Category: nanowrimo 2017


Now that November has ridden off into the sunset, you may be considering your submitting your NaNo novel for publication. Today, Samar Hammam, agent and Director of Rocking Chair Books Literary Agency, shares her thoughts on how to turn your novel draft into a page-turner ready for publication:

You might have heard the expression that writing is rewriting. Unfortunately, that means the main thing you need to do with your novel is a four-letter word: edit! However, the almighty Editing Process can be easier said than done. Here are some tips on how to prepare your novel for submission. 

1. Think like a reader.

If you’re among 99% of writers, things will still be all over the place: fragments of narratives that you dropped, characters who don’t need to be in there, or characters who have yet to appear. Just because it’s still rough doesn’t mean you’re not a writer—but what will help you at this stage is to think like a reader. 

Read your draft from beginning to end without touching anything. It should help give you the big picture of how the book is working. You’ll learn whether the voice is strong or whether it’s still a bit flat, if the characters are compelling, or if the plot is captivating. One writer told me they’d read through their whole book thirty times from beginning to end before handing it to their editor.

2. Do your homework.

Submitting your manuscript involves finding the agents and agencies you’d like to send your work to. Looking in the “Acknowledgments” section of books similar to the one you are writing usually kicks up a few names; magazines and online searches will kick up a few more. If you’re in the UK, the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook also has a good inventory.

3. Read the criteria.

Each agency has their submissions criteria on their websites. Although they might vary, you typically need to have your pitch in the body of the email, along with a manuscript and a synopsis. Keep in mind that some agencies require submissions through the mail instead of online. 

4. Make it personal.

It’s also a good idea to personalize your message, as it’s the first indication that you believe your work is good enough to be taken seriously. Usually, when a ‘Dear Agents’ blast-out comes through, it’s a sign that the manuscript will also lack personality.  

5. Give your book spark.

The pitch is just one or two paragraphs in the email to catch the reader’s attention. I like to think of it as “back-of-the-book” copy.  Usually, when you’re at a bookstore, you’ll flip the book over and will decide whether you want to buy into this story or not; your pitch should aim to achieve that same effect. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but enough to give it that spark.

6. Grab your reader… and don’t let go.

Ultimately, however, the manuscript is the most important thing. I’d recommend focusing on the opening. Before I joined the industry, I thought agents read substantial portions of submissions—why wouldn’t they? But now I know that they can’t—not even the lovable agents—but there’s simply not enough time in the day to get through every page of every submission, let alone do the agent-ing part of the job.

The key here is to try and grab the reader from the outset.  For me, the first thing I’m looking for is the voice. If this grabs me, I’m slightly more patient to see if the characters kick in, then I’ll keep going if the plot is going places. Of course, this is just my methodology, so one size does not fit all!

It’s a courageous thing to do to write a book, any book, and very exciting to complete NaNoWriMo. If you’re compelled to continue with it, I hope that this blog is helpful, and please come and find me when you’re ready to submit!


Samar founded Rocking Chair Books Literary Agency in 2013 after seven years as a Director at Toby Eady Associates. She is a primary agent, but works with other agencies to represent their rights in translation. Clients include Warsan Shire, Mike Medaglia, Brian Turner, and Amita Murray, among others. She is excited to work across all adult genres from commercial to literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, graphic novels, and gift books. She lives in London with her fella and two kids. Favorites: sunny days. playlists. reading. road trips. hiking. fireworks. the kids. discovery. recovery. the end of recovery. this job. the next bold move.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Dvortygirl on Flickr.


When it comes to editing and perfecting our novels, we need all the help we can get! Today, author and Municipal Liaison A.K. Child shares her advice for those NaNo novelists with a complete draft and who are wondering what comes next:

November is over, and if you were successful, you should have at
least 50,000 words of novel sitting on your computer (and on the cloud, a few thumb drives, and in a hard copy, just in case!). And even if you didn’t quite reach 50,000, you still have the workings of a draft to your name. Some of you
may have finished a novel, and
others may have been working on something else, but finishing is key.
Reaching those sweet, sexy words, “The End,” is just so

the sake of argument, let’s pretend you reached a “happily ever after,” and
you have a full draft sitting there, teasing you.

“You’ll never pick me up again,”

it taunts in its whiney, ill-formed
voice. “What will you do now?”

