Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

NoNoWriMo Tips: Week Four

We’ve made it to the last week of NaNoWriMo! As we enter into the final days of NaNo, you will find yourself in one of two camps. You will either be right on schedule with your word count and be thrilled to finally see the light at the end of the 50,000-word tunnel, or you will be woefully behind and not see anyway you can reach 50,000 words by the end of the month.

(Okay, there are actually three camps. Some of you overachievers have already finished NaNo, but we aren’t going to talk about you because you make the rest of us look bad. 😛 )

If you are in the former camp, then congratulations! You are almost to the finish line. If you are in the latter camp, don’t despair just yet. The month isn’t over, and neither is your chance to write your story.

In today’s post, I’ll be giving tips to guide you though this last week (and those extra four days of the following week) for each camp.

First, advise to those of you who are on track.


Celebrate your success, but don’t slack off

It is easy to take a look at your success and think you deserve a day off. Well, you do, and there is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break day after all your hard work. Just make sure that one rest day doesn’t snowball into several, or before you know it, the whole week will get away from you.

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Because there aren’t many words left in comparison to when we started this goal, it is easy to think that it is smooth sailing from here. You may think, “I’ve written 40,000 words so far, what’s another 10,000?  I can do that in two or three days. I don’t need a week and a half.”

It is great that you are feeling confident, but don’t let that (well-deserved) confidence influence you to make poor decisions.

If you want to give yourself a day off, make sure you come right back to it the next day. You’ve kept your daily writing commitment so far, don’t get off track now.


Use that almost-to-the-finish-line momentum, but don’t burn out

You may have the opposite reaction to being so close to the NaNoWriMo finish line and be ready to charge full speed ahead. This is generally how I get as NaNo draws to a close. Being so close to finishing gives me a renewed sense of excitement and determination (similar to week one). I start thinking that I should double my writing sessions or make a new, higher daily word-count goal.

I either do this because I’m thinking how good it will feel to finish early, or because I want to be an overachiever and have more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

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This never works, however. I end up maintaining my extreme, self-imposed goal for a few days, but then feel weighted down and burned out towards the end of the week.

I’ve learned to keep my original writing goal, but allow writing sessions to go longer if they do so naturally.

If you are so excited about writing the ending of your novel that you sit for six hours straight and pump out 8,000 words, then go for it. But don’t feel like you have to up the ante to finish early or to finish more of your novel because you are writing a Sci-fi or fantasy and know it won’t be finished in 50,000 words. (Yes, that last one is me 😀 ). Steady writing sessions is what got you this far, and steady writing session will carry you to the finish line.

Now, for advice to those of you who are a bit behind.


Be realistic

I could tell you that you should never give up on winning NaNo, no matter how far behind you are, but that would be cruel. I don’t know how far behind you are on your word count, and it could actually be impossible to write enough words everyday to finish on time.

I’m not saying that you should give up, but definitely take a few moments to calculate how many words you have left and how many you would need to write daily to finish (actually, the NaNoWriMo website will do this for you).

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If you need to write 10,000 words a day and you realistically only have an hour to write after work, well yes, it might be time to set NaNo aside (unless you have some writing ninja skills the rest of us mortals don’t have 😉 ).

If you know there is no way you can catch up at this point, skip down to You don’t have to write 50,000 words in a month to be a winner.

Other wise…


Don’t give up

If your words-per-day- goal is challenging but doable, than go for it! You may have to get creative in finding more time to write. You may have some long writing sessions and may have to give up doing some other things. But pushing yourself extra hard this week will be worth it, not just to win NaNo, but to finish your novel.

Think about it…you are going to have a finished NOVEL in just a little over a week! Isn’t that worth making some sacrifices for? (Okay, well it isn’t quite a finished novel…there’s still all the drafting and editing…but let’s not think about that just yet.)

Think about how amazing it will be to be able to say that you’ve written a novel. Anytime you began to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the sheer amount of words you have left, think about how good it will feel that you turned that story idea into a freaking, actual novel.

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Remember not to stress about making every scene perfect. The goal of NaNo is to force you to put words on the page. Those words don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be there.

Keep this quote in mind.

 “When I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” –Shannon Hale


You don’t have to write 50,000 words in a month to be a winner

In the grand sceam of things, NaNo is just a month where we challenge ourselves to commit to writing everyday. It may feel life-consuming during November, but when December rolls around, life keeps moving just the way it always has.

