Tag: NaNoWriMo

Why Maternal Health Matters to Me (#2)

My second pregnancy was more challenging than the first, mainly because I already had a toddler! At 35 weeks, we learned baby was breech. I was a good candidate for a version, but he would not turn. (Also, the procedure is really painful.) So they scheduled me for a C-section.

But baby boy had other ideas! I went into labor a week after the attempted version, two weeks before my due date. Naturally, it was again late at night, and this time I hadn’t filled out any of the paperwork yet—plus they couldn’t reach my OB or the on-call doctor. My labor was progressing. Baby’s heart rate crashed once, and all of a sudden there were nurses calmly shouting codes that meant “get that oxygen over here, now!”  Fortunately, everything worked out. They did one more ultrasound to confirm baby was still breech, then walked me to the OR.

I knew I was in a fantastic hospital with experienced nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, and specialists standing by, but getting up onto that operating table myself, knowing they were going to cut me open, is still one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. (I’ve had a low-trauma life, for which I’m grateful.)

He had quite a healthy cry but calmed down when we got to snuggle.

Now imagine you’re in labor and you know something’s wrong, but you don’t know why. Or you don’t have access to fetal heart rate monitors, portable ultrasound machines, or first0class operating rooms, so giving birth breech is a huge risk. Most births don’t require surgical intervention, but when it’s needed, it can be the difference between life and death. I want to improve every woman’s access to life-saving care. I hope you’ll join me in donating to Every Mother Counts!

grandpa holding baby
Proud Grandpa!

Why Scrivener is great for Nanowrimo

You might well have heard of Scrivener if you’ve been in the writing community for long. Before the current proliferation of online writing software, it was the go-to app (indeed, before people spoke of “apps” at all). It’s somewhat complicated, but you don’t need to use all the features to get a great benefit out of it. Here’s my top reasons to use it for Nano, only 11 days too late to be useful!

1. Full screen mode.

You can set a background for each project and write in focus mode—especially valuable when you’re trying to get down almost 2,000 words a day! For my current WIP, about a magic ballroom in Vienna, this is how it looks when I write:

focus mode

You can customize the size of the font, the width of the “paper,” and whether you use “typewriter” mode, which keeps your current line in the middle of the screen to save your neck. Here’s how to change it for the current project:

on Windows, View menu -> Full Screen Backdrop -> Choose…

2. Each scene is a document.

scenesWhen you “compile” (turn your project into another format, such as a Word document or ePub book), scene breaks (e.g., “* * *”) are automatically added between documents. For Nanowrimo, I wrote my first draft as unsorted scenes (see picture to the right).

3. Create chapters automatically

chaptersEach “document” in Scrivener is a scene, so each folder is a chapter. I write my scenes first, then reorder them according to Three-Act Structure, and then group them into chapters based on length and scene ending.

In the picture at left, “Part 1: Setup” is a note to myself that I leave out when I compile, but if you wanted to divide your book into parts or sections, you could include them. Then Chapter 1 is automatically created and titled with the name of the folder (you can specify the format, but for manuscripts I use “Chapter 1: Change in Policy”).

4. Snapshots

The whole project is automatically backed up locally (by default, whenever you close the app), and I save the project to OneDrive so that it’s also backed up in the cloud (Google Drive and DropBox, etc., would work the same). But what I love most is being able to capture and label specific versions of scenes, especially as I’m drafting. Never lose a great idea again! You can view or roll back to a snapshot at any time.

a screenshot from Scrivener of 6 dated and labeled drafts of a scene
an example of snapshots from a scene I’ve edited a lot

5. Scrivener loves Nano!

The free Scrivener trial is 30 days (not consecutive calendar days, either, but 30 days of use!). Participants get a discount to buy it at the end, and winners get an even bigger one. Give it a try! And feel free to tweet me @AbigailFair if you have any questions. I have a lot of experience with both Word and Scrivener! (Albeit mostly on Windows.)

Why Birth Justice Matters to Me (#1)

My parents watched anxiously from the waiting room at the end of the hall as a cadre of hospital staff in scrubs trooped into my labor and delivery room.

Inside the room it was less scary, but of course, I knew what was going on. The doctor had diagnosed that baby’s head was turned to the side, so his “progress through the birth canal was impeded.” In other words, he was stuck. After an hour of pushing, I needed intervention.

The doctor recommended a vacuum-assisted delivery. Pro: no C-section. Con: you get one contraction. One. Chance. My husband and I agreed that we should try, but we still had to wait for the operating room to clear—because if you don’t get the baby out, you need an emergency C-section!

Any time a birth requires medical intervention, a bunch of people come in the room just in case, hence the parade my parents witnessed. Happily, baby came out (I am so glad I had an epidural for that part) and was pronounced healthy, and I was holding him before I knew it!

Birth #1 successful!

