Writerly Goals 2016

DSC_0615_editLast week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:

1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.

  • January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
  • May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
  • October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well

2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).

3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.

  • January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
  • February: Complete the first draft
  • June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
  • July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July

4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.

  • February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
  • March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
  • April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
  • May: Finish new version Pt. 2
  • August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
  • October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
  • December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting

5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:

  • January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
  • May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
  • September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.

6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.

For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.

What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!

19 Resources to help you edit that novel

EditingI originally started blogging because I wanted to share my journey towards writing success, but now I also blog because I’m dedicated to helping others build their own writing careers. I want to help you not only explore different writing methods, but to master as many aspects of the craft as you can.

One thing crucial to your success as a writer is the ability to edit. This is true for writers of all kinds, and especially true for novelists.

Now that it’s been a couple weeks since you finished your novel, it’s time to start thinking about editing. Starting before the holidays are over is probably a bad idea, but brushing up on your editing skills is always a good idea—and if you’ve been at this a while, you probably have a couple other projects that could use a serious edit(or three).

So I’ve compiled a list of editing resources to help you turn your first draft into a novel worth publishing, mostly focused on content instead of grammar. With any luck, these resources will help you as much as they’ve helped me.

Editing and the Writing Craft: Tips From an Editor – This interview over on the Creative Penn blog gives you advice directly from Joanna Penn’s fiction editor.

How to Karate Your Novel and Edit that Motherfucker Hard: A No-Fooling Fix That Shit Editing Plan to Finish the Goddamn Job – I’m not sure he could have made the title any longer, but Chuck Wendig is a fantastic writer and a really funny blogger with practical advice written in a funny way. I suggest subscribing to his blog while you’re there. It’s worth it, trust me.

The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (& How to Fix Them) – A helpful article from Writer’s Digest.

Tips on Self-Editing Fiction Books – Not the most comprehensive resource, but certainly a useful article.

How to Revise a Novel – Rather successful author Holly Lisle offers up her revision method and offers some practical advice for any novel writer.

Creating Emotion in the Reader – Not specifically focused on editing, but creating emotions in your readers is the end goal, right? Learning how to do so will certainly make your next draft stronger.

Top 10 Book Self-Editing Tips – Yet another useful article with good advice for editing your novel.

Writing a Novel? 6 Visual Storytelling Techniques to Borrow from Film and TV – Rewriting might be different from writing, especially if your first draft wasn’t particularly awful, but some scenes will certainly need to be rewritten entirely and might just be better if you use these techniques.

How to Edit Your Book Until It’s Finished – This blogger will tell you that writing is revision, and give you some concrete advice on how to do that revision.

How to Edit A Novel: Bringing Your Manuscript to Perfection – I would argue that no book can ever be perfect, but this is still a valuable article with actual examples.

7 Deadly Myths About Editing And 3 Inspired Truths – A little bit less instructional than most of the other articles, but very true.

Marcela Landres on Editing Fiction – An interview with former Simon & Schuster editor discussing how novelists can get their work ready for submission.

Tips for Editing Your Nanowrimo Novel – From Lifehacker, this article is focused on those of you who are editing a first draft from Nanowrimo, and also has a section on apps that can help you get your editing done. Yes, there really is an app for everything these days.

Editing Your Novel As You Read It – And one final article I hope you’ll find helpful.

How To Find a Beta Reader – This is a pretty thorough article that should help you find a beta reader in no time. Beta readers are critical to your success, so make sure you don’t stop until you find a good one!

What I’ve Got To Say About Editing

Here are some of the articles I’ve written over the years that can help you edit your novel:

Create Your Editing Watch List – An Editing Watch List can help you stay on track so you don’t find yourself editing for the same things three times.

On Overwriting and More On Overwriting – Two articles I wrote about something I see all the time, even in books published by large presses, but mostly from indie authors.

Preparing To Edit A Novel – There are a few things you should do before you start editing a novel, and I’ve summed them all up nicely here.

