Check out our statistics for NaNoWriMo 2018! Our writers continue to write and achieve great things; in fact, more novelists reached 50,000 words than last year! Writers in our Young Writers Program also continued to crush it, with an overall win rate of over 40%. Read on for more information about this November’s numbers, leaders, and chart-toppers.
287,327 participants (that’s more than the population of Toledo, Ohio)
35,387 winners (that’s nearly 29% of writers who started novels!)
2,791,454,312 words (that’s more than three times as many words as the average person supposedly speaks in their lifetime)
22,871 words written on average by those who started novels
64,374 novels started
26,183 winners (that’s almost 41%!)
11,820 classrooms participated
849,540 unique visitors (that many people would fill the University of Michigan Stadium—the largest in the U.S.—almost eight times)
Now that November is over, you may be wondering how best to use your newfound free time. Will you keep writing? Or will you take a well-deserved break? Today, writer and illustrator Juliana Xavier shares her tips on how to relax and renew yourself after NaNoWriMo:
As NaNoWriMo’s 2018 session officially comes to an end, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and remember to Treat Yo’ Self—you’ve earned it!
Now that the month and the event are over and done with, what does one do? After all, it’s always bittersweet to be done with something you invested so much time and effort in. Stopping out of the blue can often leave some feeling lost. If that just happens to be you, maybe I can help!
Thinking back on the month, maybe you managed to write 50k in under a week; maybe you discovered writing 50k in a month was harder than you thought. Either way, what comes next might be just as important as what came before.
Here’s my personal plan on what to do next:
1. Do nothing.
Is your brain fried? Can it no longer come up with good words to word good and write… well? That’s cool, and totally normal! That means it’s time for a little something we like to call “self care.” Sometimes the best self care on the planet is enjoying things that take no brain power at all, like laying in bed in your PJs while eating ice cream and watching cartoons.
2. Don’t touch that ‘script.
Allow yourself not to touch your MS until you actually miss working on it. Treat it like you would treat your parents during summer camp or after moving out to go to college. You love them, but having some distance makes missing them more special… plus you’ll have more things to discuss that way (please call your parents, they miss you).
3. Consume junk food and/or entertainment.
That chocolate you were hoarding as a reward for all your hard work? Go for it. It’s good to spend your time reading and watching things that allow you to have fun! Including bad stories. Why not watch that awful C movie your friends keep telling you to watch? Might be fun to figure out a way to rework the plot and make the story work!
4. Make writer friends.
Investing in writing communities completely pays off. Don’t use people! Be kind and make friends. Form your writers’ coven. These are the people who will be there with you, help cheering you on in the same way you’ll cheer them on! Which brings me to…
5. Beta read (and be beta read).
If you’re not one already, consider doing this. Although you might not be quite there yet with your own MS, becoming a beta reader or critique partner often times leads to self improvement, along with the fact you’re helping others! Going through the experience yourself will help you know what you’ll need from your future readers! There are plenty of people out there who need this, but remember! Only offer if you plan to follow through.
And that’s basically it! If you decide or not to follow a similar plan to mine, it’s totally up to you. Just make sure to take care of yourself so you’ll be ready for the next writing event in your life, for you are a true NaNo champion.
Your friendly neighborhood Wrimo participant.
Juliana Xavier is a writer, illustrator and sequential artist. SCAD alumna, all about that kid lit. Brazilian born but partially American grown. Works as a freelance artist and would love to draw your fantasy maps and book covers. Coffee is ok, but Thai bubble tea is the real MVP. Inkstress witch of the Writer Coven. Find her at: website, twitter, patreon. Like my writing? Buy me a ko-fi! For inquiries, feel free to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
NaNoWriMo 2018 may be over, but we’re still thinking about what we’ve learned along the way.
During last week’s Virtual Write-In, we asked NaNo participants about the lessons they’ve learned over the course of November—about writing, community, and themselves—and compiled them into a handy infographic for you.
