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.

Here’s Why, Sometimes, Your Story Doesn’t Go the Way You Planned



You’re in the middle of something completely unrelated to writing. As often happens when you’re away from your story, you get an idea – but this idea isn’t like any you’ve had for your book so far. It’s different. It goes against everything you thought your characters would do. Executing this new element would change everything – and that makes you nervous.

There’s a reason why you’re nervous. No one likes to have their plans changed at the last minute. But there’s also a reason behind this prompt to change the course of your story for the better. It’s not your mind playing tricks on you, trying to over-complicate your writing process. It’s your story, trying to tell you it’s ready to grow.

Have things turned out for you the way your parents dreamed they would? Honestly, probably not. It’s the same way with your book. You have a lot of plans for its future. You know how it starts, where it heads and how it ends. But that doesn’t mean you’d be disappointed if things didn’t go exactly the way you hoped. In the end, you know you’ll be proud of it no matter what.

So though this new idea you have might mean your whole book will change – that’s OK. Part of authoring a novel is knowing that at some point, you’re going to have to do what’s best for your story … even if it means doing things differently than you necessarily want to.

Your plans will change. Your story can’t help it – it’s just following its true course.

This doesn’t mean planning ahead is a waste of time. Even if you don’t end up following your original “outline” point by point, there’s still that incentive there to keep moving forward. It just means you have to be willing to deviate from your original plan.

Your story evolves the more invested you are in its pages. The same way a first draft is never the best a book can be, certain things you imagine will belong in your story don’t always end up belonging there. It’s OK to change your mind. It’s necessary to go with the natural flow of your creativity, even if it’s headed somewhere you aren’t sure you want to go.

I will never forget my most intense experience with this. It’s the most extreme case – if it happens to you, in many ways, I’m happy for you – but I’m also sorry. I was at my desk job, typing numbers into text fields, listening to a writing podcast, when I realized the story I had been working on for over a year could not continue on. If I wanted to write it, I needed to change it – completely. I needed to start over. The reason it had taken so long to write even half of it was because it needed to go in a completely different direction.

Did I want to rewrite everything I’d already spent so much time working on? Of course not. It took a long time to do that, too. But I agreed – because that’s what was best for my book, and I knew it. I eventually finished writing it, and though I have yet to go back and edit it, I’m still proud of it. More proud than I would have been if I’d kept on course with a story that wasn’t really working.

It’s scary, realizing you have to give up your control like that. But there are some hidden aspects of our creativity we can’t reach ourselves. The only way to set them free is to let creativity take over. Sometimes that means everything changes. But it is always for the better in the end – you’ll see.

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.

An Open Letter to the First Draft of My Novel

You’re not ready yet. But you will be.


I spent months secretly imagining what it would be like to finally call you “finished.”

Spending time with you was a constant shifting between joy, uncertainty and frustration. I wanted you to be great – you wanted to be great, too. Sometimes I just couldn’t meet you halfway. Some days I failed you. I know that must have been hard for you. But we stuck together. We made it work. We won.

This is a partnership I have and will always cherish. To write a story from beginning to end is an accomplishment that can only be described as “astonishing.” Sometimes I still scroll through your pages and find it difficult to believe we created something original, something tangible, just by sitting in a chair and willing ourselves to put ideas into words and words onto screens.

But I must admit that you yourself are finished, but your legacy is thus far incomplete. You see, right now you are only a draft. A finished project that can be made even better with improvements. A prototype. That is not to say you are “bad.” You just have a much brighter future than what I could offer if I sent you out into the world right now to fend for yourself. You’re not ready yet. But you will be.

You have a lot of room to grow. Months from now, you won’t even recognize yourself. You will not be the same then as you are now. But I don’t want you to think that means I don’t care about you, or that I don’t appreciate how far you have already come. I want you to thrive. If you let me, I will help you to change for the better.

If you only knew how much you have already changed my life. You make me believe I am more capable than I feel. You make me stronger. I am a better person, a better storyteller, a better friend because of you. I want other people to feel the way I do about you. I want to share the joy and insight and heartache you bring. I don’t want to keep that to myself.

