Rocking NaNoWriMo: 7 Tips for Reaching 50,000 Words

We’re almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, which encourages writers to participate in a 30-day challenge. The goal? Write 50,000 words in the month of November. Tens of thousands of people have participated since the program’s creation, and many of them have gone on to complete manuscripts, make great writing friends, or eventually sell books. Amazing!

50,000 words in 30 days can sound daunting (especially if you’re planning to spend a whole weekend in a Thanksgiving-dinner-induced food coma). But here are seven ways to make the most out of NaNoWriMo and to help you reach your goal. Continue reading

Writing with a Coauthor: 6 Smart Strategies

Thinking of cowriting a novel? A lot of folks have done it. Some recent YA examples include Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and my personal favorite, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Cowriting can be a blessing…and a curse. On the pro side, you only need to write half a book and you have a built-in brainstorming buddy. On the con side, think of how agonizing it is to write your own first draft, and then imagine having to share that with another human being who is writing an equally agonizing first draft. Or consider having to make compromises when you really, really don’t want to. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Avoid disaster with the six strategies below that will help you make cowriting work. Continue reading

Writing Conferences: Get Your Money’s Worth

Can I just say, I can never figure out if it is supposed to be “writers conferences” or “writers’ conferences.” No one seems to use the apostrophe, but aren’t the conferences for/belonging to the writers? These are the things that keep me up at night!

Grammar existentialism aside, let’s talk about writers(‘) conferences. They are incredible places to meet agents, editors, and fellow writers, to work on your craft, and to pitch you book. However, they do tend to come with a price tag. So how can you get your money’s worth?

1. Go with goals. Before your conference begins, write down a list of 5 or 10 realistic goals you want to accomplish. Do you want to finish drafting your novel? Meet a new critique partner? Find an agent? Make an effort to cross each of your goals off during the conference. Continue reading

The 15 Books Every Writer Should Own

Take it from the girl that has five overflowing bookshelves (not counting the ones in my office or the boxes stashed away in friends’ and family members’ basements): You can never have too many books. But if you are an aspiring writer, or even a seasoned one, there are 15 must-have books that will help you take your craft to the next level. Check out the list below, and add your favorites in the comments section.

Reference

1. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This is the go-to dictionary for the publishing world.

2. The Chicago Manual of Style Continue reading

Chapter 1: How to Write the Most Important Chapter of Your Book

“Chapter 1.” Two magical words that give no indication to the hours upon hours authors spend perfecting those first few pages. Without a captivating opening chapter, writers don’t make it past agents, editors, or readers. Here’s how you can nail writing the beginning of your story.

Make the first line count. I love tense, understated first lines. I love manic, rambling lines full of wildflower prose and turns of phrase I’ve never read before. I love any first line that will make me read it again and think, “Whoa. That’s cool.”

Continue reading

Why Grammar Matters: An Editor’s Perspective

I once heard that grammar is as important to good writing as bread is to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Without the bread—aka the boring, structural piece of your meal—you’re just left holding a mess.

A few weeks ago I attended a conference where there was a discussion about the importance of grammar. An attendee stood up and asked if having technical writing skills and underlying knowledge of grammar was important to being a writer, as she didn’t have an English major background. The panelists almost unanimously said no. One of the panelists went on to say that grammar was what editors were for, and the focus of the writer should be the craft of the book.  Continue reading

The New Year, Old Year, All Year Resolutions Every Writer Should Have

Some of us make New Year’s Resolutions…and some of us make All Year Resolutions (after we’ve stopped going to the gym in February). Whether you’ve stuck to this year’s promises or not, resolve to try these 10 things within the next calendar year. Below are the top 10 resolutions for writers, from setting writing goals to keeping your website fresh to making meaningful connections with other authors. A happy, productive writing year to us all!  Continue reading

Revise Right: Five Steps to Revising Your Novel

As many authors know, writing a novel is only the beginning…the beginning of months and months of revisions! Whether you’re self-publishing, working with a publishing house, or preparing yourself to submit to a literary agent, you want your novel to be as clean as possible before it reaches its readers. Here are five tips for going from first draft to polished work.

  1. Take a breather and start fresh.

After you finish the last page of your novel, take a break. Your first instinct might be to scroll back up to page one, but allow yourself time to reflect on your characters and your story. Give yourself a few days, a few weeks, or even a year off before you start editing. You want to return to your work with fresh eyes and a bit of distance. (And when you do sit down again, save a new version of your document so you have your first draft tucked away for that inevitable moment when you accidentally delete a key plotline.)  Continue reading