Nothing terrible will happen if you don’t write 50,000 words by the end of the month. You won’t be forced to wear a badge that says “failed author” or made to delete your NaNo account. Your WIP will still be there after November.

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I know it is still disappointing to fall short of a goal, especially one we are so passionate about, but remind yourself that you tried your best. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise that put a halt to even the most carefully-laid plans.

Think about everything that happened this month. Maybe you got sick, or had an unexpected family or work emergency. Maybe you had to take on an extra project at work or had to work more hours. Maybe your classes at school or college were more challenging than expected and you couldn’t devote as much time to writing as you thought.

If something like this is the reason your are unable to complete NaNo, then don’t be hard on yourself. Celebrate the fact that you worked hard on your novel in spite of the fact that you had a lot of other things going on in your life.  You are courageous for committing to working towards your dream to write a novel.

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Maybe you are thinking over this month and see that there wasn’t anything that prevented you from sticking to your writing commitment.

Don’t feel bad about that either!

Maybe this was your first time trying NaNo and you found writing 1,677 words a day to be more challenging than you thought. You should be proud of yourself for trying something new!

Whatever the reason you are unable to complete NaNo, know that you didn’t fail because you didn’t reach 50,000 words. You won because you still wrote more words than you would have if you didn’t try. You won because you pushed yourself to grow as a writer.

Whether you are ahead or behind, finished already or unable to complete NaNo, we all have one thing in common. We took a chance in November to dream, to believe in ourselves as writers, and to believe in our stories.

No matter our word count, we are ending November as stronger writers with a better understanding of our stories.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Three

YARN | And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book. Oh, tea. | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) | Video gifs by quotes | 77c93d7d | 紗

If you want to see if I finish NaNoWriMo or not, follow me on Instagram. I post updates in my stories. 🙂




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NoNoWriMo Tips: Week Three


Some people say that week two is the hardest, but I’ve always found the third week to be the most difficult to find motivation. Sure, in week two, some of the shininess and newness of NaNo and my WIP wears off, but there is still enough magic to keep me motivated.

If you can make it through week three, you are a hardened NaNo warrior.

It is week three that makes me question my sanity for signing up to write 50,000 words in a month, and leaves me certain that all these words are in vain because I’m going to delete the pile of nonsense as soon as the month is over.

To get through week three, here are some things to remember. (I’m sure I’m going to be rereading this myself.)


Your novel isn’t garbage.

At this point, you may feel like your novel is a heaping pile of garbage. No surprise, since you’ll be working your way through the middle of your novel, and that is notoriously the most difficult part to write.

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If you are ready to archive your novel’s folder in a place you’ll never have to look at it again and forget reaching that daunting 50,000 words, know that you aren’t alone. The great thing about NaNo is, you have thousands of other writers who are going through the same things you are.

Doesn’t make you feel better?

Yeah, knowing there are other people feeling as lost as I am on their novels didn’t make me feel better either. Why do NaNo Pep talks assume it does? 😀

Anyway, I do have something that will make you feel better. At least, this little exercise works for me.

Grab a sheet of paper or sticky note. Now, write down three things that you really like about what you’ve written so far. It could be a scene, a character who has really come to life in this draft, a favorite line of dialogue. Or even the fact that you’ve written half a novel!

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Keep this list somewhere you can see it. Stick it on your computer screen. Place it on your desk. Read it before you start writing or any time you feel like giving up.

Sure, there may be some things about your WIP that need fixing, but that’s why we don’t stop with the first draft. No one’s first draft is ready for publication. Focus on the things you are proud of, and remember that the purpose of a first draft is just to get the words on the page so you’ll have something to work with later.


Don’t be stressed about falling behind.

You may be a little behind at this point. Or maybe you are way behind and are scared you’ll never catch up.

First, take a deep breath.

What is going to happen if you don’t reach 50,000 words? Will the NaNo police come nab you and give you a life sentence that forbids you from writing? Will all the other NaNo writers show up to your house to shame you for not completing NaNo?

Sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping they’d post your picture on the home page with the words NaNo’s Biggest Loser underneath, but nothing so grandly dramatic is going to happen.

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If for some reason you aren’t able to catch up and the end of November comes around to find your novel at 40,000 words or 25,000 words, then so what? Nothing bad happens. You can keep working on your story in December. You can walk away from NaNo knowing that you have more words down than if you didn’t participate.