Editing definitely isn’t my favourite part of the writing process, but it’s an essential one. Often times a novel needs to go through a dozen edits before it’s fit to see the light of day, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is believing your novel is good to go the moment you’ve typed “The End”.

Do your career and editors everywhere a favour by choosing to edit your novel at least three times before you send it anywhere except to a couple trusted beta readers.

By the way, last week I released a short ebook of 110 Novel Planning Resources, available to my subscribers only. If you’re not already signed up, sign up for the newsletter here to claim your  free resource guide today! I only send out emails once a month, so you won’t have to worry about me cluttering your inbox.

Nanowrimo Veteran Pep Talk

Bethlyn Today I have a special treat for you as we close in on the end of the month, a pep talk sure to get you back on the writing treadmill from a Nanowrimo veteran who happens to be a good friend of mine.

Please give Bethlyn Bechtel a warm welcome.

Hi Nanoers!!!!

Oh gosh. Nano is ALMOST over!! You’re almost to the end of this INSANE war against words….and you see that you aren’t done yet. You’ve had to deal with school or work or kids or wisdom teeth being yanked after a horrible toothache. Or some other such horrible distraction.


That’s me. I’m not done yet, either. If this was last year, I would have been done. I’ve done this! I can do it! BUT: no words want to play with me this year! NOOOO! So it is a WAR instead of playtime!

You know what? We CAN do this! We CAN beat those words into submission and FINISH THIS!!! We can do it!

You know why?

Because we have ALREADY WON!!!! We have battled through the words and come out with something! Whether or not we have hit 50k or only 25k or a mere 5k, we have something and that right there is something to be proud of.

Should we give up on the 50k (or 200k or 1million) words we strive for? NO!!!!! But now, lets take a deep breath and remember WHY we started this war in the first place.

Was it REALLY to write 50k words? or was it to have FUN?

Well for me, it was to have fun! Fun writing stories, fun with all my writing friends, fun being a part of acommunity of like minded people who make me feel like I belong.

SO let’s take a DEEP BREATH. Come one. Breathe in! Hold it

5…4…3…2..1..thats good, now let it out….

and let’s write for FUN. Forget about the word count right now. Take your story into a place that doesn’t show you your word count and just write. Write out your story, leave your heart and soul on the page. LIVE your story and have fun! Let yourself flow into the place of you MC and BE the MC. Take it all in and enjoy writing. BEcause I bet, 50k or not, you will feel very happy withyourself for doing so because you have accomplished something all the people who never bothered to start nano can never claim to have done.

You have written a story in a month! it may or may not be a complete rough draft, but it is a STORY and you are awesome.

NOW get out there and finish that story! Because where that story ends, a whole nother adventure begins…and around here, that adventure could easily be your own adventure into the world of publishing and that is a grand thing to strive for!

See you on the other side!


P.S. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! YES YOU CAN!!! IF YOU CAN’T DO IT, NO ONE CAN!!! And, well, we KNOW others can because they have done it so therefore…it proves that since if you can’t, they can’t, that since they already DID you CAN. Logic in action 🙂

Ok that was my pep talk, you are gonna want a bio or somthing so here goes:

Bethlyn Bechtel is a third year Wrimo who has high hopes of publishing her first Nano Novel in the near future. She is a fun loving, gal who proudly struts around to the motto “I embrace my inner adult and let my outer child shine!” On a typical day you can find her scribbling away in her journal, playing with a virtual pet online, reading a book, or playing silly games with her girls, among other things, and you rarely will find her at a loss for imaginative ideas (whether or not they pertain to the current topic!)

5 Reasons Not to Give Up

Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile The month is almost over and hopefully you’re close to hitting your goals for the month, whether that means 50K, 100K or a finished novel.

Of course, life has many different ways of preventing you from reaching your goals, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’re nowhere near your goals and wondering what made you think it was a good idea to pursue them in the first place.

