Yes, it’s me again—your friendly neighborhood intern, Nick—here to announce that this year’s edition of 30 Covers, 30 Days is open!
Fall is upon us, prep season is in full swing, and November is fast approaching, which means it’s time for one of our favorite parts of NaNoWriMo!
What is 30 Covers, 30 Days?
Thirty very lucky Wrimos will be chosen to have a cover for their 2018 NaNo novel, designed by one of the many talented artists recruited by our wonderful coordinator, Debbie Millman.
Debbie is a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the radio show Design Matters—not to mention President of Sterling Brands for the last twenty years and President Emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. So don’t worry, your novel is in very capable hands.
We’ll be posting a new cover every day of November, both on this blog and on our forums. If you’d like to see what some of our previous covers were like, you can check them out here.
That sounds super cool! How do I sign up?
Submitting your novel is easier than ever. All you have to do is complete this form.
A few things to know before you submit your novel:
Your form can’t be edited once you submit it, so please read the entire form carefully. There are ways to withdraw and resubmit, however — and you can find those details in the original post on the 30 Covers, 30 Days Intro thread.There’s more information on the whole process in that thread, too.
You don’t have to use your real name. We celebrate and encourage pen names!
If your novel is selected, we’ll get in touch with you, and we can all jump up and down and hug and cry together (happy tears).
If you have any questions about 30 Covers, 30 Days, feel free to post in the forum, or send me a NaNoMail.
In the meantime, check out the NaNo Artisans forum to have a cover designed by a fellow Wrimo, or design one yourself.
NaNoWriMo is a worldwide event, and we’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear about the stories being written every year in our hundreds of participating regions. Today, Linda Bennett, Municipal Liaisonfor the USA :: South Carolina :: Greenvilleregion, shares how her region has shaped her writing:
My region, Greenville, is a county tucked up near the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the northwest corner of South Carolina. The county seat is also named Greenville; it’s a busy, lively little city situated just north of the county’s center. But it didn’t used to be so busy or lively.
Greenville’s history is one of textiles. There were cotton mills studded all around the city, creating little neighborhoods or mill towns with their own stores, clusters of homes, and even their own baseball teams. The remnants of that era can still be seen in the names of the neighborhoods and the tall water towers that marked each mill.
But the textile industry died in Greenville and the city almost died with it. The city was depressed, the downtown full of closed shops and restaurants.
Then a mayor named Max Heller had a vision. He saw the downtown as a European city, with museums and shops and restaurants all within walking distance. So he did what mayors do to raise money and brought that vision to life. He took two traffic lanes of Main Street to build wide sidewalks and parking for cars. He planted trees along the sidewalks. He built a public art museum and a public library next to it, then a theater on the other side.
It worked. People came downtown. Shops and restaurants opened up. New industry moved in. Old buildings were renovated. New buildings were built. Slowly, the city came back to life.
Each successive mayor has carried on that vision. One even demolished a bridge to expose a thirty-foot waterfall, then built a park around it. He replaced the traffic bridge with a unique suspension pedestrian bridge, making the park a great place for families to gather. There’s even a baseball stadium downtown now, right on Main Street. The one library is now the hub of our marvelous county library system and three more museums have been added to what the mayor called “Heritage Green”.
When I think of Greenville’s past and present, I think of that mayor’s vision. He had an idea of what Greenville could become. He pursued his vision. It had a beginning, but he knew he might not see the end of it. Because rebuilding a city or a county takes time.
Do you have a vision for your novel? Do you have a beginning? Do you know where it’s supposed to end up? I’m a pantser, not a planner, so planning out my novel ahead of time isn’t something I’m used to doing. I don’t prepare detailed outlines or character sketches.
But I do have a vision. I know how my story is supposed to go, where it begins and where it ends. I know who my main character is, what they look like. I see my opening and ending scenes very clearly. The dialog. The surroundings. The action. These things I can jot down ahead of time.
