Category: by nano sponsor

Finding and Sustaining Inspiration with Dabble

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. There are lots of options when it comes to writing software, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you. Today, writer Astra Compton is here to tell you about Dabble, a Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor:

One of a writer’s eternal struggles is finding the time to write. As someone working three jobs, it’s not about squeezing more hours out of the day; it’s about making the act of writing easier. After all, when progress comes easy, everything standing in your way disappears.

You know those excuses: falling down internet-search rabbit holes, needing your writing cave to be perfect before you can even start, lacking time as you scramble between work and home, typesetting your manuscript more than you’re writing it, etc.

When I won NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, one of the prizes was a subscription to Dabble. Honestly, it has revolutionized the way I write.

I hadn’t used cloud-based systems before because I found them clunky, and invariably I’d save over the wrong version. Dabble synced to cloud storage but was streamlined. While I was writing, the interface disappeared so it was just me and my story. There was a light or dark mode (light for me), bold and italics, and word count goals. No other distractions.

In previous years, I’d write offline in documents that I would have to slingshot between Microsoft Word and LibreOffice depending on which computer I had access to. I’d write through midnight, and the previous day’s worth of writing wouldn’t log because I’d forgotten to update my count on the NaNo site. Dabble updated my word count for me, and I discovered that my anxiety about performing dissipated. All of my focus could settle on writing. I’d be deep in a sprint and a little note would pop up: “Congrats! You hit your daily goal!”

If you, like me, are motivated by checklists or self-competition, this was the steady and gentle encouragement I needed.

It was only after I finished NaNo having written 85k (a personal best that I topped the following year) that I stopped to look at what this software could do. Dabble set up the book by parts, chapters, and scenes. I kept track of character POV changes by naming the scenes accordingly—which inadvertently highlighted when a character had been absent too long. When exporting to Word, the scene breaks were automatically formatted—and so were the paragraphs. This streamlined sending out to my Critique Partners, instead of the old scroll-for-pages to copy out a single chapter from my manuscripts.

I could write on my lunch break just by logging in (no more lugging around a hefty laptop), and continue writing when I got home without fumbling between back-ups and thumbdrives. I could even write offline, and the new content would sync as soon as I connected to the internet. For those easily distracted by Google or Twitter, this could prevent those while-away hours.

Preparing for my next NaNo project, I found I could build my entire outline in Dabble. The notes section doesn’t affect word count, so I’ve copied in character profiles, worldbuilding notes, lexicons and style guides—even my synopsis and query for when I’m ready to pitch. There’s also a plotting tool that allows you to set up multiple plot-lines (you can assign them however you want: by character arc, subplots, timelines, etc.), and then line them up by what happens in each chapter. For a hybrid panster-plotter like me, this organic flexibility helps me to reassess my initial skeleton as I’m writing. I can take into account how changes in pacing will affect the timing of other major plot points.

When revising, the little word counter in the corner tells me how much I’ve managed to cut; when working towards a new goal, it tells me how much I’ve got left to go. I’m easily able to toggle to ensure my chapter lengths are consistent, and make notes in the title cards if there’s anything I need to remember for revisions later.

As I worked through my rewrite, Dabble’s subtle tools cut my required drafts by half. I’m able to see more holistically from the outset, replacing a gamut of organization spreadsheets. Everything links so intuitively that I don’t waste hours with set-up, like I had previously tried (and failed) to do with Scrivener. Now I’m writing books all year ‘round. I just toggle between which project I’m inspired to work on, and it’s all helpfully in one place.

So, here I am, prepping my next novel for NaNo, waiting on feedback on the second draft of the book I wrote last November, and revising an older manuscript between projects. What used to take me 2 to 4 years is now being chipped away in months. When writing is this accessible, I can finally get out of my own way and just write.


Astra Crompton is a queer writer focusing on diverse casts with nuanced character development, bringing her passion to Adult and YA fantasy, and LGBT literature. Her work has been published in Anthology for a Green Planet, Blood Moon Rising, and Unity RPG. You can find her on Twitter @ulzaorith or on her website at www.astracrompton.com

Top photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

Finding and Sustaining Inspiration with Dabble

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. There are lots of options when it comes to writing software, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you. Today, writer Astra Compton is here to tell you about Dabble, a Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor:

One of a writer’s eternal struggles is finding the time to write. As someone working three jobs, it’s not about squeezing more hours out of the day; it’s about making the act of writing easier. After all, when progress comes easy, everything standing in your way disappears.

You know those excuses: falling down internet-search rabbit holes, needing your writing cave to be perfect before you can even start, lacking time as you scramble between work and home, typesetting your manuscript more than you’re writing it, etc.

When I won NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, one of the prizes was a subscription to Dabble. Honestly, it has revolutionized the way I write.

