Category: by nano guest

Writing Tropes: 3 Tips to Let the Right Ones In

We’ve been running a series this month to help you avoid clichés, tropes, and stereotypes in your writing. Today, Wrimo Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl shares her top 3 tips for making your writing glow with originality:

It’s August, and if you participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, then you just finished a month of writing. You’re reading back through what you wrote (even though everybody told you to put it aside for a while), or have given it to beta readers, and maybe you’re finding that your main character sounds a lot like the one from that book you were reading when you were about to start writing your Camp project, or there’s a scene that could have been pulled from the movie you watched a few weeks ago. If some things are feeling too familiar while re-reading your work, you may have fallen into the cliché trap. Getting out of it is easy: You simply rewrite some scenes, putting a twist on each cliché you found. 

1. Know your genre

The best way to avoid falling into the cliché trap is to know your genre. Most clichés are just overdone tropes. Tropes themselves aren’t too bad; they are story points and character traits that make your story identifiable as part of your genre. For example, if you are writing a Nordic Noir, a common trope is that your (generally male) main character is divorced. This trope only becomes a cliché if you go too far with it—which in this example would be to also make him an alcoholic who can barely pay his rent.

2. Think about how you got an idea

Maybe that scene that you wrote after reading Let the Right One In feels so uncomfortably familiar because it is in fact very similar to a scene in the book. Often you don’t mean to copy scenes from books or movies, but they make their way into your head. One thing you can try to do is go back and read the passage of the book you read or watch the scene in the movie you watched that feels familiar. Try to figure out what made it stick in your head, and write a scene with your characters that echoes that feeling, or uses a similar detail, while still having some differences.

3. Actively search for tropes

One of the best ways to avoid clichés is to search for a genre’s tropes:

  • Overly sarcastic productions is a YouTube channel that talks about tropes. If you don’t have the time for their videos, they also tweet about tropes.
  • Brooding YA hero is a parody account of clichés about male YA leads. Not only is it good for a laugh, but it also shows the clichés that happen when you’re trying to make your series too similar to The Hunger Games, Divergent and others.

Just to give an example, I’m a horror author, and the most common horror cliché is the broken-down car. It’s been used in Dawn of the Dead, The Girl with All the Gifts, 28 Days Later and more. But even though it’s overused, “broken-down car” as a trope represents a pivotal plot point, so it has to be replaced with something less cliché.

In every horror story, there is a moment where the characters get hope (i.e. a car to drive away with) that is immediately taken from them (i.e. said car breaks down). This rough plot point is something that can be explored with less cliché elements.

Clichés can be avoided easily, just be aware of the ones that could appear. Only let the right tropes into your book.

Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl is an author living and studying Genetics in Manchester. Her debut novel Energy equals milk times coffee squared was published by Champagne Cat after she wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2016. It’s the first in a series about Alice blogs about all things writing and Science on

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from alexcoitus on Flickr.

“To write a novel is to lose your way and find it over, and…

“To write a novel is to lose your way and find it over, and over, and over again.”

Just a little #WayBackWednesday inspiration from 2013 Pep Talker Lev Grossman. Shoutout to NaNoWriMo participant ejsmith3130 for the lovely illustration!

Read the full pep talk here. 

How to Toe the Line Between ‘Trite’ and ‘Trendy’

Lots of authors struggle with balancing the stories they want to write with the trends of the present book market. Today, writer Paige Crawley shares some thoughts about writing the stories you want to write when you also want to make them marketable:

In 2015, my first stab at NaNoWriMo, I was determined to write a really trendy YA novel. I leaned into the conventions, perfected the sudden end-of-chapter reveals. I created a Threat (with a capital T), wrote a tragic backstory, and then created a character who was both a misunderstood outsider and the only person who could save the world. On December 1st, I felt pretty satisfied with the result. I’d written of friendship and tragedy and beating impossible odds. It fit the epochal fashion to a T (also capitalized). Nearly three years later, I look back and shudder.