Another November has come and gone; while some of you are celebrating the completion of 50,000 words, some of you didn’t make it quite as far as you’d have liked. Today, writer Adrianne DeWeese shares some words of encouragement about continuing to write, whether or not you met your word-count goal this year:
November has always been a month of great promise for me. It’s the eve of one of the busiest months of the year, before the calendar page turns for the final time that year. It is a month of thanks, of renewed hope. As one of my all-time favorite bands, Jimmy Eat World, summarized it so eloquently in their 2004 album title track “Futures”:
I always believed in futures I hope for better In November.
I held onto that same sense of promise and optimism this year going into my first-ever NaNoWriMo experience. Unfortunately, a brief bout of seasonal sinus issues found me bedridden during my spare time for two weeks.
It was certainly frustrating, as I was hell-bent on reaching that 1,667 minimum daily word count. I knew I had to take care of myself, though, so I asked myself what the alternatives were: I did what I could to continue chipping away at my bucket-list goal of one day writing a book.
I continued to write by hand. I checked out several amazing books about writing from my local public library: The Thorn Necklace by Francesca Lia Block; and Elizabeth Sims’ You’ve Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams.
I also rewrote the outline to my novel twice (third time’s a charm!), while using the two earlier iterations as the backbone for what I feel is going to make a solid first draft. Most importantly, I was gentle with myself in what I could achieve, even if it were just 200 words on the screen – and I kept my eye on December.
December also happens to be my birthday, and as a gift to myself for turning 33, I’ve vowed to keep up an unofficial NaNoWriMo effort throughout the month.
Perhaps you, too, need to keep writing in December to reach the “Now What?” months of January and February. Here are two tips I’m going to use for the upcoming 31 days:
#1: Visualize a time in your life when you overcame a challenge.
Writing a book often seems impossible. But you and I both, my dear reader, have been here before. Think of a time in your life where something once seemed out of reach, but you were able to accomplish it anyway.
For me, I think about my competitive running days in high school. I visualize the times when I didn’t think I had the strength or momentum to finish the second mile of the race. Then, I remembered that I already had – many times – when I ran six, seven, eight miles in a row at practices. Writing is no different: Put in the time and the work, and the output will follow.
#2: Figure out where you are “spending” your writing time, and set your intentions.
My writing time is limited to very specific portions of my days, typically two to three hours in the evening. For me, I actually prefer this structure, as I should ideally be able to focus in such a short span and get the work done. However, November often found me wandering over to Twitter for “check-ins” or answering personal emails.
For December, I plan to set a daily intention before my writing begins. Also, if I feel the Internet is going to pose too much of a distraction, I also can opt to shut my laptop altogether for several days a week and write longhand, a practice that Sims recommends in her book. (NaNoWriMo also has a great new video related to battling distractions.)
Above all else, be patient and gentle with yourself if you didn’t hit 50K in November. December – a whole new month, with an extra day! – awaits you. You can – and you will – begin again. Returning to Jimmy Eat World, and the words of “Futures”: My darling, what matters is what hasn’t been.
Adrianne DeWeese is a nonprofit fundraising professional who writes and reads as much as possible in her spare time. A former newspaper reporter, she earned her Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in May 2018. Her first novel, Be For, is a work in progress, exploring themes of self-awareness, the convenience of technology, and what to do once you finally have the answers to life. She enjoys tweeting about writing and reading, the nonprofit community, space, and much more @AdrianneDeWeese.
Whether you reached 50K this November or not, one of the most important things that NaNoWriMo can help you do is jumpstart a creative habit. It doesn’t matter if it takes you one month or ten years to finish a draft; the fact that you’ve taken the time to tell your story makes you a winner in our eyes. Join us in January and February as we take you through the revision, editing, and publishing process during our “I Wrote a Novel… Now What?” months!
