The Last Line | NANO TALK 2016

It’s all John’s fault.


It would be completely reasonable to blame John Green for my obsession with lasts – last words; last lines; last attempts. But I was a writer long before I discovered what is still my favorite book of all time, and if I remember correctly, I have always put more effort into the last words and lines of everything I have written than anything else – even the first ones.

Every final line in my books and stories – even transitioning from chapter to chapter – I want it to be memorable. Sometimes it’s a punch, sometimes it’s a heartwarming phrase. Sometimes it’s dialogue. Like the Last Four Words of one of my favorite TV shows, I want people to wonder; to imagine; to say, “OK, I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about this for days.”

I often end up writing the last lines of my books before I actually finish. Though I am still very far off from finishing my current NaNo novel (don’t ask me my word count, I’m already anxious enough …), I’ve already written the last line. It’s the line I would hope an agent would say, “Are you planning on making this a series?” to which I would reply, “Please?”

In a dream world, of course. This is a first draft. The last line may change. In fact, I’m almost counting on it. If I end up rewriting this thing, it’s going to be a completely different book.

Your last line is important. Sometimes it just comes to you – you’re in the flow and you just write it without second-guessing yourself and you stop, because that’s it, you’re done, it’s over.

Sometimes you keep trying to write the ending, that last phrase, and the story just keeps going. Or you stare at that page for what feels like forever, and everything you think of feels inadequate, compared to what your story deserves.

Let’s focus now on a different kind of last line – the last line you write during NaNo 2016. Whether that’s the line that gets you over 50,000 or the last line you write before you update your word count one last time before midnight hits.

Are you ready? Because this will be the easiest, and most challenging, part of the month.

One minute you’re going to be typing away. And the next, it’s going to be over.

Whether you’re going to ‘win’ or not – it’s OK if you aren’t; I’m probably not going to this year, and we’ll talk about that later (maybe) – your last line still matters. Remember that you tried as hard as you could. Make that last line count. Be proud of it. Celebrate. Just be glad you, in some way, survived.

Keep writing, one word at a time. I have about 9,000 to squeeze in today. Sooo … good luck to all. And if you’re already past 50,000 – cheers! I’ve done that eight times. It feels better every year. You’re awesome. I’m proud of you. I mean it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Will This Be My Last NaNoWriMo?

I jumped on board my first NaNoWriMo in 2008, two days before it kicked off. It was easy then: I was 16. I literally had nothing better to do. Every year since then, it has gotten progressively harder. I don’t mind – I love a good challenge. But I’m definitely more behind on my word count at this point in the month than I ever have been in previous years.

Am I worried? Uhhhh….yeah. A little. I also wrote 13,000 words in 48 hours this past summer for some Wrimo reason, so pretty much anything is possible with so few days left.

It’s definitely been a struggle though. I’ve wondered several times so far, silently, if I could let myself call it quits after this year. I’ve had a blast … But unlike before, I’m busy in the kind of adult-y way that makes writing 50,000 words in 30 days not quite as appealing as it was 8 years ago.

I love writing, I love NaNo – I always will. But this is definitely the most challenged I have ever felt during an epic November word sprint. It’s a good thing, in some ways. A terrible thing in others.

Will this be my last NaNoWriMo? I don’t think so. I’m not giving up on this one yet, and if I do win, it will be my ninth victory – but more importantly, no matter what, it will be my ninth attempt. I’m not sure I could stop just one year shy of a nice, even 10.

After that, who knows. A lot can happen in a year. Who knows where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, whether I’m still always quietly working on a book in the background or not. Never say never. If I’ve learned anything in the past 24 years, it’s that life has a way of taking you by surprise. I don’t say no. Let’s leave it at, “Let me get through the next week of insanity and update you on how I feel.”

Shop. Watch. Write. Whatever it is you’re doing today, do it with a smile. You deserve it.

Make It Up As You Go Along | NANO TALK 2016

Those 15 seconds it takes to Google something can really start to add up.


Research. It makes you sound productive. Credible. Like you know what you’re doing. A writer who researches, at any other time of the year, is on the right track.

During a WriMo, however, research makes you extremely unproductive, unfocused and makes you much more likely to fall short of whatever your personal end goal for the month might be.

I’m going to eventually have to look into about half of what I’ve already written to make sure it’s accurate. I know next to nothing about murder investigations, cybercrime or dead people (it’s a book, don’t judge me). If I were to try and research details in all of these areas and more, I would be even more behind on my word count than I already am.