The epitomic problem with writing is that it always takes too long, while the problem with trends is that they never last long enough. This is especially true in fiction, and even more so YA. Because it’s is the big seller these days, the fad currently sweeping the genre becomes the Thing. The Thing is hot and bestselling, so we assume it will become the new standard. And just like that, the newest trope is born and swaths of writers try to catch up, some succeeding while most cannot type fast enough.

Ironically, in the ‘real world’ trope and stereotype are universally negative, while in literature they are more ambiguous. A trope is a comforting omnipresence in your favorite genre. A stereotype reminds you that, yes, this book is insert-genre-here. Tropes ensure popularity and stereotypes help push copies. Even if your ultimate goal isn’t commercial success, deviating from the norm can feel incredibly risky because, oftentimes, the piece lacks a sort of genuineness. I’ve written countless stereotype-challenging pieces that simply failed to work, for reasons intangible and thus unfixable. Each time, I have questioned why I bothered—if that particular trope was ever bad in the first place. The answer I’ve come to is unfortunately rather blurry. While most tropes are harmless, many have resulted in such problems as under-representation and dreadfully boring novels. I recently read a heavily-lauded novel only to find I could predict the entire plot, which is no fun for anybody.

“The books that change genres, set new tones, and have embedded every trope considered standard issue are the ones that tell the most authentic, most developed stories.”

So how do we navigate this predicament? How does one toe the line between trite and familiar? While I have so far failed to come up with a definitive answer, my advice fortunately does not rely on one. I recommend ignoring the mess altogether.

These days, especially in YA, the genre fads ebb and flow so swiftly that, in my opinion, they should barely matter. After all, writing usually takes too long to catch up. It’s like the stock market: if you only buy stock after it’s done well, you’ve missed the boat. To make any cash, you need to be willing to take some risk.  Besides, there’s a new trend sweeping YA. As a well-read fan, I can promise that one type of book is up in sales: novels that have a good story to tell. If this seems self-explanatory, it should. The books that change genres, set new tones, and have embedded every trope considered standard issue are the ones that tell the most authentic, most developed stories.

To summarize, dealing with genre stereotypes, especially in the washy fields of juvenile fiction, is surprisingly easy. Ignore them. If you think up a wonderful sci-fi story, write it. If you find yourself writing about space wars and intergalactic resource conflicts, then great. There’s no use in writing against a trope solely to combat it. Likewise, if you feel like your science fiction reality doesn’t need holograms, leave them out. As readers, we like structure and familiarity, but I can promise that we’ll always like a good story better.


Paige Crawley is a student living in Toronto. Besides literature, her favorite things are coffee, chocolate, and knitting. Thanks to NaNoWriMo, she has drafted a number of novels and hopes to one day share them with the world. She is currently working on a blog about books and a podcast about language.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from scrappy annie on Flickr.

A Recipe for Writing a Novel 99 Words at a Time

No matter the writing season, it can be difficult to find ways to keep your writing fresh and moving forward. Today, writer Charli Mills shares a recipe to help writers create big projects in small, bite-sized pieces:

One old mountain man asked another, “How do you eat an entire grizzly?”

The second man replies: “One bite at a time, Pard!”

Growing up in the shadow of silver mines on the eastern slope of the Sierras, I had plenty of time as a kid to poke around history and contemplate a dream to write historical fiction. Voices of mountain men like Kit Carson filled my imagination. Names on tilting marble tombstones emerged as characters.

Fast forward many decades later and I’m still poking a pen at times past. Novels, especially ones brewed in the filters of history, take a considerable time commitment. I’ve learned what the mountain man adage means—place one scene down after another, one chapter after another, one draft revision after another.

Constraints (word count or time) can form patterns that imprint the brain. When writers repeat the challenge regularly, flash fiction trains brains to resolve the 99-word problem. It’s like magic, but it’s science. So, when drafting a novel, you can write scenes, dialog, character profiles or setting in 99-word increments.

Like eating a grizzly one bite at a time, 99 words makes 50,000 feel doable.

In 2014 I launched Carrot Ranch Literary Community to connect with other writers and to make literary art accessible. My mission aligns with that of NaNoWriMo. I witness the transformational power of creativity every week when I compile the collection of 99-word flash fictions from writers around the world. I see it played out every November and subsequent NaNoWriMo.