I hadn’t used cloud-based systems before because I found them clunky, and invariably I’d save over the wrong version. Dabble synced to cloud storage but was streamlined. While I was writing, the interface disappeared so it was just me and my story. There was a light or dark mode (light for me), bold and italics, and word count goals. No other distractions.

In previous years, I’d write offline in documents that I would have to slingshot between Microsoft Word and LibreOffice depending on which computer I had access to. I’d write through midnight, and the previous day’s worth of writing wouldn’t log because I’d forgotten to update my count on the NaNo site. Dabble updated my word count for me, and I discovered that my anxiety about performing dissipated. All of my focus could settle on writing. I’d be deep in a sprint and a little note would pop up: “Congrats! You hit your daily goal!”

If you, like me, are motivated by checklists or self-competition, this was the steady and gentle encouragement I needed.

It was only after I finished NaNo having written 85k (a personal best that I topped the following year) that I stopped to look at what this software could do. Dabble set up the book by parts, chapters, and scenes. I kept track of character POV changes by naming the scenes accordingly—which inadvertently highlighted when a character had been absent too long. When exporting to Word, the scene breaks were automatically formatted—and so were the paragraphs. This streamlined sending out to my Critique Partners, instead of the old scroll-for-pages to copy out a single chapter from my manuscripts.

I could write on my lunch break just by logging in (no more lugging around a hefty laptop), and continue writing when I got home without fumbling between back-ups and thumbdrives. I could even write offline, and the new content would sync as soon as I connected to the internet. For those easily distracted by Google or Twitter, this could prevent those while-away hours.

Preparing for my next NaNo project, I found I could build my entire outline in Dabble. The notes section doesn’t affect word count, so I’ve copied in character profiles, worldbuilding notes, lexicons and style guides—even my synopsis and query for when I’m ready to pitch. There’s also a plotting tool that allows you to set up multiple plot-lines (you can assign them however you want: by character arc, subplots, timelines, etc.), and then line them up by what happens in each chapter. For a hybrid panster-plotter like me, this organic flexibility helps me to reassess my initial skeleton as I’m writing. I can take into account how changes in pacing will affect the timing of other major plot points.

When revising, the little word counter in the corner tells me how much I’ve managed to cut; when working towards a new goal, it tells me how much I’ve got left to go. I’m easily able to toggle to ensure my chapter lengths are consistent, and make notes in the title cards if there’s anything I need to remember for revisions later.

As I worked through my rewrite, Dabble’s subtle tools cut my required drafts by half. I’m able to see more holistically from the outset, replacing a gamut of organization spreadsheets. Everything links so intuitively that I don’t waste hours with set-up, like I had previously tried (and failed) to do with Scrivener. Now I’m writing books all year ‘round. I just toggle between which project I’m inspired to work on, and it’s all helpfully in one place.

So, here I am, prepping my next novel for NaNo, waiting on feedback on the second draft of the book I wrote last November, and revising an older manuscript between projects. What used to take me 2 to 4 years is now being chipped away in months. When writing is this accessible, I can finally get out of my own way and just write.


Astra Crompton is a queer writer focusing on diverse casts with nuanced character development, bringing her passion to Adult and YA fantasy, and LGBT literature. Her work has been published in Anthology for a Green Planet, Blood Moon Rising, and Unity RPG. You can find her on Twitter @ulzaorith or on her website at www.astracrompton.com

Top photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

How to Create the Perfect Story Arc

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, our sponsor Fictionary has put together a step-by-step guide for creating the perfect story arc:

One of the best ways to improve your novel is to look at the way that successful authors have crafted their story arcs. You can use this information to revise your NaNoWriMo novel and tell a story your readers love. 

Spoiler alert! We’re about to delve into Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster novel Twilight while paying attention to the plot points that keep the story moving.
You may be familiar with the simplest form of a story arc:

1. The Inciting Incident

The inciting incident is the moment the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way. Readers expect something to trigger the protagonist to act. If the inciting incident doesn’t occur in the first 15% of your novel, you need a strong reason for delaying it. 

I recommend that you write your inciting incident as a dramatic scene and not as backstory or narrative summary. This enables the reader to experience the event at the same time as the protagonist and increases your chances of getting the reader emotionally involved.

Twilight’s Inciting Incident: Bella has already met Edward. This leads up to the inciting incident where Edward saves Bella from being killed in a parking lot. She gets her first glimpse of his powers and is set on her path of discovering more about him.

Twilight’s Inciting Incident happens 10% into the story. The percentage is based on the word count.

2. Plot Point One

Plot Point One is the point of no return—your character can’t back out of the central conflict. Your character may be obligated to take action, they cannot return to the way the world was before, or their desire for something overrules all else. There must be something at stake, because if the character doesn’t care about the outcome, a reader won’t care either.

