Project HEAL to Receive Royalties from February’s Novella Concept Story

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, all royalties earned through sales of February’s novella will go to Project HEAL.

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I know you haven’t heard much about any of my (many) projects lately, and I apologize for that. (Newsletter subscribers, however, are probably sick of hearing about them by now …)

I am always 120 percent dedicated to helping you live a more awesome writing life. Sometimes that means I have to keep most of my more personal updates to myself so I don’t spoil any surprises (and so I have enough energy to keep dishing out tips and all that motivational stuff everyone loves so much).

In addition to book writing and freelancing and people-managing (and school, and petting my cat, all equally important things), I have been working on my second novella of the year. And hopefully by the time this goes up, I will be done with the first draft (fingers crossed).

Which means I can officially announce the title, release date AND donations recipient for February’s Novella Concept story. EXCITING!!

For those of you who are just joining us, here’s a rundown of what’s going on. After Project for Awesome 2015, I was inspired to start my own ‘movement’ of sorts, a way that I (and anyone else who wanted to join me) could raise money for different causes all year round by writing stories.

The Novella Concept is an experiment. Each month in 2016 I’ll be writing and self-publishing a novella, and the royalties earned for each of those novellas will go to different charities to support the causes addressed in that story. Pretty cool, huh?

Last month we published our first novella, and will be donating every cent we make from that novella to This Star Won’t Go Out. So if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, you still can!

February’s novella, Skin and Tears, will be available online starting February 23. In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, all royalties earned through those sales will go to Project HEAL, a nonprofit that provides funds and hope for those seeking recovery from eating disorders.

I am really excited to share this story with you, but more importantly, I hope you will be able to find some way to support The Novella Concept and all of the charities we will be supporting for as long as people continue to purchase these stories.

How you can get involved

Set some money aside for future novellas. They cost less than $10 because I want everyone to be able to afford to contribute, but if you want to buy more than one copy for your friends and family, you are more than welcome to do that. The more copies you buy, the more money we can give to those who really need the support.

Join our Facebook group for updates and more discussion about The Novella Concept and the causes we’re supporting through this effort.

TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW about The Novella Concept. Getting the word out is probably the best thing you can do to help us out right now. The more people that know about this opportunity, whether they want to write too or just want to support these causes, the more of a difference we can make together.

Thank you so much to those who have already donated and supported this idea. My hope is that we will be able to grow a little more each month and really show how powerful words can be.

If you have any questions about The Novella Concept, I will be more than happy to answer them.

Happy writing!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Project HEAL.

Introducing The Novella Concept, Our 2016 Writing Challenge

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So I’ve been doing some thinking lately. Dangerous, I know.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. Obviously. About how, as much as we all would love to get paid to write (and many of us do), that’s not really why we do it. We simply want to be able to do what we love while making a decent living doing it.

But here’s the thing. I think we can do better than that.

I think there’s a way we can all accomplish our overall goal – to write as much and as often as possible – while contributing to something much bigger. A cause, or multiple, that satisfies much more than our desire to put our ideas into words.

Friends. Fellow writers. I think we can take it a step further, and turn our words into actions. To promote change, just by sitting down and writing.

That’s why I’m taking a risk this year. Not for myself, but for hundreds of thousands of people I’ve never met. You can join me, if you want. Here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to write 12 novellas this year. You read that right: 12. One novella per month. Each covering a different topic. Each addressing an issue that needs attention, the kind of attention only storytelling can  gift.

I’m going to take those finished novellas and self-publish them on Amazon throughout the year. And I’m going to donate the money, every cent, to 12 different charities, each representing one of the causes I address in each of my novellas.

That might seem like a lot of work to do if I’m just going to give the money away.

I don’t see it that way.

I see it as a chance for me to give something to someone in need when I have nothing to give other than my ideas and my words.

I’m telling you this so I don’t brush this idea off to the side like we’ve all done so many times before. It’s been rolling around in my head ever since Project for Awesome, in that way good ideas do. I waited for it to go away and it hasn’t. So that’s how I know this is meant to be. And I hope, if you are willing, if you have the time and words to spare, you will join me, and write at least one novella this year to contribute to the cause.

There will come more info as the month goes on about how we can make this more of a community effort. I will probably start a Facebook group as a place where I, or a few of us, can share our finished work with one another and help promote this totally awesome (and terrifying) idea I’ve come up with.

For now, check out this page with more general info about The Novella Concept.

I’m not asking you to make a commitment to writing one novella or 12 or anything in-between. You have your own goals to achieve in 2016. I am asking for your support. There will be periodic updates, because to be honest, I’m a bit terrified this will not actually happen. I can write a lot in a short amount of time, but I’ve never done anything like this before.

Then again, it’s not about me, is it? It’s about everyone else. I’m not just donating to charity. I’m using my words to make a difference, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do anyway.

I don’t know. I think it’s a great idea.

I’ll keep you updated.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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.

My 2016 Writing Goals

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I’ve been thinking a lot about goals over the past few days, and was really disappointed when I went back into this blog’s archives to look for the post I thought I’d made at the end of 2014 about what I wanted to accomplish in 2015. Apparently I never wrote one, nor did I write an end-of-year response to my 2013 goals. So that’s a bit of a downer.

BUT. While I’m in a goal-setting mood, I thought I would share a few of my writing goals for the upcoming year with you this morning.

