Category: by nano sponsor


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Fiverr, a NaNoWriMo 2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some editing tips to get your novel ready to publish:

You and your manuscript have spent a lot of time together over the past few months (or maybe even lifetime). Take a minute to marvel at your masterpiece. You started November a writer and ended a novelist. You did what most people only dream of—you sat down and wrote the darn thing. Bravo.

It’s totally normal to want to take a breather and step away from your first draft for a while. Once you’re ready to dive back in—because you wrote those 50,000 words, and they should be read!—reread it. See what’s working and what needs to be rewritten. When you’re finally happy with the revisions and ready to start thinking about publishing, it’s time to finally ask for some help. Call in editors, designers, marketers, etc. Editing, polishing, and designing your novel before you’re ready to publish is key, and you’re going to want to call on professionals to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. 

The path to publishing is different for everyone. Some want to connect directly with publishers, while others are planning to self-publish. For both paths, there  are websites like Fiverr. Fiverr—the freelancer marketplace—launched a new store that includes hundreds of digital services for taking your manuscript to the next level. 

Check out our tips below for editing, designing, and promoting your novel: 

  • Editing 101: Get a fresh pair of eyes on your manuscript to do deep developmental edits, catch mistakes, and utilize feedback to strengthen your manuscript. Find freelancers for everything from content editing to proofreading to beta reading.   
  • Make a lasting impression, from cover to cover: All the effort you put into writing your novel will be for nothing if you don’t capture the attention of your readers immediately. Packaging your novel right is important to position it for the market. Hire an expert for freelance services like cover design, book interiors, illustration, book blurbs and more.  
  • Ready, set, launch: You may be planning to pitch your novel to traditional publishers, or are looking to market on your own. Who is your target audience? What is your angle?  Come prepared with a book proposal, professional book trailer, and a solid marketing plan in place.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Here’s a novel idea: visit Fiverr’s store to get started.

Top photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, Nathan Wilcox of Writers’ Clearinghouse, a NaNoWriMo 2019/2020 sponsor, is here to help you with an in-depth publishing how-to:

So you finished a novel. You’ve spent hundreds of hours writing. You’ve studied writing manuals. You’ve edited until your eyes crossed. You’ve recruited your friends to provide feedback. You’ve completed one of the greatest of all human accomplishments: You are a novelist.

The hard part is done, right? You’ll just send some letters off to agents and sit back and wait for them to come begging. Only it’s most likely not the agents that come calling. It’s their little red gremlin friends bent on destroying your will as an author: rejections.

Rejection is a part of being an author. Even the greatest authors have faced piles of rejections, and unless you’re ridiculously lucky, so will you. Personally, I’ve had 147 rejections across two manuscripts. Rejection is going to happen, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is acceptance – you only need one “yes” to make all the “no’s” irrelevant. So rather than worry about rejections, let’s talk about how to get accepted.  

All those rejections are exactly why we spent a full year studying why manuscripts are rejected and how authors can improve their chances of going from rejections to acceptance. From what we learned, we formed Writers’ Clearinghouse with a mission of making it easier for authors to get feedback and to get noticed.

Step 1: Query the right agents. 

In this new-fangled internet age, there is honestly no excuse for not researching the agents you plan to query. The information is out there, it is easy to access, and it is (mostly) free. 

First, make sure that you find agents that represent your genre and target audience. Agents are people (hard to believe, I know). And just like you and me, they have certain types of books that they like to read and certain types they don’t. Compile a list of agents that represent the genre you write. The easiest way to do this is to visit one of the many agent databases out there:

Once you’ve found agents who are interested in what you write, then you should narrow your list. There are over a thousand agents out there. And unless you’re writing something like literary westerns in verse, there are probably hundreds that represent your genre. We recommend working in batches of 10-15 queries at a time. Here are a few questions that can help:

  • Do you want a young, hungry agent? Or a more established (but potentially more selective) agent?
  • Do you have any connection to an agent – met them at a conference, went to same university, live in same city, grew up in same area, have serious blackmail dirt?
  • When you read her bio, how did you feel about her? Did an agent stand out as someone you’d really like to work with?
  • Did an agent mention liking or looking for something that is similar to what you’ve written?

Once you have your list, thoroughly research those agents. What kind of books do they currently represent? Which authors do they represent? What have they sold in the past? Are they open for queries? All the information from this research will allow you to make sure that you are querying the right agents and that you are writing a query letter that appeals to their specific desires. 