Plot Point One should occur between 20% and 30% in your novel. If this plot point comes too late, the story will feel like it’s dragging. If it comes too early, the story will feel rushed or lacking in depth.

Twilight’s Plot Point One: Bella suspects that Edward is a vampire, but she decides to pursue him anyway. Edward has emotional power over Bella.

Twilight’s Plot Point One happens 25% into the story.

3. The Midpoint

Often the Midpoint is where an author struggles to keep the story interesting. To keep your story exciting, you’ll need to find some way to raise the stakes of your story with a life-changing, exceptional, or threatening event.

Ideally, this is where you’ll be taking your readers on a journey where the protagonist moves from a reactionary mode to a proactive mode.The Midpoint should occur between 45% and 55% in your novel. If the Midpoint comes too early or too late, the story won’t feel balanced.

Twilight’s Midpoint: Edward reveals his true powers as a vampire to Bella. He saves her from an attack, and this strengthens how she feels about him.

By now it should be no surprise that Twilight’s midpoint happens at 50% of the story.

4. Plot Point Two

At Plot Point Two, the protagonist must work hard to get what they want or lose everything. Plot Point Two should occur between 70% and 80% of your novel.

Plot Point Two will be a low point for your protagonist. Their actions since the middle have caused disaster, or they become more determined to reach their goal.

Twilight’s Plot Point Two: A bad vampire decides to go after Bella, and Bella must leave her home. Bella wants to survive but not if it means risking those she loves.

Twilight’s Plot Point Two happens 75% into the story.

5. The Climax

The Climax scene is where you get to shine as an author. Every word you’ve written up to this point will pay off. Ideally, the climax scene (or scenes) will have the highest level of conflict, the greatest tension, or the most devastating emotional upheaval.The protagonist must be in your Climax scene, or you risk alienating your reader. The protagonist should face the biggest obstacle in the story and determine their own fate. 

The climax should happen somewhere around 90% into your novel. Too early, and the reader may get impatient with a long resolution and skim to the end. Too late, and the resolution may lack depth or satisfaction.

Twilight’s Climax: Bella is lured into a trap. She faces down the evil vampire and gets injured. 

And you guessed it. Twilight’s Climax happens 90% into the story.

6. The Resolution 

The resolution is everything that happens after the climax. It shouldn’t be longer than 10% of your total story. This is the time to give the reader an emotional resolution as well as tie up any loose ends.

Twilight’s Resolution: Bella and Edward are home, safe, and together, but when Bella tries to persuade Edward to turn her into a vampire, this leaves the reader questioning what happens next.


Fictionary Author Hits #1 on Amazon

Last year, Miriam R. Dumitra won the Fictionary Finish Your Novel contest and received a lifetime subscription to Fictionary.

She put Fictionary to great use and her debut novel Brightshade recently hit #1 on Amazon in the category of Steampunk Science Fiction.

Miriam was also a 2018 NaNoWriMo winner, so there’s another book coming. Congratulations Miriam!

How Fictionary Helps

Editing is hard. Fictionary makes it easier with online software that simplifies and automates story editing. Use Fictionary to improve the structure, characters, plot, and settings of your NaNoWriMo novel. 

A perfect tool to help complete your revision pledge. Within seconds, Fictionary automatically creates your cast of characters, links characters to scenes, calculates word count per scene, draws your story arc, and then guides you through a complete scene-by-scene revision.

Fictionary “Now What?” 50% Discount Offer

Sign Up for Fictionary using coupon code NOWWHAT2019 and get Fictionary for just $10/month.

No credit card required. Try free for 14 days and cancel anytime.  Includes our 13-lesson story editing course delivered to your inbox. Signup required by March 31st, 2019 to lock in the 50% discount for 3 months.


Kristina Stanley is an editor, author, and CEO of Fictionary. She’s the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series, Look The Other Way, and The Author’s Guide to Selling Books To Non-Bookstores. Her short stories are published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Voices from the Valley anthology. She won the Audrey Jessup Capital Crime Writing award and her work was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Unhanged Arthur and the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.

5 Common Mistakes First-Time Novelists Make

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Today, our sponsor Reedsy has put together a list of the most common mistakes for rookie novelists (Want more advice from Reedsy? Check out their webcast on writing and submitting query letters!):

Writing a novel for the first time is probably one of the most daunting creative experiences in existence. Indeed, many first-time novelists have no idea how to approach it! This often means they go in blind—and end up making mistakes that seriously hinder their writing process, their novel, and their overall confidence as a writer.

And while learning from your own mistakes is a great way to cement those lessons, we can all agree that it’s not very efficient. So if you’re about to start writing a novel for the first time, here’s a quick catalog of five common mistakes that first-time novelists make, as well as how to evade them.

1. Starting without a clear purpose

A staggering number of first-timers go into the novel-writing process with no greater mission other than to, well, write a novel. It’s a noble quest, to be sure—but without any other purpose in mind for your work, you’re not going to get very far.