Why? Because I’ve been watching the Project for Awesome live stream for almost 48 hours and my brain can’t handle any other kind of thinking at the moment. So.

It’s a good time of year to start thinking about goals. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions – I would rather set year-long goals that I can work toward accomplishing. (I just wrote New York Resolutions and almost didn’t catch it, SMS I need a nap you guys.) Measurable goals. Something more than, “I want to eat healthier.” How do you even define that?

That’s why NY Resolutions fail. We need SMART goals. Don’t let me continue this rant. Google it if you’re confused.

Anyway. Goals.

Finish writing my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel

I really wanted to finish before the end of the year (within the month), but honestly, that’s probably not going to happen. I’m tired. Not just I’ve-been-awake-way-too-many-of-the-last-48-hours tired. This has been a good, but long and exhausting year. I’ve taken 20 credit hours of graduate classes since March, on top of everything else, which might not seem like a lot unless you’ve experienced the grad school life. I already wrote basically one entire novel this year. I need to take my time, and take some time for myself too, so I can kick some serious 2016 butt.

Write and send out a query letter (er, many query letters for one piece of novel-length writing)

For which book? I have no idea. There are a few good ones to choose from. You all can help me decide if you want, just tell me so and I’ll maybe give you a few excerpts.

Finish grad school

Meg, that’s not a writing goal! YES IT IS! My last two courses will actually be writing courses, AND, finishing my degree will allow me to do more writing because of all the free time I’ll have thereafter. Haha. Free time. Hahahahaha.

Write some novellas for a secret project I’m not telling you about yet

Wait what? Nope. That news is coming very, very soon. Keep checking back for more information on how you can get involved (Yes! YOU!)

There are a few more, but I am so, so very tired.

Do you have any writing goals for the upcoming year? Or other goals that, when accomplished, will allow you to do more writing? Share! I’m going to get some more coffee. Looking forward to your comments (preferably not about how I can’t word properly today, but you’re welcome to leave those too if you so desire).

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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

How to Use End-of-Chapter Cliffhangers As Practice Tools | Novelty Writing Challenge

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While cliffhangers at the end of books tend to annoy and disappoint many readers (either they don’t want to wait a year to find out what happens next or they can’t handle unanswered questions for some reason), ending a book chapter or scene in a short story with a cliffhanger is, well, a different story.

It’s a tough, yet exciting skill to refine. Some stories that don’t have a whole lot of action and are rooted very heavily in character development and backstory need a different element to keep them moving (other than good writing and believable characters). Adding small cliffhangers to the ends of your chapters or scenes can work wonders, if you know how to set them up and execute them effectively.

Let’s go over how you might go about doing that, and then – WHAT – you’ll get the chance to practice! Our first writing challenge! Don’t worry, we’re not asking for much, you have enough writing to do already if you’re NaNoWriMo’ing.

Answer a question but ask two more

The key to writing a page-turner is to leave the reader wondering what’s going to happen next. Even more than that, you want them to literally not be able to stop reading because they need answers. What will frustrate a reader, though, is trying to read a story that raises more and more questions without answering a few of them along the way.

Give your reader tiny bursts of satisfaction within your chapters before you end them leaving more to be answered later. This is tricky in terms of pacing, since you have to figure out how to keep your book moving at just the right speed. It takes practice, and it might help to jot down the answers to the questions your story brings up so you can start working your way up to answering them.

Be careful with foreshadowing

Foreshadowing during your cliffhangers is a great technique to use, but how you use it depends on the tense of your story. You wouldn’t want to use a phrase like, “If I had known then” if your story is in the present-tense. How could your narrator look back on past events if they haven’t happened yet, right?

If you’re writing in the present-tense, you’ll need to be a bit clever in the way you insert the tiniest of hints into your prose. (Someone in my English class in high school actually asked me once how writers come up with these hints. I still have no idea. It just comes to you.) Writing in the past tense, you can hint at the fact that the future narrator knows what’s coming before everyone else does.

Let’s look at an example

I’ll return to my recently finished book for a second for an already-written example of one way to use an end-of-chapter cliffhanger. A little background: two students at the Academy disappear; one ends up coming back later not to pleased with our narrator. This line comes a few chapters before, at the end of a transitional scene (a literary bridge from one turning point to another).

I never once considered they might still be somewhere close, lurking in the shadows, waiting.

This story, told in the past-tense, has a lot of these foreshadowing snippets tacked onto the ends of chapters. The technique works in this case because the narrator is actually looking back on the events that led up to the present, in which she’s sitting down to write down her account of what happened.

The line asks a series of new questions as well: are they still around (likely), where are they and what are they waiting for?

Now let’s see you try it

Practice makes … better, right? Practicing different methods to end your chapters with a little suspense can really help us learn how to keep our readers guessing, whether the narrator knows what’s coming or not. So how about it? Let’s see what you can do.

In a comment at the end of this post, write a sentence (or a few, if you need a bit more buildup) similar to the one above. See if, in that one sentence or small paragraph, you can leave us going, “WHAT? WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?”

It can be something you’ve already written (bonus points if you’ve never showed it to anyone before) or something you come up with “on the spot.” It could even technically help you squeeze some more words in today, if you need them.

It doesn’t have to be “good” and nobody’s going to judge you (promise!). See what you can come up with. Add a little hint of mystery to your day and practice a super fun writing technique at the same time!

Write on! Good luck! DFTBA! May The Force be with you! Whichever salutation you prefer.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.