Step 2: Write a query letter that captures an agent’s attention. 

Agents receive hundreds of query letters EVERY WEEK. They make decisions based on a small slice of information, and for pure survival, they have to look for reasons to reject submissions, not accept them. So how do you make it as hard as possible for them to reject your query? 

Follow the formula: Agents have certain expectations regarding query letters, and if you don’t meet those basic requirements, it will result in almost instantaneous rejection. A query letter is a sales letter. You are trying to get an agent to bite on your manuscript, to read the pages you’ve submitted, to ask for more. 

Luckily, a lot of really smart people have written articles on how to write a query letter. And because they’re all very good, I’ll let you read them yourself: 

Get your letter reviewed by a professional: Remember, you only have one shot to impress an agent. The future of your entire novel (all those hours, all the sweat and tears and frustration) rests on 300 words. That’s why we recommend you have an expert look at your query letter before you send it. A list of services that will help you polish your query letter are below:

Step 3: Write an amazing opening. 

An agent read your query letter. Her hand wavered above the big red REJECT button, but something caught her attention, and she thought, “Alright, let’s see.”

Now that agent is going to read your writing sample. Typically, this will be the first five to ten pages of your manuscript. There is an old adage that the first sentence is the most important sentence, the first page is the most important page, the first chapter is the most important chapter. The reason is obvious: if a reader doesn’t get past the first sentence, the first page, the first chapter, she won’t read your book. The same thing applies to agents.

Luckily, just like with query letters, a lot has been written about how to craft an amazing first chapter. Here are some of our favorites:

There are many more articles. You can also find webinars, videos, and workshops through your local writing association or conference. The point is that those first five to ten pages need to be dynamite, because if they’re not, the agent will not request any more.

Get your opening reviewed by a professional: Just like with the query letter, I would suggest that the first ten pages of your manuscript are far too important to leave to chance. After all the time, effort, and yes, money, you’ve put into your novel, a review of the pages that will sell it is a small investment, especially since you can get a review for as little as $20. We had a harder time finding services that will review only the first few pages, but here are a few:

Step 4: Have a publication-ready manuscript. 

You’ve researched the best agents, you’ve written the perfect query letter, your first ten pages are unforgettable, and an agent has just asked to see your full manuscript! This is it. You’re on your way! 

Or… you wait six months and hear nothing – except your own whimpers. Trust me, I’ve been there. My latest work received several requests for the full manuscript when I queried, but when I sent it, I just got silence, crickets, the radio static from a post-apocalyptic drama. 

What went wrong? I never would have known that the first third of my manuscript was critically flawed if one (incredibly kind) agent hadn’t taken the time to write me a page of notes. Critique groups are great. Beta readers are really helpful. But you know what? Unless you’re really lucky, your beta readers and critique group (as amazing as they are) do not know what it takes to get a book published. 

You know who does? Agents and professional editors. Many editors provide a quicker, cheaper assessment of your manuscript that tells you exactly where it stands. If it’s ready to go, they tell you. If it needs work, they tell you where. Then, you can decide what to do next: submit it, revise it, hire a professional editor. But at least you know that you are not wasting your time by sending out a flawed manuscript. 

Below is a list of companies that provide manuscript evaluation services. We, of course, suggest Writers’ Clearinghouse, not only because we’re the cheapest but also because we provide a comprehensive breakdown of your manuscript in twenty areas along with a score that you can use as part of your queries to tell agents exactly how great your manuscript is.

  • Writers’ Clearinghouse: $350 ($50 + $5 / 1,000 word) — Frequent discounts; Evaluation in 20 categories with comments and suggestions by former agents
  • Writers’ Digest Shop: $730 ($3 per page) — High-level comments in key areas, independently contracted editors
  • Manuscript Critique Ninja: $595 (up to 100,000 words) — 20 years industry experience, editorial letter and creative suggestions
  • Friesen Press: $499 (up to 60k words) — 5 – 6 page editorial letter, professional editor
  • Page Turner Manuscript Evaluations: $1,440 — “Big picture deep analysis” in 10 areas
  • Strong Tower Publishing: $490 ($10 + $2 per page) — Top-level analysis and page-by-page discussion without specific suggestions 
  • Clear Voice Editing: $660 ($2.75 per page) — Overview of strengths and weaknesses as well as detailed feedback at the chapter level

Finally, to finish my story, I purchased an evaluation from Writers’ Clearinghouse for my manuscript (because I’m not only an owner, I’m a customer). I just wish I’d been able to do it before I sent my manuscript to all those agents because the Writers’ Clearinghouse review told me the exact same thing that agent did (practically word for word). The problem was there the entire time. If I’d only found and fixed it before I sent my manuscript to all those agents, I might be on my way to publication right now.