To avoid this fate, have a prolonged brainstorm/deep thinking sesh before you begin to draft. The question you ultimately need to answer is: what kind of story am I trying to write? Not just in terms of genre and plot, but what you want the reader to take away from your novel.

This might be an outright lesson about society, as in a book like The Handmaid’s Tale. Or it might be an impression of a time/place/feeling, as in Elif Batuman’s 2017 novel The Idiot. Perhaps you want to represent a group or experience you feel is underrepresented in literature. Your novel’s purpose could be just about anything, as long as you feel strongly about it.

But whatever it is, pre-draft is the time to get ahold of it—not halfway through your novel, in a frantic attempt to conjure meaning out of thin air.

2. Being unrealistically ambitious

While you should definitely have goals (like purpose) as you write, you don’t want to be too ambitious—i.e. if you’ve never written a novel before, you can’t go into it thinking you’re about to write the next Gone Girl. Unfortunately, many first-timers do exactly that!

Little do they know that being overly ambitious with your first novel is a one-way ticket to Writer’s Blockville, which is walking distance from Giving-Up Town. So don’t make your writing goals too lofty, lest you become too discouraged to actually meet them.

Instead, try this: make a list of 3 realistic and concrete goals to work toward as you draft, and tell yourself to disregard everything else for the time being. A reasonable set of ambitions for a first-time novelist might be:

  1. Write X number of words in X days (say, 50k words in 30 days, if you’re feeling up to it).
  2. Construct a relatively straightforward plot. 
  3. Focus on one aspect of your fiction writing that you know needs improvement—characterization, pacing, dialogue, etc.

Keeping solid goals like these in mind will prevent you from burning out. Just remember, the most important part of writing a first novel is just to get it down on the page. As long as you’re still writing, you’re doing something right.

3. Trying too hard to be “literary”

Even seasoned writers often fall into the trap of trying too hard to sound “literary,”—like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Zadie Smith, or any number of renowned writers. Of course, it’s great to have role models, but not if you end up sounding unnaturally ornate and formal in an attempt to emulate other novelists.

The best way combat this “over-literary” effect is to carefully monitor your prose. Be honest with yourself: if you’ve written something just to sound fancy, not because it actually contributes to the story, cut it out. When in doubt, ask someone else to test-read your work and tell you if anything comes across as pretentious or unnatural.

It’s also good to consciously stay away from other literary works during the writing process, just in case of accidental osmosis. Or if you must read (we all know it’s a hard thing to give up), try picking up novels that are nothing like yours. For example, if you’re writing a slow-burn romance, you should be able to enjoy a fast-paced thriller without worrying about the style bleeding into yours.

4. Editing right after finishing

Countless successful writers and editors constantly remark on the importance of waiting to edit one’s manuscript. Yet after completing their first draft, many people dive right into the self-editing process without so much as a day’s buffer!

The result is a highly subjective—and therefore largely ineffective—editing process. You’re stubbornly attached to certain passages and subplots, and you’re so exhausted from writing the first draft that you resist the idea of revising. Basically, editing too soon after finishing your novel means you can’t get much of anything done.

Luckily, there’s an easy way around this problem: waiting a few days, weeks, or even months before returning to your first draft. While you may be eager to start sending your novel out to agents or other readers, trust us that waiting is the best thing you can do at this juncture.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t do anything else productive during the interim. You might research professional editors, or even start working on another project if you have the energy! The important thing is to clear your mind of that first novel, so that when you do finally go back to it, you’ll have fresh eyes with which to conduct a much better, deeper self-edit.

5. Never writing anything else

One of the worst mistakes writers make is letting their first novel also be their last. Yes, some people write novels just to see if they can, or to get a story out of their system, and they’re satisfied to leave it at that. But many more people just don’t think it’s worth the effort—especially if their first novel didn’t turn out as amazing as they thought it would (see tip #2).

Allow us to dissuade you of that notion. No one’s denying that writing a novel is hard work—but the work is worth it, as long as you don’t give up. The more you practice and the more novels you write, the better your craft will become. To paraphrase Ira Glass, your skill will eventually catch up with your taste; you just have to push a bit to get there.

So don’t stop writing after your first book, otherwise you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of creating. Learn from your own mistakes, as well as the ones we’ve outlined here, and keep moving forward—to your second, third, fourth novels and beyond.


Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with industry’s best editors, designers and book marketers.

Find a Safe Harbor for Critique Groups with Scribophile

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. And each year, our sponsor Scribophile likes to ask a new member who found them through NaNoWriMo to write about their experience at Scribophile. This is what author Snorri Haugen submitted

NaNoWriMo is one of the seas upon which I sail my ship of prose. It’s an adventure with high winds, heavy waves, and all sails set. The bow crashes into the waves, throwing off cold spray, and the story pours out like the rushing sea over the edge of the world. 