But don’t give up on reaching that goal just yet. NaNo is full of ups and downs. You may be in a writing slump today, but tomorrow may bring a 5,000-word writing sprint that catches you up.

You still have the rest of this week and week four. You may be surprised at how many words you can crank out as NaNo comes to an end. 🙂

Remember why you started.

Why did you chose to write this story? Was it because you fell in love with the characters? Because the plot was absolutely thrilling? Because the world you imagined was stunning?

12 New Year's Resolutions from Disney Princesses – As Told by Laura

Reach back to those things that made you excited to start on this story. Pretend you are getting the story idea for the first time. Close your eyes and imagine that first scene you saw, or the first character that came to you. Spend a few minutes going through the first notes you took, or write something new that focuses on that one thing that made you excited to start writing back on November first.

You may choose to write a paragraph of your favorite character rambling to you, or bring more detail to a worldbuilding aspect, or dive deeper into a plot twist.

Remembering why you started writing this story will give you the strength to keep writing. Your characters deserve it, your world deserves it, you deserve it.

Keep writing! After this week, next week will fly by.


NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two




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NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

We’ve made it to week two! If week one went well, your excitement and motivation is probably still high. I am still riding the high of finishing a whole week of NaNoWriMo and ready to see even more progress this week.

Having said this, I know this enthusiasm is about to take a dive as quickly as my energy when a caffeine high wears off.

Which leads me to my first tip about week two of NaNo…

Enjoy the NaNo high, but don’t count on it.

Enjoy the rush while you can, but don’t count on it pulling you though the month.

I don’t say this to scare you. But on my first NaNo, around this time I was thinking, “This is pretty easy. I’m so motivated. NaNo is like a magic elixir giving me writing superpowers!”

Disney Magic GIFs | Tenor

Then disaster hits….

Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but all that sparkly NaNo magic usually disappears by the end of week two or beginning of week three. If you aren’t ready for it, you may wonder what went wrong. Or decide that because writing isn’t as exciting as it was during week one, that something is wrong with your story.

I’m warning you now. Be prepared to have those rose-colored, NaNo glasses ripped off your face, but don’t let the change in scenery make you quit.

Celebrate your progress.

When the rush of excitement leaves, keep your motivation by looking at the progress you’ve made. You are probably around the 11,000 to 16,000 word mark by this time (depending on when you are reading this).

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That is a large chunk of your novel! You’ve written more words than you would have in a normal writing week/week and a half. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on your progress.

Celebrate your wins, and don’t worry that it doesn’t feel as new and shiny as it did in week one.

Don’t delete words.

I am guilty of stopping to rework sentences and paragraphs while writing the first draft. Editing while drafting may seem like you are giving yourself a smoother draft to go over later, but if your goal is to write 1,667 words in an hour and a half, you are going to fall behind quickly if you stop to reread and rewrite every paragraph.

Rereading also leads to deleting words. Lines of dialogue that sound stiff, descriptions that are bland, or awkward sentences beg to be deleted. But every time you delete a sentence, you are shortening your word count and making it more difficult to reach your goal for that day.

Speed Reading GIFs | Tenor

I get it. Sometimes it is unavoidable to read over the last lines. I’m not saying that you should never look back at what you wrote. Just be careful not to spend too much time trying to rework a paragraph or find the “perfect” adjective to describe your character’s home-knit sweater.

If you find yourself cringing at something you wrote and your finger is hovering over the delete key, do this instead; Put a line through it.  This way it still counts towards your word count, but you don’t have to worry that you won’t catch it when reading over your draft later.

Remember to give yourself a break.

Chances are, you’ve lived, breathed, and ate NaNo for the last week. That word-count goal is the first thing on your mind when you wake up, your next scene is the thing you daydream about in traffic, and your characters are there to talk your ear off before you go to sleep.  (If it hasn’t been this way for you, then I’m not sure whether to congratulate you or to tell you to step up your level of commitment. 😉 )

In the whirlwind that is the first week, you may be able to keep up a hectic pace, but most of us won’t be able to keep that same level of intensity for the whole month.

Of course staying motivated, working hard, and exercising your self-discipline is important, but you don’t want to burn out before the month is over.

Taking A Break GIFs | Tenor

Make sure that you carve out a time during the week NOT to think about NaNo, word counts, or that one character that might as well be replaced by a plant for all the lifeless dialogue they spit out.