But that mocking pile of pages is so very wrong about your tenacity and
dedication to creativity! You did manage to finish a draft. You did get to the coveted “The End.” It
was all you. Don’t let that draft get the better of you now. Show
it you are the master of your own destiny!

time to edit!

1. Refresh

Wait…it might not actually be time to edit. It will be soon, I
promise. First, you may want to take a break. Put your draft in the
freezer. Think about something else. Binge watch all those shows you
missed while you were writing in November. Detox from the caffeine

now that you’ve had a rest, you can start the editing. Getting away
from your piece for a little while does a couple of things. First, it keeps your mind from imploding. Second, it allows you to look at
your story with fresh eyes to see the errors you might otherwise miss. Third, it gives you some time to think about things you may
have skipped over, like names or that massive plot hole your
characters decided it was best to cover with a tarp and never speak

2. Rearrange

how does editing work? Well, that depends on your story. If you are
like many writers, you may work on different scenes in random order.
The first thing to do is put those scenes in logical order. Make a timeline! This will
allow you to see where any gaps might exist. If you’re like me and
have to write in logical order from beginning to end, you can skip
this step, unless you just feel like rearranging stuff to
procrastinate. Then go for it.

3. Reread

that you have your story put together, the best way to edit is to
read it. You can do this on a screen or print out a hard copy,
whatever works for you. You may want to read it aloud too (especially
in public, because that’s always fun!), so you can hear the words as
well as see them. The errors have a way of standing out if you
perceive them differently. This is neither a fun nor fast process,
but it is necessary if you expect to show your work to other people, especially if you want to publish it.

4. Review

you’ve gone through your story, it’s best to share the love. Find
beta readers. Relatives are usually the worst, and friends aren’t
much better. They may not know much about writing and may not give
you critical feedback. Writer’s groups and other writers are the
best reviewers, plus you’ll be able to sell your books to your
friends and family and they can write reviews for you later.

hope this gives you a small idea on how to move forward. Good luck,
and let me know when you’ve published so I can read your

Child is originally from the West Coast but now lives on the East Coast, making a living by editing audit reports, and other writing.
She has self-published two books,
Steamroller and The Scow:
Free Flight. A.K. is a regular participant in NaNoWriMo and is a
co-Municipal Liaison for the Northern Virginia region. She also
writes original graphic novels/comic books. Visit her online to learn more. 

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

Despite all the excitement of the “Now What” months, you might feel like you’re in over your head. Where do you start? What tools do you need to edit your novel? Who do you talk to? Fear not—you’re not alone! Today, Municipal Liaison for the Europe :: Scotland :: Dundee & Angus region Gavin Cameron shares their advice for taking on the revision process:

I’m not a lifelong writer. When I was 26, I heard about a strange writing contest—it was called “NaNooNaNoo” or something. I decided to join up with no real plot, no experience of writing fiction since high school—and no idea what would happen next. I went along to a local meet-up, and found a group of the most welcoming people. With their help, I hit 50,000 words in my first attempt.

Seven years on, I’m now a three-time ML for the Dundee & Angus region in Scotland, assisted by a wonderfully supportive co-ML, Valerie. Together, we manage a diverse and inclusive group with writers of several nationalities and LGBT identities, and it’s a joy to do so. 

There’s been such enthusiasm from the members of our region that we’ve been meeting up every week for around 2 years, even outside of NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo seasons. This means members have the time and support to continue their work during the dreaded “I Wrote a Novel… Now What?” months.

“One of the most useful editing tools is neither an eraser nor a Delete key, but time.”

In my own case,
I’m not yet finished writing my story, so that’ll be my focus for
the weeks to come. I spoke to Kirsty, one of our regular members,
who’ll be doing the same. But she has her sights set even higher.
Kirsty already has one published novel and three short story credits,
and she’s planning to add this year’s NaNoWriMo novel to that

Which brings me
to an important point if you want to be published: the value of the

One of the most
useful editing tools is neither an eraser nor a Delete key, but time. I
make a habit of taking a break from a piece after writing it, even if
I’m bound to a tight deadline. When I come back, I read it aloud
where possible; I often find spelling errors, clumsy phrasing and
structural flaws jumping out at me. I repeat this process until I’m
satisfied with my own work, and only then do I consider sending it

A technique I’m keen to try during this “Now What?” is
peer editing, where two writers swap manuscripts and look over each
other’s work, as a couple of my friends already do. Even after
thorough self-editing, it’s still possible to overlook basic

Of course, maybe
you don’t have a 50,000-word novel to edit. Dundee & Angus
region members are probably sick of hearing it, but there’s no
shame in not reaching that target. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are two well-loved books, yet
neither of them touch 50,000 words. 

