NaNoWriMo 2014: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors!

Hello everyone!

I am so so so so SO excited to be sharing in this post today.

I talk about writing and writing advice a lot when it comes to the blog and my aspiring career as a writer. I am lucky enough that I get to interact with authors on a daily basis, side effects whether over the internet or in person, buy more about and I’ve met SO many inspiring ones that have given me such amazing advice. The advice and guidance that I’ve received over the past two years as whatanerdgirlsays has been so helpful in my journey to becoming a better writer.

Now, I have a goal of 45K words for NaNoWriMo but my biggest goal is to really nail down my character and her development over the course of the story. Evie is my main character and Untitled (it will have a title one day, I promise…) is her story. Its her story in the past, when she’s 15 years old, and its her story in the present, at 19 years old. Both important, and it takes a lot of development. She’s going to develop in both stories and its a little overwhelming but I believe in her and my story.

So when I started planning my NaNoWriMo schedule on the blog, I knew that I wanted a post about writing and writing advice and I wanted to reach out to the authors that I’ve met over the past two years and ask for their assistance in creating and developing characters.

I hope you enjoy. Every single piece of advice of below is unique to this post. Each author was contacted individually and responded individually. There’s seriously awesome, quality advice down there, and I am so grateful for each and every single one of these authors for participating and helping out!

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Jessica Brody, author of The Unremembered Trilogy

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When first fleshing out a new main character, I like to start by asking myself one question: What motivates this person. Is it power? Ambition? Love? Idealism? Reason? This helps me begin to narrow down who this person is and how they think/respond to situations. Someone who is motivated by power is going to react very differently in a crisis than someone who is motivated by feeling loved. The second question I ask myself is “What does this character want?” And I don’t mean after the book has started. What do they want BEFORE the first page even begins. It always needs to be something tangible and concrete. Like to win a sports championship. To make it onto a team. To graduate valedictorian. This immediately focuses the story around a central goal. It gives the story direction and purpose before the plot has even begun. When your character’s goals are clear, the reader is more likely to come along for the ride.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Sacred duology and Burning

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When I was a younger writer, I used to disbelieve it when I’d hear people talk about their characters surprising them, their characters heading off in directions they hadn’t planned. Impossible, I’d think. Your characters ARE YOU. They can’t disobey you… they aren’t REAL. For me, characters were like dolls that I bounced around from situation to situation.

I think that’s why I had a hard time completing a project, or even falling deeply in love with one. There was no RISK if I walked away from a story, no real LOSS. Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I think I got older. (Actually, I know I got older.) But over time, I started to become surprised when a plotted-out scene or chapter took a turn away from my outline. Pleasantly surprised.

With INFANDOUS, which will be published in March 2015, plot took a backseat to following around Sephora Golding, my main character, and seeing what she would do. Try this–give your character a secret, and then see where it takes you.

Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief

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I’ve found it useful to have all my characters tell their life story and narrate the events of the novel itself in their own voice, with their own commentary.

Katherine Ewell, author of Dear Killer

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My main tip in character development is this: make your main character at least a little bit unlikeable. However, no matter how unlikeable said main character is, your reader has to root for them anyway. The easiest way to make a reader like an unlikeable character is to show said character’s weakness and humanity right off the bat: their fears, their likes, their dislikes, what makes them cry, what comforts them, etc. And you can go pretty far with how unlikeable they are at the surface level, take it from someone who knows! Some of the most vivid, fun characters out there are severely messed up. (Take a look at Game of Thrones for tons of great examples.) I feel as if the worst thing you could do in character creation is make a character that has no flaws, or has too few flaws: it is in their flaws that characters and their stories come alive.

Cora Carmack, author of the Losing It series and Rusk University series 

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When it comes to characterization, I rely pretty heavily on the idea that my main character’s desire should shape the plot, instead of the plot shaping my main character. I don’t want my MC to be just a cog in the bigger mechanism of the story. I want them being the one *making* the machine move, rather than just being a component of it. When I was studying theatre in college, we took a lot of time talking about our character’s objectives and motivations – asking “What does this character want? How will they get it?” and things like that – and that has continued to inform the way I shape my characters.

Tonya Kuper, author of Anomaly

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Every character, especially the main character, has to have a GMC – Goal, Motivation, & Conflict – in relation to the plot. I usually have a pretty good picture of my characters before I start plotting, but after the GMC is decided, I know what matters to them, which, in my mind, is the most important thing to know about her main character.

Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood and The Collector

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I often use friends and family members when creating characters. I note people’s real life quirks and incorporate them into my fictional world. For example, my husband points to what he wants on a menu when ordering. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult-to-pronounce dish, or french fires…that man is holding up the menu for the waitress to see, and pointing to his selection. As if she needs to see the item to understand. No matter how many times I call this to his attention, he still does it. That quirk will probably show up in one of my characters to make them more memorable. My advice is to watch the people around you, and keep notes on your phone.

