll be drinking something hot because you want to, not because you have to and out of a thermos the size of a five-gallon Gatorade bucket.
  • You won’t have to undergo months of rigorous training all so you can do the limbo or slide into home plate to get that last Bratz doll or Transformer for your little cousin.
  • You will not need the police.

You will need

  • A computer: $200-$3000
  • Some Internet:  $100 <
  • Your green friend Benjamin: As many of him as you’re willing to part with

Getting what you want on Black Friday without concussions or hospital visits: PRICELESS

Cons:

May be subjective according to shopper.

Even though Black Friday deals literally make people go crazy, the online deals are even more ridiculous. Which is probably why it’s a good thing that you can take care of it in the comfort of your own home—away from people.

Stores fully cater to the consumer. They want you to shop (which is why some stores are opening as early as eight o’ clock Thanksgiving Eve) and set aside inventory so that you beat the masses. Picture the lines on Black Friday, then picture yourself ahead of thousands of people. You are basically beating out hundreds of store shoppers by just clicking a few keys.

You can even set Google alerts on your computer for items you really can’t live without until the next Black Friday.

Online Black Friday happens the week of Black Friday, and you’ve probably already received emails and seen the TV ads. Sometimes Black Friday deals happen three or four days before the in-store event. It depends on the store.

Cyber Monday is like experiencing Christmas early. Some stores still have inventory to get rid of, so they lower the prices even more. It’s like Willy Wonka gave you a golden ticket and hid another one on the other side of the Wonka bar.

Companies like Overstock, Amazon, and Ebay also have too-good-to-be-true (but are) deals. They participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

Mainstream stores are a little sour about this, so stores like Target and Best Buy are offering price matching, or even price beating, incentives. You win either way.

I am an advocate of stress-free shopping. We all have too much else to worry about. The holidays are a time for family, tranquility, and truck tons of good food. Black Friday has always been hectic because people are concerned about giving their loved ones exactly what they want. Which is truly heart-warming except when it turns into something on the five o’ clock news.

Now you can enjoy Black Friday (twice) as well as Cyber Monday. I realize some of you may have some nostalgia about that day, or maybe it’s a tradition for you. So if you miss the adrenaline rush, the drama, the crying, and the car chases, I have a few parting words:

  1. If you must go, for the love of your liver bring a life vest! It will protect you from elbows and gift-guarding dogs.
  2. Drive by all of the stores you plan to frequent the day before and plan an escape route. No seriously.
  3. If you pick something up, do it with all of your fingers and hold it as close to your chest as possible.
  4. If you take little ones into the melee, form a perimeter around them and equip them with walkie-talkies and GPS tracking.
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, separate.
  6. If you’re about to grab something and someone snatches it right when you’re grabbing it, do not engage. They will injure you (especially if it’s electronic).
  7. Remember the cardinal rule: All people are good at heart…except for today.
  8. Bring a few blankets and cover your purchases if you leave them in your car.
  9. That superpower you’ve always wanted but never had time to develop? Now is a great time.

I hope your next Black Friday is stress-free and that you do something fabulous with the extra time, like beat everyone to getting a great Christmas tree.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Alexandria Harris, known to the reading world as her alter ego A.L. Harris, lives in Wisconsin but secretly wishes her closet traveled to Narnia or Middle Earth. When she isn’t reading, drinking some kind of caffeine, or getting adrenaline rushes from online shopping, she serves as the Marketing Director for Harris Storefront Realty and writes for its Haus Rules blog. She also tweets regularly as @_ALHarris.