In 2015, I had to give up writing
my own novel to concentrate on an MLitt Writing Practice and Study
degree, something I wouldn’t be doing if it hadn’t been for that
initial positive experience with “NaNooNaNoo” five years earlier.
I graduated during the 2016 contest.

So whether you’ve
entered the “Now What?” months with 1,000 words or 100,000, well
done. You’ve no doubt told the story only you can tell, so consider
giving it a thorough edit, then show it off to a waiting world.


Gavin Cameron has
participated in NaNoWriMo since 2010 and became ML for the Europe ::
Scotland :: Dundee & Angus region in 2015. Gavin chiefly writes
poems and short stories the rest of the year, some of which have been
published locally and abroad. Drawing on a passion for spoken-word
and live performance, Gavin runs
Hotchpotch, a monthly open-mike
night for writers to present their creative work without judgement or
criticism. Find out more at Gavin’s website and on Twitter

Top photo licensed under Creative Commons from M Reza Faisal on Flickr.


We hope you’ve had a chance to catch up on sleep and are now starting to reread and revise your NaNo novels. Writing a draft is only half the battle, so today author Laura VanArendonk Baugh shares some questions to ask yourself when you’re revising:

If they’d asked
me, it would be called NaDraWriMo: National Draft Writing Month.

Don’t get me
wrong—writing 50,000 words in a month is a big accomplishment, and I’m
not taking anything away from that. But it’s not accurate to think
of it as a finished novel just yet. 

Fortunately, we
have the next eleven months for revisions! Revision is not a
luxury; it’s an essential part of finishing a novel.

I say writing, O believe me, it is rewriting that I have chiefly in

Robert Louis Stevenson

But without the
communal adrenaline of NaNoWriMo—and let’s be honest, it’s far
less thrilling to post “I removed a weak subplot” than to update
that purple bar—it can be hard to maintain that promise to revise. Rewriting is also very different than writing, so it can be hard to
know how to even start.

Here is how I do

Structure & Pacing

When you’re beginning to revise, ask yourself: Does my story
follow a standard plot arc? If not, why not, and does it still work?

This is the first
and most critical component. It does not matter how poetic your sentences are if the story is unsatisfying. The question posed at
the beginning must be answered at the end.

You may need to add a subplot for depth, or remove that bunny trail. Each scene must
simultaneously advance plot and characterization. Any scene,
even one you enjoy, that doesn’t meet this criteria is deleted from the
manuscript. This is brutal work, but necessary. Loose prose written
under pressure needs to be distilled to pure story. Writing a log
line—a single sentence to summarize premise and plot—can help you simplify your structural analysis. Try it!

The key may also be to just finish the thing! Fifty thousand words is about two-thirds of
a traditional mainstream novel, so depending on your story and genre,
you may not be done yet. My 2017 project will be complete at 90,000
words, so just a few thousand more and then I’ll start revising.


It takes me a
while to understand my characters. I don’t really know someone
until I drop him into the middle of a plot and see what he does.

I may revise
early scenes with the complex personalities of later writing. Does her
knowledge of sushi help to identify the murderer? Go back and drop a
kappa roll reference in her introduction. Humanize a dull character
by giving him a fear of spiders or heights. Let a villain snuggle a
kitten to show he’s not all bad.

I also make sure
each character has a consistent voice, but that individual characters’ voices
differ. Try rewriting a scene without any dialogue tags, and see if you can distinguish each speaker; if you can’t tell who’s who, it may be time to focus on distinct character voices.

Wordsmithing & Polishing

This is the
final (and for me, the most fun!) part of revision. This is where
we take sandpaper to the rough story and polish it into gleaming
brilliance. This is where manuscripts start to sing.

You can get those
shining, perfect lines in your first draft too, of course. But like a
diamond in the rough, they cannot be fully appreciated until
they are given a proper setting.