My mom says that as the staff filed out again, one of them gave her a thumbs-up and said everything was fine. I suspect they can spot an anxious about-to-be-grandma when they see one!

Proud Granny

Now, let’s count the ways in which I was fortunate:

  • prenatal care at an OB/GYN clinic associated with a top-ranked hospital
  • advanced, dedicated maternity center
  • multiple ultrasounds before and during birth
  • birth classes and hospital tour ahead of time (familiarity)
  • private room with a bed that can be rolled straight to the O.R. if needed
  • NICU available
  • medical interventions available and reliable
  • great insurance

I want all women to have access to as many of those birthing privileges as possible. Every Mother Counts is an organization dedicated to increasing access to maternity care in America and around the world. In conjunction with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the Mighty Pens, a group of writers, I’m raising money for EMC’s Birth Justice fund during the month of November. I know you might not be in a position to give (2020!), and that’s OK! I just wanted to share why the issue of birth justice is so important to me. But if you want to contribute to this great cause, I hope you’ll join me!

How learning story structure helps me write faster

I last participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010. Since then, I’ve had two kids, quit my job, and rewritten my novel twice. Along the way, I picked up quite a bit about story structure and am now a reformed pantser (although no one is ever only a plotter or a pantser, many lean far to one side of the spectrum or the other).

Given my love of plotting, then, I didn’t know if I’d ever participate in Nano again. However, I was sufficiently motivated this year, and I’m loving it! And what I love most is how the years of studying story structure are paying dividends in a decidedly write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants month.

Before I learned structure, when I got stuck, I’d ask myself, “What do I want to happen next?” Or maybe even, “What should happen next?” But since I didn’t know anything about that should, I just brainstormed until I came up with a good idea (or any idea).



Now, when I want to know what should happen next, I just have to position myself within the framework of structure. “What should happen next? Well, I’ve just passed the call to adventure/inciting event, so now I need to work toward a First Plot Point that will change everything, oh yeah, and reveal the antagonist’s power and/or plan, and force my main character to make a decision to enter the Adventure World.” (Sometimes I even write sentences exactly like that in my brainstorming! Because it’s hard to hold everything there is to know about the First Plot Point in my head all at once.) That is a much easier question to brainstorm an answer for, because structure gives me criteria—a way to judge how good ideas are.

Usually by the time I hit on an idea that meets all those criteria, it’s plenty good enough to roll with! It might take slightly longer to get to that idea than to come up with an answer to my old, more generic questions, but the difference is that I know the specific question will lead me to an answer that won’t paint me into a corner and will leave me with something more novel-shaped at the end. That saves me time both in November and in my future edits!

I cannot recommend K.M. Weiland’s site highly enough. She will kindly and gently lure you into plotting (even if you still like to pants the heck out of the first draft and just apply structure in editing). For a quick rundown (with way more depth available), check out her everything checklist!

P.S. You can support girls’ education and motivate me to finish Nanowrimo this year by donating to the Malala Fund!

Words for a Cause

candy hangoverHappy November, everyone! For writers, the day after Halloween brings not just a candy hangover but the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Those who sign up attempt to write a whole novel during the month of November. (The target of 50,000 words is technically a little shorter than most novels, but still a lofty goal for 30 days.) “Wrimos” who participate in “Nano” get pep talks from published authors, organize community “write-ins” where authors gather to motivate (and sometimes distract) one another, and provide plenty of accountability and camaraderie to keep going to the finish line.

I wasn’t planning to join this year, but then author Susan Dennard announced The Mighty Pens, a team of writers who want to use their words for good. That got me thinking. My book is in a slower editing/querying phase, plus I’ve never tried working on multiple projects at once, a skill that I’ll need if I make a career out of this writing thing. “Just to see,” I started to brainstorm an idea that’s been percolating in my head since May, and that multiplied into many ideas that seem almost novel-shaped.

So I decided to throw my hat into the ring! (more like the three-ring circus…) We’re raising money for the Malala Fund to support girls’ education. You sponsor me, I get motivated to keep going, the Mighty Pens authors (including me) qualify to to win prizes, the and the Malala Fund helps girls all over the world get the education they need to secure a better future. It’s win-win-win-win! Winning all around!

You can make a one-time donation now or follow my progress (I’ll be posting it on Twitter, my Wrimo page, and Facebook, in descending order of likely frequency) and donate anytime in November, such as when I reach word-count milestones. A pledge of 0.1¢/word would be just $50 if I reach my Nano goal. My fundraising goal is $500, or 10 people pledging less than a penny a word! (To be fair, these are cheap first-draft words, but it’s a “real” story with structure and everything.)

I’ll also share story-related bonuses with you as I reach fundraising milestones, like a novel aesthetic or snippets of prose. Stay tuned for surveys on what people want. For now, here’s my inspirational book “cover.”

The Magic of Movement and Light

This is what happens when someone with no design skills uses Photoshop. (Photo credit.)