Sometimes, you just need a little reminder that you are a writer, what you’re creating is worthy, and that you should keep going! Today, Young Writers Program participant Dawnia Nosrek is here to give you that reminder:
If you asked a normal human being what they’re afraid of, chances are their response would be something other than “a blank page”. But it’s different for us writers. We are not normal human beings. We are extraordinary people, capable of snapping realities and plots and characters into existence by merely placing pen to paper.
Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’re terrified of the piece of paper in front of you. Of the wordless, empty blank page staring you down, scoffing at the very thought that you could produce anything worthwhile, credible, or even entertaining for any common reader.
But here’s the thing: just because you have a blank page doesn’t mean you’re fresh out of novel-worthy ideas. An idea is an idea even if it sounds dumb to you at first.
Don’t be encumbered by those destructive thoughts that plague the battlefield of your mind. That blank page is imposing. I know. But you have a world brimming with new ideas just waiting to come alive. Who cares if it sounds stupid? Who cares if it doesn’t exactly fit in the story line?
Right now, it’s yours. It’s your very own beautiful creation. Take pride in it. Own it. The point of writing is to write. Revising and making sure your sentences actually make sense will come later.
For now, close your eyes. Envision where you want your creation to go. Don’t worry about coherent sentences or shallow characters or plot holes or perfect punctuation or grammar or any of the fear that’s holding you back. Take charge and take off! Just go and write!
I believe in you.
You are a writer.
Dawnia Nosrek is a homeschooled senior whose entire life consists of writing, whether it be books, flash fiction, plays, poems, songs, soundtracks, or short stories. She loves to geek out about books and movies, and can be frequently found composing music on the piano, ukulele, or dulcimer. Her go-to snack food is Sour Patch Kids, and she consumes way too much Mountain Dew during NaNoWriMo. Her favorite series of all time is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Sometimes, the editing process can be more difficult than writing! It’s hard to take the things that you wrote and change or get rid of significant chunks. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Rosario Martinez reminds us that it’s ok to break apart what you’ve written:
You’re finished with your first draft, and you have no idea what you wrote. You just spent a month (several actually, but who’s really counting) writing this story, and now you feel like you can’t articulate what it is that you wrote.
This happens, and it’s okay. Take a breath, take a few days to relax and not think about what you wrote. Detach, but keep in mind a date you’ll like to return. Always keep in mind a date you will return to your story. What I find helps the most is using the calendar feature on my cell phone because I have it with me most of the time. No excuses, right? (Sort of.)
Don’t worry, you can do this. You wrote a story, your story. It’s done. Now you have to read and fix that story. But how?
This is the part where I tell you how you can fix your story. But actually, each story is different and will require different approaches to edit, revise, and rewrite. There is so much information about techniques on how to approach your first draft that just looking at ideas on where to start can be overwhelming. Just remember you already have words on the page.Words you can read and make better because these words already exist. This is just my suggestion on how you can begin to approach your novel edits.
1. Break your novel into parts.
What I’ve found most helpful is breaking your long, messy draft down into parts. It’s easier to manage visually and in terms of workload. You can divide your manuscript into the typical beginning, middle and end sections. Or simply into sets of equal number chapters—whatever helps you.
2. Determine the state of your draft.
Basically, assess the damage. Were you able to finish the story? Or did you only complete the word count? These are two different things. Different genres have different word counts, so let this be your first guide.
3. Read your novel.
Now that you’ve divvied up your story into parts, here comes the fun part: actually sitting down and reading it. This can be a difficult exercise because while we’re writing we have this epic—I repeat—EPIC idea of what our story is, and we often genuinely believe that is the way we wrote it. So, reading it for the first time is a bit of a rude awakening because, well… it’s not epic. Reading your first draft is the hardest, because it makes you realize how much work is still ahead. It’s okay to feel down and cry. (I don’t think we talk about this enough as writers.)
4. Come up with a plan for your story.
All things take time. Breathe. And come up with a plan to make your story like you imagined it. Whether you dive straight into editing, or you choose a particular thing to focus on first, make those marks on the page with your favorite pen or use your favorite editing software to fix mistakes.
5. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
Did you read something that was already somewhere else in the draft? Are you repeating a word or a phrase too much? Cross it out. Is your main character meeting a lot of other characters? Make a list and (for the love of your future self rereading your draft a third or fourth time) make notes on where and when these characters first appear.
Write in the margins, circle, highlight, correct, revise words or sentences that don’t make sense. Write neatly so that it’s legible when you come back for another round. Be as specific as you can when you’re making these notes. Accept that it might take more read-throughs before you feel comfortable having someone else read it.
6. Find the best editing process for you.
Research your favorite authors that write the same genre as you, and find out how they approach their drafts. You might discover something that will work with your own approach. Your approach to editing is your own, just like your story is your own. Only you will know what it needs and what it will take to get to the end each time. But whatever it is, take it bit by bit and you’ll make progress.
Rosario Martinez is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and their four sweet but demanding cats. She’s currently working on her debut YA fantasy novel. She has too many flannel things and believes a good bowl of nachos is life. To follow her journey to publication, visit her literary lifestyle blog or find her on Twitter @rosariomwrites and Instagram @rosariomwrites.
Just one week until our new book, Brave the Page, comes out! Here’s a snippet from author Jason Reynolds’ introduction.
“See, I know a little (just a little) about writing novels, and what I can tell you is that the process is just like moving from one home to the next. Your character are your boxes… Your job is to take them from a familiar place, a place where they feel they belong, and get them to the truck.”
