Accidents Happen, and Sometimes You Just Have to Let Them

It doesn’t make sense, but whatever.

I accidentally started writing a new novel yesterday.

I didn’t mean to. I swear. There was just … this one sentence.

You know how it goes. A line pops into your head, begging for a spot in your book. Which is great, if you’ve already started writing the book that sentence belongs in.

It’s relentless, this sentence. It circles around in your head until you either write it down or go insane listening to it on repeat.

So there was this one sentence I couldn’t get out of my head. I was at work — I really, really needed to concentrate.

Picture it: my lunch break. This collection of words whispering in my ear. I knew I couldn’t stand it much longer. Just write this sentence down and leave it. Leave it alone.

I wrote down that sentence.

And then another sentence came to me.

And another.

I spent my entire lunch break writing.

And when it was over, I realized I’d started writing a new book completely against my will.


I’ve had this novel idea (both an idea for a book and an original idea … heh) for a long time. It’s been slowly building itself up in my mind for months. But I’ve been holding it back, since I’m still trying to finish the two novels I have yet to complete, and I’m BUSY.

I’m pretty sure that at some point, after being told “no” for an extended period of time, an idea simply can no longer take no for an answer. At least that’s how it felt as I sat there writing the first page of this new book, trying — and failing — to stop it from happening.

If an idea is meant to become a piece of writing, maybe there comes a moment when it must be written. I did not consciously make the decision to do this. I do not want to start writing a new book right now. Because I know that if I do, it will consume every waking moment of my life for the next month.

I already can’t get it off my mind. And it’s only one page.


And yet, it’s been so long since this idea first came to me (and I don’t even remember how) that I feel I already know these characters as if we’ve been friends for years. I know what’s going to happen to them. I can’t wait to tell their stories.

I don’t know how this is going to work out — this whole having started writing a new book thing. I was not prepared for this. I don’t even know if I’m going to keep writing it or if I just needed to get some of the story out, and I’ll be OK for the next six months.

But I will admit … falling that deep into fiction writing again felt GOOD.

I apologize in advance for the next few weeks, during which I will most likely lose my gosh dang mind.

You have been warned.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

Essentials of an Effective Plot Twist

PLOT TWIST: the writer is actually the villain. :O


You love and hate them – those twists and turns in your favorite stories that make you want to throw your beloved book across the room. It’s one thing to read them … but to write them effectively is both a challenge and a worthwhile creative adventure.

Here are a few essential elements to consider when working a plot twist into your novel.

A character acting or reacting in an unexpected way

Up until this point in your story, you should have developed your main characters enough so that a reader has clear expectations as to how they should behave in specific situations. It’s now your job to completely disregard your reader’s expectations – purposefully, of course – and have a particular character behave in a way that is, at least from the reader’s point of view, completely out of character.

We expect Jo (Little Women) to agree to marry Laurie when he asks. They’re good friends, they’re adorable together and WE JUST WANT ALL OUR DREAMS TO COME TRUE. But she turns him down. We might get the feeling she would say no, but we still expect them to get engaged because they clearly care about each other. It’s unexpected … but it ends up working out just fine in the end.

Circling back to a previous point of foreshadowing or backstory

Foreshadowing is possibly one of the more challenging, but extremely rewarding, methods of subtly building up to a plot twist. It’s hard to be subtle, especially when you know what’s going to happen, even though your audience shouldn’t (yet). But giving small hints creates intrigue, bringing small pieces of the plot puzzle to form, and as soon as that plot twist hits, all those pieces fall (satisfyingly, maybe) into place.

A little background can also help, as a means of foreshadowing or on its own. Backstory can instill its significance in one short sentence or a series of flashbacks. Laurie and Amy, when Amy is still far too young to marry, discuss love and marriage (sort of, and briefly) on their way to Aunt March. We don’t necessarily take that to mean they’re going to get married to each other years later. BUT THEY DO. It’s a quick but significant scene. We might even forget about it once it’s over. But not for long.

Completely destroying the mental and emotional well-being of your audience

In a good way? In a bad way? Doesn’t matter. This is not the time to be considerate of others’ feelings. If you can’t get an exaggerated emotional reaction out of a reader as a result of your plot twist, you’re not doing it right. Don’t tell me you’ve never called out in frustration or felt dead inside after a book, movie or TV show completely ruined you for life. You’ve likely never forgotten that feeling. That is how your readers need to feel.