I also keep a pad of paper and writing implement by my bed. The best time for inspiration is when you’re just about to go to sleep. The problem is, I don’t remember what I’d thought of when I wake up! So, make it a habit to write down any inspiration you might have. It’ll add to your vision for your novel or save you from writer’s block down the road.
Having a vision for my novel, seeing it in my mind’s eye, makes me want November to arrive! How about you?
Linda Bennett (Co-ML of South Carolina::Greenville) is a domestic engineer and crazy cat lady wannabe. She has the crazy part down already. She holds two degrees, a B.Sci in Graphic design and an M.Ed in English Education. In addition to her two cats and granddog, she lives with her husband of 30+ years and two of her three grown children. She’s been at this NaNo thing since 2005 and the ML gig since 2008.
Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. While it may seem like your list of questions about writing, editing, and publishing gets longer every day,The Great Courses Plus, a NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, is here today with some courses to help you write your way through November:
If you’ve committed to NaNoWriMo, you’ve signed up for one month to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
Don’t panic! Deep breath. You can do it. And The Great Courses Plus is here to help.
The countdown to November has started, and now is the time to prepare. With The Great Courses Plus, you can get motivated by looking at what first sparked your love of writing as you gain illuminating insights about beloved books and authors. Dig deep into visionary science fiction, heart-stopping mystery and suspense, or the beautiful and terrifying worlds of utopian and dystopian literature. No matter what genre you’re working in, discovering how your favorite writers write and breaking down why your favorite works work is both inspiring and edifying.
You can also step back and examine the technique of great writing at a higher level, from the nuts and bolts of grammar and vocabulary, to crafting the perfect sentence, to putting it all together and getting your works published. You’ll gain expert tips, tricks, and techniques that help you take your writing to the next level, move past writer’s block and other common obstacles, and apply a critical eye to your final product.
Led by renowned authors, writing professors at top universities, publishing industry experts, and more, this carefully-curated selection of Great Courses gives you a myriad of resources at your fingertips that provide help, inspiration, and encouragement for every step of your process.
The Great Courses Plus provides more than just storytelling help. Need to know the historical chain of events to make your story authentic? Looking for the exact chemical compound that will make your spacecraft fly? Want to throw in a line of Spanish or French from a native speaker? We’ve got more than 10,000 videos across dozens of subjects to help you access all the information you need for whatever you’re writing about.
As a NaNoWriMo participant, you’ll have access to stream all these courses for a month for FREE, PLUS you’ll get 50% off the first two months of your membership—just in time to get published! Be sure to use the code NANO in the checkout to receive this offer to The Great Courses Plus.
Take another deep breath. Immerse yourself in captivating, advantageous, and entertaining resources that are guaranteed to make this journey easier, so that when November 1 rolls around, 50,000 words will feel just right.
As we prepare for November, we’re asking members of the NaNo community for their best advice on writing and making the most of the month. Today, writer K.A. Magrowski shares what makes having a writing community to grow and cheer with so great:
Despite the what the doomsayers may tell you about the changing face of publication, writing and storytelling is more important than ever. Humans have a need to tell stories, from the time of our ancestors sitting around a fire over a fresh kill, to the Greek poets, to today, where our screens have replaced the roaring fires and more people have access to books than ever before. Happily as well, more people are writing books, short stories, poems, scripts, and plays than ever before. And while writing is often thought of as a solitary endeavor, it doesn’t need to be. A local or virtual writing community is a writer’s beacon in the storm.
Growing a writing community isn’t easy. You start slow and small: you put up an ad on a library wall, or in a local bookstore if you’re lucky enough to have one. Then, a few writers gather in a dusty library room or a small corner of a bookstore. Maybe you trade manuscripts, or read passages aloud; you may exchange personal stories of rejections and, with luck, an acceptance or two. Newbies and pros alike flock to your group, looking for someone who understands.
