Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to our new Community Manager, Chanda Briggs! Chanda will be working with our ML team and Come Write In spaces to expand and deepen our resources and support, in addition to managing our customer service platform and taking pictures for our Instagram. Here’s a short note from Chanda:
Hi everyone! I’m excited to join the NaNoWriMo staff as the new Community Manager. I come to you humbly, with a long history of cafe management and community engagement within diverse communities. I am a proud UCLA alumnus with a major in Cultural Anthropology and a minor in Scandinavian Studies; a current graduate student in Syracuse University’s Library Sciences department; and, much to my surprise, a published author of a poem in a Swedish zine called Finger Pie.
As a NaNoWriMo participant, I understand first-hand what the challenges are for users and I look forward to partnering with volunteers on initiatives, acting as a resource and agent of support (and learning from your experience, as well!), and occasionally having nerdy conversations about coffee and all things Nordic.
Many authors think of writing as a solitary activity. But sometimes, it can be fun to collaborate with a partner! Today, author and editor Jarie Bolander shares how he dove into children’s fiction by collaborating with Reeva, his young co-writer (pictured above):
I was never an avid reader as a kid. My usual reading material consisted of Popular Science, old textbooks, and the occasional Mack Bolan series. Even to this day, I mostly read and write nonfiction.
My interest in fiction grew out of NaNoWriMo and StoryGrid. It’s been a fantastic adventure to do a deep dive into the fiction pool to see how story shapes our lives. The motivation to actually write a chapter book came from my girlfriend’s daughter, Reeva, who one day said “You write. Why not write a book for kids like me?” Thus started our adventure into writing The Magical Mystical Mirror.
For most of us, writing is a solo activity. We labor away at our keyboards spinning worlds and crafting tales that are interesting to us. It’s only when we’re done with the first draft that we might hand it off to an editor.
The process of writing with Reeva has given me some valuable insights that have made me a better writer. I would have never learned them if I had not opened my mind to different perspectives.
1. Agree on the genre.
Genre can be tricky for a chapter book. Most of the ones Reeva reads are mysteries so we decided to go that route.
2. Decide on the theme.
Once we figured out we wanted to write a mystery, we had to figure out the theme. Reeva likes visiting aquariums because she loves animals. We wanted her love of animals to be part of the theme, which is:
The repercussions of the past come to life as a single mother of two seeks to save an endangered species by traveling back in time—The Magical Mystical Mirror.
3. Use a common language.
One of the challenges we faced was how to communicate about what we wanted to write. We needed to come up with a common language—which for us, was via examples of stories she was reading.
4. Get agreement, then stay focused.
Several times through our writing process, we would get distracted. This usually manifested itself in creating more characters or completely different plot lines. Thankfully, we would resolve this by simply committing to focusing on writing the idea we had. We could always change it later.
5. Write for your target audience.
I normally don’t write fiction, and the nonfiction I do write is usually targeted to the entrepreneur crowd. The Magical Mystical Mirror is a different audience that’s not going to understand subtly or nuance. What might seem obvious to me won’t for a 9-year-old. This was important since my job was to do most of the writing, and without Reeva telling me what she thought, the book would not hit the mark.
6. Bring the story to life.
As writers, it’s sometimes hard to picture a place or a scene in our heads, especially if you’re writing outside your comfort zone. That’s why we took two field trips to Monterey (where our story is set) to feel what it likes to walk the streets. This was not only inspiring but also made the experience fun for all of us.
Outside My Comfort Zone
Part of the reason that NaNoWriMo is such an enjoyable experience for me is the community that it creates. I would never have thought to write a chapter book, let alone with a writing partner. This experience has made me a better writer and made me want to write more stories outside my comfort zone—something we should all try and do.
Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. He has over 20 years of experience bring innovative products to market. He is a Certified Story Grid Editor who uses his training to help his companies tell better stories. He has published six books—8 Startup Dilemmas All Founders Will Face, The Entrepreneur Ethos, 7 PR Secrets All Founders Should Know, #Endurance Tweet, Frustration Free Technical Management, and Business Basics for Entrepreneurs. He’s on Twitter @TheDailyMBA.