If you’re far behind where you wanted to be at this time of the month, you’re not alone. There are thousands of other Wrimos struggling through the same things right now, and you can find a great many of them on the forums.

More importantly, having fallen behind doesn’t mean you should give up. No matter what your word count is, don’t stop writing now. You’ve already come this far, and you might as well keep going. Besides, you still want to finish your novel right? If you keep writing into December, you’ll still have the comfort of knowing thousands of other Wrimos are finishing their novels with you.

But if knowing that you’re not alone isn’t enough, here are five other reasons why you shouldn’t stop writing:

1. Finishing this novel is good practice. I’m sure you’ve already met at least one writer who tells you they’ve started many different novels but never finished anything longer than a short story.

If you actually are one of these writers, it’s crucial that you finish this novel. You need to get into the habit of finishing things, and this novel is a good start.

If you’ve finished a couple novel drafts before, that doesn’t mean you should stop now. Letting yourself give up once makes it easier to give up again. Finishing the book, on the other hand, makes it easier to finish next time.

2. You’ll never be like J.K. Rowling if you don’t finish the book. Realistically, you’ll probably never be like J.K. Rowling anyway, but hey, at least if you finish a book you can pretend. Or maybe try.

3. Telling people “I wrote a book” always makes them think you’re interesting. A great many people will then go glossy-eyed and start asking you all kinds of questions. Half of them will stop talking to you when you tell them it isn’t published yet, but the other half will still be impressed and might even tell you they want to buy your book.

Of course, when people say they want to read your book and it’s a messy first draft still, that causes all kinds of complicated feelings, but one of those feelings is pride, and that’s awesome.

4. You’ve already ingested too much caffeine to turn back now. Stop for a moment and think about how much money you’ve spent to stay thoroughly caffeinated this month so you could write.

All of that money, all of that caffeine was pointless if you don’t finish the damn book. So finish it. Regardless of how long it takes. And keep writing every day like you might just hit your word count goal by the end of the month, because who knows? You just might.

5. Everybody likes to be a winner. Winning Nanowrimo used to really only be about the honour of finishing. Every year since I started there have been more and more sponsors offering cool prizes to Nanowrimo winners.

This year, there are more prizes than ever before. I’ve scrolled through the page myself and been stunned. There are free books, discounts on self publishing packages, and multiple opportunities to get free copies of your own book.

So you might not win this year, but it’s still worth trying.

You may decide to do Nanowrimo again next year, or you might decide it’s not for you and never try it again. Either way, don’t stop writing now. You’ve come this far, and I know you have words left in you.

What’s your current word count? Do you think you’ll finish your novel this month?

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

pencils-447480_640Week three of Nanowrimo is already here and if you’re anything like me, you’re filled with a combination of excitement and fear. Can you actually reach the lofty goal you’ve set for yourself? Is your novel garbage? Will you ever actually want to look at it again? Are you going to cross  the finish line?

It’s completely normal to doubt yourself at this point, and it’s completely normal to think you’ll have to throw away your novel. In fact, I’d go so far as to say throwing away your novel is fairly standard among Nanowrimo participants. I’m certainly not trying to salvage every single novel I’ve written during Nanowrimo.

Whatever your feelings are about your novel, you can overcome them and you can write a novel in a month. All you need to do is believe in yourself and keep writing.

Here’s some advice and inspiration to keep you going:

A Tip


A Trick

If you really feel like you absolutely must edit more than a couple sentences, add any deleted scenes to a separate file. You might end up wanting them later and either way it’s fiction written during Nanowrimo, so it can be counted to your word count(this is part of how I get such a high word count every year).

Some Inspiration

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.”
– Sidney Sheldon

What’s your word count like? Do you hate your novel? Love it? Let me know in the comments section below!

The Ultimate Plot Creation Resource List

quill-175980_640Once you’ve figured out the basics of your world and gotten to know your characters pretty well, it’s time to start thinking seriously about the plot. If your novel planning process is moving along at the proper pace, you should already have an idea what your plot looks like.

