Category: amwriting


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, Scribd, a 2019 NaNoWriMo sponsor, shares how you can boost your writing skills through reading. Try out Scribd’s reading subscription service for free!

If you ask any seasoned writer for advice, it’s practically a guarantee that clichéd exhortations to “read more” will be among their suggestions. 

It’s difficult to blame writers seeking guidance to tune out this advice when they hear it, conditioned as they are to being told they’re not reading enough. But this advice should be taken seriously. Even those who are already avid readers and can’t possibly pack more reading time into their days will benefit from adjusting their relationship with reading.

Pro writers cite diverse reasons for becoming compulsive, eclectic readers. Here are a few of them:

1. Mastering the nuts and bolts

Writers don’t like to admit it, but it’s the truth: Grammar is hard. The rules of grammar are often counterintuitive, arbitrary, nebulously defined, and subject to change. Style guides provide contrasting explanations of certain rules, and many of them require annual updates. If it feels like it’s impossible to truly master syntax, punctuation, and word choice, that’s because it nearly is. 

We can take solace in the fact that “proper English” is a human construct and not fully “getting it” is largely inconsequential. You, however, are a writer, so correct grammar is important for your purposes. The good news is that “correct grammar” isn’t as rigid as you may have been led to believe. Writers have been using grammar creatively for a long time now, from the stages of Elizabethan England to the cafés of postmodern New York, and you have unlimited material to draw stylistic and grammatical cues from. Take advantage of it! The more authors you read, the better able you’ll be to nail down a style that best reflects your vision. And, of course, if the fundamentals are still beyond your grasp, there’s no better way to master them by immersing yourself in them.

2. Getting inspired

In the second century CE, the Greek author Plutarch wrote one of his most famous works: Parallel Lives, an account of the lives of 48 Greek and Roman public figures. A 1579 English translation of Parallel Lives—one book!—would form the basis for four plays by William Shakespeare.

This isn’t meant to suggest that you should indiscriminately plunder ideas like Shakespeare did, but to illustrate the inspirational power of reading. If one book (albeit a pretty big one) gave the English language’s most beloved writer four plays, think of how many ideas you could get out of reading all the time. Inspiration can come from unexpected sources; why not seek it out?

3. Broadening your world

Here’s another (true) cliché: Literature is defined by its ability to expand our capacity for empathy. Understanding is at the core of empathy, and learning about experiences different from our own is how we develop understanding. You might read books by and about all different sorts of people, and that’s great! But people have written about everything under the sun, and no matter how much you know, there will always be more to learn, more worlds for you to explore. Everyone gets caught in “bubbles” of preferences and interests and experiences, but reaching outside those bubbles by reading a diverse selection of books can make us better people, which makes us better writers. 

From the Russian avant-garde to 18th-century recipes to cricket technique to squirrel behavior to the lives of workers on the Transcontinental Railroad, there have been books written about everything, including many, many things you aren’t even aware of—yet. With reading subscription service Scribd, you get access to millions of books, audiobooks, documents, and more, to help you expand your reading horizons, all for around $10 a month. You can sign up for Scribd here, and get 30 days free to check it out. 

Read more, get acquainted with the world around you, and write all about it!


Karyne is the Senior Original Content Manager at Scribd. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, West Coast Tech Editor at Business Insider, and Assistant Managing Editor at CNET. Her varied interests include singing, playing video games, and reading good hard-boiled detective novels.

Top photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Having the support of friends, family, or other important people in your life can help you accomplish your creative goals.

We’ve come up with these graphics that you can share to help the writer-adjacent people in your lives best understand how they can support you during November—whether that’s by keeping you off social media when you should be writing, coming up with chores for you to do if you don’t reach your goals, or participating in NaNoWriMo with you! Tag or share with someone you’d like to write with next month.


1. Writing Buddy definition
Noun: A person who writes with another person, offering encouragement and support, including but not limited to:
a. Accountability
b. Cheerleading
c. Real Talk: i.e. “…You know you chose to do this, right?”

Bring your own writing buddy #BYOWB

2: Public Declaration of Accountability
I hereby declare that I am staying off social media until I hit my next writing goal. Scold me if you see me around these parts until I get there!

3: Public Declaration of Accountability
I hereby declare that if I fail to reach my next writing goal, I will commit to doing a chore for you. Make suggestions and cheer me on below!

4: Public Declaration of Accountability
I hereby declare that upon reaching my next writing goal, I will join one of you for a celebratory treat. Make a date with me or cheer me on below!

How to Reinforce Your Characters with Detailed Worldbuilding

What does the world of your novel look like? Sometimes you have a great story idea, or really cool characters, but for some reason, your writing just seems to fall flat. Watch this video to get some tips on how detailed world-building can help you add depth to your characters and your plot. 