We feel super lucky here at NaNo HQ to be able to work with some excellent interns! Today, meet Editorial Intern Nina Sacco, the newest addition to our team:
Hey, writers! I am so excited to be a NaNoWriMo Intern this spring! I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be part of a community that supports accessibility in literature. After all, we all have a story to tell. And where would we be if we didn’t learn how to listen to one another?
I’m no Freud or anything, but I suspect my love of words and stories was first ignited as a small child. My mom always made time to read to us before bed. I loved listening to her voice paint moving pictures in my head. Honestly, “reality” has never made all that much sense to me. Growing up, I found more truth in works of fiction than I ever could in a high school history book. Which only drove me deeper into the Land of Make Believe. I’ve been scribbling in notebooks and/or on napkins ever since I learned my ABC’s.
I’m a big fan of dogs, ponies, trees, the ocean, film noir, traveling, reading, and writing (obviously). When experiencing writer’s block while hacking away at my own first attempt at a novel, I have been known to retype my favorite novels—such as Ask the Dust, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Catcher in the Rye—word for word on my cherry red ‘63 Olivetti Lettera. Nerd Alert.
My hope is to learn as much as I can working with NanoWriMo this spring, and that ultimately I, too, will find the inspiration and dedication to become a NaNoWriMo winner this November!
If you have kids, you may be struggling with balancing your creative life with your responsibilities as a parent. Today, writer and momDr. Jennifer Harder shares how she’s managed to make creative writing time into a family activity:
A Holy Grail for many parents is that elusive activity you can do with your kids that you all equally enjoy. All too often, we settle for fun the kids can do while we adults look on, applaud, or otherwise support from the sidelines. We find activities that challenge our miniature selves but leave us adults stagnant. At the heart of childhood memories are shared experiences, and sometimes we adults get in a bad habit of not really sharing in the experience at all!
I learned of NaNoWriMo and its Young Writers Program in November 2017 when my son’s elementary school principal proposed it as a challenge to keep our then-second grader from getting himself into some boredom-based mischief. The idea came a bit out of the blue for me: You want my 7-year-old to write a what? In how long? I remember all of the ways that he and I struggled to subdue his inner editor, to unleash his creativity, and to learn to value the process of creating something that was utterly and completely his, all the while suppressing my urge to mom it up. It was hard.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, it was fun.
For one month, it became our daily time together. Not only did he finish his novel, he added extra chapters because he had “more story to tell”. NaNoWriMo stuck with both of us. In 2018, September rolled around and he asked if we were doing NaNoWriMo again. We. Writing had become an us thing. Less than a year from learning what NaNoWriMo even was, we started a NaNoWriMo writing club at his new school. I thought my hands were just about full enough when my son upped the ante.
“Are you going to write one too, Mom? If I can do it, you can do it.” No more cheering from the sidelines, Mom, time to get in the game.
So on November 1st, we sat at our side-by-side computers, inner editors shoved into hidden boxes and word count goals blazoned on charts. We had just gotten underway when my 5-year-old daughter declared that she too had a story she wanted to tell. So, together, we wrote. We didn’t write alone, and we didn’t have to carve out time away from each other. We wrote as a family.
If you have a story inside of you and think you can’t possibly take time away from your family to get it down on paper, make writing a family affair. Together, you’ll be amazed what you can create! Here are some tricks to help make NaNoWriMo your new family tradition:
1. Make the Process Fun.
Cheer for each other when you hit a daily goal! Talk wild plot breaks at the dinner table, go run around the yard and brain storm word sprints, or get out your colored pencils and draw silly story twists. See the work as a game, and one you can all play together.
2. Set Really Hard Goals.
Who knows, you may surprise yourself, or stretch yourself trying. It’s what NaNoWriMo is all about! Kids get to choose their own word count goals, so encourage yours to stretch themselves too. Adults enjoy 50,000 words no matter what so trust me, you’ll be stretched!
3. Let Your Kids See You Struggle to Achieve Something.
Kids don’t always believe that things are hard for adults. Let them see that we struggle to achieve goals too, that things don’t come easily to us just because we’re older. Let them see you work hard, let them see you fall down, let them see you fail even. Then let them see you fight back and persevere. Let them cheer you on and celebrate achievements with you. It is one life lesson that is infinitely better to model than to preach.