They’re asking the same questions you are. Why do you need to write stories? Why give yourself homework for the rest of your life? Why spend your time hunched over a computer, coffee stains on your mousepad, typing furiously in the middle of the night, or in the morning before anyone is awake? Why write for the whole weekend when everyone else is binge watching something on Netflix?
It is with the help of your writing community that you can find the answers.
Small intimate gatherings may swell to large groups, or they may remain small. Regardless of size, a sense of community and family will develop, and no matter what the outside world throws at you, know that your group has your back.
As a long-time member and current president of the South Jersey Writers’ Group (SJWG), I have seen many new members come through our doors. They’re nervous, eyeing us up like prey wandering into a room full of predators; I have to laugh a little, because, after all, most of us have heard the horror stories of writers’ groups full of bloated egos and relentless back-stabbing.
But that’s not representative of the writers I know. Most are more than happy to share their knowledge, to cheer someone on, to commiserate over rejections and a hair-pulling revision process. In our group, we all contribute by sharing our experiences in writing, or publishing, or a particular field of expertise. Each is generous with their knowledge and time and ready to answer questions because that’s what’s we do.
And that is what building a writing community means and what it looks like: we support and build each other up. It’s not about competition, not about tearing others down, not about the stabbing of the backs. We are there for each other. Sometimes with knowledge, sometimes with a hug, sometimes with a friendly, but honest critique. You don’t need to be a famous published writer to build your community. You just need the passion to write and a few other writers who want to share a journey with you.
K.A. Magrowski is a self-styled Gamer / Geek / Triathlete / Bibliophile / Cat Lady who hails from the haunted wilds of South Jersey, home of the Jersey Devil. Fueled by coffee and wine, she writes speculative fiction for children and adults. Her short work has appeared in Dreams of Decadence magazine, and the anthologies Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, Reading Glasses, and We Walk Invisible, as well as online sites.
November is fast approaching, and in preparation we’ve asked some participants to offer their best writing advice. Today, author Debora Hellinga shares her perspective on how to “raise” a story like a child:
There are a whole lot of theories and opinions concerning writing, authors, and books out there in the big wide mean world. How a room should be depicted or how it should have been depicted; how to describe or rather not describe characters; how to give unique voices to your characters, but (then again) don’t have too many characters because it’s hard to keep all these (imaginary?) people separated. When someone tells me that, I always wonder if they live in a world with only five people.
There are a lot of ‘How To’ lists, books, articles, columns, and blogs out there in the ever bigger, wider, and meaner internet when it comes to writing. And, let’s be honest: it’s a mess. One page says you should outline your book down to every detail, then another article says you should just let your characters be free and explore the world on their own. One person says you should know your characters’ entire family history as far as five generations into the past, while another says it’s best to keep them ambiguous.
Honestly, writing feels a lot like parenting: everyone has their own techniques and methods and opinions, and everyone thinks they’re right.
Then again — like children — every book is different. And let me tell you: those people are intriguing. How they manoeuvre through life and how they deal with events, both the ones they like and the ones that are far outside of their comfort zone and they don’t want to be confronted with.
Every single individual has their own mind, their own hopes and fears, own past and present and future, own struggle with pain and own approach towards healing. They have inside jokes with friends and family which you and I would never understand; they have people who they admire and people who they deeply dislike. There are things they wish for, clothes they love, films they identify with, and there’s that one dish that they really like. In short, people are details.
This is what no one told me when I started writing; I had no idea that my characters would venture out into their world and have their little journey of life. When I first imagined them, I didn’t expect them to develop such unique voices on their own. What’s more, it’s endlessly frustrating to have to explain to others that the characters you created are having their own conversations and you aren’t even invited.
In that sense, writing really is like parenting. Everyone has their opinions and methods concerning raising their child. Everyone is pretty vocal about their techniques and how amazing they are and how wonderful their child is. But nobody really talks about what it’s like when your child has been crying for six hours straight, or the shapes and colours of poopy diapers, or the intense rage a one-year-old can explode upon you.