As you prepare to take on the grizzly bear that is writing a novel, take some tips from writing small bites. I’ve arranged a few recipes:

  1. For the busy writer, serve quickly. Write 99 words in five minutes.
  2. For the pantser, write a story until it feels complete. Likely the results will be hundreds of words. Distill the main idea into 99 words. Or use a section and make sure it stands on its own as a 99-word story.
  3. For the plotter, map out three acts. Whip up a beginning, middle, and end. Serve.
  4. For the distracted author, write your WIP in 99 words. Take a scene or character and apply the prompt and constraint. The constraint will give you focus.
  5. For the undecided author, write one 99-word flash in different voices, styles or perspectives to discover what resonates with you. It’s a brief commitment and can help you decide.
  6. For the lonely blogger, bring a dish and join the potluck. Write 99 words and visit the flash fiction posts of others, striking up delicious conversation. Everyone is welcome at

My novels are now in revision; the way miners refine ore. Flash fiction can also be a powerful editing tool, filling gaps, focusing scenes, and using brevity to tighten writing. Remember, every novel begins with the first 99 words.

From riding horses to writing stories, Charli Mills is a born buckaroo wrangling words. She writes stories set in the American West, giving voice to history, women, rocks, and veterans. She founded an imaginary place called Carrot Ranch where real literary artists from around the world gather. As lead buckaroo, she’s crafted and compiled thousands of 99-word flash fictions. Charli created The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology series with her literary community.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from mazaletel on Flickr.

How to Remain Engaged in the Stories You Want to Tell

With Camp NaNoWriMo behind us and November still a few months away, it can be difficult to remain engaged in a writing project you’ve been working on for a long time. Today, author and participant Mareth Griffith shares a few things that have helped her stay in touch with her writing:

As I write this, I am looking through a porthole at a near-vertical hillside, covered with tenuously clinging evergreens. The yacht I work on has spent the day exploring the rugged coast of Southeast Alaska.  After a twelve-hour day spent tracking bears through meadows, driving skiffs in search of humpback whales, and kayaking up to towering waterfalls, I tuck myself into my tiny bunk, pull the curtains shut against the ever-present midnight sun, stare at the blinking cursor on my computer screen… and wonder how I will ever have the energy to work on my novel again?

Spending six weeks at a time living and working on a boat, this is not a new sensation. Exhaustion and minimal spare time are constant realities of working on boats. I’ve discovered the hard way that trying to battle my way into a draft when I’m bone-tired doesn’t usually result in good writing—or give me the recuperation I need before starting another long day on the water. For me, the trick is knowing how to stay in touch with my writing, and the worlds in my stories, even during the days and weeks when I don’t have the time, the energy, or the stamina to actually work on them.

If jumping back into the world of my novel seems an exhausting and futile task, I set my story aside. Instead, I open my journal, and start writing about my day. Even if what I’m writing has no connection to any of my larger projects, simply the act of sitting down and writing something, anything, means I’m more able to ease myself back into my novels during those days and weeks when I have the time and energy to devote to them.

“While the landscape of the story may be made strange and unfamiliar by the passage of weeks or months away from it, the process of enlarging that world by stringing words together on a page remains a familiar one.”

Most every writer has experienced the feeling of displacement when returning to a half-finished project after a few weeks or months spent away. Sometimes it’s an inability to immerse oneself in the story, or the feeling that the piece is rambling, unsalvageable, or that you’ve become blind to the reasons you wanted to write it in the first place. I find these problems are somewhat lessened by continuing the practice of sitting down to write for a few minutes every day. While the landscape of the story may be made strange and unfamiliar by the passage of weeks or months away from it, the process of enlarging that world by stringing words together on a page remains a familiar one.

Even when I’m off the boat, if a story I’m working on isn’t surrendering itself gracefully, it can be helpful to take a few days away from it. I’ve probably solved more plot problems while jogging, or in the shower, than I ever have while actually sitting down to type at my keyboard. While revising my debut novel, my editor encouraged me to completely change a crucial scene near the end of the book. I rewrote the scene, throwing more roadblocks in my hapless protagonist’s path. Instead of parrying her way through a tenuously cordial conversation, now she was pleading her case while being chased down a darkened hallway…

And then I stopped. I had absolutely no idea how my main character was going to throw her pursuer off her trail.