4. Enjoy the Story.
While children relish in the world of make believe, adults learn to shove it aside as impractical. Rediscover that childhood magic with your kids. Follow their lead. Free your mind for a while from the bonds of obligation, responsibility, and cursed practicality. Do something impractical together.
5. It’s All About the Snacks.
No, seriously, don’t be stingy with the snacks. The family that writes together snacks together. Cheese, crackers, and pepperoni. Apples with cheddar. Trail mix. Fuel the brain and the fingers. You won’t regret it.
As November 2018 came to a close, my son finished his story first, my daughter continued to add chapters to hers, all of the writing club kids hit their word goals, and I indeed won the year. I did something I’ve never done before, and didn’t even have to stop being a mom to do it. Next stop, a family trip to Camp NaNoWriMo this summer!
Dr. Jennifer Harder is the mom to one dragon afficionado and one fierce free spirit, the wife to a hockey aspirationalist, and the giver of treats and teacher of tricks to a pair of pups and one pup-like cat. She is the author of an untold number of unsung non-fictional works of art for her employer, and, proudly, of her first 2018 NaNoWriMo piece of pure fiction.
Inspiration for this step taken from Tomehbell’s blog post: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/154469338120/how-to-ease-into-the-editing-process
Inspiration for this step taken from Elizabeth Kracht’s blog post: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/155628164776/6-ways-to-approach-your-edits-with-objectivity
Inspiration for this step taken from Derek Murphy’s blog post: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/156279050796/7-tips-to-help-you-self-edit-your-novel
For more about finding beta readers, check out Jody T. Morse’s post: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/155487218071/6-tips-for-finding-your-perfect-beta-readers
I Wrote a Novel… Now What? Your Revision and Editing Checklist
If you’ve completed a first draft of your novel, congratulations! However, after the hustle of getting that draft written, you may be wondering… what do you do with it now? This January and February,NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” Monthsare here to help guide your novel through the revision, editing, and publishing process.
To start you off, we’ve taken some inspiration from previous blog posts to create this handy-dandy Revision and Editing Checklist. Don’t know where to start? Use this guide to help you navigate the tricky waters of novel revision!
No one knows NaNoWriMo like the people who participate! We’re looking for Wrimos to contribute to our blog for some upcoming series.
Interested? Just fill out this form, and we’ll get in touch! (Please note that we receive a high volume of interest in writing for the blog, and may not be able to respond to everyone. This is currently an unpaid opportunity.)
Are you a Municipal Liaison or Come Write In space coordinator?Fill out this form instead, we have a few specific questions we’d like to ask you!
We’re looking for blog contributors again! We’re especially looking for some editing, revising, and publishing tips for our “I Wrote a Novel… Now What?” Months in January and February. Fill out the appropriate form for a chance to be featured on this blog!
Earlier this year, parts of California were decimated by devastating fires. NaNoWriMo HQ is located in Berkeley, CA, so we’ve experienced some of the fallout from these disasters, and our hearts go out to those whose lives have been claimed or changed by the them. Today, writer Matt Forbes, one of the survivors of the Camp Fire that leveled Paradise, CA, shares how he’s using writing to help regain some hope in the aftermath of the fire:
There’s something to be said about the power of stories. Over 25,000 people in Paradise, CA and surrounding areas share a terrible story of loss. On the morning of 8 November 2018, the Camp Fire started in the valley behind the local hospital, and by that same night the entire town was engulfed in flames. Over the course of one day, their stories changed forever to one marred by a devastating loss. People ran from their homes with nothing and some still couldn’t escape.
I won’t reiterate statistics here, but you can look them up online if you’re in the mood for shock and depression. Still, many were unharmed—physically—by the fire, escaping with their lives and families. I’m one of those people, but I refuse to be defined by the ashes of my home or to let that be the fate of so many others without some kind of fight. But I am armed with naught but a pen. Here is my plan to challenge this disaster:
I’m not anybody special, but everyone deserves to know it doesn’t take Someone Special to do something grand. I’m a writer through and through, so I asked myself, “What unique skill can I bring to fight this catastrophe?” The answer was obvious: I would write. But how can writing help the survivors—my friends, family, and townspeople? It would have to be something grand. Something wild.
NaNoWriMo is big. If you’re a writer who’s participated in it, you might understand that all too well—the way it made you whole. So what can be bigger for an aspiring writer than 50,000 words in a month? Of course! 50,000 words a month for an entire year. That’s 600,000 words, which is about what it takes to read Harry Potter from book one to the middle of book five or the length of the Hunger Games trilogy from start to finish, twice. This is a Year of Writing Months. The kind of madness only writers, savants, and fire victims have the fortitude to endure. This is what I will do, and I invite anyone daring enough to join me to come along. The progress of this endeavor will be something you can follow for inspiration and support, as shown by the…
The point of this struggle is to draw awareness to the Camp Fire and its victims. Follow along at https://nanowrimo.org/forum_comments/8052319 to see the progress, talk about your own struggles, and find support from other victims and sympathizers. As the year goes by, I hope that others will find it to help themselves and others. Stories heal and stories rally. Relief efforts have already started rising up in the wake of the Camp Fire—opposition to its destruction—and a few can be found in the thread mentioned above. But aid comes in all shapes and sizes, not just donations. If you know someone affected by the fire, reach out to them. If you know a firefighter or first responder, thank them for their service and bravery. People need clothes, blankets, and housing, but they also need encouragement and love. Reach out, no matter how large or small a way you can.
The town of Paradise is gone. Homes are gone. Lives are gone. But people become strong when faced with adversity, and this story doesn’t have to be the last one we tell. Even if you don’t reach out to the Camp Fire victims, there are always others in need. As climates shift, disasters will continue to crop up around the globe, and only we—the people—have the power to save one another. A revolution can start with something as simple as a single story. Some say the pen is mightier than the sword. Today—and this year—I hope it will be mightier than the fire.
Matt Forbes is a strong believer in the powers of friendship, courage, and storytelling as a means to overcome. He goes by his full name—Matt Forbes—and grew up playing D&D with friends that became lifelong. As a full-time DM of many years, storytelling turned into writing and became his passion. Finding NaNoWriMo in 2011, he started his journey figuring out how to challenge the struggle that ensues while following the strange and novel path of the writer.
Check out our statistics for NaNoWriMo 2018! Our writers continue to write and achieve great things; in fact, more novelists reached 50,000 words than last year! Writers in our Young Writers Program also continued to crush it, with an overall win rate of over 40%. Read on for more information about this November’s numbers, leaders, and chart-toppers.
287,327 participants (that’s more than the population of Toledo, Ohio)
35,387 winners (that’s nearly 29% of writers who started novels!)
2,791,454,312 words (that’s more than three times as many words as the average person supposedly speaks in their lifetime)
22,871 words written on average by those who started novels
64,374 novels started
26,183 winners (that’s almost 41%!)
11,820 classrooms participated
849,540 unique visitors (that many people would fill the University of Michigan Stadium—the largest in the U.S.—almost eight times)
Ever wondered how you could directly support a nonprofit just by writing your novel? Today, author and NaNoWriMo Writers Board member Susan Dennard extends an invitation to join her writing group, to help support your novel as well as the members of the wider NaNoWriMo community:
Every year, NaNoWriMo takes the world by storm. And every year, since 2010, I have participated. Some years, I’ve won! Other years…yeah, not so much. But hey, I got words down, and that’s something.
Then there have been those handful of years where I didn’t write at all, yet I threw myself into the experience by hosting writing sprints or creating printable resources or running YouTube Q&As. Why? Because the sense of community during November is nothing short of epic.
What other time of the year can you walk into a coffee shop and know that at least half of the people there are typing away at a novel? It’s like a secret handshake, and we all share knowing glances across our coffee mugs. (Or maybe that’s just me and I’ve been coming across as a total creeper for 8 years.)
Of course, the incredible community that is NaNo can also be daunting. So many people! Writing! And sharing! And chatting online! For those of us who like things a bit smaller and a bit more contained, it can even be downright intimidating. In the past, I’ve always urged people to find their local NaNo chapters—and I still suggest this! But ever since finding my own tiny slice of community, I’ve been evangelizing it to everyone I know.
Meet The Mighty Pens. Formed by Kat Brauer and myself in 2017, the Mighty Pens are a combination of two things we love: charity and NaNoWriMo. Last year, we managed to raise $16,000 for the Malala Fund. This year, we’re hoping to do the same—but for NaNoWriMo.
“Because I knew I was raising money for a greater cause, I felt really held accountable.”
So what are the Mighty Pens? It’s a group of writers who ask friends, family, colleagues, etc. to donate money whenever they hit specified word goals. Kind of like how runners will get each mile of a race sponsored, we’re just working with words instead! Last year, 89 people wrote with us (raising money along the way), and it was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
On top of that, because I knew I was raising money for a greater cause, I felt really held accountable. In the past, if I wasn’t winning NaNo, eh! Oh well. But once there was a goal on the line that was bigger than myself, then wow, did I want to get those words down.
And of course, now the Mighty Pens are some of my best writing friends. It was such a tight knit community last year, and I have no doubt we’ll create the same haven again. We have mentors to help the new members; we have daily sprint sessions planned; and we have a whole slew of epic prizes (ranging from signed books to agent critiques) for people who reach their fundraising goals.
So if you too love the community of NaNo, but you need something a bit more contained—or if you’re looking for greater accountability, or you simply want the chance to give back!—then I hope you’ll consider joining the Mighty Pens or spreading the word about our cause.
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, she got to travel the world before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor. She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling Witchlands series, and she also manages the popular newsletter for writers, Misfits & Daydreamers. When not writing, she’s slaying darkspawn (on her Xbox) or earning bruises at the dojo. Learn more about her on her website and find hundreds of free writing resources on her blog.
NaNoWriMo is an international event, and we’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear about the stories being written every year in our hundreds of participating regions. Today, Helena Verdier, Municipal Liaison for the Canada :: Ontario :: Ottawa region, shares how her region has shaped her writing:
Since the first write-in I attended over 6 years ago, Ottawa has proven to be a special place. We may not have the best food or the most beautiful sights, but we have this amazing community that comes together through everything and anything. We were recently hit by a tornado that left most of the west end of the city without power for days and destroyed countless homes and businesses within the city and a small town just outside. But just like always, the community came together to support one another.
The most special feeling about Ottawa is the big city with the small-town feel. That feeling of community with all the big city attractions? We’ve got it. And every November I’m still astounded by the variety of people who show up to write their novels together and become this amazing community. Need a name for this new character who just walked onto the page? Someone has a great name to share. Not sure how a specific business is run? Guaranteed someone knows all the ins and outs of it.
Whatever your question is, I’m sure someone either knows the answer or knows where to find an answer for you. The amount of times I’ve asked a question to the people around me and had the perfect answer given to me is massive. Almost equal to that is the amount of times I’ve started to ask a question only to figure out the answer halfway through. It always makes people chuckle.
NaNowriMo has a way of bringing people together, and the Ottawa group continues to surprise me with every new Wrimo that shows up. From our former Municipal Liaison (ML) who writes at the speed of light, my NaNo-Wife who continues to push me to write more every year, to our hilarious storyteller who’s a proud new dog-dad, everyone brings something unique to the table. Weaving that uniqueness into my stories over the years has been wonderful and is not something that I would trade for anything.
Every write-in proves that our little NaNo community is amazing in every way. They continue to show up when the first snow storm hits, their big smiles hidden behind warms layers. They also show up when we decide to build a blanket fort and write till the sun comes up. I like to think that the support we all bring to each other has no match, anywhere else in the world.
That being said, every local region is special, and the best parts are the people that make it up. Everyone comes with such unique experiences and personalities, and that wealth of knowledge is a hidden gem for your stories. Take full advantage of what’s in front of you, your novel will thank you. So, I challenge you to get to know the writers around you and build up your own writing community. Find someone who writes at the same pace and challenge each other. Enjoy writing in a supportive community who all want to write the best story they can. Who knows, you just may end up being the reason someone comes back every year.
Helena Verdier is a twenty-something student and government worker. When not adding more things to her long list of university accolades, she is busy thinking about what to write next and helping her co-MLs plan next years NaNoWriMo events for her region. She also spends copious amounts of time annoying her cats with affection while simultaneously trying to figure how she’ll teach them to swim once they all finally move to the east coast of Canada.
Top photo licensed under Creative Commons fromDavid McCormack on Flickr, with added text.