Nobody talks about the discussions you can have with your characters; how you can tell them for the 1000th time that all of you are going left, and that one stubborn character still does a U-turn. Nobody tells you how characters can keep you awake at night to tell you about that one summer night they thought they discovered the meaning of life only to be stabbed in the back by that so-called ‘True Love’ the next morning.
So, please allow me to tell you the raw truth: just like children, characters are exhausting. Keep a notebook near so you can write down what they have to tell you, so they’ll leave you alone and you can continue with your daily life. Plus, this way you’ll have all your ideas written out and in front of you whenever you might need them! And your characters are no longer chattering in your head, which is also nice if you want to sleep.
Debora Hellinga (24) currently lives in Groningen, the Netherlands, where she studies English Literature & Culture. Her first book ‘Red Dawn Rising’ is out now and is available via Amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, Gardners, and Bol.com
Whether you’re a planner or not, there’s one thing every writer will need as they prepare for NaNoWriMo: inspiration. We’ve challenged some of the NaNo staff to inspire you by sharing what’s inspired them… and challenging you to prepare a specific jumpstart for that inevitable idea drought:
The Inspirer: Katharine Gripp, NaNoWriMo Communications Manager
The Jumpstart: Revisit the things that fired your imagination and made you excited to delve into wild creativity when you were younger! You may find that you effortlessly capture the same sense of heady possibility that you had when you first read, heard, or watched it. You may find that it doesn’t live up to your memories of it, or that you resonate with different characters or themes now that you’re in a different place in your life. If the former, unashamedly ride that wave of excitement to write about the things you find glamorous and glorious! If the latter, explore the differences between your new and old experiences of the same material, and write about what you would like to see in that story now.
Why This Will Inspire You: This prompt came to me because I recently saw the touring Broadway stage version of Phantom of the Opera for the very first time. The movie version came out when I was about 14 and I LOVED it. The period costumes! The overly dramatic gothic decor! Ballet and swordfights! It was all very much the aesthetic I wanted to have.
When it came to my attention that my partner had never seen any version of Phantom, and that the musical was touring in our city, I decided we had to go. As soon as the lights dimmed in that decadent theater with the cobweb-covered chandelier above, and the melody of the prologue started to play, my heart started to race and my eyes began to sparkle. Even though it had been years since I’d listened to the soundtrack, I still knew just about every single word of every song. I was excited to share all of my favorite parts with my partner, who was seeing it through fresh eyes. A little girl of about 8 sat next to us and gasped every time the Phantom disappeared in a flash of fire and smoke.
Watching one of my favorite stories in a different medium after years of not engaging with it also made me look at it with a different perspective. While I always knew that none of the relationships between the characters were particularly healthy (no matter how much I daydreamed about a dashing musical genius giving me the full run of his baroque playground in the catacombs beneath Paris), it made me realize that the play could easily be titled Christine Daae Is Just Trying to Live Her Best Life But She’s Surrounded by Men Who Make Terrible Decisions For Her (although it’s not quite as catchy, I know). I found myself wondering how the story would be different if the women in this play had more agency. What if Madame Giry got to run the Opera House? What if Christine decided she wanted to run off to America or Australia instead?
Sometimes, it’s a feeling rather than a story that captures you. One of the reasons I loved Phantom so much when I was younger was the feeling that there could be another world, with a different set of rules, just beneath the surface of the everyday world that we see. The theater itself is a different world, and the world of backstage has its own rules and mysteries that the audience never sees. Shortly after my obsession with Phantom began to wane, I discovered a book that gave me that same feeling of different worlds just beneath the skin of everyday normalcy: Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones.