Save this line
editing for after structural revisions, lest you spend hours
perfecting scenes you’ll end up cutting. I used to get caught in
this most enjoyable part of revisions, but to be efficient with my
time, I’ve made it my reward for getting through structural editing.

Tackle Those Revisions!

Revisions are
usually most effective when we’ve had time away. My manuscript and
I will agree to see other people for a while, and then I’ll come
back with a fresh outlook. Remember, you have time to make it great!

Need more
detailed guidance? Editor Janeen Ippolito of Uncommon Universes Press
has a series
on revisions
with links to other free resources.

Enjoy your
deserved break after your hard November push, but don’t forget the
next step toward finishing your novel. Happy revisions!


Laura VanArendonk
Baugh is an award-winning writer of fantasy (epic, urban, and
historical), mystery, and non-fiction, both traditionally and
independently published. Her NaNoWriMo fantasy The
Songweaver’s Vow
is a semi-finalist for SPFBO’s Best of
2017. Visit her website to learn more.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Ben Terrett on Flickr.


With November well at our backs, we’re reflecting on our NaNoWriMo journeys this year. Today, author Roxo

Trévol shares how she brought our Young Writers Program to Bacău—the Youth Capital of Romania:

The city of Bacău has been named the 2017 Youth Capital of Romania (not to be
confused with the actual capital, Bucharest, several hundred
kilometers south). Thanks to this title, and to the wonderful team
that made everything happen, a series of writing activities engaging the
youth of Bacău took place in this otherwise uneventful city.

Having participated and won NaNoWriMo twice, I saw this as an
opportunity to change young students’ lives, the way NaNo changed
mine. I talked to teachers and to the School District of
Bacău; with the help of awesome volunteers from the Youth Capital, I managed to enroll more than
ninety students
from grades 6 to 12 to participate in this year’s Young Writers

They were skeptical at first, teachers and students alike. How could
they write a whole novel in just thirty days? As is the case with
every challenge, some didn’t have the courage to
start the novel they had on their mind. Others started, but stumbled
along the way and stopped altogether. But many of the glorious young
writers I met at our weekly write-ins achieved their goals and even exceeded their initial target—some even reaching as many as 40,000 words written during NaNoWriMo.

“I wasn’t expecting that writing a novel would
be such a beautiful process. I wrote more words than I ever imagined
I could, and I’m proud of myself,” said
participant Alexandra Olariu.

I only saw glimpses of their novels, but I saw the
passion in their eyes as they told me about their characters, and admired their drive as they kept writing without caring about word sprints or ever-elusive inspiration. All they needed was time to write-write-write! 

Another participant, Bogdan Faciu said,
“The month of November, for me at least, was truly magical, to just
doze off every night in your own universe, where you’re the master of
everything. It was a reinvigorating experience.”

The Young Writers Program has given them the
opportunity to prove that the scribbling they were doing at the backs
of notebooks weren’t a waste of time. They wanted to show the world
that the stories inside their heads had value. They showed us that
teens don’t just wonder about trivial things, that they seek the
meaning of life with even more grit than adults do. They proved that
they don’t need to have all the answers to write a book, they just
need to have the right questions, so that the rest of us, together,
can find a resolution.

Aside from the writing itself, students were happy
to meet peers with similar interests, and the organized structure of
the event motivated them to write regularly and even exceed their

For us, here in Bacău, the
challenge doesn’t end with November. Participants have until the end of
January to edit their novels and send them to us. We’ve gathered a
Young Writers Committee to evaluate the stories and award prizes to
the best of them.

December is your time to finish your story
and polish it to the best of your ability. What you do with it
afterwards is up to you. You can hide it under the bed to play with
the dust (and plot!) bunnies, send it to a magazine, or, if you’re bold, self-publish it! We’re going to publish ours in an anthology
available for everybody to read and see that our city’s stories
matter. Good luck!


Roxo Trévol is a
26-year-old who believes that writing gives people a higher power. In
2017, she brought the Young Writers Program in every school in her
hometown in Romania and offered young novelists the opportunity to
take the NaNo challenge.
 By day she is the mother of two awesome little
kids; by night, she is an avid Young Adult reader—and, when fatigue
doesn’t get the better of her, she works on the novel that started
as a NaNoWriMo project back in 2015.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Anturaju Daniel on Flickr.