Now it’s time to figure out all the details. Well, not all the details. At least a few details should be figured out as you go along, because the best stories grow organically.

But you do need to know the basic structure of your plot before you start writing the first draft of your novel, at least if you want to write a first draft you might actually be able to salvage someday. So I’ve compiled a pretty large collection of resources designed to help you plot a novel.

Remember: there is no right or wrong way to plot a novel. Try as many as you need to until you find the one that works best for you.

Plotting Resources

1. The 4 Story Structures That Dominate Novels – This is an article on Writer’s Digest that details different story structures commonly used in novels. If you have only a very basic idea—or no idea at all—how your story will be structured, this is a really good place to start.

2. How to Structure a Story: The Eight-Point Arc – An explanation of one way you can structure your story. It’s a fairly detailed article that should give you lots of food for thought.

3. Nanowrimo Prep: The Ultimate Plot Development Guide – I haven’t actually read through this whole thing yet, but there’s an interesting article and a downloadable guide that comes with a plot building worksheet. This seems like just as good a place as any to go when you’re prepared to start fleshing out your plot.

4. The Snowflake Method – One method for planning a novel that lots and lots of writers absolutely love. I find this kind of outlining to be way too rigid for my tastes, but to each their own, right?

5. The Best Approach to Story Structure: From Aristotle to Dramatica – This is a pretty interesting article with a lot of food for thought on the subject of story structure/plotting. Some good reading to do before you start nailing down the details of your plot.

6. How to Create Story Structure to Die For – A fairly detailed article about creating excellent story structure on the Write to Done blog.

7. 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure – Although I’ve only read one of his books I can tell you Chuck Wendig is a great author. He’s also a great blogger and seems to me to be an all around great guy. If you found Limyaael’s rants entertaining, you’ll love this—and find it useful to boot.

8. Novel Plotting Worksheets – If you really prefer to use worksheets to plot your novels, or you’re simply interested in trying a different approach, you can find a couple novel plotting worksheets here. You’ll also find a handy character chart and a link to a resource with more worksheets.

9. How to Create a Book that will Keep Readers Reading – Plot Worksheet – This is a pretty detailed plot worksheet that should help you create an engaging story you’ll actually be able to edit into a publishable novel.

10. Writing a Young Adult Series – An article that, despite its focus on one genre, can be helpful to anyone planning a series. You might not be writing every book in your series during November, but you should have an idea what they’re all going to look like, and what the overall story is. This article has some useful thoughts on how you can do just that.

11. Plot Structures for Books in a Series – More thoughts on how to structure novels within a series.

12. The Challenges of Writing a Series – And one more post on the challenges of writing a series because frankly, it’s challenging. After all, you want to set things up in the first book so that there’s appropriate foreshadowing for things in later books, which means you need to outline the whole thing before writing the first book.

13. Michael Crichton’s Method for Plotting out a Story – I think the title really says it all for this one.

14. How to Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps – If you don’t want to use a worksheet but you still want to create a solid outline before you start your first draft, this article can help you do so.

15. Plot Development – A pretty detailed article about plot development that should help you create something worthwhile, especially when combined with one of the outlining methods linked to in this article.

16. Golden Rules for a Good Plot – Five rules and a couple useful links that will help you write a novel worth reading.

17. 6 Writing Outline Templates and 3 Reasons to Use Them – An article about the importance of outlines, with links to outline worksheets you can download.

18. Plotting a Romance Novel – If you’re considering writing a romance novel—or you’ve already decided it’s a good idea—this article is for you. It might also be helpful if you’re trying to write a book where romance is a major component, but not actually the main storyline.

19. Outlining Your Novel: Why and How – Another great article about the purpose of outlines, along with a guide to creating them.

20. First Steps in Plotting a Novel – A brief article that will help you plan the beginning of your novel.

21. Plotting a Novel – This article details the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. There’s actual software for this available if you’re interested in using the method yourself. From my understanding there’s also a book, if you prefer to learn that way.