I could’ve plunked my head on my keyboard and despaired. I could have called my editor and confessed I had no idea how to rewrite the scene. I could have spent hours trying to finish the scene anyway, even without any clear idea about what my protagonist was going to do next.

Instead, I put away my laptop, grabbed a water bottle, and went to the gym.  

For me, running can be a creative impetus, perhaps because I don’t have the energy to self-censor as many of my ideas. My inner editor is out of breath, so they quiet down for a bit. With Florence and the Machine warbling over the sound of my footsteps pounding against the treadmill, I suddenly knew what I needed to do to fix the scene. Or more particularly, what my protagonist needed to do to escape her pursuer. And I probably wouldn’t have hit on that particular solution if I hadn’t taken some time away from my computer.

If you find you’re struggling to set aside the time or energy to write, I hope you look for other ways in your daily life to remain engaged in the stories you want to tell.


Mareth Griffith lives in Alaska, a place that encourages the development of indoor winter hobbies. Her debut novel Court of Twilight began as a 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, and was published by Parvus Press last fall. It’s set in contemporary Ireland, and features modern fairies, ancient evils, and unemployed telemarketers. Mareth tweets about writing, Alaska, and wilderness travel at @MagpieMareth.

Top photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash.

3 Ways to Avoid Writing Stereotypes

Although Camp NaNoWriMo has wrapped up for the year, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop writing until November! Today, participant Bethany Meyer gives you some advice on how to avoid overused tropes, stereotypes, and clichés in your writing:

Let’s face it: some ideas are just overused. Ancient, bearded mentors; minions who are dumb as dirt; love triangles—some things have been used so many times that they’ve lost their oomph. They were cool to start out with, but because they were cool, everyone started using them. And now they’ve been used so many times that they just don’t have the same shine that they used to, and they’ve sunk to the status of stereotypes, tropes, and clichés.

The last thing that I ever want to hear people say about my novels is that they’re stereotypical. And not only that, but I don’t want to realize for myself that anything I write is stereotypical. To me, this is one of the worst possible crimes to commit when writing a novel.

So, in order to avoid either of these, let’s talk about a couple ways to knock the tropes out of your novels. I can think of three basic ways to do this:

1. Think about where your characters come from. 

Think about who you based your characters off of, what gave you the idea for the story, why you gave the villain that motivation, etc. Have you included any ideas that have been done a thousand times before, like the Chosen One, or the dark and brooding hero? Look carefully: some of the most common tropes sometimes go unnoticed (Hint: for some reason everyone sets their fantasy novel in medieval Europe). 

If you find any worn-out concepts, now’s the time to think about how you could put a new spin on them or show them in a different light. For example, perhaps the dark and brooding hero has an excellent sense of humor, or the ancient mentor is actually a teenager in disguise. Brand-new ideas like this always make me want to jump up and down in delight, possibly while squealing with joy.

2. You can always make changes.

Even if you’re still in the middle of the first draft, you can still make changes. If you want to change something while you’re in the middle of the draft, just stop everything, make a note of what’s changing (for example, the assassin is actually working for the butcher) and keep going as if it was like that from the beginning. That way when you come back through in edits, you only have to edit up to the place where you made the change. I’ve done this before and it worked well enough for me.

3. Use your edits to make things feel new.

Speaking of editing, that brings me to my third method of getting rid of stereotypes and tropes. Since we are now past July’s NaNoWriMo and your first draft is probably already done, you could make any necessary changes in editing. Come on, folks, the first draft is over! Now is prime time for editing! Give the first draft a few weeks or even a few months to stew around in your brain, then come back and make it even better. Change up any worn out character types, shake up the setting if necessary, anything you feel needs to be varied in order to make the novel unique.