I know that may come as a shock to you … but I wanted to ask you if it’s OK. Can I make you better than you already are? Can I introduce you to other people? You’re too special to keep hidden away. Maybe not everyone will understand or accept you. Maybe you won’t be able to speak the same message to everyone with the same level of power and importance. But you will always matter to me. As you are now, and as you will be in the future. You have a story to tell. I want to prepare you for everything you will face once I send you out into the world for the first time. Why? Because that’s the only way I can show my appreciation and love for you. Do you understand?

I guess you’re just a book. To many people, you don’t have feelings. But you have a voice and you convey emotions in a way many people can’t do themselves. I think, in some abstract way, that still counts. I think that’s what makes you special. You speak your mind. You have the power to change someone’s life.

Don’t get too excited yet. You’re not ready, remember? But be patient. You will be. Soon.

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.

Here’s Proof That Life Gets In the Way but Excuses Mean Nothing

I knew going into Camp NaNoWriMo this year that April was going to be tough.


I knew going into Camp NaNoWriMo this year that April was going to be tough. Probably one of the toughest months I’ve had since college (which, now that I think about it, is further in the past than I thought. Yikes.). I was in one of the toughest courses throughout my graduate program (at least, that’s what it felt like to me). I had boatloads of work. Too much anxiety, never enough time.

Yet despite all that, I somehow managed to win Camp NaNoWriMo (again). The thing I like about Camp NaNo is it’s not like saying, “OH LOOK AT ME! I wrote a crappy 50,000-word novel in 30 days!!” I love NaNoWriMo, I really do. But it’s much more realistic for someone to write, say, 10,000 or 20,000 words in 30 days than it is to write 50,000. And it makes saying you did it sound a little less … uh … braggy.

I’m really proud of myself this year. Not because of the story I wrote (which is probably one of my favorites so far this year), but because of all the obstacles I overcame to make it happen.

Take a look at how this month went down for me. (As you can probably guess, I am exhausted, and after I run 13.1 miles on Sunday, I am officially sleeping for four days.)


Along the way, I had four “drought” periods, in which writing was minimal or non-existent.

  1. At the very beginning of the month, I think I was still burned out from finishing March’s novella late. I’m really not sure. I wrote about 200 words and then pretty much didn’t write again for another week.
  2. Midterms happened. I have major test anxiety. So pretty much that whole week, writing was minimal. It took everything out of me just to get my “real” work done.
  3. This was not a good streak either. I wasn’t feeling well, I let distractions get the best of me and procrastinated way too hard on way too many assignments. I admit it: I didn’t try as hard as I could have. That really set me back, and at this point I started to worry that I wasn’t going to be able to make it through the rest in time.
  4. Finals week. I meant to build in a buffer for this, because I knew it was going to be rough. Obviously that didn’t happen. So I had to really scramble these last few days, but I got through it.

A few really great things came out of this month’s experience, besides finishing another novella (which will be released TODAY – almost didn’t make that deadline, but I will!). I’ve started blocking myself off from even touching YouTube until the weekend starts. I’ve learned better ways to manage my time, when I’m most productive and even more about what triggers my procrastination. It’s amazing, the things we can learn about ourselves when we struggle super hard.

But the most important reminder I, and all of you, can take away from this? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN EXCUSE. If you want something badly enough, you’re going to find a way to make it work. You’re going to make the right kinds of sacrifices.

The best advice I have for those who want to start, continue or finish writing any kind of story is to stop making excuses. Seriously. Life is always going to get in your way. You have to figure out how to work around it. You can either keep putting things off or give up when it gets tough, or you can sit down and get some writing done. It’s not as complicated as you think it is. Promise.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

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.

Image courtesy of Camp NaNoWriMo.

The Writing Routine that Will Help You Write a Novel This Year

Get that novel done this year just by writing a little every day.


Writing a novel takes a long time. It’s hard to do when you have a lot on your plate, but it isn’t impossible. If there’s something stopping you from starting or finishing that novel you’ve always wanted to write, there’s a simple solution to get you on track.

Want to write a novel this year, from start to finish? Here’s the routine that will help you get it done.

1. An hour after you wake up, start writing. Write 500-1,000 words.

Get some coffee in your system, sit down and write. If you get at least a little writing done first thing in the morning, a few things happen. You’ll feel pretty accomplished before you even really start your day, which can help motivate you to get other things done more efficiently. You’ll also be able to walk away from it still feeling fresh and inspired, which means you might still come up with more ideas throughout the rest of your day to return to later.