Half the posts I’m seeing in forums and writing groups are about research. And as much as I understand that everyone has their own writing process, it just completely defeats the intended purpose of a WriMo – to write as many words as possible as fast as you can.

Many people use November as motivation to start or continue working on a novel they haven’t been motivated to work on all year. I get that. But there are first-draft laws being violated here, WriMo or not. At some point, yes, you’re probably going to have to look into some facts. But the whole point of a first draft is to write a messy, imperfect story. Only once you have a foundation in place can you even hope to build a sturdy house on top of it.

I honestly recommend making things up as I go along. The details in a story matter – but you don’t have to get them all right the first time. I just want to shout this (constructively, of course) at everyone I see talking about their novel research. WRITE THE STORY ALREADY. I’m fine with Googling a word every now and then, if it’s really bugging me that much … but you have to set limits, or you’re never going to move forward.

I like to call this month No Research November. Maybe that’s just my preference, maybe many of you out there have good reasons why you try to fit researching into NaNoWriMo. It’s always something I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around. When it comes to novel writing, I will always advocate for first draft first, research during rewrites. But if you have a different perspective, I’d love to hear about it.

Many of the normal ‘rules’ of the writing process just don’t apply this month. I think research is an extremely important part of writing a story told accurately, of course depending on the genre and your overall goal for writing the story in the first place. Just not now.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

The First Line | NANO TALK 2016

How important is the first line of your novel?


I’ve never sat with my feet up on a desk before. Especially someone else’s desk.

BEHOLD – the first line of my novel.

I do not like it. I didn’t even want to share it with you. But let this be a lesson: you are not going to like over half of what you write. Are you really going to let that stop you from writing at all?

If I ever finish writing this book, if I ever get into the revisions stage, I will likely rewrite my first line. Twice, three times, maybe more. But I’m not going to rewrite it now. Why? It’s National Novel Writing Month, not National Revise Every Single Word You Write Until You Lose Your Sanity Month. This is not the time for revisions. Stop second-guessing yourself.

First lines are one of the most significant, time-consuming elements of a novel – at least in some writers’ points of view. I happen to be one of them. I’m obsessed with first and last words (an obsession that started long before I read Looking for Alaska, mind you – hence why it’s my favorite book). The last novel I wrote and edited to completion, back in college, I rewrote the first line at least three times, until I found the one that best fit the story.

I’m not completely confident this first line will stay – and you probably aren’t, either. Right now, though, your first line isn’t the most important thing. Right now, you need to write everything that comes after that. Develop your characters. Let them hold your brain hostage while they overpower you and finish writing the story you started. My English professors in college always told me to write my essay introductions last. They were right. Often, you can’t know what your final first line should be until the rest of the story has already unfolded before you.

But you do have to start somewhere – anywhere. It might be at the beginning of the book or the end; it really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s the first line of the story itself or just the first line you wrote on November 1, leave it alone. It’s not going to be perfect – certainly not now, maybe even not ever. Let the anticipation build up. Let it motivate you to keep writing. I can’t wait to go back and start revising – but I can’t do that if I don’t have a finished book to revise. I think every editor and writer I’ve ever asked has agreed that revising while writing a first draft is an absolute NO. Do not do it. If you’re that bothered by imperfection, you’re going to have a really hard time finishing a book. It’s possible. It’s just going to take you a long, long time.

The most important thing right now is that you keep writing. Keep moving forward – don’t go back (unless you’re writing out of chronological order, as I am). We’re about halfway there. It’s not too late to catch up. That first line has room to grow – but later. Much, much later. I’m off to crank out another 2,000 words. I strongly advise you do the same. (:

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

What Does It Mean to Love a Story? | NANO TALK 2016

This is an experience you will never forget.


You do not want to write today. It’s Monday. Work is stupid. You’re stressed. You’re behind on everything, including your word count.

And yet, you can’t wait to sit down tonight and write.

You aren’t fully confident in your ability to execute all your ideas in a way that makes sense. Your plot already has holes. You’re nervous about where this story is going to go.

Yet you can’t wait to get back to writing.

We all have days when writing is the absolute last thing we want to do. But the driving force behind “writing anyway” is often not confidence, or desire, or excitement, but love.

I say this every year, but I’m in love with my story. Possibly more than I’ve ever been in love with a story before. As busy and tired and unsure as you are, spending time with something you love is worth it. That’s why you love it so much.

I understand that sometimes you still aren’t going to want to do this, and you might not end up doing it today or even tomorrow. That’s OK. The word count goal is only a numeric motivator to push you to keep writing on days you’d rather take a nap and eat potato chips. But that’s why I hope you’re working on a story you truly love. A story that makes you feel alive and lifts you out of the present and takes you to a new place and a different time, with people you don’t know – but want to get to know.