How do you achieve this? Have characters turn on each other. Reveal their true identities or personalities. Set someone up for success and then have them fail, or vise versa. This doesn’t mean you always have to end a story with an unhappy feel; a plot twist doesn’t have to come at the very end. The idea is to keep the audience invested in a story. If it isn’t turning out the way they want, they’re more likely to continue reading, holding onto the hope that maybe things will all turn out OK in the end. It won’t always – but that really depends on the story itself, whether or not there are multiple parts in a series, etc.

Not every reader enjoys this kind of storytelling, but as a writer, you might find it’s too fun not to at least try. I don’t know about you, but I’m delightfully impressed with Disney’s new era of animated films … which, thus far as I’ve seen, have included plot twists I never saw coming (I’m talking to you, Zootopia). It’s the kind of thing you hate to watch but love to experience. Stay in that mindset as you’re setting up your own twisted, slightly evil plots. You’re going to fall in love with them, I can guarantee 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How (and Why) I Wrote 13,000 Words in 36 Hours

13K in 36 hours is a lot of words.


They say the closer you get to the finish line, the harder it gets. Until the very end. Then time ceases to exist, and before you know it, it’s over.

This is just as true for running (the last mile is always the fastest, at least it always has been for me) as it is for writing. I experienced the phenomenon once again this past weekend, when July 30 hit and I realized I was probably not going to meet my goal of winning Camp NaNoWriMo, which takes place every April and July.

Yet somehow, at 8:00 PM on Sunday night, I found myself exhausted, a thousand words away from another NaNo win. And I don’t know how, but it just sort of happened. Those last thousand words just came out of my brain and ended up finishing out my novella without much struggle.

I am a competitive person: I always have been. I hate losing, even when the only person I’m competing against is myself. So that’s why, in a time span of about 36 hours, I pushed nearly every other responsibility aside and cranked out 13,000 words – a little less than 5,000 on Saturday and  a little over 8,000 on Sunday.

Why did I do this? Because it was one of my goals for the year, and y’all know how I am about goals. Because I’m behind on my 12-novella project and needed to use Camp as a way to push myself to (almost) get back on track.

How did I do this? By taking advantage of my procrastination habit (not recommended). By using my trick of writing 1,000 words at a time, taking a short break and going right back to it. By focusing on the story, not the spelling or grammar or formatting. By getting off social media and turning off my phone. All things we can all afford to do more often, especially on weekends.

Here’s the thing. We have a way of talking ourselves down, thinking it’s too late, thinking it’s too much or too hard. Believing we can’t do it, that we don’t have to do it. Technically, you don’t have to write anything at all, ever, on your own. No one is ever going to force you to write something. So when it comes down to it, not only are you the only one who can talk yourself out of writing more than you think you can handle at one time; you’re also the only one who can talk yourself into it.

You’re placed into “cabins” as a Camp participant – smaller writing groups where you can interact on a discussion board. No one in my cabin had posted anything in over a week at that point. I knew that would be the case before I even checked. We make the mistake, usually, of thinking there are going to be other people, other writers, who are going to be there to support us. In some cases, yes, there will be. But in most cases, especially when writing at the last possible second, you’re on your own.

I had to make the choice to sit down and write all those words, by myself, without any support. And that’s not a complaint, either. You learn, the more you write, that there are times you cannot rely on other people to help you. People like to say they’re going to be there to cheer you on, and often they mean it. But the reality is, people get sucked into their own projects. They procrastinate, and find themselves racing to the finish line, and just can’t be there for you, no matter how much they might wish they could be.

I still participate in writing months and challenges because they push me. They remind me that, as a writer, I’m much more capable of exceeding my own expectations than I think I will be. 13K in 36 hours is a lot of words. They weren’t the best words I’ve ever written; I’m going to have a heck of a time editing this weekend. But it was worth it. Why would you just stop, why would you just give up, when you’re fully capable of putting all those Netflix shows and YouTube videos and podcast episodes on hold until you have all your writing done?

I still procrastinate. It’s not something I’m ever going to “get over” in my writing, because more often than not, it pushes me to get more done than I often believe I’m capable of. Maybe challenges like these aren’t for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think we all need some kind of writing challenge to stretch us beyond our limits.