Step 5: Keep writing.

Sometimes, we can do all the right things, tick off every box, follow every step, and things still don’t work out. And not every book is going to find an agent much less a publisher. 

So, what’s an author to do? KEEP WRITING!

You’re a writer, after all, so WRITE! Start the next project, use everything you’ve learned, keep getting better, and then do it all over again. 

But first, I think you owe it to yourself, to your work, to your characters, to your world, to do everything you can to get your book published. You’ve spent countless hours writing that manuscript. You’ve sacrificed for it. You’ve paid for conferences and workshops and tutorials and writing manuals. You’ve called in every favor and strained every friendship to solicit critiques and beta readers.

So why wouldn’t you spend the time and money to give that work every possible chance to succeed? And in the end, it’s not that much time, it’s not that much money. For less than $400 you can have a former agent or editor review your query letter, first ten pages, AND entire manuscript. 

Is your writing worth it? I think it is.

Nathan Wilcox is a business development expert turned author who quickly learned how frustrating and opaque the process of getting published can be. He founded Writers’ Clearinghouse to take the guesswork out of publication by providing low-cost evaluations that tell authors if their manuscripts are ready for publication and if not, where they should focus their efforts. To learn more about Writers’ Clearinghouse, visit us at

Top photo via Adobe Stock images.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. IngramSpark, a NaNoWriMo 2019/2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some publishing tips (Plus, check out their writing challenge for the chance to win some cool prizes!):

Taking the leap from writer to published author is a huge accomplishment—and often the end goal for writers who complete NaNoWriMo. We all write for different reasons. We’re motivated by different life experiences, and we pursue a wide variety of genres and plot lines, but once the writing is finished, we generally all want the same thing: to share our work with others. So if you’re considering publication for your writing, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. You have options.

Gone are the days when traditional publishing was the only way that “real” authors could publish their work. With advancements in technology, independent publishing has become an increasingly viable option. With the right printing and distribution, your book can look the same as any produced by traditional publishers—with the same availability. Not to mention, you can skip the gatekeepers, maintain creative control, and receive higher earnings per book sale. 

Keep in mind that independent publishing will require you to seek help from a professional editor, book designer, and be willing to dive into your own book marketing, but all of these are easily accessible to indie authors and well worth the return on investment when you publish professionally.

2. Never limit your book’s potential reach.

If a reader wants to read your book, your book should be available to them—it’s as simple as that. You don’t know how readers will want to consume your content, so be sure it’s offered in print and ebook formats. Why exclude those who ONLY read print books or ONLY read ebooks?

Your reader may shop exclusively at their local independent bookstore, they may only shop for books online, or they might even leave their book discovery to libraries. Make sure your distribution doesn’t exclude any of these outlets. You never know who will want to buy your book; it may even end up being highly popular to those in a country other than your own. Make sure when you publish your book, your potential reach isn’t limited, globally or by distribution channel, so as not to exclude any potential readers from buying your book.

3. Being prepared is key.

The most successful authors and publishers are the ones who understand the publishing process, the publishing industry, and their audience. If any of these pieces are missing, your book can’t reach its full potential. If you’ve created a work that matters to you and you genuinely want to share it, you owe it to yourself and your book not to slack in these essential areas. Do your research to understand: 

  • what kind of editing or design your book may need.
  • the appropriate timeline for production and promotion.
  • what booksellers and libraries need from you and your book in order to carry it.
  • what kind of media coverage you can get.
  • what month is best to publish a book like yours.
  • what books similar to yours look like.
  • how much they sell for.
  • what keywords you may want to sprinkle into your book description to attract your target readers.

All of these pieces are important to producing the best book you can, and all the information is available to you.

The only thing that stands between you and the publication of your book is a way to publish professionally, a way to ensure your book is shared widely, and the willingness to learn how to make your book a success (ideally, all within a reasonable price range to make sure your efforts pay off). 