22. How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet – Admit it. Every time you finish reading a book that leaves an impression, you want to know how it was planned. Well, J.K. Rowling’s actually enlightened the public to a fair bit of her writing process. Enjoy!

23. Famous Authors’ Hand-Written Outlines for Great Works of Literature – On this site you can actually see the hand-written outlines several famous authors have created. I don’t know how much it will help you plot your own novel, but it is really cool to see these famous novels planned out like this.

24. 7 Ways to Add Great Subplots to Your Novel – This is another article from Writer’s Digest, this time discussing how to add interesting subplots to your novel. After all, the best novels always have more than one thing going on.

25. 5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist – Everybody loves a good plot twist done right. This article will help you get it right every time.

26. What is Plot – How to Write a Story from Beginning to End – A fairly detailed article that will help you think your plot through properly and make sure you write a story actually worth reading. After all, you don’t want to spend an entire month on something that isn’t worthwhile, do you?

27. Special Fiction Writing Week: Creating a Plot – You’ll find some great information on plot creation in this article and you’ll also find a couple useful links. Realistically, Men with Pens is a blog you should probably be following anyway. Just thought I’d throw the idea out there.

28. Thoughts on Plot by Famous Writers – This is a great collection of quotes which will hopefully help you plan a better novel and stay inspired when the plotting gets tough.

29. Before You Can Write a Good Plot, You Need to Write a Good Place – An article discussing the importance of your setting to creating a great story.

30. The Best Advice on Plotting I’ve Ever Heard – A pretty useful article that happens to be located on a writing blog you might want to spend some time exploring before moving on to the next resource.

31. Plots and Stories – An article that outlines the differences between plots and stories, discusses how they work together, and how stories without strong plots can still work on occasion. There’s some pretty interesting stuff here.

32. Constructing Plot – This article goes through the various elements of plot and shows how you can use them to construct a worthwhile novel.

33. 5 Major Plotholes in Otherwise Great Movies – Okay, I’ll be fair, this isn’t really a writing resource. At the same time, everything is a writing resource. Movies, just like books, consist of characters, setting, plot and story. And knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what to do.

34. How to Write a Good Game Story – Again, this article isn’t focused on books, but it is focused on story and plot. And studying any kind of story is worthwhile, so it’s on the list.

35, It’s Just a Phase – This article walks you through the creation of a phase outline, which is a pretty intensive form of outlining I find way too extreme that might just work for you anyway. There are also a lot of useful articles on the Forward Motion website.

36. 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story – Another great article written by Chuck Wendig. If you go through all 25 you’ll probably end up with a pretty solid plot. I’ve never worked through them all in order from this list, so if you do, I’d love to hear about it and the results you get.

37. Choosing the Best Outline Method for You – One last article from Writer’s Digest which will help you decide which of these many different outlining methods you can actually use.

Outlining a novel might seem tedious, but it’s essential to creating a worthwhile first draft. Even with an outline you might find your first draft too messy to be salvageable, but I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to tell your story is still worthwhile.

Outlining your novel before you begin also helps you decide whether or not you actually want to spend a month or more on this novel. After all, you can’t really know if an idea is worthwhile until you’ve spent some time examining it and discovering more about it.

If you know of any plotting resources that really should be on this list, let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email at diannalgunn @ gmail.com .

10 Reasons why I love Nanowrimo

10 Reasons Why I love Nanowrimo (1)Chances are you already know what Nanowrimo is–if you don’t, it’s explained quite well here–and you’re here because you’re considering participating. Or because you’ve already decided you’re going to do it.

I’ve been participating in Nanowrimo for nine years–this will be my tenth–and blogging about the experience for four. Most years around this time I write up a post about why you should try Nanowrimo.

This year I’ve decided to take a different approach. I’m not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. I’m just going to tell you why Nanowrimo is awesome. Maybe it will convince you to take on the challenge this year, maybe it won’t. Either way, your decision doesn’t bother me.