“NaNoWriMo is… just the beginning.” –NaNoWriMo participant K. J. Middleton
Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re closing in on the final stretch of November, you may be wondering what to do with your novel after the month is over. Today, Scrivener, a NaNoWriMo sponsor, has some tips for post-NaNo noveling:
Completing the first draft of a novel in one month isn’t work for the faint of heart. Showing up every day to write, muddling through the middle, making your hero or heroine suffer, or just wondering where this little adventure will eventually lead takes perseverance, guts, and a touch of madness.
Now that you’ve reached (or nearly reached) the fifty thousand word mark, you’ve probably decided that you’re ready for the next step: revising your story. But hold on there, bucko, not quite yet. If you want maintain a firm grip on your sanity, please heed this advice: let it simmer and marinate for a month.
Below are tips on how I’ve lassoed the editing process and how I used Scrivener to revise, restructure, and rewrite my NaNoWriMo first draft in five easy steps:
Step one: Give it a rest.
By this I mean put it away. Come December 1st, tuck your novel into a virtual drawer. Don’t open it. Don’t attempt to reread or edit the copy. December is crazy enough with end-of-year projects, tying loose ends, the holidays, socializing, and whatnot. Your novel isn’t going anywhere, so take a break. But what about losing that writing momentum? Don’t worry about it. Let the story-telling part of your brain recharge. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it.
Step two: Re-read your story.
On January 1st, if you wrote your first draft in Scrivener, open your manuscript. Next, select the draft/manuscript folder that contains all your scenes and go to View—>Scrivenings. This is a robust feature that allows you to view sections of your text either in isolation or as part of the larger work. Now read your story all the way through. Easy now, put down that letter opener and take a deep breath. Remember, first drafts are rarely perfect.
Step three: Write scene synopses.
Get out of Scrivenings mode, and reread each scene. Open the Inspector and click on the tab that looks like a notepad. You’ll see on the top pane “Synopsis" and below “Notes”. In Synopsis, summarize the scene in twenty words. Reread the scene; start taking notes on anything that jumps out at you—the good the bad, and the ugly. Do this with every single scene.
Step four: Snapshot your scene.
You’ve reached the point when it’s time to delete and revise: but before you begin with the bloodletting, click on the camera icon found in the Inspector, and take a snapshot of the entire scene. Using this feature saves your original text and allows you to go back to it or even restore it. To read more of how snapshots work, please visit this very detailed blog post.
Step five: Kill those darlings.
Move paragraphs around. Reconsider different names. Highlight text. Reword sentences. Use stronger verbs. Consider using the Comments feature in the editor and make more notes. Also use Scrivener’s revision mode by going to Format—>Revision Mode. Click on the colored menu command you wish to use for your edits. As you type in new text, it will be automatically colored. Want to strike-through a section? Simply select the word or text you want to cross out by going to Format—>Strikethrough.
Once you’re satisfied with your edits, it’s time to compile the draft as a proof copy so your beta readers can read the entire manuscript and provide feedback. Scrivener has a robust compiling feature that allows you to choose a number of built-in formats including the common industry standard for submitting to agents as well as others that are designed for ebooks. To learn how to compile, Literature and Latte has created four videos that guide you step-by-step through the process. These instructional videos can be found on the website under the section “Getting Your Work Out”.
Keep learning about your craft. There are a number of blogs like Writer Unboxed that address editing and revisions; books such as Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover or Sandra Scofield’s The last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision and Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel that will help you during this process. Finally, keep your expectations in check. Completing a first draft in one month is extraordinary, but having a ready-to-publish manuscript takes even more time, perseverance, guts, and a touch or madness…
Rebeca Schiller is a freelance writer who also blogs for Literature and Latte. She is currently working on a novel about the Spanish Civil War and the blacklist.
“The books I wanted to read didn’t exist.” —Min Jin Lee
Our amazingly multi-talented Customer Service Captain, Wesley Sueker, has illustrated quotes from this year’s Pep Talks! Check out Wesley’s other work on DeviantArt, and read the rest of Min Jin’s pep talk here.
Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re closing in on the final stretch of November, you may be wondering what to do with your novel after the month is over. Today, Reedsy, a NaNoWriMo sponsor, has some tips for post-NaNo noveling:
As November draws to a close and your word count finally reaches that elusive 50,000 mark, you might be thinking about what comes next. Perhaps you’ve heard of the great publishing success stories that have come out of NaNoWriMo, and you hope to be one of them.
The cold hard truth is that to become one of those success stories, you need to do a lot more than finish November with a manuscript. And while you should rightfully be proud of your hard-earned words, there’s still a long road ahead to getting them published.
Luckily, you don’t have to go through it all on your own! Here are a few tips to help you figure out what yo do with your manuscript after November has come to an end.
Step 1: Wait.
Yes, you heard correctly—this is the time to wait.
You just spent a whole month immersed in your novel’s world, so the best thing to do is to step back until you stop obsessing over it all day, every day. This might take a few weeks or even a few months, but it’s important not to go back to your story too soon after you’re done writing it. Taking time away will give you the chance to approach your manuscript with fresh eyes, which will help with the next few steps.
But just because you’re not working on your NaNoWriMo project doesn’t mean you should let your writing momentum fall apart! Just like a sprinter wouldn’t stop dead cold after crossing the finish line, you shouldn’t throw away your pen come December 1st. If you are not sure what to write about and are in need of inspiration (you just wrote a full story, after all), try turning to writing prompts and grind out some shorts—you don’t know where your next idea might come from.
Step 2: Re-read your manuscript.
Once you are ready to approach your text again, don’t go in expecting to do heavy revisions and edits from the get-go. Instead, start off by re-reading your manuscript (out loud, if you can) and reacquaint yourself from a different perspective.
Sure, you wrote it, but after being away from it for several weeks—or at least a few days—you’ll see it in a brand new light, and seeing it after some time away can be a revelatory experience.
Step 3: Do a story review and rewrite.
After re-reading your manuscript, it’s time to dive in with a critical eye and start the story review process. As you read through your manuscript, ask yourself the following questions:
Is there a central idea or theme?
Are there unresolved situations?
Are the characters sufficiently developed?
Is there a concrete plot?
Do you have enough worldbuilding?
Is there any character or plot point that doesn’t add anything to the story?
At this point, you might cut away entire subplots or characters, introduce new ones, and switch the order of scenes until you have a cohesive narrative that works on a macro level. Your draft can (and most likely will) change a lot during this process, but that’s the point. Many bestsellers have actually been completely re-written during the revision stages—and you shouldn’t skimp on that either.
Step 4: Self-edit the copy.
Once you’re done reviewing your story, go in and treat yourself to a round of copy-editing (you shouldn’t get too caught up with line-editing before this stage). This will help you improve the technical parts of your manuscript and iron out your writing tics (think: excessive adverbs and overused turns of phrase).
Don’t try to fix everything at once: address one issue at a time. Do a pass where you focus only on looking for long, winding sentences and another where you look for ways to control your pace.
After you’re done with all the necessary self-edits, go back through your manuscript and proofread it. Try reading through it using a highlighter and looking out for any typos, awkward phrasing, or glaring inconsistencies that you might have missed during revisions and rewrites.
Reading out loud is another great way to go through your manuscript. This way you can often find mistakes and weird wording that you could have missed otherwise.
Step 6: Share it.
No, it’s not time to share it with professional proofreaders and editors just yet—but it is time to share it with someone whose opinion you trust. Try showing your manuscript to a close friend or family member who you know will provide an honest opinion on your writing, plot, and characters.
If you don’t want to show it to anyone you know (it can be pretty intimidating), try looking for a writing community that fits your needs, or a beta reader who will be able to provide a truly unbiased opinion that friends and family typically cannot.