For me, it isn’t about winning. It isn’t about the quality of the work (which seems counter-productive, but hang with me for a sec). I go into it knowing I’m going to have to edit a lot when I come out on the other side. But writing that much in such a short amount of time, whether it’s April or July or November, that’s when I’m at my most creative, in terms of fiction writing. Though 90 percent of what I might write is going to need revising, within that 10 percent are some of the best sentences and pieces of dialogue I have ever written.

It’s those small pieces of writing that make it worth the effort. It’s those mini masterpieces that remind you it’s OK to be proud of the things you write. If you’re in need of that kind of reminder, find a writing challenge, or create your own. I may never publish a full-length novel. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I use my need to write to fuel my desire to continuously learn and grow.

Some of you write whenever, however much you want, simply because you enjoy it, and in some cases, because you need to release the creative energy bottled up inside you. I get that; I’ve been there. I think we all at least start out as casual creators, seeing what we can do with the stories floating around inside our heads like mist. Some of us go beyond that point, and realize we need to write to maintain some sort of manageable mental health state (or something like that).

Whatever your reason for writing, never underestimate yourself. Never think you can’t. But also never think you “have to.” Always try to uncover and hold close your reason for doing what you do. That’s where my 13,000 words came from. All I had to do was remind myself over and over that it was my choice. When you feel like you’re choosing to do something, it becomes less of a chore, and much more of an adventure.

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

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.

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I’m Not Working On My Novel As Much As I Want to Be, and That’s Not OK

This past November, I ended National Novel Writing Month with 53,029 words of a novel in front of me.


This past November, I ended National Novel Writing Month with 53,029 words of a novel in front of me. As of today, I have reached a total word count of a little over 59,000 words.

So basically, I’ve hardly written anything. Which is embarrassing. And tragic.

It would be even more embarrassing to admit this, though, if I didn’t have a reasonable excuse for writing an average of 100 or so words per day all winter. It’s not like I’m spending all my other time playing Minecraft (though … there’s some of that, too). This past week, I have averaged about 3,000 to 4,000 words every day, for writing I’m actually getting paid to do.

Which is great. But it’s not my novel. And as grateful as I am to have the opportunity to turn my passion into a little income to help me finish school, I feel increasingly guilty with each week that passes when I realize I’m not spending as much time on the story I committed to in November as I wish I could.

With my freelance work and The Novella Concept and work and school, it’s just hard. Really hard. I make it a point to work on it at least a little every day, but that’s still not enough. I know I should be putting more effort into it, but there are only so many hours in a day. What’s hardest for me is remembering that this thing has no guarantee of ever getting published, meaning all the effort I wish I could dedicate to it may not reap the reward I always secretly hope it will.

As much as that’s no excuse to quit, and it has never stopped me before, it gets harder and harder every day to write for free. I love my story and my characters. I really do. I plan on finishing this novel, editing it and seeing where I can take it from there. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take to get to that point. And that scares me.

I have a goal to finish it by the end of the year. I finish my graduate work in October, which means I could spend the bulk of November and December finishing it up. But I’ll still have two more novellas and 50,000 words of a different novel to write during those months. Just because one commitment ends doesn’t mean it’s going to get any easier to find the time to finish it, and make it good.

I’m sharing these worries and frustrations with you today because I am always telling you the same thing: you have time to write, you need to stop making excuses, just sit down and do it. I want you to know that I’m working on following my own advice here.

I struggle with the exact same things related to writing as you do. I need to change some things in my life (less Minecraft, more sleep) so that I have more energy to get more of my novel written. I really need to sit down and figure out what I need to do to make this happen. And I’m not going to give up. I’m going to finish writing this book. It means that much to me.

Does that mean it’s going to be easy? What do you think? Of COURSE not. I’m exhausted. I am in the middle of writing a 15 page paper about mental health and it is wearing me out. I’m halfway done with March’s novella. I’m trying to hold back another idea for a new project until I can be certain I’m not going to completely lose my mind (or my hands).

This stuff is hard. I don’t complain about it though, because it is very easy to choose to quit. We could all just abandon this whole writing thing right now, get real jobs and wouldn’t have to deal with the unique kind of stress art and creativity puts on us. But we don’t quit. We can’t. We finish what we start. We are strong. We WILL write that thing and FINISH IT and it will be AWESOME.

Right? Right. Now get back to writing.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

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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.

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.

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