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How I Boosted My Productivity for NaNoWriMo 2012

This year I was able to draft and do the first major round of revision on my manuscript during NaNo. I wanted to share two books that helped me achieve that, so that you too can boost your productivity whether you’re doing NaNo or not. :)

First up is 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron. 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron

2k to 10k is a short ebook on how to increase word count (and hopefully your output consists mostly of the words you can keep) and revise. Her section on increasing productivity for the actual drafting phase is excellent, and many would benefit from reading it, not just for future NaNo challenges, but for general productivity. (I presume you want to write more and better all the time, not just in November.)

I personally found her advice on revision particularly helpful since I always struggle with it. I’m extremely inefficient with revision (my process is atrocious, trust me). I can spend 1-2 months on drafting a novel, then spend the next 12+ months on revision!

I usually end up feeling sick to my stomach at the idea of having to look at the book again by the time I mail my manuscript to Madam Agent. I know it’s something I must correct for my own sake since it’s holding my productivity back and hurts my career.

Anyway, changing something you’ve been doing for a long time can be difficult, but I know I can do it. I’ve done it before, and with the practical tips and guidelines, I know I can master the revision process.

I recommend 2k to 10k highly for not only prepping for NaNo, but for the post-NaNo months when you revise your NaNo manuscript. (And it’s a steal at only $0.99.)

Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet by Stacia KaneBe A Sex-Writing Strumpet by Stacia Kane is something I wish I’d read years ago. I always struggle with sex scenes — which is terribly frustrating for a romance writer who includes sex scenes in many of her books — and I needed to find a way to write sex scenes better and faster.

The book is actually a collection of blog posts Stacia wrote, and the organization may be less than ideal (or formatting not up to your standards for those of you who want an uber-nice ebook). But the information in the book is 100% worth the price.

Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet isn’t just for romance writers, since she also talks about sex scenes for other genres.

So if you don’t have a lot of confidence in writing sex scenes or want to improve your sex scenes, try Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet.

Back Up! Why Dropbox Is Awesome

dropboxNow that it’s almost NaNo time, I want to talk about something that’s probably one of the most important things a writer can have: backup. If your computer has ever crashed and burned and lost all your projects — or at least a big chunk of them — you probably know how important it is to back up often. (It’s happened to me too….ugh.)

But just knowing doesn’t mean you actually do it. So let’s talk about a tool that helps you back up automatically: Dropbox.

It’s probably one of the best tools out there for backup and syncing your projects on multiple computers and mobile devices. Furthermore, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. So no matter what kind of OS you’re running, you can use it. And the best thing about it? It costs nothing, and the free version comes with a full suite of features.

To start with, you need to create an account. The account ID is tied to your email address. A lot of services and companies are prone to spam, but not Dropbox. I’ve yet to receive a single spam message in my inbox, and I’ve been using Dropbox for over a year now.

Once you download Dropbox and install it, it will run seamlessly in the background and automatically back up all your files to a designated directory (or a folder). It’s very intelligently designed, so it updates only the files that have been changed since the last backup. This ensures that it doesn’t suck up all your computer’s processing power, so the programs you’re really interested in — such as Word or Tweetdeck (for those of you interested in social media…or maybe just procrastination) — can run as fast as possible.

In addition, Dropbox lets you automatically access the latest version of your work on other devices.

For example: Let’s say, you wrote 2,000 words on Computer #1. Then you decided that you want to continue working on the manuscript from Computer #2. Without Dropbox, you’d have to get a memory stick and transfer the manuscript file over, send it to yourself via email, etc. But with Dropbox, you can just go to Computer #2 and open up the file, so long as you have the Dropbox program on both computers.

Later, if you want to review the manuscript on your iPad, you can do so by accessing the file using the Dropbox app. See how convenient and easy this is?

If you want to share your manuscript with another person and allow them to edit, you can share only that file by putting it in the Public folder and giving them a special link for it. This can be done easily via the Dropbox web interface or by right-clicking on the file.

Finally — if you ever decide that the latest version of your file is garbage and you must get a previous version back, it can be done. Access the web interface for file history or right-click on the file on your computer for version history. Using this feature, you can even undelete files you’ve gotten rid of accidentally.

A note on pricing: The Dropbox basic plan is free and gives you up to 2GB of storage. That’s usually enough for most writers to back up their manuscripts and notes. If you need more storage space, you can always upgrade to their paid plans. The paid plans can be pricey (almost $100 per year for the cheapest plan), but you get at least 50GB.