It’s Project for Awesome time! Project for Awesome, or P4A, is an annual fundraiser that raises money and awareness for all kinds of nonprofit organizations. We’re in the running for a grant of some of the money raised through P4A, and your vote can help us win.

Vote by this Sunday, December 17, to help us support even more writers.

It’s simple:

  1. Search for “NaNoWriMo” on the Project for Awesome site.
  2. Click on each video.
  3. Select the “I’m not a robot” check box, then click the big VOTE box.

Please vote for ALL the NaNoWriMo videos—voting is cumulative!

Why is this so important?

Because we know that stories can change lives…

NaNoWriMo helps people discover that their stories matter, that they can achieve even more than they thought they could, and that they can build worlds. Your votes will help us keep creating experiences like these:

“NaNo has given me something I haven’t had in a long time: a sense of accomplishment. Because I did something hard, but I actually did it […] I just did something I thought was impossible, and nothing is going to bring me down.”
TheRavenclawWriter, NaNoWriMo participant

“The impact I have seen is that kids who hated writing and struggle with a short summary are cranking out thousands of words easily. And they are excited to do it.”
Amber Hummel, Young Writers Program educator

“Last year, I was diagnosed with a tumor on the back of my cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other functions […] I think I would have lost my motivation after a surgery like that if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo. While the surgery did impact my memory and writing abilities, I was encouraged by NaNoWriMo to build them back up again. A year ago, I didn’t know if I was going to be here to write anything ever again; with the help of Camp NaNo, I finished my fourth project since the surgery, and well over 100,000 words. I have been able to rebuild something important to me with the help of NaNoWriMo.”
— Olivia, Young Writers Program participant


Our Thank You

As a thank-you for your vote and for your help in spreading the word, we’re offering a limited-time coupon code to the NaNoWriMo store! From now until April 30, 2018, take 15% off your order with the coupon code “P4A2017”.

Everybody wins! You vote for us, feel great about helping a nonprofit you believe in, and get a deal on awesome NaNoWriMo merchandise to celebrate awesomeness. It’s an awesomeness fiesta. A non-stop festival of awesome! A ride on the awesome express! You get the idea.

We can’t do it without you. Vote for NaNoWriMo today. Tell your friends. Help us change lives.

Katharine Gripp
Communications Awesomeness Manager


November is finally over, and now that you’ve had a chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep, you might be planning the next steps in the life of your novel. Today, author and Municipal Liaison E.A. Comiskey shares her advice for polishing the draft you wrote in November:

hope you are wildly proud of yourself! You took a chance on a wild
journey this November, and even if you didn’t end up
exactly where you expected, I have no doubt you made
some remarkable progress. 

now what? Here are a few suggestions for next steps:

1. Step away from your novel.

of all, step away. Fifty
thousand words in thirty days is enough to fry the most seasoned
writer’s brain. You’re done. You’re no longer seeing clearly. Walk
away for a little while. Go introduce yourself to those people in
your living room. I’ll bet they’ve missed you! Breathe in some fresh
air. Stretch your muscles. Do some Christmas shopping. Read a book.
Any book except the one you just wrote. 

you’ve had a little time away, come back and read what you wrote. The
good news is: what you wrote is probably better than you felt it was
in the midst of your end-of-November haze. The
bad news
is: there is zero chance it’s ready to go out into the

me. It’s not. 

once heard someone compare writing a first draft to digging clay out
of the riverbank. When you’re done, you don’t have a beautiful pot,
but you’ve got something tangible to work with. 

rush to query or self-publish your “lump of clay.” You’ll
end up regretting it down the road.  

2. Research different editing methods.

know how to edit? Do a simple Google search—you’ll find heaping mountains of solid advice. It’s worth taking the time to
sift through the different methods and find your style. As with any practice, finding
a handful of trusted friends who have already succeeded at what you want to do will also be invaluable. I put emphasis on that,
because people can’t guide you down a road they’ve never traveled.
Take advice, but be wise about it.  

3. Research your publishing options.

After you’ve
polished it as much as you possibly can, then you’re
ready to consider publishing. How
are you going to do it? Are you going to self-publish? Go through a
small press? Take the traditional agent or Big Five route? 

time to start Googling again. Be aware that there is good and bad in
every option. Figure out what you want to achieve and follow the path
most likely to get you the results you’re looking for. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of doing your research. Don’t be
one of the many who get rejected before you start because you began your email with “Dear Editor."  