A couple of short months ago I made the 50,000-word journey and coached a bunch of students to writing tens of thousands of words together. It was then I started looking for a sheltered bay.

I sailed several years through the ether of the internet, making long stops at havens for writers. It was one cold Thanksgiving week when an old friend told me about NaNoWriMo. It took another year for me to jump in. And there, while cresting waves of creativity, I heard of a new harbor.

Scribophile: my new home port. Every ship needs a home port: For repair, refit, comfort … yes, and training, improvement, and practice too.

Scribophile is just that place. It’s great for any serious writer honing their skills to razor sharpness. Take that rough draft which sprang from the wellspring of your heart and mind in November, and bring that ore to the forge of Scribophile. The writers there will help you purify the ore into gold.  

For years I tried to get decent assessments of my writing, without paying thousands of bucks for the privilege (OK, so I’m cheap).  After the Anger and Denial phases, I skipped Negotiation and went straight to Acceptance. It seemed like I could only get one of three responses: 

  1. I Love It!
  2. *Crickets chirping* 
  3. Let me give you the long long list of everything I don’t like about the content, the grammar, and you personally.

Then I found Scribophile, where it’s fun to critique and be critiqued. Seriously. I get to read first drafts of great stories with wonderful original plot ideas and concepts. And I even get to put my own two cents in with the author!

Then I get to have my own writing read, reviewed, and critiqued. So instead of  “It stinks” or “It’s great,” I get input which indicates someone actually read the piece before commenting.

There are a lot of established groups to hang out in and share with. The forums are full of fascinating threads on all kinds of topics including literature, publishing, and more. Genres of all types abound in this writer’s landscape, from common ones to endangered species.

Scribophile is the friendliest and most professional group I have encountered. Everyone is welcoming and supportive. I received welcomes on my profile almost immediately. The staff are top-notch, every question I have asked was answered quickly. And the web site functions flawlessly. So, if you’re a writer—get over there. The rest of us are waiting for you!


Snorri Haugen has been a firefighter, fisherman, farmer; soldier, sailor, airman, teacher, traveler, technical writer, editor for training manuals, and writer.  Right now he teachers Naval Science in an NJROTC program at a public high school. He coaches marksmanship, drill, archery, and literacy. Snorri lives with his wife and daughter in what he likes to call “Middle America,” with a tiny dog in the house and seven random cats on the porch.

Top photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash.

The Habits and Routines of NaNoWriMo Winners

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. After November 2018, our sponsor RescueTime put together some stats from NaNoWriMo writers who used their platform during the month. Here are a few of the interesting facts that RescueTime unearthed about the NaNoWriMo writers they surveyed:

What makes NaNoWriMo so special is that no matter what level of writer you are—amateur or professional—everyone has the same 30 days to write a staggering 50,000-word novel.

And while the time constraint makes NaNoWriMo a massive undertaking, it’s also an opportunity to see how those who hit their goal effectively spend that time.

With 58% of RescueTime users reporting that they hit their NaNoWriMo goal in 2018, we dug into how they spent their time, built routines, and stayed motivated through the entire month.

1. Winners wrote more during the first days. 

One of the key pieces of writing advice you hear from NaNoWriMo veterans is to hit the ground running. The first few days are an important chance to get ahead on your daily word count and set the tone for the rest of the month.

Every NaNoWriMo winner we looked at wrote consistently for the first four days and hit an average of 1 hour and 30 minutes per day. On the other hand, only 74% of non-winners wrote during the first four days of the month and for an average time of 1 hour and 12 minutes.

That might not sound like much of a difference. However, when you add that 20 minutes extra a day up across the entire month, winners had an average of 10 extra hours spent on writing during NaNoWriMo.

2. Consistency is key: Winners missed nearly 50% fewer days (and almost never missed two in a row).

While everyone we looked at missed at least one day of writing during the month, winners missed significantly less.

Our data showed that NaNoWriMo winners only missed an average of 2.7 days of writing over the entire month. Non-winners, on the other hand, missed 4 or more days.

Again, it wasn’t just raw missed days that counted. Winners seemed more likely to bounce back after missing a day of writing. In fact, only 30% of winners missed two or more days or writing in a row compared to 73% of non-winners.

3. Every single winner had at least one 3-hour+ writing day.

Not only were NaNoWriMo winners more likely to hit the ground running, more consistent in their writing habit, and better at bouncing back after missing a day of writing, but they also were more likely to put in long hours during writing sessions.

Without fail, every NaNoWriMo winner had at least one day where they wrote for 3 or more hours (while only 80% of non-winners had at least one 3-hour day).

Of course, these weren’t the only factors involved in determining who reached the NaNoWriMo finish line. Job obligations, health issues, and taking on too much at once can all get in the way of your writing routine. But looking at traits that NaNoWriMo winners share can help you achieve your writing goals!

