Category: writing

If you found out you could only keep one memory, what would it be and why?

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

                                                        ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline


During our “Now What?” Months, we’re talking to Wrimos who’ve published their NaNoWriMo projects and asking them about the steps they took to make it happen. Today, Dan Frey, author of recent release The Retreat, shares some tips on practices to get your novel published:

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 10, when I first read Tolkien. I was a weird kid who didn’t fit in at school, and my parents were going through a messy divorce. But I found refuge in fantasy, and devoured The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. When it was over, I didn’t want the story to end, so I started writing what we’d now call fan-fiction, while dreaming that one day I’d write a book of my own.

But then, life happened. My interests shifted. I wrote plays, then advertising copy, and eventually worked my way to a career as a screenwriter. Which was incredibly exciting, but it could also be creatively frustrating, since none of my work was getting produced.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo on the podcast Scriptnotes, where Grant Faulkner discussed the program with John August. I was so inspired by the idea, I joined the community that day, and decided to try it myself.

With an idea that I’d been kicking around for a year, I dove in and started my first novel, The Retreat, in November 2017. I completed 50,000 words within the month, which put me within range of finishing a draft by the end of the year.

After a few rounds of revision, I eventually found an agent, who sent the novel out and got some interest, but alas, not a buyer. Nonetheless, I was so encouraged by how fulfilling the process had been, I decided to try another NaNoWriMo in 2018, and started work on a sci-fi book called The Future. Again, I got a strong start in November, and finished it off that momentum.

While I was working on the second book, to my great surprise, The Retreat DID find a buyer. Namely Audible, which saw it as a good fit for release as an Audible Original. It debuted on the service in December, and it’s available now!

Shortly after the sale of The Retreat, my agent took out my second NaNoWriMo book, and got interest from multiple publishers. That book sold to Del Rey, who actually offered a deal for 2 books (The Future and another that I’ll write next).

So I’ve done 2 NaNoWriMo’s, written 2 novels… and somehow sold 3 books in the process (many thanks to my amazing agent Zoe Sandler at ICM!). More importantly, I’ve achieved a childhood dream, and I know that 10-year-old-me would have his mind blown if he could see what lay ahead.

I hope NaNoWriMo inspires many more people, and for anyone contemplating their first or tenth novel, here are a few practices that I follow:  

1. Know where you’re going, but don’t plan every detail.  

If you want to actually finish a book, it’s helpful to have a broad-strokes idea of the major plot turns, but leaving room for discovery along the way keeps the process interesting. To me, the ideal outline is a stack of 30-50 note cards.

2. Write about something you can’t shut up about.  

Instead of “write what you know,” write about something you want to talk about endlessly. The subject you’re hoping someone else at a party is up for discussing and debating into the wee hours. Whether it’s fashion history or 90’s video games, finding a world you’re driven to learn about and wrestle with will give you endless material.

3. Listen to your community.

Share your book with friends, family, and other writers, and then (the hard part) honestly listen to their feedback. Don’t justify or defend your choices; the reader is never wrong.

4. Rewrite aggressively.

First drafts are full of the joy of discovery, but the wheat is separated from the chaff by drafts 2 through 5+. Build a process so you can iterate systematically, rather than spending hours moving commas.

5. Journal daily.

Even if starts as just a page a day of random thoughts, I don’t know of any better practice to cultivate sanity, discipline, honest self-reflection, and creative flexibility.

Dan Frey is a writer of film, television, theater, and now fiction. With his screenwriting partner Ru Sommer, he has developed projects for Fox, Paramount, YouTube Premium, and the Disney+ streaming service, among others. The Retreat is his first work of fiction, and his second, The Future, will be published by Penguin Random House in 2020. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Casey and their poodle Winston. On Twitter, he’s @wordsbydanfrey

Write about your main character’s first love, or if they don’t have one about something they love. 

Write about your school day from the point of view of your pen or pencil. 


Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. Fiverr, a NaNoWriMo 2020 sponsor, is here to help you with some editing tips to get your novel ready to publish:

You and your manuscript have spent a lot of time together over the past few months (or maybe even lifetime). Take a minute to marvel at your masterpiece. You started November a writer and ended a novelist. You did what most people only dream of—you sat down and wrote the darn thing. Bravo.

It’s totally normal to want to take a breather and step away from your first draft for a while. Once you’re ready to dive back in—because you wrote those 50,000 words, and they should be read!—reread it. See what’s working and what needs to be rewritten. When you’re finally happy with the revisions and ready to start thinking about publishing, it’s time to finally ask for some help. Call in editors, designers, marketers, etc. Editing, polishing, and designing your novel before you’re ready to publish is key, and you’re going to want to call on professionals to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. 

The path to publishing is different for everyone. Some want to connect directly with publishers, while others are planning to self-publish. For both paths, there  are websites like Fiverr. Fiverr—the freelancer marketplace—launched a new store that includes hundreds of digital services for taking your manuscript to the next level. 

Check out our tips below for editing, designing, and promoting your novel: 

  • Editing 101: Get a fresh pair of eyes on your manuscript to do deep developmental edits, catch mistakes, and utilize feedback to strengthen your manuscript. Find freelancers for everything from content editing to proofreading to beta reading.   
  • Make a lasting impression, from cover to cover: All the effort you put into writing your novel will be for nothing if you don’t capture the attention of your readers immediately. Packaging your novel right is important to position it for the market. Hire an expert for freelance services like cover design, book interiors, illustration, book blurbs and more.  
  • Ready, set, launch: You may be planning to pitch your novel to traditional publishers, or are looking to market on your own. Who is your target audience? What is your angle?  Come prepared with a book proposal, professional book trailer, and a solid marketing plan in place.

Ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Here’s a novel idea: visit Fiverr’s store to get started.

Top photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash.

Write the beginning of a story that ends in a cliff hanger. 

Write about your main character’s family. If they don’t have one, then write about someone of great importance to your main character, their best friend, guardian or some one like that.

What are they like?
Do they fight a lot, do they have sing alongs, or something else?
Does your main character have siblings? Names?
What’s the character’s relationship with their family?
How did their parents meet?
Parents’ jobs?
Any fun family memories?

What’s their relationship like?
How did they come by each other?
Do they get mistaken for family?
Who takes care of who?
Do they live together?
Any important memories?

The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

                                        –Joan Didion

Write about a character with a strange phobia.