5 Writing Dares (featuring the Traveling Shovel of Death)
Start writing NOW with these five dares, whether you’re in the middle of your project or looking for a way to begin. All dares provided by the Dare Machine on NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program website.
1. Your character discovers an inanimate object that laughs.
2. Create a human character based on your pet.
3. Make a character climb a tree.
4. Give one of your characters amnesia.
5. Have a character find an unlucky penny.
Plus one extra non-writing dare for us to watch out for!
Brave the Page, our brand new NaNoWriMo handbook for young writers, is available for pre-order! Partly a how-to guide on the nitty-gritty of writing, partly a collection of inspiration to set (and meet) ambitious goals, this is our go-to resource for middle-grade writers. Check out this Brave the Page excerpt on generating novel ideas:
Idea-Catching Mechanism #1: Mine Your Life
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored,” author Neil Gaiman wrote. “The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”
When you mine your life, you look back through your past to extract sparkling sapphires as well as pieces of combustible coal. You dig deep to uncover experiences and emotions and memories and dreams, and then you gather them in a pile and watch as they ignite and spark story ideas.
The nuggets you mine from your past don’t need to be epic or amazing or tragic (though they can be). They can be simple moments or heated conversations or the smell of your favorite holiday. It can be tat time when you were three years old and used your mom’s lipstick as a crayon on the freshly painted wall. Or that feeling you got when you aced (or failed) your math test. Or the color of the sky after you saw your grandfather for the last time.
Your memories might lead to wild new ideas. Or they might serve as a foundation upon which you build your story, as with author Joyce Hansen’s book The Gift-Giver, which came out of her past experiences. “I recalled my own childhood as I created the story, so that underneath what seems to be a contemporary middle-grade novel is actually a nostalgic memory of my years growing up in a Bronx neighborhood in the late 1940s and early fifties.”
To get started on mining your life, take 10 minutes to write down (or draw) as many memories, experiences, and dreams as you can. Include a lot of details or a single word-whatever works for you. Do this every day for a week.
Here are a few prompts to guide you if mining memories from your whole life feels too big:
Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the pure rush of creating something new. Later on, when you come back for a second glance, the writing doesn’t have that same sparkle. You may not want to hear this, but editing is your friend—and it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Today, NaNoWriMo participant Rebekah reminds us that editing is writing:
Editing the rough draft of a story is a dreaded part of writing.
It takes just as much, if not more time, than actually writing a draft. But never fear! I’ve created my own method of tackling the first draft that I’d like to share with all of you as you work on your stories.
I find tips easier to follow if I’m given steps, so here is a step-by-step of the process I have been following with the rough draft of my very first book.
1. Let the draft sit for at least a month.
This means don’t touch it at all. Don’t read it, don’t do tiny edits. If it helps, pretend it doesn’t exist. Taking a break from the draft helps me distance myself from what I wrote. It makes the text almost seem like it was written by someone else, which can make it easier to critique and fix.
2. Read the draft after the break period and don’t edit it at all.
Read it like you would a new book and document all issues you find. This will make it easier to write the next draft.
3. Find a format for your story that will be the easiest for you to edit.
For me, it meant printing out the whole story, which then led me to realize something to work on in draft two (more on that in step 4). Writing in red ink all over a hard copy of my first draft has helped me, and more importantly, I’m comfortable with it. If you aren’t comfortable with editing in your story’s current format, then find another format that works.
4. Find at least one thing to look at throughout your editing process.
This is by far a harder step, but once you do it, the editing process becomes a whole lot easier. I realized my chapters were too short, so I decided to find ways I could build more plot into my chapters. Other common fixes could involve decreasing adverbs and using more emotions. This gives you a goal while editing, which can be helpful to writers like me who are very goal-oriented.
5. Make a “chapter wrap-up”.
This is a completely optional step, and may only work for some writers, but it has helped me immensely. I call it a chapter wrap-up, and write it out after I finish editing a chapter. It includes four sections: Characters, Plot Points, Items to Adjust, and Connections/Extra Analysis.
Under Characters, I list the characters present in the chapter and the new ways they’ve developed. Under the Plot Point section, I mention all major plot points for reference in future drafts. My Items to Adjust section includes my major flaws in the chapter as wells as smaller issues to adjust. The Connections/Extra Analysis section includes any other information I find important to include after editing a chapter.
This list has worked the best for me, but every writer is different. Improvise on this list, or find your own way! Tackle that first draft and start editing!
Rebekah lives in the United States. When she isn’t writing, you will likely find her reading comics or books, playing on her tenor or alto saxophone, listening to soundtracks, knitting, or taking nature walks. She hopes to publish her current book by the end of high school. You can find her on Instagram.
Take some time today to read or share one of your favorite books. (Maybe it’s your own!) To celebrate, we’d like to share the very first stories written by a few NaNoWriMo participants. Do you remember yours?
Question: Do you remember your first story?
IMG 1: A science fiction epic about myself, in which I stumbled on a mad scientist’s serum that made your thumbs grow to gigantic proportions.
IMG 2: A girl and her best friend swam to the moon and raced back on foot, they tamed tigers as pets and flew around the world with kites and balloons.
IMG 3: My first story was about four kids left behind after a camping trip on an island in Florida.
IMG 4: My first story followed four girls that lived at a boarding school. Strange things began to happen and they set out to find the cause.
IMG 5: My first story turned out to be an imitation of every author I loved. It will never be published because of all the lawsuits!