Sara Benincasa, author of Great

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You have to love your main character. Even if you hate your main character sometimes, you have to love her. Because if you don’t love her, you won’t want to spend the time it takes to churn out 50,000 or more words centered around her. You don’t need to love her choices. You don’t need to love her attitude. But you do need to love her, somehow, in some corner of your soul

Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless

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Getting a handle on a character can be pretty haphazard, because we might start out not really knowing them at all. One thing that helps me is finding an object that captures my character. I knew Yates wore tee shirts with quotes, but when I found Thoreau’s quote– “Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine”–it hit me that was exactly what Yates believed and who he was at heart. In the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, it was a scary religious tattoo that nailed the character of a new antagonist and suggested his unbalanced righteousness.

CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy

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If YOU aren’t connected to your characters, no one else will be connected either. Characters aren’t scenery to populate your world. This includes secondary characters. Characters aren’t pawns to use in playing out your conflict. Characters CREATE conflict. Connection takes time and effort, just like it does in real life. Take the time to get to know your characters on an intimate level. Find out what their deepest fear is, what they most regret, what they truly want more than anything, and the secret they hope no one discovers.

Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy, Before I Fall and Panic

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Do some work to understand what your character wants, and what your character needs, and how these might be different. Think about your character’s formative memories. How does he/she react under pressure? When frightened? What does she like to do for fun? What are her nervous habits? Where does she go to recharge? You have to know your character the way you know your best friend.

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59 and Get Even

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I start with the plot, actually, and the role of my main character in the story. What part does she need to play? What type of person does she need to be so that all of her choices are realistically motivated? Her personality is shaped by the plot, and once I know the core of that, I can begin to layer in the idiosyncracies of character: how she dresses, what she likes to eat, what songs on Pandora make her want to sing along or change the channel, and how she feels about everyone around her. Voila! Character!

Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

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Characters are my favorite part of a book. Everyone is different…but I always start with a character, and build my world around him/her. For me, the best way to develop my characters and get to know them is to interview them–as if they were real people. I find that, even the silliest questions will give you a glimpse into who each character is, and what motivates them.

Bethany Hagen, author of Landry Park

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One of my favorite tricks for developing a character is to make a character sheet before I get started. I use these sheets to help me keep track of a character’s physical attributes (and I might even attach a picture of an actor or model to help me visualize the character.) And I also use these sheets to develop a character’s personality traits: their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their past mistakes. Not only is it a useful tool for conceiving of a character, but it makes a handy reference to come back to during the drafting process.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy and The Body Electric

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When coming up with your main character, don’t be afraid to go into your own personality to find traits. He or she doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you, but if you have a strong emotion—a fear, a desire, a love or hate—build off that emotion to influence your characters. I was never stuck on a space ship alone, but I made Amy of Across the Universe feel alone the same way I felt alone when I had to go to college, 200 miles from home, with no one I knew near me. I never had my memories messed with like Ella in The Body Electric, but I have had relatives who were affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Build on these real feelings you have to create realistic characters.

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust

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I just let my characters go, be real people within the world that I built and let them react naturally, however they want. To me, this is the most organic way of building a “real” fake person.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles

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After I’ve determined the basics of who my protagonist is (name, age, gender, job, etc.), I like to ask myself two important questions. 1: What does this character want? Giving them a goal from page one will immediately give your story somewhere to go. (Although it’s normal for that goal or desire to change over the course of the story.) And 2: What is this character afraid of? Whatever they’re most afraid of is something that they should have to face (possibly multiple times), and will therefore give them somewhere to grow.

Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small quartets and more

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The way I write a character is–usually–to start with a person I know or admire (actor, musician, professional wrestler, the character played by an actor). The look has to grab me for the vague outline of the character I need–teacher/mentor, law enforcement in a very loose era, street kid, Then I go through my baby name books till I find the right name. Once I have the right name and the right look, I generally know the character: intellectual, absent-minded, can be very sexy when he wants to be, but easily distractible, and very dangerous when crossed–that was one. Then I needed the slacker daughter of two famous over-achievers who ended up as a spy in a foreign country. I looked through my files of pictures of girls until I had three or four I thought interesting, then I waited for one to grow on me–the one with her head tipped to the side and the knowing smile. I knew she was a smart-alec, really good at flirting and dancing and being silly while taking in everything around her, a daddy’s girl who lived to make mom nuts, but underneath she needs something to fight for.

Sarah Skilton, author of High and Dry and Bruised

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In my latest book High & Dry, a Young Adult novel written in the style of a hardboiled detective mystery, Palm Valley high school students “traffic in labels.” As a result, it’s very difficult for my main character, Charlie, to break free from his perceived identity, that of a varsity soccer star with a reputation for playing rough. The problem is, Charlie’s identity is a front he projects to the world in order to survive. I needed to show both sides of his personality: that of a tough guy jock accepted by his peers, and that of a heart-broken sci-fi nerd–a trait he keeps hidden. For example, Charlie tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Ellie, by suggesting they both take Ellie’s little brother to a sci-fi movie. In this way, he gets to show Ellie he’s a “nice guy” while also indulging his own secret hope of seeing the movie. When constructing a main character, ask yourself, “Who is this person really, and who does he/she pretend to be?” The answers may surprise you!

Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles and the Seven Realms series

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After publishing nine books and writing several more, I still haven’t settled on the best way to develop character. Everything goes much more smoothly if I know the character very well from the beginning. And yet, that process of filling out a character questionnaire or deciding what he has in his pockets or dresser drawer doesn’t really work for me.

With the Seven Realms series, I knew the main characters, Han Alister, Raisa ana’Marrianna, and Micah sul’Bayar very well, because I had already written extensively about them as adults. So all I had to do was think about what they would have been like at sixteen and seventeen. Because I had their characters well in hand, story flowed more or less effortlessly.

But writing three hundred thousand words about a character before you get started on a novel isn’t really efficient, is it? So mostly, I get to know characters in the same way as we get to know people in real life–by spending time with them. In other words, I get to know them while writing my first draft. And once I decide who they are, in revision, I go back and strengthen those elements of character and make them more consistent all the way along.

That’s my process—but it may not be yours. There is more than one way to craft characters and craft story. One of the first jobs a writer must do is find out what works for them.

Crystal Perkins, author of The Griffin Brothers series

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I try to have a cover idea when I start writing. When I look at the girl and guy-I write in dual POV-I think of how they’ll speak and act. It’s nice to have something, even just a picture to look at. Then when I think of them in my head, they already have a distinct personality.

Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began and Afterparty

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You know all those cheesy drama-class moments in B movies where the teacher starts panting that the kids need to beeeeee the wind in the trees (or whatever)?  That actually has a lot in common with the way I develop main characters : method writing.  I try to see the story through the eyes of the character in a very literal way.  While I’m writing, I don’t observe the character from the outside, but I try to see what she sees.  I think this helps me to stay with the character’s feelings and emotional reactions, and to remain in her point of view.

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NaNoWriMo-My Experience

Tomorrow is the last day of NaNoWriMo! How did you do everyone?

If there is one thing I learned from this month, cost its that, this whether you met your goal or not, you are still a winner in my book. Writing a novel is NOT an easy task, and honestly, not everyone is made for it. So merely taking on this task makes you winner.

And if you wrote! If you wrote at all, that makes you a winner. Whether you wrote a thousand words, or all fifty thousand to meet the goal of NaNoWriMo, you are a winner! Seriously! Getting the words down on paper is the hardest part. Once you have words down, you can go back and change them or make them better or any of that.

This is definitely something I’ve learned from NaNo. I started off with a goal of 20,000 words. Once I had typed up all the writing I had done in a notebook (thanks for the advice, Cornelia Funke!), I realized I was already at 14K, and I only had 6 to write for the entire month. I knew I would be busy with blogging and school work and that sort of thing, but not that busy. So I switched my goal to 35K, which would still bring me at 20 for the entire month.

As of right this moment (and I still need to write today and tomorrow), I’m at 59,515, which brings me almost 25K over my goal AND brings me nearly to the goal of NaNo in the first place. You’re supposed to write 50K in the month of November and I’ve written 45K. And again, I still have to write today and tomorrow! So I’m confident that I am going to reach it.

Its funny, when I started my journey into the world of NaNo, I thought writing an entire 50K novel in one month was a crazy endeavor. I still think it is. I don’t think writing an ENTIRE novel in one month is the best idea. But I do love the idea of pushing yourself, and getting those words down on paper. I accomplished so much writing this month, so much more than I would have if I hadn’t pushed myself.

So here are the things I learned and gained from NaNoWriMo 2013.

Setting Goals = Great Motivation 

Seriously. Goals are amazing. For me, setting a goal, whether large or small, really holds you accountable. It also helps when you TELL people that you’ve set this goal because they can hold you accountable as well. But more on other people later. I hold myself accountable. I set a goal for the month and I hate not meeting my goals. I told myself that I would write at least 1K a day, and I told my writing friends and my boyfriend and they would hold me to that, definitely.

The way I see it is…my ultimate goal, and probably yours too, is to become a published author. And a published author is a JOB, its a career. You sign contracts, and produce books, and you need to treat it like a job. And its never too early to start doing that. By telling yourself that you need to write every day, no matter if you have “inspiration” or not, you’re being productive and you’re getting work done and you’re acting like a real author.

Writing Crappy Really IS Okay

No, really! Its going to be okay! I know that not all 59, 515 words that I’ve written so far are good. I know I will have to go back and fix things, move things around, and that kind of thing. I know that there are inconsistencies and there are some things that I need to more thoroughly research. There is a lot that is going to make it better. I realize that.

But by recognizing that and just writing, again, I got so much more done. You can’t fix a blank page, and I’ve written so much that a blank page is laughable. Once I really started to recognize that, yes, Sara, some of this is going to really suck, I just started writing. I have it down on paper. And I’m proud of it all, even if all of it isn’t that good. Because my novel has a skeleton now, it has a little bit of flesh and all that, but it can be better. But I have that skeleton to work on. And that’s great.