But if you do sign up, you should know what you’re in for. So here goes:

1. The competitive aspect of Nanowrimo inspires me to test my limits. Every year the city I’m in does a word war, usually against another city. Occasionally I race against an individual, though people rarely challenge me now that everyone knows I once wrote 300K in November.

Nanowrimo has inspired me to push myself farther than I ever thought imaginable. In the last few years I’ve focused more on telling coherent stories than creating massive word counts, but I’ve still written over 100K every year since my third year. I’ve written a mixture of things interesting and awful, and learned a lot about writing–and myself–over the years.

This year someone’s actually challenged me to a word count race, and since it happens to be my tenth year, I’m going to aim for the largest word count possible. I’ve already started planning, in the hopes that having more detailed outlines will make my Nanowrimo drafts a little less hideous than some of the early ones, despite my desire to maximize word count.

2. Nanowrimo makes you feel good about a crappy first draft. A lot of would-be writers stall at some point during the writing process because part of them believes they’re terrible writers.

You can tell yourself all you like that “The best books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”(I have no idea who said that first; enlighten me if you do) but eventually it stops soothing the mental pain of an awfully written first draft. But when thousands of other writers are writing awful first drafts with you and you’re receiving pep talks week after week, you’re constantly reminded that everybody else feels the same way.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

3. The Nanowrimo boards are a treasure trove of inspiration. Still trying to decide on various aspects of your Nanowrimo novel? Need some help creating characters? Hop on over to the Adoptables forum, where you can find characters, names, subplots and entire, sometimes incredibly well developed plots waiting for some frustrated writer to pick them up and breath some life into them.

I actually have a file with a handful of characters I at some point hope to adopt. It’s never quite worked out that way, but often reading through the threads inspires characters made up of bits and pieces from different posts. It’s a great way to build a side character quickly so you can move on.

Oh, and you can always go to the dares threads if you need more inspiration, but a lot of those are just ridiculous. Which may or may not work for your novel.

2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner4. You can learn about pretty much anything you ever wanted to study. The “reference desk” forum on the Nanowrimo boards is usually the first place I check when I need a few quick facts about something historical… Or anything that involves someone dying.

Writers tend to be morbid, but aside from that, one of the great things about Nanowrimo is that people gather there from all different walks of life. Which means there are experts on all kinds of things who will answer your questions. If you can’t find a helpful thread, ask a question.

The best part? The “Reference Desk” is one of the few forums that seems to stay active throughout most of the off season.

5. Want to write a book a year? Do Nanowrimo every year. At one point I pretty much spent half a year doing intense Nanowrimo-based writing challenges and very, very slowly editing old projects. Eventually I had a pile of first drafts and a few second drafts staring at me every time I opened my documents.

This year I decided I’m only going to work on first drafts during Nanowrimo. Sure, that might mean a few books for me this year, but next year I may only work on one. And either way, it means that when I do sign a publishing contract, I’ll have different novels in different stages of editing. That’s a pretty good position to be in.

It also just feels awesome to say “I write a book every year”.

6. There are well over a dozen published Nanowrimo authors. Whether they’re published with big houses or indie presses, these authors have all reached some level of success with their novels. There are also quite a few self published Nanowrimo authors doing fairly well for themselves.

I love watching the numbers grow every year because it reminds me that I can also be successful, even if I have to edit each of my novels a dozen times.

I’ve also met a few of these authors through the forums–and will be introducing a couple of them to you in the couple weeks–and had some wonderful conversations with them.

7. Nanowrimo participants are the friendliest people ever. Of course, there are some bad apples in every bunch, but for the most part Nanowrimo participants are super friendly and extremely supportive. You’ll rarely find a more supportive place than the Nanowrimo forums during November. I’d be surprised to find one myself.

Some of the friends I’ve made through Nanowrimo are my oldest friends. They’re good people, good company, and good friends. I’ve known some of them for as long as nine, ten, even eleven years. I suspect I’ll continue to know them for a long time.

