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.

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.

How to Use Anticipation to Write Better Stories

Waiting is hard, but you can use uncertainty and anxiety to your story’s advantage.


As a writer, you likely do a lot of waiting. You wait to get to a particular part in your story – you know, the part you’ve been anticipating since the beginning. You wait for someone to give you feedback. You wait for someone to respond to your email. You wait. And wait. And WAIT.

While you endure all this waiting, though, you have to do SOMETHING. Even if you don’t feel like you’re ready to write again, you can actually use these feelings of impatience and anxiety to your advantage by handing them over to characters and situations in a brand-new story.

Anticipation is a core element of storytelling. You need to be able to give your reader a reason to keep turning pages. I’m watching FRIENDS for the first time … think of how different you would have felt if the writers hadn’t dragged you through over half of season two just waiting for Ross and Rachel to gosh darn get together for real already. Was it worth the wait? Of course. But waiting is what made me watch 15 straight episodes without stopping yesterday (oops?). I needed that satisfaction.

Part of what makes writing such a draining task is that you, whether intentionally or not, become emotionally invested in the stories you write. Your emotions become your characters’ emotions, and vise versa. If you are feeling anxious, waiting for something to happen, you can instill that same anxiety in your readers as you gently pull them forward – almost giving them what they want, but lifting it just out of reach at the last minute.

That’s what makes a reader love and hate you. And it’s the best kind of love-hate relationship.

The fact that you’re already feeling such intense emotions as a result of things happening in your own life actually makes this an easier methodology to apply to your writing. The best scenes in books are the ones that depict specific emotions – written in real time as the author is feeling those exact emotions. That makes it real; believable; relatable.

Next time you feel bummed about a seemingly endless path of silence and waiting ahead of you, remember that emotions like these are potentially your most beneficial tool as a writer. When you feel, so will your reader. It’s like venting on paper, but with purpose and long-lasting effect. I’ve done it to you just now, and hopefully I’ve managed to help you in some way, as I drown in the silent worry that I will be waiting for something forever plus an eternity and a half.

We’re better writers because we’re emotional. That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. Have you ever cried because your character started crying? Of course you have. Or was it the other way around? …

Don’t just wait. Write about waiting. Make it count.

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.

Let’s Be Honest: Writing a Novel is Complicated (Midweek Novel Update #20)


There are major differences between stand-alone novels, novel series and novel series with prequels. The nice thing about stand-alone novels is you get to figure out, and answer, most of the burning questions the readers have before the book comes to an end. And then it’s over and you can move on.

When you’re writing a series, the process is long, drawn-out and frustrating.

When your series requires a prequel, things get complicated.

My brain hurts.

Last week I spared you from a new update about my novel-writing progress because there wasn’t much to update you on. I am at the point in the writing process where I’m just doing all I can to get it done. It’s not all great writing and I’m going to have to go back and do a lot of editing when I’m finished (as one does).

I just want this first draft behind me. That’s all I want.

I may not be just cranking out words for the sake of filling in the gaps (I do put a lot of thought into what I’m doing as I’m doing it) but sometimes that’s what it feels like. When you’re at the point I’m at, you can’t always go back and fix things and the thought of adding new things is terrifying and makes you, quite honestly, want to start punching walls.

Sometimes I catch my own continuity errors mid-paragraph and have to go back really quick and highlight sections, color-coordinated, which I need to make sure I go back to when editing and make sure they match up.

Sometimes I realize a piece of dialogue is mostly pointless and I won’t be able to keep it in later drafts.

Sometimes I figure out nothing other than the connection I’m trying to make between point A and point B makes no sense, and I still don’t know how I’m going to fix it later. I just know I’ll need to.

It really gets frustrating when I try to weave in foreshadowing, knowing it’s going to be important later in the series even though it doesn’t make sense now. Sometimes I know what the endpoint of a particular plot line is, but I have no idea how to get my characters there.

I think people who aren’t writers must think we’re amazing, because from the outside, from the viewpoint of the finished product, it looks like we were actually smart enough to figure out how to tie everything together, boom, just like that.