Does this mean you might have to wake up a little earlier to make sure you don’t skip this step? Probably. Either that or you won’t be able to spend the first hour of your day glued to your phone. It’s a sacrifice worth making, but of course, it’s also completely up to you.

2. Complete whatever daily tasks you need to cross off your list.

This includes everything from running errands to going to work to catching up with friends to eating three or more good meals (important). Do your homework, if you have it. The point is to put your writing aside (unless it’s your primary job, which isn’t likely the case if you’re reading this right now) and get everything else done before you head back to it.

This way, you won’t neglect any of your real-world responsibilities. You won’t distract yourself by thinking of more things you need to do. You also won’t have quite as many excuses for not getting more writing done later in the day.

3. Reward yourself with an hour of down time.

Days are long. Though it might seem tempting, you really shouldn’t just jump right back into writing as soon as you get home from work or school or whatever you spend the majority of your days doing. Give yourself some time to wind down physically and let your brain decompress before you put it to work again. Burning yourself out is a guaranteed way to set yourself up for failure.

4. Write 1,000-2,000 more words.

Believe it or not, this step will actually be a lot harder than the writing you did when you first woke up. By this point in the day you’re probably tired, and your ability to focus is quickly fading. Sit yourself down in a room where you’re not going to be easily distracted. Put your phone down, close out of your web browser and just write until you’ve hit your word count goal for the day.

You should have been already almost halfway there anyway from your morning writing session, so it won’t be anywhere near as draining as you’re expecting. You can do it. Be strong.

5. Give yourself a little more down time, then, please, get some sleep.

When you’re done for the day, spend the last few hours before bed doing something that relaxes you. Watch an episode of your favorite T.V. show or read a book. An hour before you go to sleep, turn off your electronics and stay away from screens. Get some sleep: sleep deprivation will pretty much make writing impossible.

The average novel comes out at about 75,000 words (roughly), so if you average about 2,000-3,000 words on weekdays, 500-1,000 words over weekends and add in some “vacation” days here and there, you won’t have much trouble getting your first draft done this year.

In a nutshell, just sit down and do it. Give yourself breaks and reward yourself for a job well done. Eat. Sleep. Keep at it. No one else can do it for you. You CAN do this.

Image courtesy of Image Catalog/flickr.com.

Solution Saturday: My Plot Is Way Too Complicated


Take one look at your story. What do you see? An epic maze of plots and characters not even you can navigate? Well, good: at least you’ve found your way here so we can at least help you get back to the beginning again.

Complicated plots are fascinating to read, and very exciting to write, as long as it all makes sense. If that’s where your roadblock is, we have a few solutions to help get you back on the right path. 

Solution 1: Assess your overarching theme

As we discussed earlier this week, everything that happens in your book should in some way link back to your story’s theme. Since your theme represents the message you’re trying to get across to your readers, it wouldn’t make sense to add in extra elements that don’t support it.

If your multiple storylines are starting to get a little too tangled, separate them out (yes, this might mean you have to do some outlining of sorts—deep breaths, it’s going to be okay) and make sure each one contributes significantly to your story’s main idea.

This separation of storylines can also help with our next suggestion, so maybe sketching out those smaller points of significance is a pretty good strategy regardless of which solution you want to try. 

Solution 2: Pick out one element at a time and try to imagine the story without it

When you’re working on your initial draft, you’ll write a lot more than you actually need to—and trust us, this will eventually prove to be a good thing. As it turns out, learning to take what’s in front of you and simplify it, trimming it down to what’s absolutely necessary, is a skill you’ll use not just in your own writing, but also in editing and working for other people in the real world, too.

Look at each storyline individually. Does it really need to be there? Sometimes we get caught up in back stories and sub plots our stories, at least the ones we’re currently working on, could do just fine without. If you do decide something can go, don’t throw it away completely—save that idea. If you’re ever feeling short on ideas, those might come in handy for another project someday. 

Solution 3: Try working on one storyline at a time

Maybe the problem with your complex plot is that, even though it all leads back to your theme and every piece needs to be there, it’s just too dang overwhelming to try and work through it all at once. Not only do you have to come up with each storyline, but you also have to figure out how to weave them all together and tie up all the loose ends before you can call it done.

We have a headache just thinking about it.

