NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November. The entire purpose of this fun, funky non-profit project is to encourage people to write a draft of a novel—50,000 words—between November 1 and November 30. It costs nothing to sign up at http://nanowrimo.org/ and roughly a half-million people on all continents (including Antarctica!) are expected to take part this year. The goals are enthusiasm, determination and a deadline—not gorgeous prose—but NaNoWriMo is responsible for germinating bestsellers Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. We turned to a NaNoWriMo veteran, Yu-Han Chao, for her best advice on tackling a novel-in-a-month.
1. Start with a title or opening lines: Sometimes a title or opening line comes to you; imagine the story that would go along with it.
2. Read a book, magazine, or newspaper: There’s probably a good story in there, and if not, ask “what if?” about something or someone so it becomes a good story.
3. Character: Visualize a character, then imagine the worst thing possible happening to your character.
4. Passion: Write about what you are excited or passionate about.
5. Steal: Rewrite another plot/story, but avoid clichés.
2. Develop Your Character, Central Conflict, & Setting
1. Develop your characters into round, not flat ones, by asking yourself questions about them: What does my character look like? What is my character’s background and psychology?
2. Decide on the central conflict of the story: Main Character + Goal + Opposition = Conflict. The main character wants something, the opposition thwarts your character’s plans and raises the stakes, and this allows your story to rise to a climax.
3. Decide on the setting: When and where. Jot down some notes about important settings, and later work these skillfully into action and dialogue (avoid boring, clunky paragraphs describing nothing but landscape).
Why outline in the first place? It saves time, something you can’t afford to waste during NaNoWriMo. Making plans ahead of time can be hard work, but it will save you the major writer’s block and possible inconsistency that may result from deciding on these things WHILE trying to write your novel. Not to mention, if something sounds like a bad idea, you can fix it right away in the outline, and not everywhere in a 100k word draft.
So plan and plot ahead. Try Aristotle’s three act structure–it’s old, but it works.
Act I. The Beginning: Present your world, establish the tone of the novel, introduce your main character & opposition, and have some kind of disturbance/conflict happen that pushes your main character across the first threshold.
Act II. The Middle: Confrontations happen, relationships deepen. A second threshold leads your story inevitably towards the climax.
Act III. The End: After that long awaited climax, pick up broken pieces and tie up loose ends for closure.
4. Maximize Word Count
Since writing an outline for your novel helps at the macro level, try it at the micro level as well: spend five minutes at the beginning of each writing session deciding and summarizing in a few sentences what will happen in the scene you’re about to write.
Basically, plan what you will write, then write it.
If you still feel stuck, read something awesome, something you love, something similar to the novel you’re writing, for inspiration. If you’re genuinely stuck, there are two common reasons:
1. There is something wrong with your plot/scene/character/story.
This is difficult to admit to yourself, but deep down in your gut you know that something in your novel or story isn’t working, and that’s why you’re resisting. Try to diagnose what is dragging you down, fix it (which may be hard work, but so worth it), and write on!
2. You are lazy. (We all are sometimes!)
Try forcing yourself to sit down and write for five minutes—tell yourself to just try it for five minutes—and often that’s all you need to get started.
Yes, you are brilliant and talented, but your first draft is nowhere close to its full potential. Before sending your completed NaNoWriMo draft to a beta reader or agent or publisher, read through it and fix things that need fixing, ideally several times. This may take months or even years, but you’ll be glad you did.
7. Know the Industry
Please do not self publish or query an agent until you’ve not only finished your novel, but made it as good as it can be. At that point, you’ll need to research and make decisions about publishing (self or traditional?) and querying agents. But you can worry about all that later—for now, plan a little before you write, have fun, and happy noveling!
Meet the Writer: Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Yu-Han (Eugenia) Chao received her MFA in fiction from Penn State and teaches a novel writing class at The University of California, Merced. She made a yearly event of NaNoWriMo until she had a baby and no longer had time. Her stories have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Zyzzyva, and other venues. The Backwaters Press and Dancing Girl Press published her poetry books and chapbooks. Her website is www.yuhanchao.com.
Are you ready for this? We’ve taken 4 of each style of your beloved Blackwing Pencils, and bundled them into one 12 pencil Super Variety Pack. It’s a genius idea that is exclusive to European Paper, so you can only shop them here »
For a limited time, to celebrate the new super pack, you can grab Blackwing erasers and sharpeners and save 20% off! Use code SUPER20 at checkout. Hurry, this offer expires 10/29!
P.S. – The Blackwing Super Pack makes a great gift!
Introducing the stealthy All Black Al-Star! Now, you know we’re in love with Lamy, but let us show you why we’re so excited about this Limited Edition matte black beauty: the black wire clip, black enamel lacquer nib, the smoky translucent grip that looks sleek and chic paired with the black aluminum body. This pen is great for fountain pen aficionados and newbies alike, and—can we just say—if James Bond needed a new exploding pen, we wouldn’t be surprised if Q presented him with a Lamy Al-Star. This pen is simply that cool. Shop the Limited Edition LAMY Al-Star »
RhodiaDrive featured this Blackwing enthusiast’s snapshot of his Blackwing 602 pencil during the index card stages of writing his manuscript. We’ve never seen a Blackwing nib this low, but we completely understand! If we could jot the picture : you fall in love with Blackwing, the mighty pencils bring your dreams to life on exquisite paper (like Rhodia), all the while performing brilliantly, even down to their ferrules – of course want to keep them around for as long as you can! We paper geeks at European Paper absolutely know the love you feel.
Here’s the comment from writer Aaron Delcourt :
“I use my Blackwings for writing my manuscripts. I write all of my manuscripts on standard sized index cards in pencil [...] The pencil in the photo was sharpened with a box cutter towards the end, and believe it or not I actually used it until it was unsharpenable.”