If you don’t include a lot of detail when you’re creating the world of your story, your characters may seem two-dimensional.

One writing trick is to show more about your characters by putting them in specific settings and letting the objects or landscape around them tell readers something about the characters themselves. 

You can also use your setting to enhance or create a specific mood in your novel, or alert your readers that an important plot point is about to happen. It can also influence how your readers feel when they’re reading your novel.

Treating your setting as something that shows how your characters feel, not just the place they happen to be in, can help deepen your writing and make your readers more invested in your story.

2019 NaNoWriMo Facebook Cover

2019 NaNoWriMo Writer Badge

2019 NaNoWriMo Twitter Banner

It’s October, which means that National Novel Writing Month is just one month away!

Are you writing a novel with us in November? Let the world know by updating your social media profiles with this participant flair! (We have a square icon image, as well as banners sized for Facebook and Twitter). 

You can also announce your project on the brand new NaNoWriMo website! If you haven’t seen it yet, log into with your existing username and password (or create a new one if you don’t have an account). You can go to “My NaNoWriMo” > “Projects”, and click the “Announce new project” button at the top.

Not sure what you want to write about yet? Don’t freak out! We’ve got a lot of resources to help you prep for writing a novel this month with our NaNo Prep 101 workbook and exercises. 


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, Milanote, a 2019 NaNoWriMo sponsor, has partnered with creative writing coach Angel McCoy to bring you this summary guide on how to start your novel as you prepare for NaNoWriMo:

Writing a novel is the most amazing adventure you may ever undertake. It’s a baring of the soul, no matter how fictional. It requires dedication, attention to detail, imagination, and a burning desire to tell a story. When you sit down to begin your story outline, you’re taking the first step on a journey into the unknown. Fortunately, many novelists have already traveled the path before you, so you don’t have to go into that wilderness without a map. 

Milanote is a wonderful creative writing app where you can organize your research, ideas, characters and outline in one place.

In this article you will learn five critical questions to ask yourself about your novel so that you can begin formulating a vision for it. These questions are practical and inspirational. This is the first step toward writing your novel, so let’s settle in and get started!

Question 1: What is this novel about?

The first question is “What is this novel about?” At this stage, you don’t want to dive too deep. State your answer as a “What if…” question, and limit yourself to twenty words or less. These limitations help to refine your concept. See example below for The Wizard of Oz.


Question 2: What are the stakes?

The next question is “What are the stakes?” If your heroes fail, what will happen? What do the world and your characters have to lose if this story ends in tragedy? 


Question 3: What is the core conflict?

After the stakes, you want to define the core conflict. A great way to express this is with an “X versus Y” statement, where X is your protagonist and Y is the force working against your protagonist. Who or what wants to keep the protagonist from achieving success? Is it an individual, a group, a situation, an internal struggle, or something else?


Question 4: How is the conflict resolved?

Eventually, the Core Conflict must be resolved, but how? When answering this next question, consider whether the protagonist fails or the story ends in success. Describe, in one sentence, how the Core Conflict is resolved.


Question 5: What is ‘the lesson’?

Conflict creates change, whether in the protagonist or the world itself. A novel is the story of change through conflict. In your novel, what needs to change? We call this The Lesson to represent that someone or something is facing a trial that will end in transformation. What is the transformation that occurs through the course of your novel and comes to fruition through the application of the Core Conflict? 


If you answered all these questions, then you’re well on your way to a novel. 

If you found this guide useful you might like to try Milanote’s accompanying story map template to help you start your next great novel.

Angel Leigh McCoy tells tales and builds worlds for a living. Her stories have entertained millions, maybe even you.

We’re incredibly excited to officially welcome you to our redesigned website. We were only able to do this with your support: your donations provided the resources, your ideas laid the foundation, and your enthusiasm provided the motivation to take this next, big step toward the future. It’s been a long journey and there’s still more to come… so we thank you for being such wonderful partners.

If you haven’t already, sign into the new site with your existing username and password!

What you should try first on the NaNoWriMo site:

Customize your profile. We hope your personal space on the site feels more like yours than ever! Add a custom banner plate, display the stats you’re most proud of, and share your favorite books and authors.

In addition to your shiny donor halo, you’ll see a brand new set of laurels that commemorate your wins. The more wins under your belt, the longer your set of laurels will get:


Announce the novel you’re planning to write this November. Go to “My NaNoWriMo” → “Projects”, then click “Announce New Project” to share details about your NaNoWriMo 2019 novel! (In the window that pops up, make sure to check “Associate with a NaNoWriMo event”.)

