NaNoWriMo Week 2 – Books to Inspire Your Writing

Hey NaNo novelists! Well, it’s already week 2 – how are your novels going? Will you be ashamed of me to hear how my novel is going? (Yeah, about that… I may not have written more than 1 day’s worth…)

So, this writer’s not so on top of her game. That’s okay – there’s still a lot that can be done in 21 days. If Young Adult author Aprilynne Pike can write a novel draft in one week because she got on a roll (I remember hearing that somewhere), we can do it in several weeks!

I feel like week 2 is the hardest week during NaNo. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think sometimes for me, that’s when the excitement sometimes starts to wear off, and the finish line isn’t quite in sight like it is in Week 3.

So, how about some encouragement? I thought I’d talk about some books that have influenced my writing. Some of them are novels, and some are nonfiction how-to creative writing books. Sometimes if I’m not in the writing mood, all I need to do is page through one of these and then I’m suddenly excited about writing again.

  1. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. This is a fun one to read. More basic than I thought it would be, but it’s kind of cool to hear explained some of the things writers take for granted or do without thinking.
  2. Any James Patterson young adult book. Sure, they’re very commercial and well-known, but Patterson has an interesting technique of writing very short chapters, and his series like Maximum Ride and Witch&Wizard never cease to capture my interest quickly. It’s interesting to read something as a writer, looking at the techniques the author uses, and Patterson has novel structuring down.
  3. The Writer’s Block by Jason Rekulak. Yep, this is literally a block of book. I got this for my birthday recently and it is fun to play around with. It has a lot of random ideas to jump start your writing if you get stuck.
  4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. If you want an example of wonderfully developed characters in a fantasy/sci-fi setting, this series is the one to learn from. Meyer is a master at developing interesting and believable characters.
  5. I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan. This may seem random, but if you like books, you probably like libraries. What I like about this book is that from these crazy stories you learn a lot of strange things about what humans do or say that you never would have thought of before. And they’re true! Any collection of crazy stories would do. Real life really is stranger than fiction, so maybe we can learn from it and use some crazy story to fuel our NaNo!

So this is not comprehensive, but if you need to renew your writing excitement or just want to read a book for fun again, try one of these out!

I’d also love to hear how you’re doing in NaNo. Still going strong or have you run into a wall? Let me know in the comments of any ideas or topics you’d like me to post about during NaNo!


Image Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

NaNoWriMo Kickoff!

Guess what, writers? It’s finally that time of year – the beginning of November – a writer’s best friend! We’re kicking off NaNoWriMo, so let’s do it with a running start, 2.3 tons of chocolate, and a couple explosions (fictional ones, but of course).

As I’ve said before, I just never get around to planning my NaNo novel in October, especially not in my university student years. This year, it’s even more challenging for me – 3 presentations, all due at the beginning of November. So that means that no, I didn’t actually start NaNo on November 1st this year, but that’s not going to stop me from getting to the finish line.

With all this excitement and the likely accompanying adrenaline rush you may be receiving that usually comes along with the start of a new challenge, you all may breezing through this thing. Or maybe you’re thinking, I don’t know how I’m going to possibly write that many words without describing the 203 different threads of color in my protagonist’s bedroom rug. Either way, today I’m going to give you 3 things to do to make sure you keep those words flowing.

  1. Find your favorite writing place. Chances are, you already have one. If so, try some new ones, because a change of atmosphere and surroundings will do wonders. Try matching it to the tone of the scene you’re writing. So if you’re writing a scene where your character is working amid the chaos of a restaurant kitchen, find a chaotic, noisy place like that. No, don’t necessarily sneak into a restaurant’s back room, but just try to match the tone. Something about putting yourself in the right mindset like this has worked great for me. Once, I was writing a bustling, energy-filled scene of my novel and without thinking about it, I brought my notebook with me to write in a crazy Black Friday line at 1am. Totally unintentional, but the atmosphere made my story feel real.
  2.  Do word sprints. Ah, those lovely things I live off of like coffee. Time yourself and see how much of your novel you can write in 5 minutes. Then 10 minutes. Race other writers you know or meet online. Just never let your fingers stop typing. If it’s not coming out, open a new document and type out a list of “rules” about your fantasy world, in no particular order or structure. Or write every thing you can think about your character. This contributes to your story too – it’s not a waste. Plus, it’s time you might be spending staring at a white screen otherwise, anyway.
  3. Rewards! All of the rewards. I’ve talked about this before, but when you find your mind wandering to all the other cool things you could be doing, come up with rewards when you meet certain word marks. Whether that is a kitten picture, a movie you’ve been wanting to watch, or not having to wash the dishes, pick something, and have someone else only give you this thing if you make your goal. My ML (municipal liason – basically the NaNo coordinator for my town) told me she knew someone who made out a check to a nonprofit he hated, gave it to a friend, and told him to send it to the organization if he didn’t make his word goal (he made his word goal).

As Day 2 of NaNo winds down, let’s keep going strong! Let me know in the comments how your novels are going so far. How much have you written? Have you hit any roadblocks? Throughout the month of NaNo, I’ll be posting more regularly than normal, so stay tuned for lots more NaNo talk, motivation, and (quite possibly) a few rants about chocolate deprivation.

Getting Ready for NaNo – For Those Who Can’t Stand Planning

If you’re like me, you are waiting until the very end of October to choose your story idea for your NaNoWriMo novel. That’s right, I’ve been doing NaNo for about five years now, and still, every time, I wait until the last minute to launch myself into a month of chaos, telling myself I’ll figure it out along the way.  Somehow it’s always worked for me. I turned in my second novel to a local novel writing contest 6 minutes before the deadline (and I won). I’ve written a NaNo novel and worked up into the last hours to finish it.

I’m not encouraging procrastination. Just that for some people like me, it inevitably happens, and it still ends up okay. No matter how much I tell myself I will plot out my entire novel and write an outline so I know exactly where I’m heading, it just doesn’t happen. And I’ve accepted that.

If you can’t stand outlines or if the word “plot” is enough to get you scrambling under the covers, there is still something you can do to get ready for NaNo!

Figure out your character. If I do nothing else, I like to create a little character questionnaire. This is not intimidating because it is basically not much more than a list. Lists I can do! I write lists of things to do all the time—the actual doing is the hard part.

Anyway, because it’s just a list, the idea is that it is un-time-consuming and fun. To start your character questionnaire, write down how your character looks physically. You know you’re going to come up with that first anyway—and you might as well get it down now, because having an image of your character in your mind might help anyway. Then, think of a sensory detail about them other than how they look. Maybe they always smell like soap. Or maybe they stutter when they talk.

Next, think about how your character thinks—what goes on inside their head. Do they make sarcastic commentary about their surroundings that never leaves their lips? Do they think about their absent father every time they see a carnival corn dog wrapper? Maybe they calculate probability before making any kind of decision.

Finally, what is it that your character wants in your story? Maybe a teen wants to win a science fair because she thinks that will catch the attention of a boy she likes in class. Then, maybe something about the character’s personality stops this want from happening. So, perhaps the teen’s obsession with calculating probabilities of her science project working and of the boy noticing her is discouraging her from making any moves at all. That makes conflict.

Hey, conflict! That is basically right on the edge of plot. So stop there before your internal panic button alarm goes off. And you now have a character! When November comes around, you can look at what you now know about your character and ask why? Why do they always smell like soap? And this will push you straight into story.

Okay, yes, technically this character questionnaire is planning. But hey, it’s pretty painless, right? If you want to try a template for a questionnaire, try out one like this!


Image credit: qrevolution under Attribution 2.0 Generic License.