The first time I read it, I felt a tension between the story on the page and the rest of the untold story that I wanted to know. That tension has only grown stronger with each rereading. This book is a modern fairy tale loosely based on two old Scottish ballads: Tam Lin, in which a young woman must rescue her shape-changing lover from the clutches of the Faery Queen, and Thomas the Rhymer, in which a bard gets taken away (again by the Faery Queen) and is cursed to tell the truth.
There are lots of things that keep me coming back to this book: some good, some not so good, and some confusing. Jones has been a long-time favorite author for me, in part because of her ability to put stingingly exact metaphors to universal experiences (my favorite in Fire and Hemlock is when the main character feels “bleached with shame”—I’ve definitely been there, and I can feel the echoes of that exact feeling in my own body when reading that passage). But I always put this book down feeling like I missed some important detail, wanting to know more.
Reading books that draw me into their world and yet still leave me with a niggling doubt, discomfort, or curiosity help me figure out what I value in my own writing. Is it most important to you that the readers know the rules of your world, or that they’re figuring things out right along with the main character? Do you intentionally want to make your reader feel uncomfortable or questioning? Do you want to resolve their questions, or leave them open-ended… perhaps to inspire someone else down the road?
Katharine loves being the Communications Manager for NaNoWriMo, where she gets to indulge in her life-long addiction to Young Adult fantasy novels. When not writing, Katharine spends her time dancing, working on cosplays that she never finishes, playing folk-punk music with her band, and spending as much time in the sunshine as she can.
This year, as we’re looking back at NaNoWriMo’s past and forward to our future, we’ve asked writers to tell us what our writing programs and community mean to you! We’ll be sharing some of our favorite answers throughout the fall.
“NaNoWriMo is… where ‘I’ve always wanted to write’ becomes ‘I am a writer.” –NaNoWriMo participant Willow Sanders
As we dive into NaNo Prep season, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Poppy Dubois shares how to create a “journal board” for your work in progress:
I’m here to explain journal boarding. Oh, you’ve never heard of journal boarding, you say? I guess that’s not very surprising, considering it’s a term I made up. That’s right, I’m part-writer, part-trendsetter. But I digress.
I tend to be a pantser. I don’t like outlining, mainly because I’m not organized, partially because I’m lazy, but also because I don’t like being trapped to confines. I like to go where the story and where my characters take me. Usually, if I have a planned path, my characters come in and are all, “You think that’s where we’re going? No way! We’re doing this!”
So, while I had character bios and a general idea of where the story was heading, the middle of the book lay wide open. No path. No map. No idea.
Enter journal boarding. When I’m not writing (or watching reality TV) I’m crafting. My latest passion is making journals. And I thought to myself one day: Self, what if instead of buying every notebook in stock at Target, you make one? But not just any old notebook: a notebook specially crafted to the overall theme of your story. Fit the idea. Make it fun so every time you write notes, you’re looking at the pictures that keep you in the story. And what if you use fun paper to make you happy? It’s like a vision board, but also a notebook!
My response: SELF! YOU’RE BRILLIANT!
Yes, I yell at myself often.
While some people may think that creating a notebook takes time away from the actual writing (they’d be right, because I’m a terrible procrastinator!) it actually helps me get into the mindset of the story. I start by either going to a craft store or looking through my selection of themed papers for the inside. I like to use patterned paper so the theme is consistent throughout. The cover is the fun part. I use images, textures, sparkles, whatever medium I can think of to convey the overall focus.
This is weird and abstract right? Okay, I’ll use a more solid example. In my novel Untarnishing Her Cowboy, the male main character is a cowboy from rural Wyoming who moved to Nashville with a buddy to make music. That, and the band name Whiskey Chaser, were all the facts I had when I started thinking about this novel.
I started making my journal: Cowboys. Rugged. Tough. He plays music. He’s a good ol’ boy. He rides a motorcycle. I found images which conveyed those ideas. I found paper which appeared worn and rustic. Stars, stripes. American flags. Music notes. Brick walls. Dirty, tarnished looking paper. Subdued colors.