If you aren’t writing a story you enjoy, now is the time to change that. Focus only on the story that makes you happy. If you aren’t enjoying it, you aren’t going to make it to the finish line. If you have a “I want this to happen” thought, write it. Let it happen. Things are not going to go the way you planned. Listen to what the creative part of you wants. Write the story you want to write. Your perception of everyone else’s future opinions is irrelevant.

Because when December 1 hits, you will have either reached 50,000 words or you will have fallen short. Life will continue on, and you will make the choice either to keep writing or leave that document unfinished. If you immerse yourself in your story, and you let yourself write it the way you want to write it, not only are you more likely to reach your end goal … you are more likely to keep going even after November is finished.

Love your story. If you don’t already, do what’s necessary to change that. Your brain is going to come up with some off-the-wall ideas. Just let them come. Enjoy it. Embrace it. This is an experience you are never going to forget.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Why You Should Try to Plan Out Your Novel | NANO PREP 2016

Why plan ahead?


For the first time since my first NaNoWriMo in November 2008, I will be doing a heavy amount of planning before the first official day of writing begins this year. I have a lot going on, and I’m stressed and overwhelmed just thinking about writing a 50,000-word book. I’m looking forward to it. I just can’t go into it without a plan.

Many of you may not be planners when it comes to novel writing. But I want to encourage you to at least try planning a few things out before November 1 hits.

You might start writing and feel like you know where your story is going, like you’d prefer to just see how things go and make things up as you write. And this might work for the first few days, even for the first week or two. But I can pretty much guarantee there will come a point when you get stuck. Your brain will run out of fuel. You will try, and really struggle, to keep the story moving forward.

I’m not saying you have to outline every single detail before you write about it. Even I’m not planning on going that far. But even if you have an idea in your head of where your book starts, climaxes and ends, it really does help to write it down. For one, it’s a huge motivator. You’re not writing the story – yet – but jotting down a rough outline makes you wish you were. For another, it gives you a safety net. It’s not final – you can change anything you want to as you write. But having an endpoint is a lot easier, even if you don’t know exactly how you are going to get there.

Excuses will always be a problem – no matter how long you’ve been writing, your brain will always try coming up with things that are more pressing and worthy of your attention than getting your 1,667 words in for the day. Having a plan makes it easier to shove those excuses aside and write anyway, despite them. For me, there’s a point in my story I can’t wait to get to – and I can’t get to it unless I write what comes before it, if I do write in chronological order. Finding motivation within the story progression itself is extremely beneficial on days you just don’t want to write.

Don’t know how to start planning things out? Check out my tips for planning a novel without outlining. And for those of you who’ve been waiting for it, my guide to creating character sketches is coming to you for next week’s NaNo prep. Get ready!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Now’s the Time to Hit the NaNoWriMo Forums | NANO PREP 2016


IT’S OCTOBER! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? Most of you don’t. Which is fine. I get it. This blog has grown so much in the past 10 months, I’ve honestly lost track of who was around last year when I started doing NaNo spotlights (give a shoutout down below if that’s how you found me!).

Anyway, it’s October. Forget about Halloween. Forget about pretty much everything else, because it’s almost November, and November is the most important month of the year for people addicted to writing a lot of words in a short amount of time (uh, me).

National Novel Writing Month starts next month, which means every Monday in October I’ll be sharing tips and strategies to help you get ready to write your novel. This is my ninth consecutive year participating in (and hopefully winning) NaNoWriMo, so I promise, I’ve got you covered. Don’t worry – I’ll still be sharing general writing advice every other day of the week per usual. But Mondays are now reserved for my fictionistas (I really wish I could say I made that up – others beat me to it), so if you’re out there, make sure you’re following this blog ASAP so you don’t miss out.

Now onto today’s topic of awesomeness: forums.

What are the NaNoWriMo forums?

The online forums are a place for all NaNo participants to chat, ask questions, bounce ideas around, procrastinate … everything you would expect from a forum, except all about noveling. There are topics about everything, from the basics of how NaNoWriMo works to random threads about “stereotypical elves” (really). They’re where you can go when you’re feeling down and need some help getting back up as you write. You can also go now, before the fun starts.

Who should go there?