4. Be patient.

know this can all sound a little daunting, but you wrote a book in
thirty days! That’s amazing! If you did that, you can do this, too—no doubt about it! The number one thing that will be in
your favor is patience.  

know how you love sinking into a book because it slowly draws you
into a new world and immerses you inside some fantastic story? You
know how the book (a long, slow read) is always better than the movie
(a quick, easy experience)? 

The key here is to take it slow. Churning
out a first draft in thirty days is an exhilarating experience,
but in a world of rushing around, publishing still
moves at a snail’s pace, and you need to learn to be OK with
that. Your story is absolutely, unequivocally, beyond a
doubt worth telling.

Give yourself enough time
to guarantee you’re telling your story as well as it can be told. And
when you’re done with that, trust you’ve done well. Be at peace. Take
another break. Celebrate. And then… 

us another one! 


E.A. Comiskey is a NaNo ML from Michigan. Her first NaNoWriMo project
was published through a small press AFTER she learned the lessons
above and it became a best-seller in its category on Amazon. She
now has two published novels, two more coming in 2018, two currently
being queried, and one big lump of clay from this past month.  

Top photo licensed under Creative Commons from Alexandre Dulaunoy on Flickr.


November can test our mental, physical, and emotional
endurance. Sometimes, the challenge of writing a novel can help bring
the rest of our lives into focus. Today, writer Tesora
shares how doing NaNoWriMo made her reassess her
personal relationships:

Maybe it’s the waning light. Maybe it’s the terrible weather.
Maybe it’s NaNoWriMo…but I’ve had two romantic relationships
end in November; both were engagements.

Okay, you got me, it was a sensationalist blog title. The
relationships were already stressed before I threw rapid
novel-writing into the mix. NaNoWriMo isn’t to blame for anything.
But there’s a shred of truth in here: doing big, challenging (yet
optional!) things throws our lives into focus in a way nothing else

It’s important to remember that NaNoWriMo is optional, and
because it is, it’s almost 100% for YOU. Yes, book sales might
benefit your family, but in the short term this project is entirely
for you and done by you. No one else is typing the words, no one else
can force you to set aside time each day. It’s a torturous form of
self-care (but, hey, we’re writers! We have a long,
illustrious lineage of self-torture!). 

Most importantly, it’s essential to our creative well-being. If
you were immersed a big project at work, or a contract paying you
$5,000 on delivery, or a family tragedy you couldn’t escape, your
whole world could organize around you for support. 

But because this is just for you, it’s harder for our friends and families to understand it, support it, and prioritize it (unless you live
in a family of authors—in which case, good for you!). It’s
obvious, but when you’re taking more time for you, you probably
can’t give as much to everything else.

“I think of NaNoWriMo as a good and safe testing ground for the many challenges life will throw at me and my relationships.”

My first engagement ended in November 2013, my first year doing
NaNoWriMo. Halfway through the month, I had a nagging feeling. A bad
feeling. I discovered how much I loved writing, but I wondered if I
was using it to avoid my partner. Our relationship was already
stressed—and for so many reasons. 

As the going got tough around NaNo week three and I saw my
determination and tenacity to win, I had to admit something big to
myself: I cared more about finishing strong in NaNoWriMo than what
was going on in my interpersonal life. That’s an embarrassing thing
to admit, but it happened. We weren’t a good match for each other.
We both had a lot of care and kindness between us, but we didn’t
communicate well, we didn’t have any ease of understanding. 

Once I didn’t have the time to work so darn hard at our
emotional life, I saw just how much it was taking out of me to be in
that relationship. It was a sad parting and I don’t at all dismiss
how beautiful a man he is, inside and out. But NaNoWriMo helped me
reach a new place of honesty in my relationship with him.

And then…four years later…it happened again! Different man,
different place, different life package in so many ways. But the
focus, energy and clear mind it takes to pull off novel-writing threw
my own emotional life into sharper relief once again.

So no, it’s not NaNoWriMo’s fault I find myself single for the
holidays. AGAIN. I’m quite thankful for the chance to discover my
own self and my relationships in this way. Because here’s the
thing: life is long and NaNo certainly isn’t the last and only big
thing that’ll I undertake. It’s not the only time I’ll feel
stress and need to receive support and not be a highly productive,
competent, emotionally mature SuperWoman of my partnership. 