I have less intricate journals too. The red and white striped notebook is for a time travel western I am doing. It still has the same subdued and dirty colors because it’s a western. But, it has mystical and time elements throughout. And, of course the word “traveler”. It’s okay to be obvious sometimes.
I’m in the very beginning process of a YA time travel book as well. I plan on using lots of drawings and pictures to build my world, so I used the larger spiral notebook format and plain paper so I had more room for world building. The covers are shiny, ethereal, mystical.
You don’t even have to build a notebook from scratch like I do. You can purchase plain ones and just cover them with drawings, pictures, magazine cutouts or whatever you find. The point of it is creating something tangible so every time you write, draw or jot down notes, you’re looking and thinking about your story.
Poppy Dubois has a million story ideas swirling around in her brain, and tries to actually write them down when she’s not being super lazy. When she’s not writing, crafting, moming, or watching TV, she is a criminal defense attorney.
As we’re prepping for November this year, we’ve talked to some participants to get their stories about how NaNoWriMo has influenced them. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Justine Dietz shares how she finds inspiration for her stories:
In my experience, one of the more difficult stages of writing is when you have that fascinating idea for a full length story, or even new ideas to add to that story to make it more interesting, when suddenly you encounter that famous “writer’s block” and your story seems repetitive, without any innovative or new, interesting elements.
Getting an idea in the first place took the longest for me. I used to sit around thinking about what I liked to talk about, or what kind of “world message” I wanted to get down on paper or document in the form of a fictional story. But perhaps those thoughts were the most considerable contributions to the writer’s block I had in the first place. It’s like when you’re looking for a word that is on the tip of your tongue, but the more you try and catch it, the more you become frustrated, and the less you are actually likely to recover it… until one day, when you are not even thinking about it, it suddenly comes to you.
In a way, story ideas work in a similar fashion, at least from what I’ve learned. They come to you spontaneously. However, there are different ways in which you might be able to encourage these sparks of ideas without blocking your creativity. Here are some things I found quite helpful:
1. Go outside.
Take a walk down your local street, take in the scenery. Can you imagine some sort of story taking place there? A romantic story, perhaps? Or a short horror novella? Anything is possible! Also remember to always have something with you to write everything down!
2. Listen to Music.
Listen to music that evokes specific emotions and don’t even think about trying to find something. Just close your eyes and imagine a scene taking place. If the scene sounds interesting enough, write it down! A story can derive from a simple two-liner that’s going to end up somewhere in those pages (or not)!
Don’t deprive yourself of reading other books or watching media. They can spark character ideas, landscape ideas, and can make you think of story arcs that you feel are missing in the original – you can write it! Personally, a few original story ideas sparked through the writing of fanfiction. However, you are going to want to be careful if story ideas stem from other works. Being inspired by them is beautiful and amazing, but you’re going to want to only be inspired by them, and not outright plagiarize them. Ask yourself this: Are my characters and settings my own or are they simple copies of another author’s characters? Is my story something new and innovative or a simple reflection of a story that’s already out there?
4. Don’t think.
Open your eyes to look around you, take in everything. A simple color, phrase, or event can spark an idea. Let your emotions flow. Many times, it is during times of distress or sorrow or extreme happiness that words just pop up.
5. Don’t stop.
Don’t stop at that one idea. Keep working on it. Your ideas will get better and unravel more often. Years ago I’d need a whole year to come up with one idea, now I get a couple a month!
In conclusion: Go outside, open your eyes, and let you mind wander, don’t force it into a box. You’ll find something. Don’t stress out about it, you can do it!
Justine Dietz is a third year University student studying English Literature and Visual Culture. She is a radio show host, musician, artist, poet, writer, and YouTuber. She has over twenty novels in the work with plans to publish two of them in the near future. Her favorite genres are young adult, fantasy and coming-of-age.