But! Keep in mind that tropes and clichés aren’t always bad. In moderation, they can be fine. When portrayed in a completely new way, they can be extraordinary. And don’t forget that in the end, everything’s been done before. The only difference is, this time, it’s you who gets to do it.

In the words of Charles de Lint: “Don’t forget—no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.”

Bethany Meyer is an aspiring novelist who believes that keeping a light tone is the key to writing likeable stories. She has been writing for most of her life and has only started to get into indie noveling recently She just started her blog, Scribbled Fiction, in January, and is currently in the throes of editing her NaNoWriMo project from two years ago. 

Top image  licensed under Creative Commons from derya on Flickr.

Camp Pep: Write Your Story for You

Camp NaNoWriMo is nothing without you, our incredible participants. Today, Camp NaNoWriMo participant Kyle Winters offers you some advice for this last day of Camp:

Hey there Campers! How’s it going so far? Have you been extracting carts full of delicious word-ore from those story-mines, piling it into big, uh, word piles, and… This metaphor has broken down completely. Regardless, I hope you’ve been having a productive Camp NaNoWriMo! I’ve been plugging away on my novella, not always hitting my goal, but making sure that my butt meets chair and my fingers hit keys.

Having a great outline has helped things go smoothly and I’m hydrated, stimulated and not overly caffeinated, so it all should be going like clockwork, right? Why, then, did I wake up in the middle of the night, gripped with a desperate panic?

My heart raced, sweat clung to me, and I had a marrow-deep need to be validated. It was just after 3:00 a.m. and I scrolled through my phone’s contacts, Facebook, and Twitter trying to figure out who among my friends might be awake and able to give me that sweet, sweet hit of approval my brain so craved. Everyone was asleep, and I cursed that all of my friends had avoided crippling internet addictions.

There’s a weird thing that happens when you’re buckling down on a long project where you become like a hermit in the woods. You’re alone with your story, characters, and world for so long that you begin to feel a sense of isolation and unease. What happens when I leave my weird, coffee-stained hermit shack and try reentering normal society, story in hand? Will I be accepted with open arms, or will I be cast out so quickly that I leave a Kyle-shaped dust outline behind, like in a cartoon?

“Regardless of whether you publish what you’re working on right now and gain a million readers, or the story stays yours and yours alone, you get to look yourself in the eyes at the end of this month and say, ‘I’m a writer.’”

Every writer feels this way at some point because writing is profoundly personal, difficult, and lonely most of the time. Maybe that sounds dramatic, and it is, but we’re allowed to be a bit dramatic since we’re among friends here. Pulling 50,000 words, or 50 words, out of your brain and putting them on the page is a very intense, tiring, and sometimes painful process. It’s only logical that your brain would fight back. It wants a cookie, a treat, a reason to keep fighting with itself and all of your fears. It wants you to call a friend at three in the morning and beg them to read your novella just to say something nice about it, and if you don’t do that, it wants you to give up. Don’t listen. 

Great authors have finished their works because they knew, in the end, that they were writing for themselves. Every word put on the page was a word they wanted there, and it didn’t matter what someone else said or thought. They wrote because, like you, they are writers and (I know this sounds crazy) writers write. Not to put out in the world or to win acceptance from the unknown “they,” but because it is an act for themselves.

I know right now you’re probably struggling, because so am I. Just remember that we all write for an audience of one, and that audience is you. Regardless of whether you publish what you’re working on right now and gain a million readers, or the story stays yours and yours alone, you get to look yourself in the eyes at the end of this month and say, “I’m a writer.” I’m rooting for you and I know you can do it, because if I can, you definitely can.

Kyle Winters is a seasoned writer and mega-nerd with a decade of creative experience beginning with comics and ending with, we can assume, a Thunderdome-style pit fight to the death. His upcoming sci-fi horror novella will be out by the end of 2018, and if you’d like to know when that happens, follow him on Twitter or sign up to his mailing list. Don’t worry, he doesn’t spam.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Michael Dorausch 
on Flickr.

Giving Up Would Be Easier than Continuing Writing, Right?