Step 7: Rinse and repeat.
After getting an honest opinion on your manuscript, take note of their comments, especially their criticism, and repeat the whole process—chiseling away at the marble slab that is your novel. It may take many more months or even years before you’re truly ready to submit it to an industry professional for review, or query an agent. But don’t be discouraged—it’s completely normal to revise and rewrite.
Step 8: Look for an editor.
Now that you’ve done a story review, self-edited your manuscript, proofread it, got an honest third-party opinion, and repeated the process, it’s time to work with a professional. An experienced editor will help you grow as a writer and learn about the craft—very often, more so than if you were to take a writing class. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding who to contact.
What does your manuscript need right now? Are you struggling with big picture problems? Try a developmental editor? Need help improving the language? Hire a copy editor
Does the editor have experience in your genre?
What style of criticism do you prefer: gentle and encouraging, or brutally honest?
Waiting to work with a professional until you’ve gone through your manuscript a few times will guarantee you a much better editing experience and will also maximize your bang-for-buck.
Step 9: Keep Writing.
Many now-successful authors didn’t write anything useful on their first, second, or even third run—but they kept on going and eventually found the perfect idea that took them to publication. If you find yourself at this point, use the skills you learned from writing a manuscript in a month and keep on trying.
Preparing a manuscript for publishing might seem overwhelming, but going through this process carefully and thoroughly can help you take your novel to the next level and greatly improve your chances of eventually getting published. Just remember: don’t despair, and keep on writing.
Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with industry’s best editors, designers and book marketers.
Today, educator Roxanna Elden shares how leading her students through NaNoWriMo helped her write and publish her own novel:
This year’s National Novel Writing Month feels like a bit of an anniversary—doing the classroom-friendly version of the challenge with my students led to the first draft of Adequate Yearly Progress, my recently-released workplace novel about teaching. (It’s like “The Office,” but set in an urban high school.) For years, I’d been bribing high-schoolers to participate each fall, promising them extra credit and pizza parties. Finally, one of them said, “How about you, Ms. Elden? Are yougoing to write a novel?”
There’s probably no better way to get a teacher to start a writing project.
What I didn’t expect, however, was how much this challenge would change my approach to other pursuits. The experience that started at midnight on November 1, 2009, when I sat in front of my computer still wearing parts of a haphazard Halloween party costume, taught me lessons that would forever influence both my writing and my teaching. Here are a few of them.
1. The sprint-style challenge isn’t just for writing goals.
NaNoWriMo’s built-in timeline forced me to bang out an awful draft in one month. When it came time to revise, however, the same approach was still helpful. Each of the nearly thirty rounds of revision started with a short-term deadline on the calendar. Being a teacher helped with this, too. Teachers are busy, but we’re also used to mapping out our time according to the school year’s natural rhythms. Want to mark up a draft before you have to grade midterms? There’s a due date for that. Need to finish a summer rewrite with time to plan for the school year? Hello, mid-August endpoint. Blocking out curriculum milestones can help teachers find time for their own creativity. And it works the other way, too: penciling in creative goals can help teachers plan ahead in more detail.
2. It helps to have a system for capturing ideas—no matter when they hit.
A common piece of writing wisdom is that once you’ve started a project, your brain works on it even when you’re not in front of computer. This was especially true as a teacher writing a school-based novel: sparks of ideas came to me unexpectedly, while sitting through a test-prep pep rally, or seeing how students reacted when a cockroach crawled through the classroom. My initial strategy of writing these ideas on sticky notes led to a pile of un-typed notes with no real plan for how to use them. Eventually, I set up a secret email address to use only for book-related ideas. Any time an idea came to me, I’d type it into the subject line of an email and send it to that address, leaving it unopened until I had time to give it my full attention. Later, I started using a similar system to capture teaching ideas. After all, just like writers, teachers have some of their biggest “Aha!” moments at inconvenient times.