A note on tech support: The Dropbox website is full of helpful articles to help you out, should you feel lost. (Though I doubt you will since the program is very intuitive.) Almost all of their help articles contain screenshots, which I found useful. I’ve never had to email their tech support because their web articles are just that great.

Final verdict — Give Dropbox a try to back up your data and sync your files across multiple devices. At $0.00, you can’t beat its pricing or features.

Sorry I’ve Been Quiet

I’ve been a bit distracted with several things.

First — I came down with a cold. (I still have it, although it’s not as bad as it used to be.) Hero Material got it first, then lovingly gave it to me. I think he called it “early Christmas present”. Hmmm. But he paid for the doctor’s visit and medicine, so I guess all’s forgiven.

Second — I decided to do NaNo. Well, technically I’m not working on a novel from scratch, but more like trying to finish Acts 2-4. I’ve written like tons of different pre-drafts and scenes and snippets, but none of them really gelled or gave me any insight into my characters. Hence NaNo.

Scarily enough I’m writing many of my scenes out of order right now. I’ve never jumped back and forth like that, but with WriteWayPro it’s easy to rearrange scenes, etc. So I’m giving myself permission to write later scenes first. Once I got over the initial resistance, I realized that it was actually helpful for me to do it. I can see better why Angel and Mikhail fell in love in the first place and why they thought it couldn’t work, etc., and why they broke up but why they’re together again now, etc. etc. etc.

BTW — is it wrong for me to like the ruthless Russian mafia boss more than the U.S. bureaucrats in my story?

Third — My netbook is having the same issue it did last time. It’s been, like, a week since Samsung fixed it. They took it back — again, very courteous and apologetic. So I’m without a netbook for another week or two until they repair it. (Hopefully permanently…)

Dexter season 1Fourth — I reformatted my Macbook this week. I use Apple Boot Camp to use XP on it — that’s my preferred OS; the Mac OS just does not feel very intuitive to me — but BCXP refused to shut down correctly for two weeks in a row. It’s partially my fault for having installed all kinds of stupid programs that I shouldn’t have in the first place. (And the fact that when I first created the HD partitions and so on I think I did something wrong b/c the driver installations, etc. didn’t go very smoothly…)

Anyway, 30 hours later, it’s done, and my computer’s faster. Yay. :)

Fifth — Hero Material and I started on another drama series: Dexter. It’s just so twisted, I love it! We’re still on the first season. Can’t wait to watch the rest.

Finally — the Olympic season!!!!! I’m a huge fan of figure skating (have been since Kristi Yamaguchi’s heyday), and I’ve watched the first Grand Prix events. Yuna Kim rocks my world, and I’m so thrilled to see Shen and Zhao skate again. Shen and Zhao are my sentimental favorite in pairs, and I want them to achieve their dream of winning the Olympic gold medal. It’ll be a first for China.

I’m also rooting for Yuna since I adore her skating, and it too will be the first Olympic figure skating medal for Korea.

OTOH — I’m heart-broken about Mao Asada. She’s just imploded this season. I don’t even know if she can make it to the Grand Prix Final, and it won’t be the same without her. I have my own theories on why she’s not doing so well this season based on the media coverage. Gambatte, Mao!

Oh and if you’re wondering why I don’t seem all that interested in Evegeny Plushenko’s comeback…well, it’s because I don’t think he’s all that exciting to watch. I mean, yeah, his jumps are great and he can do some interesting footwork, but something about his skating just leaves me cold. I also suppose it’s because I still long for Alexei Yagudin’s awesomeness — great jumps, great footwork, superb artistry. Unless he messes up unbelievably, I think Plushy will win the gold medal. Brian Joubert’s been incredibly unprepared and erratic at Trophee Eric Bompard, and Oda can’t seem to land quad jumps consistently. Evan…well, he reminds me of Todd Eldridge — another dull dull skater.

As for why I don’t care about Sasha Cohen’s comeback…well, I’ll believe when I see it. I think it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt on her part, especially since all Sasha seems to talk about is her “injuries”. If she does show up at Skate America, Yuna will crush her, and maybe even someone like Rachael Flatt and Fumie Suguri may be able to beat her.

My prediction? Sasha withdraws from Skate America, shows up at the U.S. Nationals and gets a spot on the Olympic team. The international judges are brutal, and with the more severe crackdown on underrotations and wrong edges, Sasha won’t do very well. But American judges at the Nationals will most likely overscore her. I hope Sasha proves me wrong, but I’m not very optimistic.

How about you? How have you been doing? Any cool plans? Are you excited about the Vancouver Olympic Games?