These things seem like a much lower barrier to entry than what is offered by the traditional publishing process, considering how much time and effort you dedicate to convincing others your book is worthy before ever seeing a dime. Independent publishing isn’t for everyone, but neither is traditional publishing, so it’s always good to be aware of your options and fully explore what’s right for you and your book.

About IngramSpark

IngramSpark® is an award-winning independent publishing platform, offering indie authors and publishers the ability to create professional print books and ebooks. Self-publish a book and make it available to 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online—through IngramSpark’s global distribution network. Share your story with the world at

If you’d like to learn more about how IngramSpark supports you produce quality publications, achieve global distribution, and access free resources to help you publish successfully, please visit our website

All WriMos receive FREE title setup on print or ebooks (and free revisions) with IngramSpark until March 31, 2020, with promo code NANO2020. Write with NaNoWriMo, publish with IngramSpark.

Regardless of how you decide to pursue your publication goals, may your writing accomplishments be validated and your words well-read!

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Walmart eBooks, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, has partnered with Kobo Writing Life to bring you some tips for writing and publishing. Here are some of their favorite excerpts from the Kobo Writing Life podcast:

Walmart partners with Kobo to offer Walmart eBooks services, and one of the best parts of working with Kobo’s self-publishing arm Kobo Writing Life is the opportunity to interview writers and publishing professionals on the KWL podcast. 

We’ve spoken to a wide variety of guests, from novice writers to seasoned professionals and everyone in between. Wherever you are in your writing journey, we’ve got something for you (hint: special offers included)! 

Pep Talks from NaNoWriMo’s very own Grant Faulkner!

Episode 96

In case you need extra motivation, Grant gives great tips from for keeping up the bootcamp attitude during NaNoWriMo and throughout the year!

Editor-turned-writer Signe Pike talks first drafts and historical research

Episode 130

Another great one for novice writers, Signe talks to us about her time as an acquisition editor, her top tips for writers struggling to write their first draft and the challenges of writing non-fiction versus fiction.

Damon Suede talks about creating memorable characters

Episode 139

This is another incredibly popular episode, and absolutely worth listening to if you want to up your characterization game! Damon Suede writes m/m romance and explains how his background in acting helps him approach writing well-developed characters in his novels. It’s a must-listen for anyone looking to write lovable, believable characters, in any genre!

Storytelling with Waubgeshig Rice

Episode 165

A fascinating interview with Waubgeshig Rice, who recently published his second novel with ECW Press. Moon of the Crusted Snow is a post-apocalyptic story told from an indigenous perspective. He spoke about how young writers – particularly indigenous writers – can find opportunities to write and publish.

Looking for more? You can find a great selection of audiobooks by visiting Walmart eBooks! Sign up now to get your first audiobook for free. 

And finally, you can also get 50% off The Writer’s Toolbox 2019 and The Successful Author Mindset audiobook by Joanna Penn. Use promo code KWLPODPENN to receive 50% off of your choice of either eBook or audiobook. 

Happy writing!

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Kindle Direct Publishing, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, is a free self-publishing platform that can help you reach millions of readers. Today, author Julian Simmons shares how he found his writing community through NaNoWriMo:

This NaNoWriMo, participants are busy with the exciting challenge of bringing their stories to life. The time has come to seduce our stories onto the page with the dream of reaching people all over the world. But as some of us know from experience, our narratives can be shy, and therefore we have to start small and simple to get them ready for literary splendor. 

I went into my first NaNoWriMo with no outline, no storyboards, and no expectations. All I had was a simple plot and the drive to devote 50,000 words to my book. The zero prep work allowed me to focus on taking the words from my head and putting them on paper. I never looked at NaNoWriMo as something that would give me a completed novel, ready for publication at the end. For me, this competition was only about writing 50,000 words as the foundation of my story. That was it. What I didn’t expect was the level of support I received from the many different writing communities I found by just joining my home region.

Our network of writing communities met for write-ins, used online platforms to play games to increase our word count, shared writing prompts, and challenged our NaNoWriMo buddies’ word count to keep us motivated. I even joined a group of Wrimos at work and we scheduled short breaks to write together. All of these activities had one focus: getting as many words out as possible. And it worked! I finished the challenge with over 50,000 words and went on to write an additional 30,000 words in the months following NaNoWriMo. What worked best for me was to avoid making the writing process feel like a project with spreadsheets full of story timelines and character outlines. This would make the process feel like a never-ending homework assignment, and I would never finish. Some writers prefer to plan and organize their NaNoWriMo journey, and ultimately you have to do what works best for you.