I like to give myself Sunday off. I write much better during the week when I have one day to recharge. To do this, I need to write more words during the week or double the words on Saturday. This way, I’m not falling behind during my break day and having to play catch up when I start back. This would defeat the purpose of a break day because I would spend it feeling guilty that I’d purposely made the decision to fall behind or worrying that I wouldn’t be able to make the double word-count goal the next day.

It gives me an extra 277 words a day (or 3,334 words on Saturday), but it is worth it to me to have a guiltless break during the week.

Even if you prefer not to take a whole day off, or can’t take a whole day off, carve out some time during the week to give yourself permission to give your writer’s brain a rest. Take a walk, soak in a bath, or listen to an audiobook.

Only Disney

Giving yourself a scheduled time to take a guilt-free break makes it less likely that you will be too burned out to write one day and fall behind. It is much harder to write double the words when we perceive that we are behind or have “failed” than it is to write double the words when we see it as getting ahead or doing extra.

Now that you are ready for week two, get to writing! 😉 I’ll be back next week, and we’ll conquer week three together.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Three




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NaNoWriMo Tips: Week One

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month! I am stoked to be doing this again after taking a few years off.  I’m also a bit nervous because it feels like my first time all over again.

I took some time to think about how I completed NaNoWriMo in previous years….what worked and didn’t work…what helped me get through the month. Because I don’t have enough writing to do this month, I decided to write them all down and share them with you. 😉

I’ll be walking you through each week of NaNo as they come, so you won’t be alone in the ups and down that come with writing 50,000 words in a month.

These posts will give you an expectation of the unique challenges each week brings and the tools to overcome those challenges so you can finish your novel (or if you are a long-winded writer like me, half of your novel).

Week one is the easiest, since we are excited and motivated to start. But there are still a few things to keep in mind during this week to set yourself up for success for the rest of the month.

Set time aside to write in advance.

Thinking that you will do it “whenever you have time that day” usually means that everything else pulling for your attention is what you do instead. Having a set time will ensure that you don’t get to the end of your day and realize you have a mound of words to write.

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No one wants to stay up two hours past their bedtime to write (well, unless inspiration hits 🙂 ). Or even worse, go days without writing, and then have to write 10,000 words in one day to catch up.

Everyone’s optimal time to write is different. You may want to get up earlier for a before-work writing session, or you may find that writing after dinner works best for you.

It is okay if this time you set aside fluctuates a bit. In my previous years of NaNo, I did the majority of my writing in the evenings, but also had my share of writing sessions before I left for work just to change things up a bit.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach your daily word-count goal.

This one kills me. I use to feel like I “lost” that day if I didn’t write those 1,667 words, even if I did my intended writing session. The fact that I’d used all of my scheduled writing time and still didn’t reach the daily goal made me feel worse. I felt that I’d “wasted” it because I would be starting the next day out at a deficit.

Don’t do this! Allowing yourself to feel like you “didn’t make it” that day will only make you lose momentum, and it will be harder to start writing the next day.

Instead of thinking that you somehow “failed” that day, remind yourself that you showed up and wrote for the amount of time you said promised yourself you would.

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If you have a set time to write and you actually sat yourself down and got some words out during that time, then you win for that day.

I’ve learned that word count ebbs and flows during NaNoWriMo. One day you barely make 1,000 and others you write 3,000. Don’t sweat it if you fall behind. You’ll make it up another day.

Be creative in finding time to write.

During my previous NoNoWriMos, I was lucky enough to have a job that went though waves of business, and then would be completely dead, so I would always bring my laptop incase I had some spare time to work on my story.

If you don’t have that luxury, you may still be able to squeeze in some writing time on you lunch break. Of course this depends on how long your break is and how long it takes to get to a nearby restaurant and get your order. You may want to bring your own lunch for this month to give you a bit of extra time.

If writing during lunch isn’t an option, you can still sneak in some “writing.”

For days I knew it would be too busy to bother bringing my laptop out, I could still jot some notes about what might happen in the next scene or add something to a character’s backstory.

It wasn’t adding to my word count, but it did save me some time when I sat down to write later. I would already have some idea how the scene would go, or I wouldn’t have to stop and think why this character would react this way because of the notes I took earlier.

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If your job is so demanding that you’re laughing and shaking your head at the thought of even taking a few notes on your phone, don’t sweat it. This is why you have you designated time to write.