I’ve never really had strong connections like that in school, so Nanowrimo’s been an essential part of my life–and my favourite time of year to socialize.

nano_2006_winner_small.336172353_std8. There’s built in opportunities to find critique partners. There’s an entire novel swap forum, not to mention that being a member gives you access to thousands upon thousands of writers. A lot of them will be looking for critiques at the end of the month, even throughout the off season.

Some of my Nanowrimo friends have turned into critique partners, and every critique partner I’ve had–wherever I met them, whatever part of the world they lived in–has at some point participated in Nanowrimo.

Finding solid critique partners is hard–most of mine have only lasted one or two projects–but it’s a lot easier when you know several other aspiring novelists. Or several dozen.

9. Nanowrimo keeps me–and other folks in the northern hemisphere–busy through some seriously depressing weather. November isn’t usually the nicest month here in Canada, but I don’t complain. In fact, I would argue that November is the one month I really love, because I always have something to look forward to.

Part of it is that I get to see friends I hardly see throughout the rest of the year. We go out, have fun, laugh a lot, and occasionally get some writing done.

Nanowrimo also helps me really focus on writing new fiction for an entire month, which is often difficult. I have a lot more trouble keeping my schedule rigid the rest of the year. During Nanowrimo, I’m all business. I’m working hard to see what I can accomplish this year, along with everyone else. And I certainly don’t care that the weather’s bad when I’m cooped up inside on my computer.

10. Free books! And cute graphics! And feeling like a boss! The best part about Nanowrimo is Winner_180_180_white.331221427_stdthat when you complete it–even if you fall short of your goal–you’re celebrating with thousands of other people who get it.

Anyone can say they get it, but people who haven’t actually tried to write a novel rarely grasp how difficult it actually is. On the other hand, everyone participating in Nanowrimo understands what you’re going through. It’s the one time you’re able to celebrate with other people who’ve survived the same process–at least until you manage to befriend some published authors.

Of course, the winner’s prizes also help you feel like a boss when you reach the end of Nanowrimo. The graphics are adorable, the annual winner’s certificate will bring eternal smiles to your face, and most years you’re also given the opportunity to see your novel in print–even if yours is the only print copy ever made.

All in all, I love Nanowrimo, and I’m excited to start writing.

Are you participating in Nanowrimo this year? Have you participated? Tell me about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

Before you finish that draft

After an excruciating process taking anywhere between a few weeks and several years, your first–or second, or third–draft is almost finished. Your adrenaline’s pumping and you’re ready to power through to the finish line.

As antsy as you might be to finish it, I suggest instead you pause and take a deep breath. It’s time to create a plan for after you’ve crossed the finish line.

Start by scheduling a couple says off. You can write, of course, but jumping straight from one book to the next isn’t a great idea. Give your brain some time to relax and refill the creative well by enjoying somebody else’s book or doing something fun. You might want to focus on stories very different from your current WIP so you can get out of that mode and prepare for the next project.

Speaking of which, make sure you choose the next project to work on before finishing your current WIP. Without a plan, it’s easy to stop writing completely once you finish your novel. Writers can be extremely indecisive. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.

A good plan will include a start date, a deadline for completion and a list of things that need to get done before you start the actual draft. If you need to flesh out your world, do some research or develop your characters before working on your next project, write the steps you’ll take to do so out on paper. You’ll probably spend quite a bit of time figuring out exactly what preparations you’ll need to make. Don’t worry about it. Every moment spent planning is made up for with time saved during writing.

If there are some shorter pieces you’ve been ignoring to work on your novel, schedule time to finish these before starting your next book. You don’t want those unfinished tasks nagging at the back of your brain while you’re trying to write a novel.

Every writer plans differently. What matters is you create a plan that keeps you constantly writing. You don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve created writing the last draft.