3. If you teach language arts, you probably already know how to read like a writer.
As an English teacher, I learned to use excerpts of “mentor texts” to help students emulate great writing. Once I started working on my novel I did a more extended version of this, shelving books on Goodreads based on what I admired about them. Not only did this help with the book, it made me feel like the message I’d been repeating to students over the years was actually true: If you pay close attention, you can reverse-engineer much of what you love about another author’s writing. It’s also useful a useful exercise to knock out a rough draft quickly, even on a shorter assignment.
Trying to get students to revise their work thirty times, though? Not so successful.
Roxanna Elden combines eleven years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking about education issues. Her first book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, is a staple in school districts and educator training programs throughout the country. Her recently released workplace novel, Adequate Yearly Progress, captures teaching with humor, insight, and heart.
NaNoWriMo can seem like a daunting task sometimes, for NaNo newbies and veterans alike. Fortunately, author Destiny Soriais here to share her advice on how to overcome any obstacles in your way as you write toward the end of the month:
It’s the last week of November. A mere three weeks ago we set out on this journey together, eyes bright and hearts full of hope. We spent hours snuggled on the couch, hunched over a desk, flopped on the bed, or crammed on the train, weaving the words inside us into new worlds. We served our time imprisoned by the blank page, wondering idly if it was too late to give up this writing thing altogether and become a pea farmer. We reaped our reward from countless sprints as we watched that word count go up, up, up. We laughed at our own jokes, wept at our own tragedies, and grinned in gleeful malice as we put our characters through tortures and embarrassments that would make even the worst super-villain shudder.
Right now you are feeling like a conquering hero, an abject failure, or something in between. But in this final week of the most harrowing—err, exciting—month of the year, every single one of us on this journey has one thing in common:
There’s nothing to lose.
You heard me. It’s time to take off the training wheels. Time to throw caution to the wind. Let’s end this journey not with a whimper, but with a cataclysmic bang.
Have you already wrapped up your plot and are just tying up the loose ends? That’s awesome, but don’t you think it’d be awesomer if the defeated antagonist suddenly rose from the grave? Or if a jilted lover suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Or if that key piece of evidence that neatly ties up your murder mystery is proven false?
Are you floundering around somewhere in the middle of the story, trying to make your way to a climax that never seems to materialize? Someone needs to get stabbed. Someone needs to confess their undying love. Someone needs to vanish without a trace. Bring on the dragons and the spaceships and the long-lost-relatives. It doesn’t need to make sense. It doesn’t even need to be good. No one is reading this but you and the secret government agents monitoring your computer (ooh, there’s another plot twist for you). The last week of November is no time for elegance. Those bright eyes and bushy tails of November 1 are long past. We are the haggard few, nursing our wounds and caffeine addictions while dragging ourselves toward an impossible finish line.
“And here’s the best part: that finish line never expires. A novel is a novel, whether you finish it on November 30, 2018, or ten years from now.”
The beautiful thing about November is that once it ends, there are eleven more months that follow, and those are the months for editing, for deleting all the stuff that doesn’t make any sense, for fixing that ridiculous plot point that you wrote at 3:00 a.m. just because it seemed funny at the time. Those are the months for taking a pen or a paring knife or a sledgehammer to your manuscript and reshaping each word until every sentence sings. And trust me, when the time comes, you’re going to do great.
But until then, there is only you and that finish line (and the secret government agents). That beautiful, impossible, infuriating 50,000 words. Nothing to lose and everything to gain. And here’s the best part: that finish line never expires. A novel is a novel, whether you finish it on November 30, 2018, or ten years from now. So keep going. I promise it’s worth it.
Destiny Soria lives and works in the shadow of the mighty Vulcan statue in Birmingham, AL. She is the author of Iron Cast, which features magic and mobsters in 1920s Boston, and Beneath the Citadel, a fantasy epic about ancient seers, stolen memories, and a failed rebellion.