“What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity.”

The community and support that I experienced continued after NaNoWriMo. My home region stayed active on social media. Through my network of friends I made during the writing challenge, I was able to connect with an amazing editor that fit the needs of my manuscript and even found multiple graphic designers to help me with cover and interior design. When I was ready to publish, I used Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The KDP community forums are heavily driven by authors sharing tips and tricks for publishing and gave me a true sense of authors looking out for each other.

What I love most about NaNoWriMo and KDP is that they provide a path for writers to create, nurture, and share their stories with the world, lending a voice to those who may never have had the opportunity. I’d watched many of my friends publish their books over the years, but finally being one of those authors by submitting my final manuscript for publication was an incredible experience. 

To find out more about the KDP community, visit the KDP Community page.

Julian Simmons is an award-winning author of the middle-grade novel The Writer’s Table and works at Amazon KDP in the books division. You can find him at and through social media @writerjsimmons

Top photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.


Every year, as tens of thousands of writers get ready to write a novel, we ask a handful of authors to share encouragement, advice, and their experience. This year, in partnership with Vintage Anchor Books, we’re sharing some words of inspiration from author Anne Lamott, and celebrating the 25th anniversary of her book Bird by Bird by sharing an excerpt here on our blog:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out. Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy—finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they’ve longed to do since childhood. But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat. Some lose faith. Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground. Historically they show up for the first day of the workshop looking like bright goofy ducklings who will follow me anywhere, but by the time the second class rolls around, they look at me as if the engagement is definitely off.

“I don’t even know where to start,” one will wail.

Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don’t worry about doing it well yet, though. Just start getting it down.

Now, the amount of material may be so overwhelming that it can make your brain freeze. When I had been writing food reviews for a number of years, there were so many restaurants and individual dishes in my brainpan that when people asked for a recommendation, I couldn’t think of a single restaurant where I’d ever actually eaten. But if the person could narrow it down to, say, Indian, I might remember one lavish Indian place I went on a date. Then a number of memories would come to mind, of other dates and other Indian restaurants.

So you might start by writing down every single thing you can remember from your first few years in school. Start with kindergarten. Try to get the words and memories down as they occur to you. Don’t worry if what you write is no good, because no one is going to see it. Move on to first grade, to second, to third. Who were your teachers, your classmates? What did you wear? Who and what were you jealous of? Now branch out a little. Did your family take vacations during those years? Get these down on paper. Do you remember how much more presentable everybody else’s family looked? Do you remember how when you’d be floating around in an inner tube on a river, your own family would have lost the little cap that screws over the airflow valve, so every time you got in and out of the inner tube, you’d scratch new welts in your thighs? And how other families never lost the caps? […] Remember that you own what happened to you.

Excerpted from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Copyright © 1995 by Anne Lamott. Excerpted by permission of Anchor. All rights reserved.


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Scrivener, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, is an award-winning word processor and project management program. Today, writer Rebeca Schiller shares some advice about creating an outline for your novel using their software:

I’m in a quandary. The issue is: do I pants my way through November, or do I outline? 

Pantsing is fast, but you’ll discover lapses in story logic when you’re revising your manuscript. In my WIP, I’ve had to go back to the beginning several times and make changes because I realized a character’s action made no sense. Set-up, foreshadowing, and motivation had to be added in many early scenes. 

This year I’ve decided to outline a new story just in time for NaNoWriMo. The key is to include enough detail so I can write it in one fell swoop, and when it’s time to revise the manuscript I can focus on prettying up the language. 

To accomplish this goal, I’ll use Scrivener’s built-in outliner that, in theory, will help me spot my missing plot holes. Below are illustrated steps on how to create an outline using Scrivener: 

Step 1: If you like the flexibility of creating your own structure, choose the blank template for your project. I like one that’s based on Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tips for Authors, which I wrote about on the Literature and Latte blog.


Step 2: After creating the structure, add documents in the first folder by clicking on the + icon found in the Binder’s footer. Next write a synopsis for each scene. The synopsis feature is found in the Inspector under the tab that looks like a notebook. Type in two or three sentences summarizing the scene in the synopsis pane. A small thing to notice: when you type in a synopsis, the blank document icon in the binder turns into an index card.


