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.

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.

How to Write a Mediocre Novel

Here’s what to do … if you want to write an “OK” book.


What makes a good story? We’ve tried to answer this question a few times before. Let’s look at things from a different angle: what makes up a not-so-great narrative?

These are the things that make up a mediocre novel … and how to turn around and write an excellent book instead.

Tell a safe, comfortable story

If a story doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable – reading or writing – you haven’t gone deep enough. Stories have to make the reader feel emotions they don’t particularly enjoy feeling; that’s just part of how this all works. If you can’t get an emotional reaction out of at least the majority of your readers, you’re falling short. Tell a story you think goes too far. Speaks too loudly. Hits too close to home, for yourself or for someone else. Those are the kinds of steps you need to be willing to take in order to write a book that tells a really good story.

Resolve conflicts as quickly as possible

Think you’re drawing a conflict out too long? Keep going. Probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make in telling a story is thinking people are going to get bored of a conflict too quickly. Real conflicts start off shallow and burrow deeper and deeper, which lead characters into making decisions that lead to even more conflicts branching off the original. Real life is full of conflicts: we just don’t always know they’re happening. Imagine the worst, and put your characters through all of it. With conflict comes growth. A character must grow, or you haven’t done your job as a storyteller. If things seem too over-dramatic, it’s because you’re telling a story, not recounting everyday nonfiction.

Create likable, simple characters

Who wants to read a book in which you like every single character and none of them harbor any complexities that spark curiosity and emotional reaction? Think of your favorite book. Now think of a character in that book you absolutely despise. I immediately thought of Alaska’s father in LFA (my favorite book). Every book has at least one. It brings up a sort of moral conflict within your reader. Either they hate a character but want to like them or they hate to love them. People encounter people they don’t like all the time in real life. Tell a story that reflects and exaggerates that reality.

Always give as much detail as possible

While details are important, writing a good story is all about inserting small, seemingly insignificant details into a much larger narrative. From my experience as a reader and storyteller, too much detail can distract from the most important elements of a story. I suppose if you wanted to write a piece of literary fiction, you could carry on with your descriptions and metaphors all you wanted. In some books, this works. But aside from painting a picture that will set a scene, keep the story moving forward. Use details only to drive the plot. Like desserts, too many adjectives won’t do a story much good in the end.

Writing a good story takes a lot of practice. It’s all about going deeper than you think you should. Drawing things out and moving the plot along at the same time. Creating characters your readers don’t know how to react to. If you’re going to write a great novel, it’s probably going to be uncomfortable – and that’s how you know you’re doing it right.

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.

Blog Frenzy – Day 27

I have good news, and I have bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first, since you don’t really care that much about my life (or so it would seem): I’m behind. Again. Darn you, Hulu. But the good news is that I talked myself out of auditioning for Glee (thank goodness), and even better: Kristin Chenoweth is coming back on the show tonight. This is so exciting. This means I definitely can’t skip it tonight.

Which brings us back to the bad news, meaning I’m going to actually have to do work today. Sigh.

I’m still not going to push myself to work on any novels for awhile. I’ve realized that it’s not really healthy to push yourself so hard at something you’re not even that great at. (Don’t try to talk me up here. We all know it’s true.) I guess I should just focus on everything else I have going on right now, instead of some fictional world with fictional disasters and names and solutions.

Yes, that’s my novel writing advice for the day: be realistic.

I’m still working on that list of books I want to read before I die. It’s coming along quite nicely. I think I’m up to about sixty now, which doesn’t really seem like a lot. But I don’t think I’m going to get sixty books for my eighteenth birthday. So It’s going to take some of my own money and a few birthdays and Christmases to add all those books to my collection. Which I’m not even going to have room for in my dorm. Unless I’m a good girl, and get to live in an apartment my last three years of school. That would be nice.

I haven’t figured out whether or not blocking out an entire schedule helps me get things done. I guess I should probably try it again, since it worked for one-and-a-half days last week (and I got an A out of those 1.5 days, thank you very much). It’s a little late to start now. I mean, it’s already 8:30.

But it’s not too late to eat breakfast. Om nom nom.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 24

Well, it’s Saturday. And we all know what that means. That’s right: rain, five chapters of biology, and finally getting to these last scholarship essays. The way this one works is, you fill out the application online, paste your essays into the boxes, and submit it. Then they send you via e-mail all the things you’re supposed to send via snail mail, postmarked by the thirtieth. I can do this, right? I really hope so.

The next three weeks are going to be extremely busy, because I now have to start ultra-cramming for my first AP test on the 6th. That should be fun, right? I’m really going to have to push myself to get all this other stuff done, like writing my last speech, getting an A on my last math test, and studying for finals. And then comes all the fun stuff, like all the solos I’m going to have to sing, the Red & White concert (super fun, except I’m not even in it), and of course, graduation. But that’s not really fun. That’s just necessary.