My Novel Changed Before My Eyes

It did! I was surprised at the changes I made while writing, and the surprises that met me around some of the corners. See, normally, I don’t force myself to write like this. It took me two years to write Another Chance for Summer and a year to write A Little Less than Famous. I’ve only been writing The Reawakened for about a couple months, and I’ve written SO much, and I’ve learned so much about it, while working so hard on it this month.

One, we came up with a title, The Reawakened. The title comes from one of my followers, Amber Harvey, and she won a personalized, sign copy of Legend by Marie Lu. So thank you for that, Amber! I’m right awful at coming up with titles so I’m glad I can make you guys do it!

Two, I introduced a character that is going to be incredibly important later on. I would have never expected that, at all, but I introduced them, in a small scene and realized…oh they are important. They are incredibly important and I know just to do with them…

Which leads to me to three…The Reawakened is NOT a standalone novel like I had intended. It is definitely a two part. I’ve already started thinking and outlining the second novel, since it helps with the first, AND I have a title for it as well. I’m very proud of that. I’ve decided to end The Reawakened so that it is either an ambiguous ending or a nasty cliffhanger, so that no matter what happens in its publishing future, it’ll be okay. But I was very surprised when I figured out that…yeah, I’m not done.

And that’s where four comes in…I’m at nearly 60K. I was aiming for a 75-80K novel, which leaves me only 15 to 20 K left to write. But I have SO much more that needs to happen in the story so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. I found that this is going to be a much larger novel than I had originally intended but I’m okay with that. Maybe it’ll end up right where its supposed to be once I’ve done edits and such but for now, its probably going to be closer to 90-100K.

The 15 Beat System is Gold 

I have to give some major props and thanks to Jessica Brody, who introduced me to the 15 Beat system. The 15 beat comes from the book, Save the Cat, which is a book on screen writing. However, you can adapt it to a novel as well. Its less specific than an actual plot outline, and for that, I love it.

I find that when I write an entire plot outline, I end up being so bored with my novel because I KNOW what’s going to happen each and every second of the way and its just boring. I’m just not a fan of it. I ditched my new adult/baseball/romance novel because I completely outlined it and I was SO bored. I may go back to it, because I really want to, but for now, just ugh.

With the 15 beat system, there are 15 beats, or plot points, you must hit to create a successful episode. Like I said, it works wonderfully with a novel. Instead of a fully specific plot outline, you have these 15 beats you have to hit throughout the story and it helps you as you write. I don’t know what will happen between each one, and its fun trying to get to each one. It really is. Its the most beautiful way to outline your story ever. Really it is.

Ditto the Book Bible

Make one. Seriously. It helps SO much, especially those of you who may be like me and are really bad with consistencies.

Check out my post on it here.

Have a Group of Supporters

For so long, I kept myself distanced from other writers because of so many reasons. There were two main reasons though: I am a competitive person and I didn’t want to have to compete face to face with someone. And I also didn’t want to  constantly have to measure myself up to people. I was SO lacking of confidence in my own writing that anyone else’s writing was always infinitely better than mine.

But I have learned that this is SO wrong. I’ve surrounded myself with fellow writers and we’ve supported each other so much this month, and we’re going to continue to support each other as we continue past NaNoWriMo. I created a Nano Support Group on FB and now converted the group to an Aspiring Authors Support Group. If you’re interested, you should definitely join.

Its also incredibly helpful to have people in your life who believe in you and support you. I really realized (again) how lucky I am to have such a creative and passionate boyfriend. We spend so much time together, not even talking, but its okay. Jon will be working on his music, and I’ll be on my computer, typing away. Its wonderful! We really support each other. I don’t know how many boyfriends would understand my desire to be on the computer for hours on end, but he does, and it helps me in my journey to finish my novel.

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NaNoWriMo has been an exciting and productive journey for me, one where I learned a lot about myself as a writer, writing in general and a lot about my novel as well. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished this month and what I hope to accomplish in the future.

For now, I have to do some last minute writing for today and tomorrow so I’m going to get to that!

Also, come back tomorrow for an exclusive excerpt from The Reawakened!

You don’t want to miss out on that!

Happy Writing!

NaNoWriMo-Tackling Writer’s Block!

We’re near the halfway point of November, visit this which means we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo. Now that the novelty and excitement of the challenge has worn off a bit, sometimes people can run into second week slumps, or they can slow down considerably.

And I’m hoping that this will help you to continue.

I will start by saying this one thing: there is no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t get all crazy on me, hear me out. I don’t think there’s actual writer’s block. There are other things getting in the way of you writing: lack of motivation, distractions, thinking too much.

So what I’m really going to be tackling in this post are the problems that come when you just can’t seem to get those words on the page, and how you can deal with them.