Step 3. In the binder select each scene, and then go to View->Outline where the editor pane will change, displaying a number of columns including Title and Synopsis, word count, section, target, etc. Personally, the only column that interests me for now is Title and Synopsis.  New columns for POV label,  Setting, Goal, Motivation, Conflict (the character’s), Setting, and Characters in Scene will need to be created.


Step 4. To create a POV using the label feature, go to the Inspector’s footer. Click on Label, a menu will open select Edit. A window will open providing the option to add a custom title, type in POV.  Next to one of the tinted dots, double click, and type in the character’s name.  Next to create custom columns in the Outliner,  click on the arrow located on the far right; a drop down menu will appear, uncheck the columns you won’t use. At the very bottom, click on Custom Columns.


Step 5: A window will open. On the left select Custom Metadata. Clicking on the + icon on the right, type in a column heading. I’ve typed in Setting, Goal, Conflict, Motivation, Characters in Scene. Below that  make sure “Text” is selected in the Type field; select left alignment and check word wrap. Hit OK when you’re done.


Step 6: Go back to where the columns are listed in the drop down menu, uncheck the ones you don’t want and check the ones you created. To fill in the fields, double click in the outliner and write your brief description.


Lastly,  don’t let elementary school rules on how to outline get in the way of how you write your novel. For years, I followed what I learned in the third grade: I kept my main points brief, used  keywords, but after I read through the material, I had no idea of what I was trying to articulate. This is your roadmap be as detailed as you need to be. Remember, its purpose is to help you write your story.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, Alex Holcomb shares how Campfire, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, can help you finish your novel when you’re having trouble finding the right words:

It’s 9:59 a.m. on a Saturday morning. You want to hit 2,000 words for the day, but you can’t seem to even reach 200. You write a noun, then a verb, and then… nothing.

Exhausted from the cycle, you try slamming your hands on your keyboard and seeing if anything magical happens. 

It doesn’t.

And that’s when it hits you: you’re fighting off writer’s block.

When you’re dealing with writer’s block, hard work is what gets you through it, but without strong planning, that hard work might not do anything. Let’s look at a few ways planning can get you through your first draft:

1. Stick to the Path

For most people, outdoor experiences consist of day hikes, hikes that only last a few hours and usually have a very obvious trail. More serious hikers might take on the challenge of backpacking or overnight hikes. 

A day hike usually doesn’t require a map, but when backpacking, a map is an essential part of packing. You can follow the trail, but if you ever get lost or can’t quite see the path, you’ll be in serious trouble without a map.

Similarly, you can, with varying levels of success, write a short story or poem with little planning, but a long-form piece like a novel needs a map. Without it, even the best writers will have difficulty getting back on the trail when they get lost.

Of course, most people have an idea of where they want their story to go. Without planning, you can get somewhere on your story, but figuring out where to go next during writer’s block can be impossible, especially when creativity is nowhere to be found.

 2. Know Thy Characters

Most writers know how important a character is to their story. In fact, most of the time, the characters are more important than the story.

Think of a sitcom like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Without Will’s comedic flair and Carlton’s nerdy outlook, the show would be about an angry mother who got so mad she sent her son to the other side of the country.

Without vibrant characters, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a sad story about an impoverished man who fishes for a living. The Office would feel like going to work without the antics of Jim and Dwight.

You could go on and on about shows, movies, and books that rely less on plot and more on developing and maintaining good characters. Hemingway himself once said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Without careful character planning, the actors are mindless robots roaming from one point to another. They stay flat as you focus on making sure you can get to the next plot development.

If you take time to get to know your own characters before writing, you’ll be able to get past writer’s block by asking, “What would my character do here?” In the same way you know how your best friend would react to a situation, you’ll know what to write when your character finds themselves in the right situation.

On the same note, defining your character arcs essentially tells you what they should do. For example, let’s say you want your character to learn to be selfless by the end of the book. If you’re at the beginning of the book, chances are you shouldn’t have your character give to a charity, but if you’re nearing the end, it should be a given that they would risk their life to save their friends.