But all this means that summer is almost here. I’m seriously in denial. I haven’t decided if I’m going to write two novels or read 25 books before I move into my (gasp) dorm. I could do both, but that would kind of be an overload. Sometimes I like reading more than I like writing. Sometimes I like writing more than I like reading. It all depends on how much I’m willing to make my brain work.

I’m still working on that list of books I want to read before I die. I should make it another list of 100, just to make you happy. There are so many good books I haven’t read, like all that old-fashioned literature that most people wouldn’t even think about reading for fun. I’m just that kind of nerd, I guess. But hey. If it wasn’t for my AP lit class, I never would have realized how funny Pride and Prejudice actually is. Especially the chapter when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. I had to write an analysis about that one, and it was probably the worst paper ever. But that’s all behind us now, isn’t it?

I should really start on those essays, before I get distracted by YouTube again. Seriously, I think that web site just needs to die. I hate it.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 20

The funny thing about going back to your high school after you’ve “graduated” is how much more attention you get when you’re walking down the hallways than you did when you were actually going to school there. I got stopped by a security guard, two old choirmates, two teachers, and my guidance counselor—who just wanted to say “hey.” Well, thanks for the attention, but I’m on a mission. Let’s go back and time and do this when my mom isn’t waiting in the parking lot. How about three years ago? That would work just fine.

I did, however, get my giant scholarship packet turned in, as well as the letter of recommendation I need for this next scholarship due April 30th. I didn’t get as much done on them as I wanted to yesterday, so I’m either going to have to finish them today (during the time I blocked out for them in my wonderful schedule of schedule-ness) or wait until after my biology test is over. Because I shouldn’t even be doing this right now. I should be studying for my biology test. Yikes, I’m behind!

This is the main reason why I shouldn’t have focused so much of my attention on my novel the past five weeks. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I wrote it. It’s a decent story, one I would have driven myself crazy with if I didn’t get everything written down so fast. But I’m so behind on my schoolwork now that I’m going to be spending the next three days with my phone off, and most likely my computer too—after I’m done sharing my depressing life story with you—just so I can get the A I need on this test. I didn’t do as well on my comm quiz yesterday as I would have liked (7 out of 9 converrted to 25 points? Good luck with that). So I really need to buckle down these next four weeks.

In addition to my AP tests, which I’m going to fail if I don’t go by the $25 prep book I need. Even though I would love for my mother to pay for it, since she’s the one who’s making me take them. But no. I’m supposed to use my $20 Border’s card instead, and she’ll chip in the last $5. Wonderful. I guess Pendragon is going to have to wait.

I’m on a slightly-not-as-tight-as-yesterday-but-still-excessively-structured schedule from now until I go to sleep (at 10:30) so I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow, after I’ve completely lost my mind. Unless that’s already happened. Then I’d appreciate it if you would let me know ASAP. Maybe they’ll give me a scholarship for that.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 16

My word count is something over 71,000, but I don’t remember the exact number. Even more depressing, I’m way too lazy/tired to go look it up. Which, really, would only take a total of three clicks. When I’m too tired to click three times, we officially have an issue.

I would like to be sleeping, please. Under the covers, with the windows open. But no. I had to be dumb and sign up for an all-day nine o’clock class. I don’t really care that there are only five (or four) weeks left. I don’t think I can do this five more times. Seriously, it might kill me. You think I’m kidding.

I would also really like to finish this novel today. I can’t promise that’s actually going to happen, but it would be really great if it could. I have a ton of other things to do besides force myself to write.

Sorry about the short post. I really need to find a way to wake up in the next half hour.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 15


Why did I stop there, you ask? Because writing when you’re tired is a very bad idea. Words start getting into places they don’t belong, and synonym choices start repeating themselves without you even noticing, and everything just starts falling apart. And yes, I realize that I had from three o’clock to ten o’clock to write about 3,000 words. But I lacked the necessary motivation to do so. So I stopped just short of 70,000 words, which was probably a good idea, because the part of Chapter 29 that I’m about to add in takes a lot of brain power to kick into gear. So let’s go kill some snow people (please don’t ask).

My word of the day is satisfactory, because we spent a good portion of my communications class yesterday talking about the difference between satisfactory and unsatisfactory, like how in elementary school we used to get E’s, S’s, and U’s. I never got one U. So ha.

Yesterday was a very satisfactory day. Actually, it was more  than satisfactory: it was beijing. And if you didn’t already know, that means it was amazing. I would tell you all the reasons why, but that might take three days. And that would be wrong and terrible in so many ways. So I’ll just pick out three main reasons why yesterday, April 14th, was the best day I’ve had in the history of ever a very long time.

I got my NHS hours fixed. And by “fixed,” I mean I now have eighteen hours entered into the system, when I really only needed sixteen. This means that (though I will still be nice and layout the invitations) if I don’t want to, I never have to do another act of service again. Don’t get me wrong: I like helping people. But there’s something about an hour requirement that makes volunteering a lot less satisfactory. Anyway, all I have to do now is show up to the last meeting, show up to the ceremony, and pick up my cords.