Now, these are all ways that I deal when I have a hard time continuing my writing, and bits and pieces that I’ve picked up over the past couple years in meeting all the authors that I’ve met. Everyone is different in their writing strategies but I do hope that this helps a little bit.

1. You’re Thinking Too Much

This is the one that I struggle with the most, which is why I’m writing about it first. I think way, way, way too much when I’m writing. I’m thinking about whether or not the grammar is great. I’m thinking whether or not the actual writing is good, or if the scene that I’m working on now fits with earlier scenes and whether it’ll fit with future scenes. I’m worrying if what I’m writing is good enough, if people will like it. I’m comparing my writing and my story to other writers.

And I have to stop doing that, and so do you! I think we all fall into that trap and it has to stop. So many writers that i’ve met over the past year have told me the same thing over and over again: Just write. Just write, and don’t be afraid to write really badly.

The point is to write. Just write. Don’t think about whether its good, or whether it makes sense. Not yet. Don’t worry about that yet. Just write. I will never forget: a few weeks ago, I met Cinda Chima and Marlene Perez, and Marlene quoted Nora Roberts, saying, “You can’t fix a blank page.” Just put your pen to the paper, put those fingers on the keyboard, and write. We can always go back and make it better!

2. Take a Break

On the other hand, don’t FORCE yourself to write. Take a break and go do other things, things that don’t require a lot of thinking. Take a walk, go out to dinner, play a game. I would NOT recommend reading a book or watching a movie. You want to focus on your story, and immersing yourself into other stories may only hinder you while you’re feeling blocked.

So definitely take a break. Sometimes getting away from the story, and distracting yourself from it for a bit can really help with bringing your focus back to the story. I’ve heard from authors that they’ll take a bath, or a shower. Get up, put some music on and have a dance party.

Sometimes just getting away from the actual keyboard but not the story helps too. Close the laptop or notebook, and just kind of lay back in bed and focus on the story. Visualize it in your head, play out the scenes like a movie, and sometimes that can help to put them into words. You can play with the scenarios in your head, until they seem to work better than what you had them at before.

Lastly, maybe talk it out with someone. Tell them where you’re at, what’s going on with your characters and maybe tell them your concerns. As an outsider, they may have some insight to where your character could go from there. Sometimes talking it out can help lead you in the direction you want to go.

3. Work on Something Else

This can mean so many different things. For me, I either work on my blog, because its a way to write but its not nearly as stressful, or I work on another scene in my novel.

Now some authors don’t do that, and they recommend writing in a linear matter. Some authors jump around. Its all sort of up to you. I have never had an issue with writing future scenes, in fact it helps me. Sometimes its hard to push yourself through those hard scenes, the ones that are slower, and are more build up and less action. I can understand that. I’m sort of stuck in that right now.

But what I do is, I either push through, reminding myself that I get to write a fun action scene at the end of it OR I just write the action scene. I write the exciting scene because its fun. Sometimes, in writing that more exciting scene, I answer questions that haven’t even been asked yet, and it helps me to write those slower scenes. I know exactly how I want to lead up to the scene I just wrote. It gets me excited for the story again, and I’m writing again.

It also helps to write other things as well. Write for your blog, if you have one. Write in a journal, or do a writing exercise. Keep using your writing skills, and maybe focusing on something else for a little while will help give you that motivation to continue your story.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Turn off the TV, turn off the wi-fi. Make sure that you are writing in a clutter free zone.

Now, I can write with all of those, but I’m also the oldest of six kids, and I live in a house with eight other people. Peace and quiet are concepts that I’m just not familiar with and I’ve gotten VERY comfortable with noise. In fact, silence bothers me and it can be a distraction for me.

But for most people, you need to cut out those distractions. Turn off the TV, get yourself to a quiet place, where you’re alone. Play music. Music can help, but don’t let it distract you too much. I usually only listen to music when I’m confident in what I’m writing. When I’m less sure, I tend to write in silence.

Definitely turn off the wi-fi. This is one that I have the HARDEST time dealing with. I get distracted by Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t let yourself be distracted. Just write. When you have nothing but the blank page in front of you, you can concentrate on it, and write. And remember, it doesn’t have to be good! JUST WRITE. Make sure you have nothing around to distract you. I’ll put my phone on my charger, on the other side of the room, and I’ll clear the space around me. Make sure the only the that’s between you and writing is the keyboard or the pen.

There are softwares you can purchase, for fairly cheap (think 10-15 dollars) to help you out. Freedom will block out all internet for a period of time, up to eight hours, in order to promote productivity. For those of us who use internet for research and such, there’s Anti-Social, which blocks out sites like Facebook and Twitter. Definitely check these out.

5. Set a Goal

This can be in any form. Set a time limit, or a word goal. This holds you accountable, and you’re more likely to finish the work if you’re holding yourself to it. Tell someone that you’re working on this goal, someone that you know will remind you and hold you accountable as well.

Set a time limit. Tell yourself you’ll write for an hour, two hours, three hours a day. Set a time for that. Tell yourself, “I will write for an hour from 8 pm to 9 pm before I go to bed”.