Some of y’all make gorgeous covers for your projects, so we’ve made sure you can show them off. Plus, click the cover to reveal the “back of your book” where you can share your summary and an excerpt:


Discover your local writing community. Go to “Find a Region” to check out your local NaNoWriMo community. You can find out who your Municipal Liaisons are, chat with local writers, and join your regional forum.

You can also find in-person write-ins and meet-ups near you! Just go to your region and click the “Events” tab to scope them out and RSVP:


How to get in touch with us

If you have feedback or questions about the redesign, we’d love to hear it! We’ll be continuing work on the site all season long. You can share that in the Suggestions and Feedback forum. If something’s not working for you, please report those bugs in the Support and Tech Help forum. If you’re having issues with logging into the site, please email us.

Brave the Page, our brand new NaNoWriMo handbook for young writers, is available to order! Partly a how-to guide on the nitty-gritty of writing, partly a collection of inspiration to set (and meet) ambitious goals, this is our go-to resource for middle-grade writers. Check out this Brave the Page excerpt on taking a character field trip:

Character Field Trip

To make your characters more believable, grab an invisibility cloak and a notebook and take a little field trip to study people in their natural habitats. You could sit in a crowded restaurant, walk around a shopping mall, or go for a ride on a bus. Wherever you end up, make sure you’re inconspicuous (that is, don’t be obvious; be sly like a spy). If you’re not able to get out of the house, turn the TV on and find a show where people are talking to each other. A reality show or talk show would work well.

In your notebook, jot down descriptions of the people around you. What do you see? What do you hear? Is someone slurping their soup or walking with a little skip in their step or scowling at the people around them? Do you see someone who’s broad-shouldered and tall like a football player, or someone who’s flowy and petite like a reed dancing in the wind? Take note of mannerisms (teenage girl nibbles on her nails as she reads her book), style choices (older man with a green spiky Mohawk is wearing a dark-blue business suit), and anything else unique or interesting that catches your eye. 

Observing people and the way they interact with the world around them will help you develop believable characters across all genres. Even if your characters are 100-foot-tall cats or pint-sized purple dragons, you’ll want to incorporate human qualities into them or you’ll end up with a very confusing story. 

Here are a few fun exercises from authors you can do to help develop your characters: 

Watch the news, eavesdrop on the people at Trader Joe’s, go to all the parties. Your characters are out there, waiting to be discovered. 

—Stacey Lee, award-winning author of Outrun the Moon

Write a long list of all your characters. Then, start drawing random lines connecting random characters to each other. Don’t think—just connect. Afterward, look down at your page. Try to figure out a connection between each of the two random characters you just linked—something scandalous, maybe, or something sweet. Something three-dimensional and unexpected. Some explosive scene that throws the two together. 

—Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend trilogy

Hey Wrimos, did you know that NaNo Prep season is officially kicking off?

Last year, we asked a bunch of first-time NaNoWriMo winners one simple question: What went right? 

There were so many interesting, thoughtful, and funny responses… and one major common theme: preparation. That preparation took a lot of different forms, and we did our best to corral it all into something we’re calling our NaNo Prep 101 Workshop!

Over the next six weeks, we’ll provide focused NaNo Prep activities for you to knock out of the park—focusing on idea generation, character development, worldbuilding, and more. By the time November rolls around, we hope you’ll be more prepared than ever to reach 50,000 words on your novel draft.

We designed this course with less seasoned Wrimos in mind, but even if you’ve written (or won!) with us before, we think you’ll discover something useful.

Check out this week’s NaNo Prep 101 Resources

Download the Complete NaNo Prep 101 Handbook

Our new book, Brave the Page, is now available to order! Here’s a suggested writing exercise from author Marissa Meyer’s pep talk:

“Write down the things that you already love about your story. Are you enamored with the unique fantasy setting? The devious villain? The star-crossed romance? What is it about this story that makes your fingers itch to get to the keyboard?”

—Marissa Meyer, Brave the Page pep talk author

Order your copy of Brave the Page.

What do baking and writing have in common? More than you might think!

In this video, NaNoWriMo staffers explore the similarities between baking and writing as they cook up some delicious desserts (and try to resolve a lengthy debate at NaNoWriMo HQ about whether madeleines are cakes or cookies.): 

 1. In both baking and writing, you might be a planner, a pantser, or somewhere in between. 

 2. Even if you’re prepared, you may encounter unexpected obstacles. 

 3. Conditions won’t always be optimal. Go for it anyway! 

 4. Sometimes, working with friends can help you meet your goals. 

 5. Whatever your creative style, the important part is making something that you like!