I found a roommate. Very exciting, if I do say so myself. It’s another thing to cross off the list, of course. And what’s better than a roommate who likes Gilmore Girls, writing, and being awesome? Nothing! So thank you, Olivia, for being awesome. I will see you soon.

And finally:

I got a cookie. But not just any cookie: a smiley-face cookie. Because my mother-dearest loves me so much, and had to order my brother’s birthday cookies anyway. So while she was in there, she thought, “Well, I guess I should get my favorite daughter a cookie.” And I ate it, and it was yummy.

I hope today is just as satisfactory as yesterday. And I hope yours is, too. And I hope I can get to 73,000 words. And I hope I don’t explode submerged in all this hope.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 13

I’m not even going to tell you what my word count is. It’s too embarrassing. (65,336) If you were paying attention yesterday, you would see the problem here.

I finally turned in my music honor society hours yesterday. I actually had six units, instead of five. I feel like such an overachiever. Actually, the real requirement was ten, but he cut my units in half since I was only in school for one semester this year. So really, I’m an underachiever. But that’s only if we’re being technical.

 I turn in my NHS hours today at 3;15—the biggest relief of all. I really wish I could have gotten them done a lot sooner, like last semester. I’m just hoping that I can get the error in his count straightened out, since only half of my outside hours so far have been counted. He’d better count the hours I spent holding sick babies in my lap at Evie’s church. I spent four and a half days on the couch because of those hours. And besides, if I don’t get them counted for some reason, I won’t have met my requirement. So I won’t get my cords, and the world will probably end right then and there.

But he should count them. I mean, it’s his fault anyway.

unfortunately, I’m going to have to put writing on hold for a few more hours. You have to learn to do that sometimes, when there are more important things you absolutely have to do first. I have to spend a few more hours re-formatting that program I worked so hard on, since they didn’t like the way I did it. Or something. And yes, I will spend a few more hours on it, so that he’ll give me five hours instead of three. That way, I’ll have the “technically” required ten outside hours, instead of the eight that I would have had otherwise. No, he didn’t cut my hours in half. He just let me get away with sixteen instead of 25. Even though I’ll already have more than that, because of my (hopefully) ten outside hours.

I’m not a cheater. I just like things to be perfect, that’s all.

Speaking of perfect, I got the score I wanted on my quiz yesterday. That means I’m one step closer to that A I still think I deserve. That one persuasive speech killed my grade. But that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure that this next speech is going to be awesome. I just have to prepare like crazy and not go OVER TIME like I did last time. I lost seven points for talking too slow. Yeah.

I should probably get started on this re-formatting, if it’s going to take me a few hours.

Love&hugs, Meg♥

Blog Frenzy – Day 12

We’re almost halfway through April. That means I’m not a failure, things are about to get a whole lot easier, and the sun is going to stop hiding behind cold. Boo for burning, but tanning is always nice.

I wrote a little over one thousand words yesterday, putting my word count just over 65,000. My goal is seriously to have this thing done by Friday. I’m falling way too behind, I have five more scholarships to do before April 30th, and if I don’t go on that Border’s field trip with Evie and friends soon, she’s going to come over here and rip my head off. And then she’ll sew it back on and drag me by the hair all the way there. She’s just that determined.

I just cleaned my room the other day. So why is it a mess again? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Maybe if I just leave it messy, we wouldn’t keep having this problem. Every time I get it perfect, I need something. And then I end up messing it up again. So maybe I just need to stop needing things. This is going to be interesting next year when I have to keep my side of the room clean for the sake of my roommate. I doubt I’ll have much to mess it up with. But you’d be surprised.

I wish I could get a ton of writing done today. But I also have to catch up on my comm homework (which I had a week and a half to do—go figure) before class. And then after that, I have to make sure I have my service logs in order for the meeting at three. But I’m finally getting them turned in today! I probably could have turned them in last month, but there’s just something about waiting until the last minute that makes things a bit more exciting. After that, though, I’m free for awhile. Free to write, I mean.

Seriously. I’ll catch up on school next week.

It’s not that I want to rush through this novel. Because I really like this story, and where it’s going, and I wish it didn’t have to end. But it also takes a ton of time out of my day to work on it, time that I honestly don’t really have right now. I’m kind of breaking the rules here, making time to write when I should probably be doing other things. But you have to understand: if I don’t work on this thing, it’s just going to sit there. And that is not a good thing to do to your unfinished novel. i know i’ve said that a thousand times before.

I’m guessing about 15,000 more words. That seems like a lot, but it really isn’t. I know it kind of seems like this thing just keeps going, but it’s vital to the story. I can’t just stop it here. I hate that it’s going to be longer than the first book in the series, but I guess Melanie’s problems take up a lot more time and space than Anna’s. Not that Anna’s problems aren’t unimportant. Entirely.

By this time tomorrow, I will have shed a huge chunk of responsibility off my back. And after the meeting tomorrow, I’ll be even closer to a responsibility-free summer.

Love&hugs, Meg♥