Enjoy it!

The most important thing to do during NaNo is to enjoy it. Sure, you are going to have your ups and downs during the month, but overall you should have a deep satisfaction that you are making such huge progress on your WIP.

Enjoy the ride! I’ll be back next week for tips on how to make week two a success. 🙂

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Two

NaNoWriMo Tips: Week Three




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NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer

This is the last installment of my little NaNo taught me series. We’ve already talked about why skipping scenes isn’t a bad thing and why it’s okay to write a terrible first chapter in spite of all the pressure to write a perfect one.

Today’s topic may seem counterintuitive. Can you even call yourself a writer if you only type 500 words an hour? How will your novel ever be finished if your a slow writer?

My answer is, you have to start somewhere.

My first year doing NaNo I thought writing 50,000 words in a month was impossible. I’d never written 50,000 words on a single project in my life. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of Mount Everest every day I reached 1,667 (which is how much you need to write a day to reach 50,000 words in a month). And if I happened to go 200 words over…I was freaking Wonder Woman!

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Fast forward three more years of NaNo and writing 1,667 words is no longer a challenge. That’s what I do on an off day. This year of NaNo I wrote 2,000 to 3,000 words most days. There were a few days I really nailed it and wrote 5,000 words. I actually finished NaNo on November 21, which was 9 days early.

Just to show you the amount of words I put out when I first started, here is a shot of the excel spread sheet I used to keep track of the words I wrote for a story I was working on in 2015. This wasn’t for NaNo (I don’t have a spread sheet for my first NaNo), but a project I started a few months after. From the small numbers and many skipped days, you can see why it was such a big accomplishment that I finished 50,000 words in a month.

Feb 2015

Two years ago, I only wrote 12,000 in a month. Now I can write that amount in a week.

Nov. 2017

It’s okay if you feel like a a snail slushing through mud could write a book faster. That’s how I felt when I first started, but if you keep writing you’ll build speed.

As great as speeding up my words per week is, the best thing doing NaNo taught me wasn’t how to put words down faster. It was continuing to write after NaNo was finished.

After my first year, the moment November was over I didn’t write a thing (besides blog posts of course). Two months went by before I decided to start another project like that. I’d ran my marathon. It was time for lounging on the couch with chips and dip.

What I learned from the last four years of doing NaNo was that you don’t just write seriously during November. The best way to finish your work in progress isn’t to have a super power of typing out 1,000 words in 30 minutes, but to keep writing continuously. Making writing part of your routine isn’t just something to do during November, but all year long. Keep the writing spirit as enthusiastically as Buddy keeps the Christmas spirit. 😉

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You may start out only writing 100 words a day, but if you keep at it you’ll find your words-per-day slowing increasing. Even if they don’t (which is as impossible as a weightlifter not gaining strength after dedicating themselves to training every day) you’ll still be farther along then you would have if you only got serious about writing one month a year.

Don’t be discouraged because you don’t write as fast as you would like to. You have to start somewhere. The more you do it, the better you will get.

I still consider myself a slow writer. I’ll never be Brandon Sanderson and write 300,000 in a year. But slow writers who keep writing will put out a lot more books than a fast writer who doesn’t write consistently.

No one said you had to be faster than a snail through mud. You just have to have the guts to keep writing.



NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to be a slow writer


Do you consider yourself to be a slow writer? What’s the most you’ve written in a day? If you want to pick up your speed, you should head over to an amazing little site I discovered called 4thewords.com. You get to fight monsters by word count. It’s super fun! I wrote 1,000 words in 45 minutes because of this site. 🙂


Other posts in this series:

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Skip Scenes

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

All the writing advice says your first chapter has to be perfect. It has to draw the reader in from the first line, introduce the main character and antagonist, give a feeling of the story setting and tone, give the main character’s goal, and ignite some conflict. And while you’re doing all that, you better not bore the reader for even a second or they’ll put your book down and never discover that twist you put in chapter 10 that would have showed them what a brilliant writer you are.

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Whew, sounds like a lot doesn’t it? That’s because it is a lot. So much rides on the first chapter that it makes us freak out when we go to write it.

We spend forty minutes trying to make that first line perfect. By the time we’re done with that, we’re ready to quit (especially if we are writing during NaNoWriMo and have a daily word-count goal to meet). We’re having trouble writing one line. How are we going to write a whole chapter and after that a whole book?