Save on Fisher Pens for a limited time! Take 10% off using the coupon code FISHER10 at checkout. Enjoy! Shop All Fisher Pens »
Minimalist? Here’s a collection you can rejoice in. Everyday tools that are brilliant in luster and function, slick in black and white hues, understated – yet refined. We’ll even keep this post simple – knowing you’d appreciate it.
1. Cavallini Photo Corner Tin »
2. Cavallini Clipiola Italian Paper Clips »
3. Moleskine Light Metal Click Ball Pen »
4. Original Crown Mill Silk Tissue Note Cards in Grey »
5. Fisher Classic Bullet Space Pens »
6. Leuchtturm Linen Pocket Hard Cover Notebook (3.5 x 6) »
7. Rhodia A3+ dotPad (16.5 x 12.5) »
8. Moleskine Laptop Cases »
9. Cretacolor Black Tin Box Drawing Charcoal & Pencil Set (Set of 20) »
10. Blackwing Pencils »
FIELD NOTES | Chicago, Illinois
Enjoy America the beautiful under her spacious skies! Get outside and take your Field Notes with you to record your findings.
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HANDMADE LETTERPRESSED STATIONERY
BROOKFIELD | New England
The beauty and the subtlety of the hand mixed
colors, the fine vellum finish of each card, and the supreme attention to detail with each hand printed design make these an American classic.
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COAST to rainy COAST
RITE IN THE RAIN | Tacoma, Washington
Designed to address the needs of logging industry workers in the Pacific Northwest, the new paper technology soon became popular for outdoor professionals and enthusiasts around the United States.
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Antietam Red, Baystate blue, & many more…
NOODLER’S INK | Fayetteville, Georgia
One hundred percent made in the US, Noodler’s inks are very saturated, giving you a rich,
clean line as you write, and as an added bonus, there is less feathering and bleedthrough.
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QUO VADIS | Hamburg, New York
With the aim to keep you organized, all Quo Vadis Planners have acid-free and pH neutral paper, plus tear-off corners to open directly to the week in progress.
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WRITE LIKE AN ASTRONAUT
LAMY PENS | Wilton, Conneticut
Environmentally friendly, Fisher Pens were designed for space and are guaranteed to perform in temperatures from -30 to +250 degrees F, underwater, in zero gravity, in elevations up to 12,500 feet, and at any angle.
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THE AMERICAN ARTIST’S CHOICE
STILLMAN & BIRN | Fairfield, New Jersey
Offering both hardbound and spiralbound sketchbooks with archival-grade paper, Stillman & Birn sketchbooks are your platform for expression in either dry or wet media.
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ECO-FRIENDLY AMERICAN GOODNESS
Mudlark Papers | Bolingbrook, Illinois
Mudlark stationery is made with recycled materials and soy inks. The fun, happy designs of the boxed stationery are beautiful and inspiring, and great for everything! Thank yous, hellos, wish you were here, the list goes on. Enjoy the cards and then keep mementos in the beautiful box when they’re all gone.
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Ever wonder what it’s like behind the scenes at European Paper? If you zoomed through our office and caught a quick glimpse of our work spaces, you’d find several of the above in each deskscape. We’re paper geeks for sure, but the best part is that our customers love the same products we do! These 8 brands are our most-loved top sellers. Try them and you’ll see why we get so excited to open a fresh notebook, sharpen a Blackwing, or post a new pen…
1. Blackwing Pencils »
2. Rhodia Notepads »
3. Rite in the Rain »
4. LAMY Pens »
5. Clipiola Italian Paper Clips »
6. Fisher Space Pens »
7. Leuchtturm Journals »
8. Evernote Smart Notebook » – And anything else from Moleskine »
Be one of the first to grab the brand new Palomino Blackwing Pearl Graphite Pencils! This latest addition to the Blackwing family of pencils and notebooks is the perfect middle-child pencil as its graphite core is softer than the Palomino Blackwing 602 Pencils, but harder than the Palomino Blackwing Pencils.
Plus, the unique pearl white finish with black lettering on the sides makes for a strikingly beautiful pencil that you’ll never want to put down. Available in a box of 12 pearly pencils, pick up the Blackwing Pearl Pencil on EuropeanPaper.com today!
These Beautiful Pens: More Paper Love: Le Typographe Writing Pad & Journal
Ink of me Fondly: Rhodia No.11 Notepad
Notebook Stories: Review: Piccadilly Softcover Notebook
Pens, Paper, Inks, Whatever: Clairefontaine Back to Basics 1951
Rants of the Archer: Review: Unlimited Notebook by Rhodia
Comfortable Shoes Studio: Review: Palomino Blackwing Pencils
Ink of me Fondly: Lamy Raspberry Al-Star with J. Herbin Rouge Opera
Pencil Revolution: Review of Palomino Blackwing 602
Built from Ink and Tea: The Grand TWSBI Review – Part 2. A Review of the TWSBI Diamond 530 Fountain Pen
On Fountain Pens: Review: Platinum Pocket Pen – from the 1970s!
Ink of me Fondly: Tchaikovsky – De Atramentis Ink Review
Inked Up & Happy: Requested review: Iroshizuku´s Ku-Jaku
FPGeeks: Inkcyclopedia: Cross Blue
Built from Ink & Tea: Review of Noodler’s Nightshade Ink
PenInkCillin: Private Reserve Invincible Aqua Blue
Have a review you’d like included in the round-up? Post the link and title in the comments and we’ll add it here! Note that our comments are moderated, so if it doesn’t show immediately we’ll get to it soon.