Camp NaNoWriMo is almost over! It can be tempting to give up on your writing project if you’re feeling frustrated, but today, Camper Eva Papka reminds you of the reasons you shouldn’t give up:

Maybe this thought has crept into a corner of your mind. After all, at the beginning of your writing quest, those words seemed a surmountable task. And it’s true that you’ve been adventuring for awhile in your Camp NaNoWriMo writing, but now you find yourself weary and filled with doubt. Dreaded responsibility monsters might even be attacking you and calling you away from your writing. Perhaps you find yourself stuck at an impossible plot point, or your characters are really misbehaving from your outline and consequently you’ve toyed with the idea of putting your sword down.

Every writer experiences the battle of grim thoughts, especially when they’re getting closer to striking gold. And it’s easy to forget that in the past month you’ve done the impossible because instead of rejoicing in your words you’ve been measuring your success with the completion of your goals. But, you’ve forged words together and hammered away at your art despite the impossible. You’ve gotten words out before or after your endless daily tasks, and no matter the number of them, you’ve made magic. You’ve accepted your writing journey the way a hopeful new hero takes on a quest: with bravery and determination.

And now a delicious question occurs to you: What would happen if you continued to add more words? What if you continued making your art?

“Every writer experiences the battle of grim thoughts, especially when they’re getting closer to striking gold.”

Reality monsters and doubt aside, your art matters! In the past month, you’ve managed to create a new world; or perhaps you’ve been a NaNo rebel and have commenced a revision battle, fighting and tweaking your art in order to make it shine brighter like a polished hero’s sword. Everyone else has gone about with their normal lives, but in your spare time you’ve not only done that, but you’ve also woven a new reality together in the form of your stories.

In these last few steps of the hero’s journey, there’s always that desire to give up, and you might even find yourself creatively blocked, but it happens to every writer, whether they’re new to threading stories together or not. And we are all in this together.

There’s a quote out there that’s been tumbling around in my mind: “The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens. Do not give up.”

So, get out there. You are an inspiration hunter, and you are bound to be victorious, regardless of a pesky word count. Perhaps you’ll stumble upon inspiration during a walk or while listening to a new song. Maybe the answer will be hiding in your dreams or will be reignited by reading an exciting book. Turn to those authors that have touched you, or to those friends that are also story tellers, or to your wonderful NaNo community for support in the last leg of the journey.

Your words matter. Your art matters. Every word written is a step closer to that finished product. To a dream made tangible. Regardless of where you are in your goals, do not give up. You are a word warrior, slayer of monsters, creator of worlds and a Camp NaNoWriMo champion.

Eva Papka has as a Bachelor of Arts in Adolescent English Education and a Masters of Science in Education in Adolescent Literacy. Eva drinks lots of coffee and is typically trapped in a day dream. She is a lover of all things cats, fantasy, and YA. She is currently querying a YA fantasy and working on a realistic fiction novel. She co-hosts a weekly Twitter writing and SFF chat called #Magicmon. You can find her being awkward and gushing about fantasy and writing on her Twitter handle @wordcaffeine.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Sarah Scicluna on Flickr.

Camp Pep: Nothing is Impossible

Camp NaNoWriMo is nothing without you, our incredible participants. Today, Camp NaNoWriMo participant Erica McNary offers you some advice for this last week of Camp:

You’re exhausted.

You’re frustrated.

The words won’t come.

We’ve all been there.

I’m currently there with you. We start our projects with steely resolve, determination and confidence. Now, the time has come for writer’s block, uncooperative characters, faulty plot lines, and (very much for me) real life responsibilities to get in the way. Between my inordinately large brood of children and the need to keep them not only alive but entertained during the summer, too many volunteer commitments (because I just can’t say no), and the never-ending laundry and food preparation routine that accompanies a large family, writing hundreds of words per day feels impossible.

But I didn’t start writing only to call it impossible halfway through and neither did you. We Campers have words in our heads that are desperate to be written. Words that, no matter how imperfect and chaotic they are at first, are worth the time we spend huddled over keyboards. Amidst the bedlam of daily life, sometimes through the din of kids’ laughter and squabbles—because, summer break—we write.