The beauty of NaNo is that it forces you to keep writing even if your writing is crappy. There’s just too much to cram into a first chapter for you to get everything on the checklist the first time around. That’s what the second and third drafts are for.

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The challenge is remembering that as you write that first draft of the beginning chapter. Especially if you’ve written a book before.

Why? Wouldn’t writing a book before make it easier to start another one?

You would think so, but I actually found it harder to be satisfied with the beginning of my story this time around than when I was writing The Hashna Stone this time last year. Maybe it was because I’d spent a lot more time discovering the world and characters of my first story so it was easier to get into it from the first chapter. Maybe it was because it’s been a whole year since I’ve written a first chapter and I’ve forgotten how messy they can be.

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It probably had something to do with the fact that I decided to write a fantasy romance and am completely out of my element. 😉

Whatever the reason, I couldn’t get the chapter to come together at all. The whole thing ended up being a list of everything a first chapter shouldn’t have. I didn’t describe what the main character looked like. I spent paragraphs describing her sisters. There wasn’t much actually happening in the chapter. A good 2,000 to 3,000 words (which was half the chapter) was the main character’s thoughts. And I did a lot of telling when I should have been showing.

But guess what? I’m glad I did it.

Yep, you heard me right. My first chapter was a total disaster and I don’t regret it at all.


Once the first chapter was out of the way, I could get on with the rest of the story (which I like to think is better than the first chapter). And once I got on with the rest of the story, I could discover things about it that I would need to foreshadow in the first chapter.

The thing is, I could have rewritten the first chapter 7 times and never gotten it to the point it needed to be if I never wrote to the end. I don’t know if this is a writing rule, but it’s nice when the beginning of a story foreshadows the end or having the end in someway mirror the beginning.

A simple example of this is in a short story (more like flash fiction I guess) that I wrote a few years ago very creatively called Red.

The first lines:

Red–the color of roses, the color of love. It was also the color of danger.  I didn’t see the danger though. 

The last lines:

Red is the color of roses. It is also the color of lies. My color is no longer red.

For a novel-length story, you might not want to have such blatant foreshadowing of what would happen in the story or such exact mirroring in the first and last lines, but you get my meaning.

Sometimes you can’t write the first chapter until you’ve written the last. And to get to the end, you have to write the beginning. Even if it’s terrible.

NaNoWriMo taught me it's okay to write a terrible first draft

Next week we’ll be talking about slow writers. Last week was about skipping scenes, and if you haven’t read it already, you should. It was a pretty good post if I do say so myself. 😛

What do find to be the hardest part of your story to write? Beginning, middle, or end? In my first draft, it’s always the end. I never really know what’s going to happen. 😀


NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s okay to Skip Scenes

Okay, so I have completed NaNoWriMo before, but even if I’m not a newbie I still learned a few things. I thought I’d share those things in a post, but I had so much to say about what I learned that the post turned into three (or maybe I just didn’t want to come up with more ideas to write about for the next few weeks 😛 ).

The next two post will be about writing terrible first chapters and being a slow writer, but today’s is about (I bet you’ll never guess) skipping scenes while writing your first draft.

Should we skip the scenes that are giving us trouble or will the writing police come to our door and take away our manuscript for reckless writing?

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s okay skip scenes.

Don’t feel like you have to write every single scene out if it isn’t coming to you. Some scenes play out in your head as clearly as if it were on an HD 40-inch flat screen TV and you can write every detail and won’t need to change much in the second draft. Other scenes are on an old black and white televisions set with a crooked antenna and there isn’t much coming through but static.

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Don’t feel like you have to sit there for an hour watching static. You could try to pound out a full 3,000 word scene and become frustrated when it turns into a repeat of itself every 400 words because you keep rewriting the beginning, or worse, a blank page because you just can’t seem to picture what the characters do at this point.

Or you could simply skip it.

But isn’t that cheating? How will my novel ever be finished if I don’t write anything?

I’m not advising to do this for ever scene that gives you a little trouble. Sometimes you do need to wade through the static until the picture becomes clear, but I’ve found that it can be counterproductive to try to force a scene to happen that just isn’t ready yet.

When I’m writing a story, I have five or six crystal-clear scenes. They’re usually the scenes that started the story and get me excited to write in the first place. Like J.K. Rowling’s image of a little black-haired boy on a train started the Harry Potter series.