I think of NaNoWriMo as a good and safe testing ground for the
many challenges life will throw at me and my relationships. So thank
you NaNoWriMo for the tools, the time, the reflection, the challenge.
Yeah, I’m still single. But I have a handful of novels behind me
and a more creative life. So now…can anyone recommend a good dating


Tesora Jeffries lives in the Pacific Northwest. She mostly writes
website content and edits technical or academic writing. Her first
work of fiction was her 2013 NaNoWriMo novel. This year she wrote her
first fantasy work, a set of stories modeled after fairy tales from
around the world. Tesora is a single mother, leader in local Cub
Scouts, and teacher.  She set up a twitter account recently
‘cause that seemed an author-like thing to do. Find her online

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Marco Verch on Flickr.

Now that November’s over, you might be wondering: Where do I go from here? If you have a finished novel draft, there are lots of ways you could plan out your next writing or editing steps. Today, author Sarah Raughley shares her top tips for moving forward and recharging your creative juices:

So, NaNoWriMo is finished. Phew! Okay, it’s time to crack open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving. (Unless you’re underage. In which case, make it a nice can of soda. Or sparkly water!)

Eat that cupcake. You deserve it. Take your friends out to dinner. Doesn’t matter if you won NaNo or not. I’ve done plenty of NaNos and I’ve only won once––with the book that would eventually become Fate of Flames, the first book in my trilogy from Simon & Schuster. That was back in 2012. Every other time, I pretty much flopped, but that didn’t stop me from feeling incredibly proud of myself for trying. No matter what your word count is, the fact that you tackled the enormous task of trying to reach 50,000 words in one month means you’re a conqueror and you deserve to celebrate!

Of course, now comes the nagging question that can’t really be avoided: what the heck do I do with this thing?

This is especially for people who know that there’s something special in their NaNo manuscript, no matter how deeply buried that ‘special’ is underneath all the spelling mistakes, plot holes, and weirdly sudden disappearances of main or supporting characters. For some of you, as you’re looking at your draft, you know that this could turn into something big. But it’s a mess! How do you whip it into something resembling a proper, query-able manuscript?

Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I did when I was faced with the same issue. I do have some experience with this, after all. So here are a few suggestions on how to get started whipping this thing into shape:

1. Stay Away From the Darn Thing!

This is the most obvious first step that any agent or editor will tell you—especially agents, since I imagine they get inundated with poorly edited NaNo manuscripts in December from writers too excited to do any extra work. For their good and for your own, don’t press the send button. Instead, take some time off and do something else for at least two weeks. You can get to work on that reading list, for example. Get back to that hobby you had to drop to get your word count in. Or you can do research on the agents you eventually do want to query.

If you’ve written 50K, you need to ask yourself if that’s enough for a book of the genre you’re writing in. If it’s middle grade, perhaps, but if you’re writing an adult epic fantasy, you may have to bulk it up a little bit. You can choose your downtime to do your research on what your genre requires, what the industry is like, and which agents might love your story. And don’t worry if your downtime is a little long. It took me one year to get back to my NaNo manuscript because I just didn’t want to bother with it for a while. It may seem like a long time, but that one year gave me a lot of clarity, and I was able to come up with fresh new ideas to improve on the original blueprint of the story.

2. Read it Over with Fresh Eyes.

And when you do, make sure you ask yourself questions: why does she do this here? What did I mean when I had him do that? How is this plotpoint going to pay off? If you took my advice and you stepped away from your manuscript, you probably will have come up with a bunch of cool new ideas to punch up the story so you can decide as you’re re-reading what you want to keep and what you want to cut. Make notes using comments or highlights depending on what program you’re using. Mark the stuff that makes you cringe, and ask yourself why it does. Mark the stuff you’re excited about and ask yourself how you can make it better. Ask yourself after every scene what needs to change. Let the story speak to you and tell you what changes could be made and should be made to the plot, characters, and so on.

3. Start Re-Plotting.

Based on the notes you made during your re-read, make a brand new outline plotting your story with the changes you’ve thought up as you were reading your manuscript. Now, not everyone is a plotter, I realize that. I am a major plotter, which is why this step-by-step process thing really works for me. Having a new outline is great, because then you can compare it to the old one you (might have) made for your original NaNo project and see where things have changed, what you incorporated, and what needs to go.

4. Take the Plunge…

And write! The most important thing to remember here is that it’s alright to ‘kill your darlings’ as they say. Not every brilliant thing I wrote in November made it to the book it eventually became, but overall, that book was stronger for it. Don’t be afraid to let your story speak to you and to take it in a whole new direction you never thought possible.

This is all just to say that NaNoWriMo is just the starting point, not the end point. It is the push to get your juices flowing, but at the end of the day, you can’t be afraid to put in that extra work to get it to the work of art I know you’re capable of writing. It may take a week, two weeks, a month, or a year before you get to it again. And hey, you may decide that you want to work on something else before heading back to it. That’s fine too! But for now, relax and enjoy your NaNo victory. You can figure out the rest later.

Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario writing stories about freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one. She is a huge fangirl of anything from manga to SF/F TV to Japanese role playing games. On top of being a YA writer, Sarah has a PhD in English, which makes her doctor, so it turns out she didn’t have to go to medical school after all. She is the author of two books in the Effigies Series, Fate of Flames and Siege of Shadows, as well as the stand-alone Feather Bound.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Jonathan Hoeglund on Flickr.


November may be over, but your writing doesn’t have to be! If you’re struggling to settle into a routine or find motivation to continue your novel, have no fear! Today, author Neal Thompson shares his advice for how to keep the momentum going: 

In the cafeteria of a Seattle-to-Bremerton ferry, headphones on and laptop glowing, I’m surprised at how many others, like me, are drinking beer at 2 PM on a rainy Thursday afternoon. In Bremerton, I find a coffee shop and write until it’s time for the ferry back east, where I’m surrounded by beer-swilling men and women headed to that night’s baseball game. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. By the time we reach Seattle, I’ve added 1,200 more words to my next book.

Lately, I’ve found that every word I write is the result of a hard-fought battle, a series of compromises. Some writers find the month-long commitment of NaNoWriMo to be their battle, and I applaud them. 

But what if you don’t reach that 50,000-word goal? Or what if you hit 50,000, only to realize you’re at the halfway point? How do you keep the momentum going?

Over the years, that question of momentum, of finding the right time and place, has possessed me. Like many writers, I dream of the mythic Hemingway routine: wake at dawn, bang out a thousand words by noon, fill the afternoon with food or fun until it’s time for cocktails. For nearly ten years, over the course of three books, I managed to occasionally sustain a modest version of that cycle, sometimes achieving the pre-dawn flow state Hemingway described: 

“No one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

I’ve developed, by necessity, a collage style of writing, finding small in-between moments, carving out minutes here and there, scrambling to find the headspace to focus and tune out the world.

“What’s important is to explore and experiment until you’ve figured out a routine that you can sustain.”

Sometimes I settle for micro-sessions, scribbling a hundred words onto a scrap of paper in the middle of the night, picking up the thread on my iPhone, emailing myself another two hundred words when inspiration strikes. Then I’ll pour a drink and spend an hour after dinner on my iPad to stitch those scraps into the loose fabric of my book.

I often look to other writers for clues. From Michael Chabon, I learned than one side of a vinyl LP can yield results. From Amor Towles I learned that a subway ride and a cellphone are useful tools. Elsewhere, I’ve learned that Jane Smiley finds her zone with the help of a bath or shower. Haruki Murakami starts at 4 a.m. (too early for me), while F. Scott Fitzgerald started at 5 p.m. and wrote well past midnight (no thanks).

For years, Maya Angelou would leave her home early in the morning and work in a small, spare hotel room, with just a Bible, a dictionary, a bottle of sherry and a deck of cards for company. Some writers meditate, go for a drive, or drink a beer, which “dampens the butterflies, and releases my ego’s grip on my subconscious,” as Tony D’Souza once described it. 

As I’m sure you’ve found, however, writing is not a “one size fits all” exercise. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I’ve found that, for me, the key is to keep changing it up and fight for more words wherever possible.

What’s important is to explore and experiment until you’ve figured out a routine that you can sustain, the inspiration for which can come from the most surprising places—like a beer on the Bremerton ferry. 


Neal Thompson is the author of four nonfiction books and the forthcoming Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood (May 2018, Ecco). He is the director of Author and Publishing Relations at Amazon and runs the Amazon Literary Partnership, a program that provides grants to literary nonprofits.