“That’s what it’s about, Campers: finding the tiny pockets of time to get even a few dozen more words on your screen.“

I write in the early morning before the kids wake. I write late at night when the entire house is finally asleep and quiet. I drag my ancient and decrepit iPad 2/keyboard case combo around with me like it’s my sixth—and quietest—child and write on the go, waiting for ballet, hockey, and camp pick-up. Since I’m usually buried under two tons of laundry, I write in between switching out loads and matching innumerous socks because of all the places in the house where the kids could find me, the laundry room is the least likely place for them to look.

That’s what it’s about, Campers: finding the tiny pockets of time to get even a few dozen more words on your screen. It’s late nights and early mornings and self-imposed deadlines that you won’t always meet. Whether your obstacles are large families, job responsibilities or story problems, your mission this month is to work through these things because your words are precious and your project is worth it.  

We have goals to reach! Your goal may be upping your word count, revising for querying or character development. Whatever it is, this is not the time to let self-doubt creep in and worry whether your words are good enough. This is the time for your words to be written! Maybe it’s changing your routine, turning off your music, turning on some music, writing early in the morning rather than at night. Whatever it is that helps you power through and find inspiration, go with it.

When all else fails, embrace a change of scenery and hide in your laundry room. You never know where inspiration might strike.

Erica McNary is a former nurse, mom of many, constant preparer of food, and drinker of coffee. After spending the last eleven years exclusively employed by her five children in the area of parenting arts, she became one of the last people on Earth to read Harry Potter. The series reminded her how good reading was for the soul and inspired this crazy idea that the words, thoughts, and characters floating through her head could be organized into something resembling her own book. Erica is currently juggling the chaos of managing the characters of her first novel along with raising a herd of children. You can find Erica on Twitter: @erica_mcnary, and Instagram: ericamcnary.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Peppysis on Flickr.

Developing Consistent Themes in Your Novel


How is your writing going, Campers? Are you swept away in the world you’re creating, or struggling to write the next chapter? Today, Camper Candace S. Hughes shares a few words of wisdom about developing overarching themes as you write: 

As we move forward in creating our characters and fleshing out the plot, writers must always circle back to ensure that each day’s writing supports the theme and character development. Instead of the reader asking “Where is this going?” we want to ensure that our new additions show a strong relationship to the story you are telling. 

In my own writing, which is mostly creative nonfiction, I use the skills I taught in freshman English. I have an opening paragraph ending with a sentence giving the reader a hint about where I am going. Each new paragraph develops and supports this thesis or theme. If I choose to have several paragraphs of description, I tie them back into what would have been a thesis statement in an English composition. Since some writers may not want to associate in any way with freshman English, the point is to simply take the reader into consideration when going off in a new direction.

I enjoyed this month’s PBS and New York Times book club selection Pachinko, and until I was three quarters of the way through the book I was wondering why it was only a finalist for the National Book Award. Then, close to the ending, new subplots were introduced and not tied into the main story, and that part of the character’s behavior and development was unexplained. I checked with my fellow readers and found that, like me, many loved the book but were puzzled about new and unassociated action toward the end of the novel. 

“Unity and coherence with good details and well-chosen rising and falling action keep the audience interested in completing the book.”

Foreshadowing is a key element that shows why a specific incident is introduced and can help a reader connect different parts of your story. A controlling idea or theme that the reader clearly sees in each new chapter is one of the best ways to revise when the first draft is completed. Unity and coherence with good details and well-chosen rising and falling action keep the audience interested in completing the book and closing the sad thought that an engaging tale has ended. 

To keep the writer interested in completing the first draft, I recall the comedic action in the Pulitzer Prize winner Less. Our hero ends up in bed with an injured ankle and in a hotel in a foreign country with few distractions. He has three weeks to work on his novel, and when he returns to the States is reminded by an old friend that he should not be distracted and should complete his book. While in the summer it may be hard to stay with Camp NaNoWriMo, I encourage all of us to continue toward our common goal.


Candace S. Hughes has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and has done graduate work toward a master of liberal studies degree. Her poetry has been published at The Arizona Republic Poetry Spot and she has had freelance articles published by and Arizona publications.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Linda on Flickr.