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The majority of scenes are a little foggy, but become clearer as I write them. They are a bit like those scratchcards you have scratch off to see if you win. It takes some work to uncover, but the scene is there.

Then there are the blanks. Scenes, that no matter how hard you try, remain blank in you head. For me, these scenes always happen at the end of my story. For The Hashna Stone, it was all the scenes in last two chapters or so. In my outline they were something like, “Everything is explained. The end.”

In the story I wrote for NaNo this year I knew how the very last scene would go, but I didn’t have a clue what the proceeding three or so scenes would be. I assumed that once I got to those scenes in the first draft they would come as they did for The Hashna Stone.

They didn’t.

I typed a few lines. Deleted them. Stared out the window. Typed a few more lines. Decided I didn’t like them but couldn’t delete them because I would never reach my NaNo word-count goal like that.

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Finally, I wrote an explanation of what might happen in that chapter instead of trying to write the scenes out.

I didn’t write out a conversation:

“Why are you always burning my grilled cheese sandwiches?” Bob asked. 

“How I’m I supposed to make grilled cheese and mop up the mess that your muddy boots left all over the floor?” Marsha was really sick of him blaming things on her that wasn’t her fault. 

Instead, I wrote:

“They had a fight about her burning the grilled cheese. Marsha feels annoyed that he keeps making a big deal out of it and that it isn’t her fault.”

That way I can move on to a scene that I can actually rack up some words on instead of just staring at a blank page.

Sometimes a scene isn’t working because you don’t know the characters well enough, or because there are some things you’ll add to your story in the second draft that will be built on in that scene.

don't know your characters...who are you?

Say I was trying to write the scene above, and I knew that I needed Bob and Marsha to fight and that Marsha would feel unfairly blamed, but didn’t know why Marsh would feel that it wasn’t here fault.

I could try to force the scene and write something silly about how Marsha wanted Bob to make his own grilled cheese sandwich or that she hated grilled cheese and didn’t care how it turned out.

Or I could write a line about what I need to happen, then in the second draft when I discover that Marsha is a clean freak whose requests for Bob to take off his muddy boots are always ignored, I can write clear scene now that I know the motivation behind the action. Even though it isn’t urgent to mop up some mud, Marsha resents Bob’s negligence enough that she chooses to clean the floor over cooking for Bob. If he doesn’t care about her wishes, why should she care about his?

Suddenly this scene comes to life and what was stiff actions and robotic dialogue becomes authentic.

Some scenes just aren’t ready to be written in the first draft, and that’s okay.

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It's okay to skip scenes


How did your NaNoWriMo projects come along? Did you ever skip some scenes in your first draft and regret it? Let me know in the comments!


Other Post in this series: 

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to Write a Terrible First Chapter

NaNoWriMo Taught Me: It’s Okay to be a Slow Writer


I Really Shouldn’t do NaNoWriMo this Year, but it’s so Addicting

Today is a very special day. November first marks the beginning of days filled with typing frenzies, word-count goals, and long nights in front of the computer hammering out the next scene in your story.

Yes, it’s NaNoWriMo time again. Time for writers around the world to quite procrastinating and actually, well, write.

I’ve participated for the last four years but this year I questioned if I was going to do it or not. For the previous years NaNo came at the perfect time. I had either just finished up a project or not working on anything so I could start a fresh draft of a story, which is perfect for the seat-of-you-pants, quantity-over-quality style so prevalent in NaNo.

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This time around however, I was working on the fourth draft of my story and didn’t want to start something new and time consuming that would distract me from working on the revisions.

But those blasted “Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo?” emails kept coming in my inbox and making me feel like I was missing out. So I fell for the bate and visited my NaNo page, and all the nostalgia of previous years came rushing back.

I simply could NOT miss out on all the panic, stressing over word counts, and feeling like Thanksgiving is a waste of  precious writing time that comes with writing a novel in a month.

So just a few days ago, I decided to give writing a novel I haven’t even slightly planned out. Not even in my head.

I’ve never done this before, so it could be the biggest disaster, but I really couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to reach that 50,000 words this month.

For the rest of the month, I won’t be following the normal schedule. Instead, I’ll be posting every week about something I learned while doing NaNo last year. Hopefully, these posts will motivate you to finish if you’ve decided to do it this year and inspire you to keep working on your writing project whether you are doing NaNo or not.

Wish me luck! And good luck to all of you doing NaNo this year!