Everyone! People who just like to talk about writing. People who need advice. People who have questions about whether or not a plot point makes sense. People who just want to feel like they’re part of a big community of people who understand how their brains work. You don’t have to show up with a question or even participate in the discussion. I’ve lost countless hours in many Octobers past just scrolling through things people have written about. It’s very easy to get lost … which is why, if you’re going to explore, you should do it sooner rather than later.

Why now? Why not November 1?

Trust me, you’re going to be a little preoccupied by the time November rolls around. If you’ve never tried writing 1,667 words daily for 30 days straight before, it’s going to hit you pretty hard about five days in. If you haven’t done it since last November, it’s still probably going to take some getting used to. So while it’s fun to explore different topics, get to know other writers and find people who want to “sprint” with you (writing as much as possible against a timer, basically), you’re going to need to be careful about how much time you spend in the forums after November 1.

Which is exactly why now is the ideal time to go check them out. No one has started writing yet. NaNo HQ has now given the official OK to go in and start prepping, which means the forums are going to come back to life in the next few days and beyond. I’m going to check them out myself tonight. It’s a great way to get pumped for next month even if you don’t have an idea for a new novel yet.

Keep in mind that your home region also has its own set of forums for you to explore and meet people who actually live near you. These can be much less overwhelming, and you have an ML there overseeing everything if you have any specific questions about how stuff works.

I officially have NaNo fever, and I’m so happy to be able to use the extra energy to help you get ready to write 50,000 words this November. I won’t be repeating topics, so if you want more advice about surviving 30 days of literary insanity, everything you need to know is right here.

Questions? Concerns? Exclamations of pure joy and frustration that it’s only October 3? Compose your words of wisdom to let me know how you’re feeling. I’m here for you.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

3 Things to Do the Week After NaNoWriMo | NaNo Talk 2015


Somehow, every year, National Novel Writing Month begins and ends with a single blink.

Before NaNoWriMo 2015 began, we published a post to help you reorder your priorities in preparation for the month ahead. Now that the month is coming to a close, here are three things you can do the week following this 30-day literary adventure.

Decide what’s next for your story

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a story in 30 days. Most agree that these words should be part of a new project, meaning you aren’t just writing 50,000 words of the same story you’ve already been working on for awhile. The standard novel is about 20,000 words longer than that, though. So you might have more to write. Or not. There is no right or wrong here.

After November 30, the next step is up to you. You can continue writing at the same pace, or a little slower, until you do finish your story. If you’re already finished, you can start revising. You can take a break, or start a new project while you let the finished one rest for a little while. What’s important is that you choose what comes next, and stick with it.

Congratulate a few of your fellow participants/winners (and yourself)

Everyone works hard as a NaNo participant, whether you’re doing so on an individual basis, with a few buddies or at the head of your region as an ML. Everyone deserves kudos when it’s all over, whether you’ve hit the mark or not. Writing the story itself may not be a team effort, but building each other up, even after the fact, is.

Don’t wait for your ML or a teammate to congratulate you – reach out to someone you haven’t gotten to talk with very much during your writing frenzy and wish them a job well done, just because you can. And don’t forget to celebrate your own accomplishment, too. Whether you won or didn’t quite get there this year, you tried. You deserve to be proud of that.

Take a break (you deserve it!)

You just wrote a whole bunch of words in 30 days! RELAX! Don’t push yourself to keep writing if you’re feeling burned out. It’s completely normal to feel that way after a WriMo. What you don’t want to do is unintentionally spend an entire second month sprinting without giving your brain a chance to recover from all the creative energy you’ve used up this past month.

Taking a break doesn’t have to mean you quit writing for a week or two, but even if you do (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), there are other things you can do to keep your brain awake in the meantime.

Whether you continue writing, start revising or put your book to bed for the holiday season, don’t forget to step back and really look at all those words you wrote, no matter your final word count. You’re pretty amazing.

There’s a lot we have to give up when we’re writing in a time crunch, but it’s these moments, the end of the finish line however you want to define it, that make it worth it.

Kudos to you. For real.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

NaNoWriMo 2015: I Thought This Would Eventually Get Old


I first discovered National Novel Writing Month by accident.

If I remember correctly, it was either a Youtuber I watched way back when (ah 2008) or John Green that drew my attention to this crazy awesome thing I had never heard of before (or a Youtuber talking about John Green talking about NaNoWriMo, which is more likely the case).

According to my profile, I joined the website on October 28, 2008. Three days before NaNoWriMo started. Procrastination at its finest, I suppose.

I was a junior in high school at this point, so to me, this was a huge deal. I was excited. I emailed everyone I knew (we still did that back then too!). I had sort of written a book before … if you could even call them that. They were novellas and they were awful. Not that this first ‘real’ novel I wrote was any better.