3. Fear No Plotholes

Arguably one of the greatest plotholes of all time comes from J.R.R. Tolkien: The Great Eagles of Manwë from The Lord of the Rings series, giant eagles who are sapient and powerful, could have helped Frodo and Sam fly to Mount Doom and avoid the perilous journey of destroying the One Ring, but they don’t for unexplained reasons.

Of course, no one is arguing that J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t plan his story, but plotholes can cause serious issues in your writing. Even now, there’s enough debate about the Great Eagles of Manwë to fill up enough books to match all of the LOTR books.

Planning your story helps you see these plotholes before you even begin your first draft. The last thing you want to be doing 10,000 words into a book is to be figuring out a way to explain an inconsistency you could have avoided before you had ever typed a word.

About Campfire

Campfire is a writing software that helps you organize every part of your story from character development to the language your characters speak. Our specialty is helping you plan your story to become the best-seller you want it to be.

We’ve helped thousands of writers create their stories, and we recently raised over $37,000 to kickstart our next project: a web-based application with even more features than before.

Want to try Campfire Pro out completely free? Check out our free trial and get started with your next novel today. If you decide to purchase, don’t forget to use code NANOCAMPO at checkout for 25% off Campfire Pro.

Alex Holcomb is the social media manager at Campfire and a marketing professional based in Knoxville, TN. He enjoys reading more than writing, hiking with his fiancée, and definitely not writing bios. You can find his work scattered throughout the internet, on Twitter, and on his website

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, writer Christin David shares how Dabble, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, helped her find her writing community:

Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall. 
—Ray Bradbury

After some writing adventures as a teenager twenty-something years ago, NaNoWriMo got me back into writing fiction in 2016. The key for me was to dedicate some time and energy every day to this one goal. The realization that I could write a coherent, interesting story (despite my day job as a scientific researcher and university teacher) gave me a huge boost in confidence. Reaching the goal of 50k words each November by writing two hours a day renewed the desire of my adolescence to bring stories from mind to paper. It has opened a floodgate.

Motivation is a feeble thing, though; it tends to slip away when looking at a blank page and wondering how on earth to fill it. My interest was sparked in a writing software that would allow me to plan and organize my ideas, but many softwares overwhelmed me with functionalities I didn’t need. Halfway through November 2017, I became a Dabbler. 

I found the perfect companion in Dabble to evolve my random writing habit into a regular activity without losing inertia and without anxieties creeping in. Its simplistic design and auto-focus is free from distractions; it keeps track of writing goals; accounts for days off; and even syncs with the NaNoWriMo word count. These days, I’m writing fiction whenever my brain itches and my fingers twitch. Dabble is always with me, on- and offline, on all my devices (and, thanks to automatic cloud backup and synching, I never miss a beat).

Dabble just celebrated its 2nd (!) birthday and I feel like a pioneer. I found Dabble to be more than a writing app. With Dabble, service is personal, as you can make suggestions and discuss any issues directly with its developer, founder and only full-time employee, Jacob Wright, on its dedicated forum or through the app itself. There, I felt right at home between people who debate every aspect of the craft and who enjoy having a direct influence on the product they use. For me, the support of such a community has been vital and gave me lots of insights into the tricks of habitual writers. Though I am not a professional, I feel among equals. We all love to write.

“Dabble’s ever growing community has been a major factor for me to keep going, to improve my writing habits and to, ultimately, self-publish my short stories.”

I didn’t think I wanted more. I knew, I had stories in me—and I was surprised at how many ideas rushed over me, once I allowed them to come. As an introvert, however, I rarely showed my finished stories to friends and family, publishing for a wider audience seemed unthinkable. Finding the courage to do something outrageously new is tricky. Dabble’s ever growing community has been a major factor for me to keep going, to improve my writing habits and to, ultimately, self-publish my short stories.

I’ve included the Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July into my calendar, where I set less stressing personal writing goals for myself (e.g. editing my November draft in April, and collecting ideas and outlining a plot in July. Dabble as a community has given me the courage to follow this path and to not give up on my dreams. (I’m still terrified of the idea that it’s now all out there, though!)

A final note: As a scientist, I adhere to the scientific method. Each scientific publication is as dry, honest and precise as possible. I try to spread my wings in the evenings. And I love to fall into the unknown.