Writing a marathon

Nanowrimo pep talks have often compared the challenge to a marathon, and it makes a lot of sense. Writing a book in a month is about both writing quickly and having the energy to write every day or as close to every day as possible for an entire month. That’s a long time when you’ve just begun your writer’s path, and even for someone who’s been writing for years it can be hard to stay productive all month long.

But now the last 48 hours have hit, and it’s time for a different kind of marathon, the one where instead of writing every day for a month you write as much as possible in one day. If you’ve got the day off and an unfinished novel, can you finish your novel tomorrow? How close can you get? How many words can you pound out now that we’ve hit crunch time?

For an effective marathon of writing, you need the following:

1. Writing time. Clear out as much of your day as you can, and set out which hours you’re going to spend writing and when you’ll allow yourself breaks. You will need breaks, to stretch and stand up, go to the bathroom and grab a drink and possibly even to eat something. Plan out how regular and how long these will be so you don’t end up spending most of your day on break.

2. Caffeine and/or sugar. Go out and get some chocolate tonight if you’re out, and make sure you have plenty of your favourite beverage–most writers I know seem to have a fondness for coffee, though I prefer Dr.Pepper–and your favourite snack lying around to keep you energized and motivated.

3. A goal. Your goal might be to finish your novel tomorrow, or to write ten thousand words, or possibly just to get as close to the end as you can. What’s essential is that you have a goal, so you’ll be able to tell if your marathon was successful or not.

4. An iron will. It’s the last day of November and Nanowrimo, so inevitably you’ll get eight hundred calls and two hundred emails, and all your friends will want to hang out. Say no, don’t go to any parties, and remember your end goal. This is the last day of Nanowrimo, and you want that novel finished, so don’t agree to anything until it’s done. It’s hard to say no when friends want to hang out on your day off, but tomorrow you have to do it. If you’re American, Thanksgiving might make this harder, but carve out as much writing time as you possibly can–your family should admire your dedication and respect your wishes, and you should never feel bad demanding your own time.

And once you have gathered all of these things, it’s time to get to work–let’s make these 48 hours count.

How to make the most of this weekend

Tonight marks the beginning of the last full weekend of Nanowrimo, and no matter where you are in your word count–unless you’re one of those lucky people who has already finished their novel–it’s important to make the most of your time. By creating specific goals and a detailed plan, you can balance your weekend between social commitments, housework and writing, and get a lot done.

Most people recommend working in short bursts and then taking short breaks. Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA suggested the Pomodoro Technique during her writing marathon last weekend, which involves working on something for a 25 minute period and then taking a five minute break. I personally find that how long I like to work on tasks depends on the task–often a blog post will take me a little bit less time to write, and I usually take a break between each one, but a chapter of my novel will take a bit longer.

Taking breaks is important so you don’t burn out, and you can choose to take a break from writing by making food, cleaning up a little bit, or just reading a book to recharge, depending on what you need to do. If you live with family or room mates, you can choose to spend your breaks from writing with them. Make sure that you time your breaks though, and have them be no longer than 15-20 minutes at the most, so you don’t lose steam.

To make your plan for this weekend, write down all the things you know you have to do, and what you want to work on this weekend. Include exactly how much work you want to get done on each project. If you have limited time, put numbers beside them to indicate their level of importance, so you can work on the most important ones first.

Decide how long you would like to work on each item on your list for, and choose a day to work on it. You can write it all out by the hour or write it out in two hour chunks, but I prefer just having daily to do lists instead of schedules by the hour or the half hour. Make sure that you have everything you need to write ready to go, and spend a few minutes outlining what you’d like to write this weekend so you don’t end up stalling.

Set up some sort of timer and get to work, taking regular breaks to recharge your brain. Don’t allow yourself to walk away from the computer until the timer goes off. Even if the writing is painful and slow, you’re bound to get something done if you force yourself to stare at the document for the entire time. If you’re feeling really stuck, re-read the last thing you wrote. Often that will give you a fresh idea for where to go.

What’s your main writing goal for this weekend?