Except that’s a lie, because we don’t always have all the answers. Or I don’t, at least. I don’t know if my beginning and ending come full circle the way I need them to, I don’t know if character x’s motive is too obvious or not clear enough. I don’t know if any of the sci-fi stuff makes sense outside my head. I don’t know if my MC’s character flaw is big enough, significant enough.

I worry that this is all just going to keep going on and on forever, that I’m never going to finish before NaNoWriMo, that even when I’m finished with this first draft, it will never make it past that stage.

I must really believe this is all worth it, or that it will be someday, because I have no idea what I’m doing and each day that passes, each day that I’m still not done yet, it seems less and less worth the effort.

But if I can push through it, if I can keep going, you can, too. GO! GO! GO!!!!!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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.

I’m Getting Closer (Midweek Novel Update #15)


So if you haven’t heard, I’m writing a book.

You already knew that, if you’ve been keeping up with me for awhile (to those who followed this blog before 2015, kudos). But for those who haven’t heard, I’m over three years into an idea-turned-almost-sort-of-a-novel-type-thing, and soon enough, it’s going to pay off.

And by that, of course, I mean I’m going to finish it and do my happy dance and drink a celebratory pot of coffee and then sleep for a year.

Yes, you read that right. I AM GOING TO FINISH IT. Soon, Like, at the rate I’m going, possibly within the next month or so. That kind of soon.

I’m freaking out.

This story has not turned out the way I planned, as is usually the case. And I’m finding now that, the closer I get to filling in all the gaps and calling it done, the more freely I’m willing to move things around, change wording, delete pieces of scenes I don’t need anymore. Which I never do, unless I have a pretty good idea of where the story is heading.

The thing is, I haven’t finished writing a book in years. YEARS. Life just got busy. I’d start projects for Wrimos and never got around to finishing most of them. Actually, the last book I started and finished, I wrote during the summer after my freshman year of college. Unfortunately, looking back, that was sort of a long time ago, now that I keep having these crazy things called birthdays every four seconds.

I remember how it feels to be so attached, and then have to let go.

I’m not ready.

I always like to say writing a book is like raising a kid. I don’t actually know what that’s like from personal experience, but it’s exactly what I imagine parenthood is going to be like for me someday. Sometimes it’s too exhilarating to be able to look away. Sometimes you just want to squish your face into a pillow and scream.

But as the story develops, so do you. You learn so much about yourself and about the idea growing and changing right before your eyes.

And then all of a sudden that tiny little idea is all grown up, packing its bags for college, not really needing you the way it used to.

Actual parents, don’t yell at me if I’m generalizing too much. Personifying the novel-writing process just makes it easier to describe to people who have never been through it before, and after years of trying, I just can’t seem to come up with a better analogy.

I don’t want to finish writing this book. It is my life. My world. When I’m not physically working on it, I’m thinking about it. All the time. Which might seem a little obsessive, if you’ve never been through this before.

But that’s what gets me through it. I set a goal to write 1,000 words a day, to keep myself on some kind of schedule even though I don’t really have a solid routine going right now. Sometimes I fly past that mark, but usually I hit it and have to move onto something else. That’s life. But it’s always on my mind. Characters randomly whisper their lines in my head. Especially when I’m trying to sleep.

I know it’s about time to say goodbye. Since April, when I started this project over basically from scratch, I’ve worried over it constantly. I know it can never be perfect, and at this stage in my life, that doesn’t disappoint me. I just wonder what’s going to happen when I finish this one, when it’s finally over.

Yet I know, deep down, exactly what will happen. I’ll close it out and file it away and return to it for editing only when I feel ready.

I need a break. I am exhausted. This story keeps wanting to branch off into a million directions, and that can’t happen. There’s only so much I can cram into one book. And there’s only so much, out of that, I even should.

I’m about to hit the 65,000-word mark, and while I know there’s probably a lot more to come, there isn’t much. I’m further from the midpoint than I realized. I’m going to guess that I really am less than a month away.

How did this happen?

I hope this feeling is normal, because it’s terrifying.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter.