Category: nano prep

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 15-Year-Old Writer Self

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As we’re starting to gear up for NaNoWriMo this year, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Justine Dietz shares 10 tips she wishes she could have shared with her younger writing self:

1. You should be having fun. 

I can’t stress this enough. Have fun writing! Forcing yourself to do something you should love ends up becoming frustrating. The writing gets worse and you won’t want to write anymore. Take time off! You’ll get back into it after a pause with a clearer and a healthier state of mind.

2. It’s okay to move on and come back to it later. 

I was always scared about abandoning my writing projects. But that’s completely fine! Your mind needs variety, or you’ll feel over-saturated and burnt out. Soon enough you’ll want to write again, and before you know it, you’ll be writing more and better than ever!

3. Story ideas will come to you! 

Forcing yourself to get those breathtaking ideas will not lead you to any—trust me, I used to worry so much about original ideas but never got anywhere worrying. Ideas will come to you, but when you least expect them. And while waiting, fanfiction is actually a great idea!

4. It’s okay to write fanfiction! 

Fanfiction is an amazing opportunity to learn better writing. You get straight into the story and you simply add your own elements, until one day perhaps you write your whole own story from scratch! In any case, it doesn’t matter what you write, what’s important is that you write.

5. Your writing will get better. 

When I look back to my first drafts of my first novel project I cringe, cry, and laugh at how badly it is written. Good writing only comes with practice and a lot of reading, especially in the general genre that you’re writing in.

6. Join NaNoWriMo! 

When I first found out about NaNoWriMo, I thought it was for published authors, for adults who ‘knew what they were doing’. On the contrary, NaNoWriMo is for everyone, at any stage of life, from anywhere in the world. You’ll be surprised at how many write-in events take place in your vicinity! It’s the perfect place to make friends and be supported and therefore be really productive!

7. It’s okay to ask for help.

Problems? Plot-holes? You’re not alone. Especially when doing NaNoWriMo, there are so many people and forums out there that can assist you. Or you can even simply just ask a friend. Two brains are better than one. The more, the merrier!

8. Beta readers can be daunting, but they are worth it.

Odds are, your friends and family won’t bash your chapters. But do keep in mind that you’re not looking for appreciation, but for honesty. Beta readers will help you notice plot-holes or inconsistencies you’ve overlooked and generally help you make your story as best as it can be.

9. Don’t be afraid to press delete.

I was and still am much of a ‘word hoarder’. I can’t get myself to delete anything. But don’t be afraid to! I cut what I don’t want into another document so as to look back on the story’s history while being able to continue without hindrance the actual story. If it’s the word count that keeps you from getting it out, read on!

10. Don’t stress out too much over your word count.

Numbers have the power to take over your mind, and once you believe you’re even the slightest bit behind, it seems easier to just give up. So forget about the word count. You should be writing because you enjoy it, not because you want to write 50,000 words, right? It’s when you don’t care about the numbers that you suddenly reach 100,000 words without realizing it.


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Justine Dietz is a third year University student studying English Literature and Visual Culture. She is a radio show host, musician, artist, poet, writer, and YouTuber. She has over twenty novels in the work with plans to publish two of them in the near future. Her favorite genres are young adult, fantasy and coming-of-age.

Top photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.

How to Create a Morning Writing Routine for NaNoWriMo

As we dive into NaNo Prep season, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, Benjamin Spall, co-author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, shares how to set yourself up for success by creating a morning writing routine:

The surest path to success during NaNoWriMo comes in the little things you do every day. When all is said and done, succeeding at NaNoWriMo requires you to create a daily writing routine—and stick with it.

Opinion varies on when you should write, but I’m here to advocate for a morning writing routine. Over the past five years, I have interviewed over three-hundred successful individuals about their morning routines, including many famous writers, authors, and even NaNoWriMo’s own Grant Faulkner.

During this time, and while writing my book full of exclusive interviews and advice on how to get started with a morning routine, my co-author and I began to notice some clear trends surrounding how the most productive and successful writers spend their first few morning hours.

Here is what we’ve learned about creating a morning writing routine.

1. Write before checking email and social media.

Have you ever noticed how effortless it is write when you’re in the zone? This feeling often comes when we’re already writing—when we’re churning out words like nobody’s business. Conversely, have you ever noticed how difficult it can sometimes be to get started?

Improve your chances of getting in the zone quicker by writing before you check your email and social media notifications. Give your novel the respect it deserves and do your most important work first. As author Ryan Holiday told me in an interview, “I have one other simple rule: Do one thing in the morning before checking email. It could be showering, it could be going for a long run, it could be jotting some thoughts down in my journal. It’s usually writing.”

2. Remove all distractions.

Your email inbox and social media accounts are distractions to your morning writing routine, but so is just about every other app on your smartphone, and every website you can access from your computer.

Set up content blockers on your computer and phone. There are many free and paid services available that can do this for you, including SelfControl, Freedom, and Focus. Next, look at your desk. If it’s full of distractions that are not related to your writing, remove them. If necessary, write outside of your home, so you’re not tempted to procrastinate by tidying up around the house or making yourself an early lunch…

3. Get a good night’s sleep.

When I asked Arianna Huffington about her morning routine she surprised me by wanting to talk primarily about sleep. She told me that 95 percent of the time she gets eight hours of sleep a night—but it’s not always been this way. About ten years ago Arianna had a painful wakeup call when she fainted from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. She was burning the candle at both ends, and as a result she vowed to start prioritizing sleep above all else.

In order to get the most out of your morning writing routine, you need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep the night before. It’s that simple. Get the sleep you need to fuel your creativity the next day.

4. Write even when you’re not writing.

Just because you’re not physically writing your novel outside of your morning writing routine, this doesn’t mean you’re not writing.

When I caught up with author and artist Austin Kleon he let me in on the magic of his daily walks: “Almost every single morning, rain or shine, my wife and I load our two sons into a red double stroller and we take a three-mile walk around our neighborhood… It’s when ideas are born, when we make plans, when we spot suburban wildlife, when we rant about politics, when we exorcise our demons.”

While Austin isn’t sitting down at his desk during this time, it’s hard to argue that he’s not working on his craft. Write when you’re not writing by thinking about your novel when you’re at the gym, walking the dog, or doing anything else throughout your day. And if an especially good idea comes to you, be sure to write it down before it slips away.


Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, and the founding editor of mymorningroutine.com.

Road Trip to NaNo: Finding the Seeds of Your Story

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, Al Stegall, Municipal Liaison for the USA :: California :: Monterey region, shares how his region has shaped his writing:

People arriving in Monterey are awestruck the majestic scenery. I get stuck behind them every day. Traffic screeches to a halt when tourists round the giant sand dune and behold our sapphire blue bay, sandy beaches, mast-filled marina, and sun-speckled windows peeking out from the cypress-covered peninsula. It’s particularly bad on weekends.

Monterey County’s coastline has inspired artists of all stripes, including many wordsmiths. Views of scenic Point Lobos inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Carmel’s art colony attracted many, including Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, and Langston Hughes. Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House and Hawk Tower still stand in Carmel. Jack Kerouac wrote Big Sur while living in Bixby Canyon. The hometown writer of greatest acclaim is John Steinbeck, who set many of his novels in Monterey County.

At first glance, Steinbeck’s description of Cannery Row seems at odds with the traffic-stopping vistas—seriously, people?—and idealistic postcard panoramas:

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.”
― John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

One might argue the disparity results from time and gentrification. The commercial canneries packed up and were replaced by a world-class aquarium and haute cuisine. In some ways, the proverbial tides have turned, yet look deeper you’ll still find the heart of Steinbeck’s description.

Where workers once splashed sardine remnants, tourists now litter the shores with wrappers, and receipts, and abandoned aquarium maps. The local fishing industry has felt the not-so-subtle pinch of marine legislation. Prostitution still abounds, though in lieu of bordellos, high-class consorts are transported in when millionaires flock to the peninsula in their Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys (and any other make imaginable).

Less than a mile away from multi-million dollar mansions of Pebble Beach, a vibrant homeless community still thrives. Like Doris (name changed), who spends her days scouring the public library internet studying the decimation of bee populations while at night she’s roused from public benches by Monterey’s finest. Undocumented kitchen workers dash out of Carmel, hoping to avoid prowling police and impound fees while those same cops free an uber-wealthy drunk driver so he can make his morning flight.

My view of Monterey may sound cynical, but it is in these layers we find story seeds. Cultivated, they bring our settings and our characters to life, adding texture and heart. As you prepare for November, scour your setting and characters for these tensions. Hunt out your quirks and warts, then place them as obstacles to your protagonist’s goals. This creates organic conflict that will drive your story and draw in readers.

Monterey really is beautiful. Please, come visit, but remember, the speed limit on Highway 1 is 65 mph. If you want to take in that view by the sand dune, here’s a little-known secret: there’s a cliff you can access by foot. There, you may sit and watch as long as your heart desires. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll meet one of our colorful locals there.

NaNoWriMo in USA :: California :: Monterey


Al Stegall returns to NaNoWriMo in 2018 for his fifteenth year. He has been the ML of Monterey since the region was founded in 2005. In addition to writing, he’s a husband, a father, and a very small cog in the military industrial complex. Al is a US Army veteran and erstwhile intelligence analyst. He’s used his Korean language skills to avoid arrest on two different continents, but fell short of brokering peace on the Korean peninsula. He’s managed a fish prison and jockeyed police cars. Somewhere along the way he managed to pick up an MBA and a Masters in Biblical Studies. His novella ÜberVern: Defender of the Multiverse won 3rd Place in the 2016 International Three Day Novel Contest.

Sociological Worldbuilding

As we begin to dive into NaNo Prep season, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Robin Pegau shares some wisdom to help you build your fictional world:

Have you ever read a dystopia and thought that its interpretations fall flat? Or looked at a marginalized character and gone, “That’s not how that works?”

Welcome to sociology in writing.

Sociology studies how societies function. It asks questions like, “What makes an opera more culturally valuable than a movie?” and “How do we perpetuate class differences in childrearing?”

Using sociology in your novel can help build the backbone of your character and your world. It not only tells you what is important, but why, so you can expand upon initial ideas and construct a past and future for your world.

Think on how different identities and aspects interact. An easy step to using sociology in worldbuilding is to ask yourself: how does a system benefit those in power? How can they use it to affect marginalized people? 

Say in our fictional world, there’s two groups: the Grok and the Hali. The Grok managed to subjugate the Hali at some point long ago, violently. Wars beget propaganda, so the Hali got tagged as “the enemy.”

Over the years, the Grok have tried to establish their own culture—food, language, holidays, etc.—as what is “correct”, and thus eradicate any trace of “the enemy.” Hali are punished for deviating from the standards the Grok enforce. Maybe their language isn’t taught, or is outright banned. Maybe the Grok see Hali food as gross or unusual. Maybe Grok holidays get public celebration with media coverage, time off of work, and easily found merchandise whereas Hali holidays don’t.

Grok ways become the norm. Even when the Hali population increases and almost equals the Grok population, children have been taught for decades that the Grok-dominant way is normal. The culturally-marked Hali remain deviant. They’re seen as extra suspicious, so law enforcement doesn’t believe them, doctors don’t trust them, banks don’t want to lend to them, teachers send Hali kids to detention more. They’re now less healthy, less rich, and more criminalized. They have fewer opportunities and more setbacks.

Congratulations, you’ve built a proletariat. The Grok have their workforce.

You too come from these processes. Consider: how can you use the sociological events that have impacted your life to create engaging stories? Where do different groups collide, and what happens at the intersections? What are your world’s tools of oppression?

Go wrangle your populaces.


Robin is a product of the society she lives in. In particular, she attends Mount Holyoke College to fulfill social obligations towards higher education. She studies sociology and computer science, though in a twist she originally planned to use both of those to further her authorial plans. Her love of science fiction comes from her family’s socialization, though she’s certainly not protesting all the sci-fi she’s read and written over the years.

Top photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash.

6 Essential Tips for a Successful NaNoWriMo

As we begin to dive into NaNo Prep season, we’ve talked to some participants to get the inside scoop on how to best prepare for November. Today, writer Clara Nyx shares her top tips for “winning” NaNoWriMo:

Most people, at some point in their life, have thought of writing a novel. But few of them start writing that novel. And even fewer can say: “I wrote a book.” The reasoning behind this is simple, and everyone who’s tried their hand at writing knows it: writing a novel is hard and time-consuming. The excitement to tell your story turns into: “This makes no sense. An 8-year-old could write a better story. My vocabulary is trash.”

In this mindset, it’s easy to postpone writing that novel for a few more months until you become more literate, wise, intelligent, or a better writer. Then those “few months” turn into a few years as you realize that your vocabulary hasn’t changed, you haven’t gotten smarter… You haven’t improved as a writer because you didn’t write. 

Want to become a writer? Then write as much as you can! Overcome procrastination and sit your butt down in front of that blank page.

Easier said than done, but not impossible. How do you make this writing experience different? How do you start writing when all you can think of is failure?

Easy. You prepare for the month to come. What better way to start this writing experience than with equally frustrated writers? Here are 5 essential tips for a successful NaNoWriMo experience from a writer who has yet to “lose”:

1. Start preparing the moment you make the decision to participate in NaNoWriMo. 

It’s not enough to have a book idea. You need to prepare mentally. So make a list of the reason(s) you decided to write a novel, somewhere easy for you to look at and remember. Trust me, you want to remember why. Because, as I mentioned before, writing a novel is time-consuming. It will take you months, maybe years to have a decent story. And in that time you’ll brainstorm, write, edit, rewrite, edit, cut, add, rewrite, workshop, rewrite and rewrite some more. It’s really easy to lose yourself in the process, right? But that’s why you have your little list: to remember the excitement you had for writing that story.

Write down as many reasons as you can think of in your list. You can always add more points later. They can be lighthearted reasons like “I want to try something new”, “I like writing”, “I’m bored”, etc. Or it can be one damn good reason. Of course the definition of that “one good reason” changes from person to person. For me it is always along the lines of “I want to raise awareness for ______” or “I have this moral point that I want to share with the word.”

2. Brainstorm about your plot ahead of time. 

Have a story idea? Excellent. But as I said, it won’t be enough. Not for NaNoWriMo, at least. Because if you try to turn that idea into a plot in 31 days, you might start off decent, but at some point, you’ll stop and ask yourself: “Where am I going with this? What is the purpose of this scene? This chapter? Character? Dialogue? What’s the purpose of life?!”

The prospect of deleting 50,000 words because they basically lead you nowhere is terrifying, and it’s one of the reasons people don’t meet the monthly word goal. Why bother when you’ll delete later? Well, sorry to break it to you, but you’ll rewrite 99% of that first draft, pantser or not. 

It’s ok not to know where your plot is going while you’re writing your first draft. Maybe you’ll write one scene that will make you realize where you want to go. If not, at least you got to know your characters and setting better. But if you want to nail the plot in the first draft? Then you’ll have to plan. A lot. Ideally, start a month or two before NaNoWriMo. Brainstorm different ideas about the setting, the relationships between characters. Rearrange your ideas into categories and expand those ideas even more. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it’ll help keep you on track when you start to write.

3. Prepare your writing space and supplies. 

You might find yourself more excited to write if you have a clean and organized desk. Dispose of everything you don’t need for your writing session. Decide on your notebook/writing program based on your “style”. Create a playlist of writing music. Research what you need. 

Maybe set up how you’re going to access coffee or a snack—though unfortunately, in the past I’ve found these can also be excuses for procrastinating writing: “I can’t write now because I’m too lazy to make myself a cup of coffee and I cannot write without coffee.” (Spoiler alert: you can write just as well with water.) Be aware that in the middle of NaNoWriMo, you’ll try to look for any excuse not to write that day—no matter how stupid that excuse is.

4. Don’t forget to read. 

Neck-deep in that terrible first draft, you’ll feel as though you forgot to write. How do people talk? Do they really sigh that much? How do I describe a character or setting?

Take a deep breath and read a chapter or two of your favorite book or a book that inspires you. Know an author that writes phenomenal dialogue? Take a peek at his work. An author with appealing and relatable characters? Take notes on what makes you like those characters so much.

5. Try creating a monthly schedule—and sticking to it.

Got something you can do before NaNoWriMo starts? Do it. Creating a monthly schedule doesn’t always work because, most of the time, things don’t go as planned. But it’s worth a shot, especially if you get other things out of the way first.

Make time in your day to sit down and write. MAKE is the key word here. You cannot find time, you can only create it by not procrastinating and instead accomplishing something productive—like writing a novel. Is there a time of day when you watch TV or play video games or take naps? Not anymore, because you’ll be spending that time writing. It will feel unusual at first, but trust me, at the end of NaNoWriMo, you’ll feel guilty about watching TV and not writing.

Remember that you don’t have to write 1,667 words in one sitting. If you can’t write for two hours straight, try with shorter sessions of half an hour. But don’t skip those sessions. I often found myself thinking: “ I’ll write later in the day.” I never did, I just spent the next day catching up.

6. Ignore all of the above and do it your way. 

Those 5 tips are what I do, and they work for me. But they may not work for you. Finding a way that works for you is a lengthy process filled with trial and error, but it is something every aspiring writer should do. How do you know if you’re a planner and not a pantser if you haven’t tried doing both? How do you know writing in the morning is more productive than writing in the evening if you haven’t tried that too?

Don’t be afraid to try new writing routines. You might find a new favorite. You might find something that most definitely does not work for you. Or you’ll combine your old routine with a new one and create something that is unique to you.


Clara Nyx is an artist, avid reader and book blogger, who sometimes does beta-reading services. She specializes in dystopias and post-apocalyptic stories, as well as classic literature. When not writing book reviews, she works on her first novel and blogs about her interests, personal experiences and issues she feels are not represented enough in modern-day society. Check out her blog.

Top photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash.

Road Trip to NaNo: Know Your Characters’ Culture

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, Isabelle Grimmelikhuisen, a participant in the Europe :: The Netherlands region, shares how her region has shaped her writing:

Hallo! Welkom! Welcome to the Netherlands, or at least a small, very small part of it. While my tiny district has no more than 160,000 people, our history is rich. While we’ve had some well-known Dutch writers and artists here, we don’t have much of a legacy to our name. And yet, there is one thing we have plenty: culture.

We have silly sayings and traditions, words that mean nothing to any other person outside our region, old stories we learn from a young age, while someone from the next town over might never hear of it in a lifetime. It’s our local culture, and we hold on to it wherever we go.

There is one place, however, that’s swamped with more culture than anywhere else in our little region. We call it Zaanse Schans, a small place very popular with tourists; people from different countries, different cities, different cultures. And even when they’re nowhere near their countries, far away from their cities, they hold on to their culture. It shows in the way they dress, they act, the things they value.

Everyone does this. Everyone. Even the background characters in your novel. Now, I’m not asking you to go into detail about every main, side, and background character’s culture, but take it into consideration. People in a city might have a certain trait or habit in common. Two people from different places might have a discussion on the correct name of an item. Some parts of a culture are nationwide, like the way they dress or their traditional music. For example, I know few people who are very fond of Dutch music, and yet it’s a part of our culture. There are some songs everyone knows, cause you can’t have a party without them, but aside from that, there aren’t many fans.

Culture doesn’t always have to be liked to be appreciated. A character doesn’t have to love their culture, or certain aspects of it. In fact, they might loathe it so much they try to hide it, act the opposite. But even if they avoid it, it shapes them as a person, adding so much to their personality and character.

I challenge you to add this depth to your characters. Give them a culture to shape themselves around. Whether their culture involves their entire lifestyle being shaped for them (like monks in a monastery), or something small and simple (such as the music they like to listen to, or an item of clothing they wear), give your characters something to make them more of a real version of themselves.


Isabelle is a 20-year-old aspiring writer. Her preferred genre is young adult fantasy, as she thoroughly enjoys tossing her characters into an unknown world and following them as they try to find their way. When she isn’t writing people into unknown worlds, she practices her hobby of photography or busies herself studying to some day work in tourism.

How to Begin Writing Every Day

For some writers, September means the start of meticulously planning out what they’re going to write in November. For some pantsers, even thinking about writing is still months away. But no matter what your writing style is, just starting anything can be the hardest part. Today, writer Rosario Martinez shares some words of wisdom about beginnings:

You want to write a story. It’s the story that’s been there in the back of your mind. The one you’ve frequently thought about writing down, the one you thought you’d never get to tell. Until one day, poof! There it is, like a shiny new pencil. Quickly gather your notebook—a new one that you’ve assigned for this occasion. You might already have a couple notebooks that you’ve gathered over the years for this exact moment. All those empty pages hiding away the hundreds of possibilities. All the stories. All of them just waiting for you to sit down and write.

The real beginning—the part before the story ever starts—is where we as writers have to condition ourselves to write. Perhaps not everyday, but at least thinking about writing constantly, is the hardest part. 

Think of all the people who candidly say they have always wanted to write a book but simply don’t have the time. If there is something that I have learned since beginning my novel, it’s that the right time to write will not come, bells ringing, at a particular time of the day. I remember I wanted to write at specific times of the day, every day, uninterrupted, to complete my word count each day. I was disappointed when it didn’t happen and decided to start anew every day after that. 

It was a huge relief when I began to be flexible about my writing time. In the early days I set an event on my phone calendar around the time that I’d most likely be home to remind me that this was a good time to write. Today the event is still there; it’s there the 365 days of the year. While I don’t write every day, it helps to keep writing on my mind, it helps me begin every day.

The writing journey itself has several beginnings, middles and endings—it’s kind of meta if you really think about it. Each day, gradually we carve out the time to write. How? By thinking about our writing in the way one would approach a math problem, step by step. (Math, right? Fractions, or something.) But it makes sense to think about it this way. 

I often thought about writing a book as some unattainable kind of magic, and that was daunting. It’s too overwhelming to think about a whole book all at once. All the parts start to move and often you don’t know where to begin. That was one of the things that kept me from writing. I started out collecting scenes I’d written, names I liked for characters, possible locations, and backstory. I had the skeleton of a story, and while I had an ending in mind, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. 

The truth is, there is no one way to start your story, because only you know your story. I started writing out of order and that got me through for a couple of scenes—not chapters. Then I wrote the ending before I wrote the beginning and circled back to the start. It took a few tries and rewrites until now I think I’m at a good spot.

The beginning is always tough. I’m here to tell you that it will be okay you will get through it. All you have to do is sit and begin.


Rosario Martinez is a writer in Dallas, Texas where she lives with her husband and their 4 sweet but demanding cats. She’s currently working on her debut YA Fantasy novel set in a parallel world where magic isn’t the only rising power. She has too many flannel things and believes a good bowl of nachos is life. To follow her journey to publication, visit her blog or find her on Twitter @lemmonavenue08 and Instagram @rosariowrites.

Top photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

NaNo Prep Season Is Here!

Hey Wrimos, did you know that NaNo Prep season officially kicks off today? 

You can now create your 2018 NaNoWriMo project on our website and announce to the world what you’ll be writing in November!

For you planners out there (or for pantsers who want to try something new), now’s the time to start preparing to write this fall. We’ll be providing plenty of help to get you started on this blog, but be sure to check out our other resources on the NaNo Prep page, and to keep an eye out for webcasts and other announcements on our calendar. You can also hop into the forums to chat with other Wrimos about anything writing related… or really, just anything!

Oh, and be sure to pick up some cool NaNo flair for your social media sites.

5 Ways to Generate Story Ideas

As September begins, we’re already starting to think about prepping for NaNoWriMo. But what if you don’t have any idea what you want to write about when November rolls around? Today, Brooke, a member of our Young Writers Program, shares some of her tips for generating story ideas:

Camp NaNoWriMo has finished, August has ended, and for many folks, school has started again. With summer coming to a close, some people are already plotting and planning for the upcoming NaNoWriMo: Not so much a difficult task as just a time-consuming one, although it can be the difference between reaching your word count before the end of November or falling short of 50,000. The problem is, what if you don’t have any ideas for stories yet? When this is the case, there are many ways of coming up with fresh ideas.

1. People Watch

Characters are supposed to be both realistic and 3-dimensional, so what better way to get inspired than by watching real people? Any public place can work for this, just grab a notepad and try not to look suspicious jotting down the characteristics of complete strangers. The amount of stories that can come from a couple of minutes watching people is amazing, and all it takes is a piece of paper and a little bit of time.

2. Word Association

Start with one vague word, and then begin linking it with others. Repeat the process until an entire sheet is filled with nothing but related words. By the end of the page, themes will have started emerging, and with them hopefully some story ideas. Combine these topics until eventually a supple plot has been developed. The only thing left to do is further the story and write the book!

3. Freewrite

Write a scene that appeals to you. It doesn’t have to make sense, just write it, whatever it is. The tense may stay inconsistent, and the character’s name may switch between paragraphs, but as long as this one scene is something you like, chances are a novel based off it may be equally intriguing. If nothing else, the activity is also good practice for developing a location and characters.

4. Writing Prompts

Writing prompts can be found all around the internet. No matter what social media platform you use, it’s not hard to find accounts full of nothing but prompts and story inspiration. Different types work for different people—scraps of dialogue may work for some, while character inspiration or locations can be more helpful for others.

5. Keep a Journal

I know, it’s common advice, but that’s for a reason. Either buy a small notebook to keep with you, or start a document on your phone. Try to keep it near you, so whenever you come up with a couple of lines of witty dialogue, or think up an interesting plot point, it’s convenient to write it down. Whenever you’re in need of a story idea, then you’ll have pages full of them.

Besides this, always be looking for new ideas. Inspiration is everywhere, so it never hurts to step outside your comfort zone to try some unusual tactics for creating characters, worlds, and plots for your next novel. With all of these ideas and a little motivation, it should be no problem preparing for your next novel by November.


Brooke is an aspiring young author from the United States. She first started writing in 2016, and now, at age thirteen, has written two novels, several short stories, and articles. Other than writing, she spends her spare time learning piano, drawing, and running. NaNoWriMo has helped her both of her books, and will hopefully continue to motivate her for countless more Novembers. Her current projects include a collection of poetry, a science fiction novel, and a fantasy short story.

Top photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash.

Join Our #InstaWrimo Instagram Challenge in September!

A novel is a lot like mold. Mold doesn’t just appear all of a sudden on those strawberries you meant to eat but didn’t. It starts as spores that drift through the air, seeking the right combination of temperature and light and dampness. It settles in, speck by speck, and slowly grows into something more.

Okay, I know, gross (note to self: throw out those old strawberries). But I like the metaphor because that’s often how stories start: you make space in your day and mind to dream, and the ideas drift down, spore by spore. After many days and weeks (and sometimes months!) they grow into characters and scenes you can shape into an outline.

NaNoWriMo is coming up in November, so this September, we want to help you grow your mold—er, novel—with our second ever month-long #InstaWrimo challenge. We designed a month of Instagram prompts to get you thinking about characters, setting, and story. All you need to join in is an Instagram account.

  • Use the 30 photo prompts listed in the graphic above to start thinking about your novel. We’ll post the full challenge prompt on Instagram, but it will also be available in this post if you need to refer back to it.
  • These prompts are just suggestions—you don’t have to be literal, though if you want to take these prompts very literally, that can result in some fun pictures, too. You can post a photo for each of the prompts, or choose just a few. You can post one every day, or all at once. There aren’t any strict rules—the most important part is having fun!
  • Make sure to tag any posts with the #InstaWrimo hashtag so we can find them. We’ll pick photos from the challenge to feature on our own Instagram account throughout the month. Follow the hashtag to see what our awesome community is up to, and to get inspired.
  • Use your imagination, get creative, and get ready to write!