Dr. Christin David is a German scientist, teaching students about the laws of Nature by day, while writing fiction whenever time allows. Traveling frequently on the job, she draws inspiration from every corner of the world and inevitable, weird encounters. Her stories are full of mysteries, a healthy bit of laughter, and sometimes even science. Still trying to figure out a genre or niche, she has self-published a collection of short stories [in German ;)] written during NaNoWriMo 2017. Follow her on Twitter @CDavid_Fiction 

Top photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash.

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, The Great Courses Plus, a NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor, is here with some tips to help guide you through the novel-writing process in November:

Just like the novel itself, the process of writing a novel always has a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. And The Great Courses Plus is here to help with every stage of novel writing you take on.  

In the Beginning… 

We need ideas and inspiration. We have to invent our characters, plot out how we think the story will unfold, and entertain no less than 50,000 potential plot twists—because at the beginning, anything can happen. 

Once we have those ideas, getting them all together and organized into a readable story structure is as big of a challenge as putting together the right words to craft that ever-vital first sentence. 

James Scott Bell is an award-winning novelist and writing instructor and he thinks you have a bestseller in you. With our course How to Write Best-Selling Fiction, you get an intimate introduction into the fundamentals of how to write your bestseller, given from a best-selling author who has mastered the secrets to success.

We all have creativity in us, but sometimes we need help getting in touch with it. Mr. Bell gets you started by offering several fun, challenging, and mind-expanding exercises that help you flex and develop your creative muscle. 

Once you have a few (thousand) great ideas, Mr. Bell provides a writing method called “LOCK” that will help you structure your story in a way that develops into an engaging page-turner. He also breaks down techniques that other best-selling authors have implemented. With these methods and explanations, Mr. Bell provides inspiration and demonstrates what works, so that you will have a plethora of tools to improve your writing and your chances of success.  

How to Write Best-Selling Fiction is jam-packed with techniques to help you bring power to your plot, charisma to your characters, drama to your dialogue, and vitality to your voice.  

In the beginning, you can also consider other Great Courses as resources for inspiration and development: 

In the Middle….

We might wonder if this was such a good idea. 

The middle is where 50,000 words suddenly seems like a massively overwhelming and unobtainable concept. This is where nothing works. This is where we are convinced we’ll never get done. This is where our characters are already boring us. This is where we’re staying up all night trying to just make what we already wrote sound better instead of plowing on and moving forward. 

And this is where we step away for an hour. Or a night. Or a day. 

We promise. It’s a good thing. 

Mindful thinking tells us that changing your environment helps you take a different viewpoint. And Dr. Peter M. Vishton, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology, tells us that the best way to deal with the writer’s block, frustration, or the procrastination that affects us all is to attack it at its source. 

In our course Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You, you’ll get tips for monotasking to make you more efficient at whatever it is you are concentrating on. You’ll learn how practicing meditation regularly can help inspire you. You’ll discover the importance of a good night’s sleep. And he’ll provide you with a toolbox full of several practical, easy-to-implement strategies for finding more creative solutions, solving puzzles, and enhancing your mental prowess. 

So, go feed your mind with a brain snack, listen to a new song, or take a break and meditate for a bit. Your novel will be there when you come back; and with these tips, you’ll return with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm for your project. 

In the middle, you can also consider these Great Courses as resources for meditation, changing your mindset, and finding motivation: 

In Conclusion… 

We are so glad to be marching towards those two most important words in a writer’s vocabulary (“The End”) that we don’t have a thought to spare when it comes to the next two most important words in a writer’s vocabulary, which are: “Now what?” 

Jane Friedman, publishing industry expert and educator, provides you with sought-after secrets of the publishing process that will help you navigate this difficult progression, bypass pitfalls that many novice authors get hung up on, and improve your chances of being considered for publication. In our course How to Publish Your Book, she acts as your personal guide though the entire process from finalizing your manuscript, to writing the perfect pitch, to reviewing contracts and marketing your book. 

You’ll get the candid scoop on what you need to do in order to increase your chances of being considered. The knowledge you’ll gain by having an inside expert teaching you how to position your book for publication gives you a unique advantage and drastically increases your chances of getting noticed in this increasingly competitive industry.

In conclusion, you can also consider these Great Courses as resources for editing, negotiating, marketing, and celebrating: 

All these courses, and more, are available to you through The Great Courses Plus. You can also find genre-specific courses such as science fiction, mysteries and suspense, or literatures most fantastic works. 

Enjoy the process. We’re rooting for you.

Top photo modified from original by AbsolutVision on Unsplash.