I set word count goals. I tell myself that I must write at least 1K words a day. Sometimes I bypass it and sometimes I don’t reach it at all but the fact that I made the goal, and I wrote something is better than not sitting down to write anything at all.

You can also set weekly goals as well. We get busy through out our weeks because of work or school or family commitments or social commitments and its understandable. Set yourself a word count goal for the entire week, so that you can write at your own pace through out the week. Keep yourself accountable.

6. Treat it Like a Job 

Author Shannon Messenger told me, back in May, that its NEVER too early to start treating writing like a job and I’ve really taken it to heart. Put as much effort and time as you can into it, if you’re passionate about it and you want to get it done. Create a schedule for yourself and commit to that schedule. Tell yourself that you cannot make plans during certain hours, because you are working. You wouldn’t skip out on your job for things (for the most part), so don’t skip out on writing either.

Also, the more time and commitment that you give to your writing and your novel,  the better it will be and the more likely you are to get it done. Treating it like a job will only help you to get better.

Sometimes, I just don’t believe in getting inspiration. Once you’ve published that first novel, and you start working on new ones, you’ll be on a deadline. You can’t wait for inspiration. Treating your novel like a job now, giving yourself set times to write and deadlines to meet, helps prepare you.

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I hope this helpful for you guys and that you don’t get stuck in the midpoint blues!

Good luck with everything, and don’t forget to check out my NaNoWriMo Support Group on facebook. I’m surrounded by a little more than a dozen of the most supportive friends and writers and it has been a great group. Definitely head on over!

Happy Writing Everyone!

NaNoWriMo-Best Writing Advice I’ve Received

Hey Writers! How are you doing! I hope great. Its Day #6 of NaNoWriMo, this and writers all over the world are pounding out thousands of words to get those novels done. I’m doing pretty well right now, but we all know there are days when we feel lost, when we need a little words of encouragement to help us out.

One thing that I always make sure to ask every author, when I meet them or interview them, is what sort of advice or tips they have for aspiring authors.

So today, I’m sharing some of the best advice that I have received for you, and sharing some of my own advice, and how helpful it can be to always be involved with other writers, for advice and support and encouragement.

I recently started a Facebook group, called the NaNoWriMo Support Group, and all of you writers are MORE than welcome to join us!

Now to the advice!

“Take risks and be brave. No one will write exactly the way you do. So take some risks and put yourself out there on the page. If you think, ‘I probably shouldn’t write about this…’ or ‘This is too weird/revealing to write about…’ that’s probably the very thing you should put into your story.”

-Libba Bray

With the novel I’m working on now, this really helped me. Sometimes I think, god is this seriously the weirdest story synopsis ever? But maybe that’s a good thing. I let myself write what feels right, even if it doesn’t always seem to be the best. We have to get out of our comfort zones when writing. 

“Write the kinds of stories you like to read. If you don’t love what you’re writing, no one else will, either.”

-Meg Cabot

SO true. I  could never write a mystery novel, or a crime novel. Those aren’t my cup of teas, so I write what I’m passionate about. I really hope to get back to my baseball idea because I love baseball so much. 

“Never let anyone make you ashamed of what you love to read and write. Always pursue your passion, and write/read relentlessly and shamelessly.”

-Rae Carson 

Passion. Passion. Passion. If you’re passionate about what you’re going to do and it’ll show. Its the same way I operate with my blog. Its all about what I’m passionate about, and somehow, you guys keep showing up! And that’s awesome. I hope it works for my novels too! 

“Don’t be afraid to write badly. All writers have awful first drafts. That’s why they’re called first drafts. Sometimes you have to just get through the story before you can make it pretty. I think a lot of new authors quit halfway through the book because they’re afraid that it’s not good. The first draft won’t be good. Just finish it and fix it later. The hardest part about writing a book is getting to that last page. and remember, it’s okay to write crap. Crap makes really good fertilizers.”

-Jessica Brody

This was HUGE for me. HUGE. I think sometimes I get so focused on writing well, that I don’t just write. Being able to worry less on whether its good and just getting it on the page has helped a lot. Marlene Perez quoted Nora Roberts when I met her, something about not being able to fix a blank page. That has really stuck with me the last few months. Sometimes you just need to write, and you can go back and clean it up and make it better later. 

“Just tell the truth and make it cool” and “Learn the rules so that you can break them.”

-Lex Thomas

This just makes me laugh every time I see it because it reminds me that while this is something that I want to make my career, it is also something that I really enjoy, and its fun and makes me incredibly happy! 

“It’s okay to write a shitty first draft.”

-Gretchen McNeil

Ditto. Keep writing, no matter how crappy it seems. We can always go back and fix it! 

“There is no such thing as an aspiring writer. If you write, you’re a writer, and I can’t wait to see what you do.”

-Stephen Chbosky

This makes me so incredibly. He wrote this on my “writing advice” poster, and I love it. For one thing, the idea of Stephen freakin’ Chbosky reading MY novel makes me start fangirling and I haven’t even published said novel yet. But its so uplifting and encouraging. I AM a writer. I write. I can do it. 