First, sit back and take a deep breath. You have a good story going. You don’t have to give up yet. Next—we hope you’ve listened and done your loose outlining—pick out one storyline, even if it’s a seemingly super tiny sub plot, and focus on that for today, tomorrow, whatever. Work out that storyline from its start to its end. Then you can go back into your big scary document and figure out how it all fits in.

Breaking up your story’s plot points and analyzing them one at a time is your best bet here, regardless of the way you choose to go about doing it. Whether you’ve been going on literary tangents without realizing it or it’s all just too much to handle at once, look on the bright side: at least you’ve written enough at this point to have something solid to work with!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Start Writing a Novel in Three Easy Steps


The process of starting to write a book is almost like jumping into an ice-cold pool with no bottom. As much as you can’t wait to dive in and get the hardest part over with, it’s not safe, or smart, to go in headfirst right away.

We’re here to guide you through the initial, simple steps you can take to starting your book without setting yourself up for falling short of your end goal (finishing it). Are you ready? One. Two. Three.

Step 1: Let your initial idea sit in your head for a little while

This first step doesn’t seem so hard, right? You don’t even have to write anything. Except, at this point you have an idea, and the itch to start writing it is so unbearable you probably can’t imagine, well, not.

That initial spark of inspiration isn’t going to go away if you don’t start writing right this second. You’ll have a much more successful, productive start if you give that idea time to develop a little. While you don’t have to know the exact beginning, middle and end of your story, you should have a good handle on where you want to start before you actually do. This can take a little time, but it is definitely worth the wait. 

Step 2: Sit down and write a sentence

It doesn’t have to be the first sentence or the last one. It doesn’t even have to be the beginning of a chapter or scene. Often the reason we’re so eager to start writing a new story is because there’s a single line stuck in our heads, and that alone is enough to thrust our minds into overdrive.

Just sit down and write down that line, no matter where it might fall in the story that may or may never actually become a story. It will instantaneously put your brain at ease. If you want to expand on it and write a few more lines, go or it. But I that’s all you have, leave it. It’s written and it’s been documented. If you’re not in a place where you can start writing a new story, at least that line is out of your head, ready and waiting for you when you get to that place.

Step 3: In the beginning, think more often than you write

The early stages of novel-writing are crucial. This is where you develop the voice of your narrator or main character and start to formulate the style you’ll continue writing in throughout the duration of your project. While it’s not wrong to dive right in and write hundreds upon hundreds of words within the first few days, it might be best to take it slow.

Is that an easy thing to do, faced with a new idea and enough inspiration to last basically a lifetime? Of course not. But you don’t want to use it all up at once, either. In the beginning, it’s okay to spend more time contemplating your next move than you do actually making it. While you may not always realize it, writing is an exhausting task. It often leaves you feeling drained and empty, no matter how motivated you are to keep writing. You definitely don’t want to burn yourself out only 10 pages in.

Like the entire process of novel-writing, starting a novel takes patience and discipline. But if you’re not very strong in either of those areas, don’t give up before you even get the chance to try: you might find that writing is your strength, and hey—you might even be really good at it, too.

Take a deep breath. Think it over. Ease yourself in slowly, and watch your story come to life.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

What to Do When You Have No Clue Where Your Novel is Headed

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbThere are people out there who need to plan out at least the major plot points of their novel before they start writing. I have a deep respect for these people, because writing is the only part of my life that is completely spontaneous.

You’re shocked. I know.

I am a Type A, list-obsessed, always-needs-to-be-early perfectionist. I was the freshman who showed up to her first college classes 30 minutes before the class before mine had even let out. I fill out my planner in the form of task lists, not special events or reminders. I will literally stop reading a post or article on a web site if it has a spelling or grammar error.

Don’t get me wrong or label me a blog snob. My blog probably has typos all over the place. I’m a perfectionist. I’m not actually perfect.

That all being said (er, written), you would think sitting down every morning, opening the precious document that contains my novel and “winging it” would drive me up the wall. But the thing is, it doesn’t. And not having a solid plan, only a few fuzzy plot points and an indefinite ending up there somewhere in my head, is probably what keeps me averaging about 2,000 words per day.

Is making slow progress on a story, without a preset plan, terrifying? Of course. And that’s exactly why I keep writing it. Continue reading “What to Do When You Have No Clue Where Your Novel is Headed”