Read the full post on the RescueTime blog.


Jory MacKay is a writer, content marketer, and editor of the RescueTime blog.

Let Your Novel Simmer and Marinate with Scrivener

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re closing in on the final stretch of November, you may be wondering what to do with your novel after the month is over. Today, Scrivener, a NaNoWriMo sponsor, has some tips for post-NaNo noveling:

Completing the first draft of a novel in one month isn’t work for the faint of heart. Showing up every day to write, muddling through the middle, making your hero or heroine suffer, or just wondering where this little adventure will eventually lead takes perseverance, guts, and a touch of madness.

Now that you’ve reached (or nearly reached) the fifty thousand word mark, you’ve probably decided that you’re ready for the next step: revising your story. But hold on there, bucko, not quite yet. If you want maintain a firm grip on your sanity, please heed this advice: let it simmer and marinate for a month.

Below are tips on how I’ve lassoed the editing process and how I used Scrivener to revise, restructure, and rewrite my NaNoWriMo first draft in five easy steps:

Step one: Give it a rest. 

By this I mean put it away. Come December 1st, tuck your novel into a virtual drawer. Don’t open it. Don’t attempt to reread or edit the copy. December is crazy enough with end-of-year projects, tying loose ends, the holidays, socializing, and whatnot. Your novel isn’t going anywhere, so take a break. But what about losing that writing momentum? Don’t worry about it. Let the story-telling part of your brain recharge. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it.

Step two: Re-read your story.

On January 1st, if you wrote your first draft in Scrivener, open your manuscript. Next, select the draft/manuscript folder that contains all your scenes and go to View—>Scrivenings. This is a robust feature that allows you to view sections of your text either in isolation or as part of the larger work. Now read your story all the way through. Easy now, put down that letter opener and take a deep breath. Remember, first drafts are rarely perfect.

Step three: Write scene synopses.

Get out of Scrivenings mode, and reread each scene. Open the Inspector and click on the tab that looks like a notepad. You’ll see on the top pane “Synopsis" and below “Notes”. In Synopsis, summarize the scene in twenty words. Reread the scene; start taking notes on anything that jumps out at you—the good the bad, and the ugly. Do this with every single scene.

Step four: Snapshot your scene.

You’ve reached the point when it’s time to delete and revise: but before you begin with the bloodletting, click on the camera icon found in the Inspector, and take a snapshot of the entire scene. Using this feature saves your original text and allows you to go back to it or even restore it. To read more of how snapshots work, please visit this very detailed blog post.

Step five: Kill those darlings. 

Move paragraphs around. Reconsider different names. Highlight text. Reword sentences. Use stronger verbs. Consider using the Comments feature in the editor and make more notes. Also use Scrivener’s revision mode by going to Format—>Revision Mode. Click on the colored menu command you wish to use for your edits. As you type in new text, it will be automatically colored. Want to strike-through a section? Simply select the word or text you want to cross out by going to Format—>Strikethrough.

Once you’re satisfied with your edits, it’s time to compile the draft as a proof copy so your beta readers can read the entire manuscript and provide feedback. Scrivener has a robust compiling feature that allows you to choose a number of  built-in formats including the common industry standard for submitting to agents as well as others that are designed for ebooks. To learn how to compile, Literature and Latte has created four videos that guide you step-by-step through the process.  These instructional videos can be found on the website under the section “Getting Your Work Out”.

Last Words

Keep learning about your craft. There are a number of blogs like Writer Unboxed that address editing and revisions; books such as Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover or Sandra Scofield’s The last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision and Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel that will help you during this process. Finally, keep your expectations in check. Completing a first draft in one month is extraordinary, but having a ready-to-publish manuscript takes even more time, perseverance, guts, and a touch or madness…


Rebeca Schiller is a freelance writer who also blogs for Literature and Latte. She is currently working on a novel about the Spanish Civil War and the blacklist.

Top photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.

What to Do With Your Manuscript in December

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Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re closing in on the final stretch of November, you may be wondering what to do with your novel after the month is over. Today, Reedsy, a NaNoWriMo sponsor, has some tips for post-NaNo noveling:

As November draws to a close and your word count finally reaches that elusive 50,000 mark, you might be thinking about what comes next. Perhaps you’ve heard of the great publishing success stories that have come out of NaNoWriMo, and you hope to be one of them.

The cold hard truth is that to become one of those success stories, you need to do a lot more than finish November with a manuscript. And while you should rightfully be proud of your hard-earned words, there’s still a long road ahead to getting them published.

Luckily, you don’t have to go through it all on your own! Here are a few tips to help you figure out what yo do with your manuscript after November has come to an end.

Step 1: Wait.

Yes, you heard correctly—this is the time to wait.

You just spent a whole month immersed in your novel’s world, so the best thing to do is to step back until you stop obsessing over it all day, every day. This might take a few weeks or even a few months, but it’s important not to go back to your story too soon after you’re done writing it. Taking time away will give you the chance to approach your manuscript with fresh eyes, which will help with the next few steps.

But just because you’re not working on your NaNoWriMo project doesn’t mean you should let your writing momentum fall apart! Just like a sprinter wouldn’t stop dead cold after crossing the finish line, you shouldn’t throw away your pen come December 1st. If you are not sure what to write about and are in need of inspiration (you just wrote a full story, after all), try turning to writing prompts and grind out some shorts—you don’t know where your next idea might come from.  

Step 2: Re-read your manuscript.

Once you are ready to approach your text again, don’t go in expecting to do heavy revisions and edits from the get-go. Instead, start off by re-reading your manuscript (out loud, if you can) and reacquaint yourself from a different perspective.

Sure, you wrote it, but after being away from it for several weeks—or at least a few days—you’ll see it in a brand new light, and seeing it after some time away can be a revelatory experience.

Step 3: Do a story review and rewrite.

After re-reading your manuscript, it’s time to dive in with a critical eye and start the story review process. As you read through your manuscript, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a central idea or theme?
  • Are there unresolved situations?
  • Are the characters sufficiently developed?
  • Is there a concrete plot?
  • Do you have enough worldbuilding?
  • Is there any character or plot point that doesn’t add anything to the story?
  • Is there a satisfying resolution? And if not, is that what you want?

At this point, you might cut away entire subplots or characters, introduce new ones, and switch the order of scenes until you have a cohesive narrative that works on a macro level. Your draft can (and most likely will) change a lot during this process, but that’s the point. Many bestsellers have actually been completely re-written during the revision stages—and you shouldn’t skimp on that either.

Step 4: Self-edit the copy.

Once you’re done reviewing your story, go in and treat yourself to a round of copy-editing (you shouldn’t get too caught up with line-editing before this stage). This will help you improve the technical parts of your manuscript and iron out your writing tics (think: excessive adverbs and overused turns of phrase).

Don’t try to fix everything at once: address one issue at a time. Do a pass where you focus only on looking for long, winding sentences and another where you look for ways to control your pace.

Editing tools such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid can be a great help in highlighting these problem areas.

Step 5: Proofread.

After you’re done with all the necessary self-edits, go back through your manuscript and proofread it. Try reading through it using a highlighter and looking out for any typos, awkward phrasing, or glaring inconsistencies that you might have missed during revisions and rewrites.

Reading out loud is another great way to go through your manuscript. This way you can often find mistakes and weird wording that you could have missed otherwise.

Step 6: Share it.

No, it’s not time to share it with professional proofreaders and editors just yet—but it is time to share it with someone whose opinion you trust. Try showing your manuscript to a close friend or family member who you know will provide an honest opinion on your writing, plot, and characters.

If you don’t want to show it to anyone you know (it can be pretty intimidating), try looking for a writing community that fits your needs, or a beta reader who will be able to provide a truly unbiased opinion that friends and family typically cannot.

Step 7: Rinse and repeat.

After getting an honest opinion on your manuscript, take note of their comments, especially their criticism, and repeat the whole process—chiseling away at the marble slab that is your novel. It may take many more months or even years before you’re truly ready to submit it to an industry professional for review, or query an agent. But don’t be discouraged—it’s completely normal to revise and rewrite.

Step 8: Look for an editor.

Now that you’ve done a story review, self-edited your manuscript, proofread it, got an honest third-party opinion, and repeated the process, it’s time to work with a professional. An experienced editor will help you grow as a writer and learn about the craft—very often, more so than if you were to take a writing class. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding who to contact.

  • What does your manuscript need right now? Are you struggling with big picture problems? Try a developmental editor? Need help improving the language? Hire a copy editor
  • Does the editor have experience in your genre?
  • What style of criticism do you prefer: gentle and encouraging, or brutally honest?

Waiting to work with a professional until you’ve gone through your manuscript a few times will guarantee you a much better editing experience and will also maximize your bang-for-buck.

Step 9: Keep Writing.

Many now-successful authors didn’t write anything useful on their first, second, or even third run—but they kept on going and eventually found the perfect idea that took them to publication. If you find yourself at this point, use the skills you learned from writing a manuscript in a month and keep on trying.

Preparing a manuscript for publishing might seem overwhelming, but going through this process carefully and thoroughly can help you take your novel to the next level and greatly improve your chances of eventually getting published. Just remember: don’t despair, and keep on writing.


Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with industry’s best editors, designers and book marketers.

Top photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash.

Don’t Abandon Your Manuscript. Edit & Revise It!