But I had this crazy dream of being a writer. So I figured I’d give this whole writing 50,000 words in a month thing a try. I didn’t really care whether I won or lost. I really just wanted a good excuse to write instead of doing my homework (yep).

Yet somehow, I fell in love with writing a ton of words in a short amount of time. So much so that, on Thanksgiving that year, I won. I even managed to finish my whole book within that word limit. I finished my first ‘book’ and won my first WriMo at the same time.

Which is probably why the picture you see above happened. It was a big deal.

My biggest worry as the years have passed is that winning will become less and less of a ‘big deal.’ I use WriMos as a way to jumpstart my ideas and force myself to write (if you’re interested in more of my thoughts on this, check out this post). I don’t do it to win. But as soon as I get into a rhythm of writing a certain number of words per day, it just becomes inevitable.

It has taken me years to build up this much self-discipline when it comes to writing. That’s the most important thing I like to highlight when I do talk about this. I don’t talk about winning to make other people feel bad. Because here’s the thing: whether you write five words or 50,000 this month, you worked on a novel. YOU WROTE STUFF. Not everyone can say they’ve done that.

I’ve just always figured that at some point, winning would stop feeling so great. Because of my lack of a full-time job (sigh) and this discipline and really just a love for writing and stories and talking with voices in my head that aren’t really there (hehe), I’ve won every year I’ve tried. I won today. I just did it.

And you know what? It feels just as good today as it did all those years ago.

No one’s lifting me up in the air and embarrassing the living crap out of me (weeee), but I still did it.

There’s just something about writing because you love it, because you love your story and your characters and you just want to write all day every day forever, that makes all the work you’ve done wroth it. Big accomplishments, small accomplishments, they all matter. And you should never, ever be afraid to be proud of what you’ve done.

If you’re still writing – KEEP GOING! I believe you CAN do this.

If you’ve claimed your spot in the winner’s circle – CONGRATS!

And if you started writing a book this month, and have tried, but have fallen behind or you just can’t do it this year, KUDOS to you for doing your best. It’s not about winning. It’s about writing. It’s about transforming the ideas inside your head into beautiful, tangible, lovable words.

Winning feels great. It always has. It always will.

But writing? Writing is the reward. Getting to put time into your story, that’s the best part about it.

Thank you for sticking with me, as always. I’ll continue updating you weekly on the progress of this story. I hope to have a first draft finished by the end of the year.

Fingers crossed.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Meg Dowell.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Get Writing Done Over Thanksgiving | NaNo Talk 2015


For all our readers and fellow NaNo participants (or just writers in general) in the US, Thanksgiving is fast-approaching. Which is great food-, family- and shopping-wise, but not so convenient when you have a daily word count to meet and only have a week left to hit 50,000 words.

Here’s how to keep up, catch up or get ahead on your word count no matter how you plan on spending your Thanksgiving holiday this week and weekend.

Get it done first

There’s not much worse than going through your whole day thinking about how you still have writing to do. While this might be manageable if it’s the only way it fits into your routine, it’s the last thing you want hanging over your head when you have food to cook and people to impress (or not).

As much as you would probably love to sleep in, you might be better off waking up a little bit earlier and knocking out your words before you have to be anywhere or do any chores. Sometimes it’s better all around if you push through it, get out of the way and don’t have to think about it anymore.

Double up now

The tough part about holidays is there isn’t a set routine like there is on any other regular day of the year. You might try to promise yourself you’ll wake up early or you’ll get it done before you go to sleep, but there’s no guarantee something won’t come up or you’ll be too tired to follow through.

If you know you won’t be able to write over the holiday (maybe you’re traveling or, as expected, you just want to relax), or you don’t trust yourself to keep up, double up on your word count early this week. Start now. It might seem like a lot of extra work, but it’s only three days. Break it up and see how far ahead you can get. Put your own mind at ease. You can sleep after Wednesday!

Use your down time

There’s usually a lot more down time throughout the day than you think there will be. If you eat dinner earlier in the day, most of the afternoon probably consists of naps and sitting around watching (or trying not to listen to) football anyway.

Use that down time to get some writing in. Get comfy on the couch with your laptop and just type away. Grab some headphones if you can only tolerate a certain kind of background noise while you write. Let all those carbs count for something and see what your brain can come up with in the aftermath.


You can still enjoy your holiday without having to spend the majority of it worrying about your word count. Don’t let it throw you off! You’re almost there! KEEP GOING!!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.