“Get rid of boring friends!”

-Eoin Colfer 

It seems funny, and silly but its true! Make your life exciting, fill your life with exciting and fun people. This will be inspiration for your books. The excitement of your own life will bleed into your novel. Be exciting, be your own inspiration! 

“Remember, its never too early to treat writing like its your career!”

-Shannon Messenger 

I love this piece of advice. By making writing a priority and a responsibility, it makes you accountable. I may not be intending to write an entire novel in the month of November BUT setting a goal, and holding myself accountable for keeping that goal. Treat like its something that HAS to be done and it’ll get done! 

“Make sure you have something worth selling before you take it to market. It’s all about the books. Focus on craft first. Too many writers take their work to market before it’s really ready, getting distracted by a focus on query letters, agents and publishers. Marketing a bad book is like trying to push a boulder up hill.”

-Cinda Williams Chima

This is awesome. Because once you’ve gotten over that crappy first draft, you gotta work very hard to clean it up and make it the best it can be. Write multiple drafts, and make it the best it can so that anyone you try to sell it to you would be insane to pass it up. 

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I hope you enjoyed the different writing advice, from some SERIOUSLY awesome authors :)

What is some of the best advice that YOU have received before? Share it below in the comments!

What A Nerd Girl Says Celebrates NaNoWriMo with a Twist!

So I’ve learned fairly recently that November is National Novel Writing Month, physician also known as NaNoWriMo.

And I thought, discount wow, symptoms that’s REALLY cool. A whole month dedicated to the writing of a novel.

There’s a whole website for it too, which you can check out here.

However, the more I checked it out, the more that I realized…its just not for me. I don’t really agree with it.

See, the idea of it is to write any entire 50,000 page novel in the span of one month. And I just really understand that. For one thing, I’m a busy girl. It will never take me only a couple months to write a novel. Ever. It just won’t. I have this blog to run, I have friends and my boyfriend. I love going to various events like book signings and movie premieres, and I like watching my television shows. Plus, I’m a full time student and November is a big month, with finals just right around the corner. I can’t risk that kind of crazy haha.

But I also just think the idea of writing a novel in one month is silly. Now maybe you don’t agree with me, and you’re taking part in the official NaNoWriMo and that’s okay! More power to you. But its just not me. I don’t agree with the idea of rushing a novel, and a short one at that.

And okay, I can see you all getting snippy at me. I know that the sort of novel you’re writing can determine the word count that you typically would write. If you’re writing a middle grade, 50,000 probably tends to be on the higher end. If you’re writing a YA, it *could* be okay, but its on the low end, definitely. If its an adult novel, its definitely too short.

Plus…like I said, it just feels WAY too rushed to me. There doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on actually writing a GOOD novel, more just writing to reach the finish line of 50K words. You get a nice little certificate and all of that. But you could literally just write the same paragraph, hell, even the same word, over and over again and that could be counted. There’s no judging. There’s no learning or growing or anything. Its more…who can writing 50K words that show some resemblance to an actual story in a month long period. It just doesn’t seem to be…productive or efficient or really helpful in any way.

Now I’m not insulting it, so I hope the people of NaNoWriMo don’t come after me, but I just don’t really like the idea of it. Its not me, and its not a lot of writers.

But I decided that as an aspiring novelist, as a writer, I couldn’t just ignore the idea. Even though its an internet based thing, I think its a great idea. Even though writers should write, write, write, all the time, any day and any month of the year, a month to refocus and regroup on a novel, and set those goals and meet some goals is a great idea.

So I’ve kind of created my own NaNoWriMo. My goal for November as a novel writing month is to focus on my novel, to set a goal of a certain amount of words that I want to reach and then focus on different parts of writing a novel. I want to test my characters, I want to develop strategies for writing and overcoming writer’s block. I want you guys to get to know my story, and in turn, I’ll become more confident in my own story.

So basically I’m going to spend this month, honing in on my focus on my novel, and getting better at it, and hopefully helping you guys to get better too!

My goal is to be at 20K words by the end of the month, and to have developed most of the story, in my head, or in a plot outline, so that I’ll have direction for the rest of it. I’m aiming on about 80K words, so I definitely think I can do this, and I already have about 5,000 written so let’s see if we can do this.

Throughout the month, I’ll be posting updates on my own novel writing, here and on Facebook and Twitter (so follow me on both!) and I’ll be exploring different strategies, advices and ideas to help get over some of the bumps in the road in writing a novel.

I hope you can join me on this journey! Feel free to write along with me, as I spend the month of November working on my novel and becoming a better writer :)

My Posts for NaNoWriMo

November 1st: Where I Write

November 4th: Meeting the Main Characters of my Novel: Katy, Ash, Madison, Frank, Jennifer, and Razi

November 6th: Best Writing Advice I’ve Been Given

November 8th: Having a Book Bible

November 11th: Character Interviews

November 13th: How to Deal with Writer’s Block

November 15th: Its the Halfway Point! Update, Struggles/Successes!

November 18th: Writing Inspirations

November 20th: Character Playlists

November 22nd: Free Write: My Characters Celebrate Thanksgiving

November 25th: Meeting my Characters in Artwork

November 27th: Setting up and Meeting Goals

November 29th: My Experience with NaNoWriMo

November 30th: Excerpt from my Novel…So Far

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Happy Writing Everyone!

Getting Over My Writer’s Block

So I’ve had two novels in my head, treatment both of them bursting to come out and yet, approved none of them could actually get out on the page.

It was incredibly frustrating.

The first one was about a girl living in a baseball obsessed town. She grows up with the love of baseball, page until one day, something changes and baseball isn’t the same anymore. The novel was going to go back and forth between the present and the past, eventually ending at what happened, and why her love of the sport changed. I still want to do this, because I’m passionate about the story and passionate about the sport of baseball and its a story that I really want to tell, but it just wasn’t flowing the way I wanted it to.

Then I was also working on something that could best be described as a zombie novel but its not quite what you think. Its about a girl  named Katy, who is living in New York when a virus hits, and it wipes out huge chunks of the population before anyone can figure out what is. Then suddenly the bodies of all the victims disappear, and the world starts to panic. Before you know it, the bodies are reanimated, and they hunger for human flesh. But they aren’t like normal zombies: they’re incredibly fast and intelligent, and there are too many to get rid of. The government decides to bomb the major cities, to get rid of the problem once and for all and Katy goes on the run with her dad, and the only boy she’s ever loved and hated at the same time.

Two great ideas right there, if I say so myself.

But NOTHING was working. I’d get on my computer and just stare at the screen. I honestly couldn’t do anything. I would try typing things but it just wasn’t happening. I was incredibly frustrated. I didn’t even feel like it was writer’s block. It was all in my head but I couldn’t get it out on paper.

And two things have really helped me.

First off, I was at the Los Angeles Teen Book Fest last weekend, and that was SO helpful. Meeting all these authors and talking to them, and hearing their stories of writing and how they tackle writing. One thing that really stuck out to me was something that fantasy writer, Cornelia Funke said…she writes all her novels in notebooks! And that SO stood out to me. I used to write all my novels out in notebooks before I had my laptop and I thought, well, maybe I should give it a shot.

And let me tell you, it has totally worked!

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I went out and bought a notebook and I’ve been writing my novel, the sort-of zombie novel, in it ever since, and I honestly can’t stop writing. I’m on a roll and it feels really good. After feeling like you’re failing in the world of writing for so long, it felt good to just write. I also took advice from the other authors at the event, and have just been writing, not really focused on structure or any of that yet. When I focus on that, I lose the story and I get all stressed out about whether my chapters are long enough and that sort of thing. When I’m in my notebook, I just write, and its been awesome.

Then last night, I got another spark of inspiration. I was at a concert for one of my favorite bands, Story of the Year, who I haven’t seen in concert in about 8 years. It was such an amazing show, and I’m all bruised up and sore and EXHAUSTED from it. But it was fun. I discovered a new band (to me) last night though, a band called Set It Off. And right before they played a song, the lead singer shared some awesomeness with us.

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His name is Cody and he had a lot to share. He talked about how he dropped out of college to pursue music, and that people didn’t always believe in him, and they didn’t believe that he could do what he wanted with music but that he kept doing it anyway. He was encouraging everyone to follow their dreams, no matter what people said, and that even if you fail, at least you tried, you tried to accomplish something that was important to you.

Then they played this song: Dreamcatcher, which you can listen to on YouTube here.

Now, I’m not saying that you should drop out of college. I’m not saying you should go to college either. That’s kind of a person-to-person basis there and I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what to do in regards to their education.

But I really appreciated that attitude, that idea that no matter how crazy it sounds, or what people tell you, you should try anyway. I focus most of my energy on this blog and on my novel, not school and not work. Because THIS is my passion and my dream. And sure, maybe I’m going to fail. Maybe I won’t accomplish anything at all, but this is what makes me happy and I’m going to keep trying.

So I thought it was cool that he basically pulled the sort of thoughts I’ve been having in my own mind and it really made me want to yell out loud. Like, YES! YES, EXACTLY. Pursue your dreams, and stop listening to what everyone else says. The only person that matters is yourself!

So that was super awesome too. That has given me a huge spark of motivation and inspiration as well, and I feel like I could just keep writing.

So the whole point of this post is to say: that when you’re feeling like you can’t write (or whatever it is that is YOUR thing), you just have to find that motivation and sometimes it can come from the most random of places. I’m grateful for the amazing things I’ve been able to do this year, and the motivation that I know have in me.

Now I gotta get back to writing BUT I’ll leave you with a nice little quote from the novel I’m working on now. No guarantee that this will make into the final novel, but hey, you can get an idea of what to expect in the future!

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Happy Reading and Writing everyone!