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re closing in on the final stretch of November, you may be wondering what to do with your novel after the month is over. Today, AutoCrit, a NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, has some tips for post-NaNo noveling:

Well, the end of NaNoWriMo is almost here. How did that happen? All the ups and downs, doubts and bouts of confidence, procrastination and sprints—and now, only a few days until the finish line.

Whether you complete the 50,000 word goal or not, you have accomplished what many only aspire to do! Congratulations.

Today, I’m here to give you your next challenge:

Please don’t abandon your manuscript once the writing is done. Edit and revise it!

Completing a draft in just 30 days is satisfying and thrilling, but for most participants, it’s just the beginning. Even “plotters” who write to an outline during NaNoWriMo will end up with a pretty rough draft—that’s par for the course.

Now it’s time to take all those wonderfully creative impulses and gold nuggets buried within the raw material and shape it into something more complete and readable.

In a recent interview, we asked Ally E. Machate, a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant, her opinion of why editing and revision are so important:

“The editing and revision period is an essential step for any novelist, especially those who are considering publication.

But even if you’re not planning to publish, ask yourself, what was your goal in entering NaNoWriMo? Was it just to churn out those 50,000 words, or to try and write a novel?

The creative process rarely works such that a perfectly told story emerges whole-cloth from one’s brain. Creation is messy; it’s the editing that begins to shape it into something beautiful, and the revisions you subsequently make that will turn it into something that can be shared with others and enjoyed.”

You’ve accomplished something amazing by getting that rough draft done. Now give yourself the gift of taking the next step. The good news is that you don’t need to to go about the editing process alone.

AutoCrit is your secret weapon for self-editing.

AutoCrit is entirely focused on this mission: to help fiction writers transform their draft into a story that changes people’s lives!

We’ve studied millions of fiction books across many different genres, connected with top editors and agents, and worked with authors just like you to understand what makes a successful book.

Then we rolled this knowledge into a simple online tool that provides step-by-step recommendations for improving your manuscript in over 20 areas—categories like poor dialogue, use of adverbs, and relying on cliches—and guides you through the editing and revision process.

Whether you write Romance, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Young Adult, or Short Stories, AutoCrit helps you infuse your manuscript with style and create vibrant prose that connects with your readers.

Click Here for the NaNoWriMo Special AutoCrit Offer. Expires Dec. 5, 2018.

Your self-editing efforts will be rewarded.

When asked if she appreciates when a writer has put in the effort to self-edit before passing their work to an editor, Ally Machate stated:

“To get the most out of an author / editor partnership, it’s best if authors first work to advance their drafts as much as they possibly can.

Tools like AutoCrit can help a lot to smooth out the writing and bring clarity to the page, which in turn enables an editor to better see through to the architecture beneath.

You don’t want your editor’s time or attention spent trying to figure out what a scene or moment is struggling to convey. You want your editor to be able to dig deeper into the more serious problems and/or opportunities for emotional impact.”

Commit today to go beyond the writing.

Just as you committed to writing during NaNoWriMo, today we’re asking you to commit to editing and revising. Your story is worth it!

Congratulations with all your efforts during NaNoWriMo this year. We look forward to helping you feel confident in your writing and getting your story into the hands of readers.

Until December 5th, 2018, NaNoWriMos can save 50% and become an AutoCrit member for only $45 for 3 months.


Jocelyn Pruemer is passionate about helping authors write and edit smarter with the help of research and technology. As the owner and creative mind behind AutoCrit, her goal is to make self-editing a real and powerful solution for authors at any level. AutoCrit combines the research of thousands of bestselling novels with feedback from authors, agents, and publishers in an easy-to-use tool designed to make good writers great.

3 Things Authors Should Know About Publishing

Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Now that we’re halfway through the month, you may be wondering what to do with your novel when (definitely when, not if!) you finish your novel draft. Today, IngramSpark, a NaNoWriMo 2018 sponsor, has some tips if you’re thinking about publishing

Taking the leap from writer to published author is the end goal majority of writers have for their work. We all write for different reasons, are motivated by myriad factors, experiences, characters, and pursue various genres and plotlines, 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 experience, technology, industry acceptance, and reader enthusiasm, 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 (and you can also 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. Education 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
  • and 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 the information is available to you.

All that stands between you and the publication of your book is a means 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 same fully-integrated print and digital products and global distribution enjoyed by big-time publishers. Once you finish and format your book, IngramSpark makes it possible to share it with the world, allowing you to focus on creating innovative content while we do the rest: print, ship, and distribute.

In 2017, the Author’s Guild awarded IngramSpark for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community, alongside Toni Morrison and James Patterson, which speaks to our focus on supporting the author not only as a printer and distributor, but as a resource for overall publishing success.

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 NaNoWriMos receive FREE title setup on print or ebooks (and free revisions) with IngramSpark until March 31, 2019, with promo code NANO. 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!

Top photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash.