NaNoWriMo Prep

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As NaNoWriMo draws closer, you might be struggling with doing any kind of preparation for this mammoth task, especially if you’ve never partaken in this before. Don’t worry. I’ve got some tips in mind to help you out.

1. Outline

Outline is the most helpful tip I can you.

I know, an outline can be daunting and constricting, but nobody says you have to stick rigidly to it. Moreover, an outline can be a brief outline, with only the beginning or ending planned out. Or perhaps just a list of the characters you’ll use and their importance to the story. Perhaps you’ll feel better if you write down each chapter synopsis in detail, mentioning exactly what’ll happen when. Just make sure you leave room for spontaneity too.

2. Acknowledge what you write might be terrible

The point of NaNoWriMo is to write. Not to edit it as you go along, or continually start over because it doesn’t sound right. Just writing can sometimes give you gems you might not have written had you been able to edit it as you wrote, and your story might go in a completely different direction to the one you’d planned it to go in. You don’t know what’ll happen, so embrace it. Embrace the challenge of just writing and not editing.

3. Plan your writing schedule

Sure, writing 1,667 words every day seems easy enough, but that doesn’t mean it is. Planning out a chunk of time when you’ll write each day will train you into doing it and make it a force of habit, so each day you’ll be dedicated enough to write. For those who hate the idea of a writing schedule, trust me it’ll be a saving grace when you have those days where you don’t feel like writing, because if you wanna reach that 50,000 words at the end of the month, you’ve gotta write every day. Especially on those days when you don’t feel like doing so. It’s what all published writers say.

Although, if you really can’t write everyday for legitimate reasons (outside you just don’t feel like it), that’s perfectly okay too. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two, especially if you’re forced to. Just be prepared, if you can be, by writing more on the days afterwards.

Additionally, prepare your writing tools. Are you writing in a notebook or on a laptop? Either way, make sure you have a version backed up, just in case. Have plenty of pens. Constantly charge your laptop. Create a writing playlist if you need one. Eat and drink what’ll help motivate you, and keep you healthy, and find the right environment for you. All of these things are pivotal to writing productively and keeping yourself going during NaNoWriMo.

4. Rewards

Rewarding yourself is so important. It’s all good and well to sit down and write every day, especially on those days when you don’t want to, but planning little rewards for yourself is equally as good. Perhaps you’ll reward yourself with that TV episode you’ve been saving, or you’ll buy a brand new notebook, or you’ll give yourself some chocolate.

But make sure the reward is used at a reasonable time. Don’t reward yourself because you sat down and opened a word document and then stop writing for three days while you reward yourself. Instead, reward yourself for hitting 1,000 words, or finishing a scene, or for reaching halfway through. Whatever the goal and reward are, just make sure they balance each other out.

5. Stay healthy

Life can be harsh and definitely unpredictable. If your mental or physical health take a hit, take a break from writing. It might hurt to give it up temporarily, but your wellbeing is more important than writing. Don’t stress yourself out unnecessarily to complete a daunting challenge like this, especially if you can’t find the time to do so. Your writing can wait.


Find what works for you and NaNoWriMo will be more enjoyable. Do what you can and have fun. This is an experience just as much as it is a challenge. And other last inspirational messages here. I’m sure you’ve got a few tucked away in your mind. Hold onto them. Encouragement can be helpful during NaNoWriMo.

What are you doing to prepare to NaNoWriMo?

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NaNoWriMo Tips

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As a NaNoWriMo veteran, even I get freaked out as NaNoWriMo begins. The panic settles in alongside the excitement, my fingers tingling with anticipation, staring at the blank word document. Watching the clock as the minutes tick down until I can officially start writing.

As a beginner, I remember feeling incredibly nervous and questioning why on earth I was doing this. After all, I didn’t have the time and I was pretty sure I’d discard what I wrote anyway. But thankfully, I grew out of those thoughts and allowed NaNoWriMo to work its magic.

So, for anybody out there who is trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, here are some helpful tips I’m passing along, because these are the tips I’d liked to have heard when I first started as a naive beginner all those years ago.

1. Make time for NaNoWriMo.

I promise you, you will find time where you can write because you’re filling time anyway. If you replace watching that TV episode on your commute into work or idly scrolling through social media with writing, you’ll feel better when you arrive home and not have to write as much as you thought you did. Even if you only write for five minutes per day, that’s still contributing towards your writing goal. But if you can only do minimal amounts of writing per day, try to find time to catch up so you don’t fall behind. Because even though it’s possible to catch back up once you fall behind, it’s not an easy feat.

2. You don’t have to reach the 50k goal.

It might sound redundant since the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to reach the 50k goal. However, reaching any number of words towards your project is more words than those writers who only dream about writing a book and never do, or those writers who decide to write during NaNoWriMo but don’t for the rest of the year (to make you feel better, I used to be the second writer).

Please, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t reach the 50k goal. Real life exists and, unfortunately, it can mess up a lot. As much as writing during NaNoWriMo should be a priority, be realistic with what you can do, especially under the circumstances you’re in. Otherwise you risk exhausting yourself and burning out.

3. Join a writing community.

While it can be daunting to go to an actual write-in, or you can’t due to real life commitments, you can join a virtual writing community. NaNoWriMo encourages you to find a local writing community, which can be difficult if you live in a remote location, because other writers are in the same boat as you and can help you. If you can’t make it to an actual write-in, it’s okay. Forums on NaNoWriMo’s website helps, and if you tag NaNoWriMo on social media, you’re bound to find a fellow writer participating in the challenge. Check your local writing community’s social media accounts too and see if you can connect with them virtually.

I personally find joining a writing community one of the best pieces of advice because it’s the perfect time to ask those random and specific writing questions, knowing there will be a writer who’ll not only listen, but potentially provide you with an answer. Also, if you’re lacking the motivation, they can help give you a boost with word sprints or general positive affirmations you can do this.

However, if you can’t find a local writing community or it’s too intimidating to join one, find your own support system. That support system can be online via social media or by telling your loved ones what you’re setting out to do. Or that support system can just be yourself, although I personally wouldn’t do that if you’re a beginner to NaNoWriMo (unless you’ve been writing for a long time and figured you’d give yourself a writing challenge, in which case, carry on). It makes the whole experience so much easier if you have someone else to lean on and support you when it gets hard (and believe me, it will).

4. Let your story come naturally.

NaNoWriMo is all about getting those words out, not editing them. I know, the inner editor will creep out and tell you to tweak what you have, but don’t do it! It’s a challenge of putting down words just as much as it is resisting the temptation to edit your work as you’re working on it.

Additionally, if this is your first time ever writing a story, stories never go the way you want them to. The characters will decide not to do what you planned, or the plot will just decide to throw in a subplot for you. Go with it. During NaNoWriMo, weird stuff will happen. It’s inevitable. You’re so desperate to write down the words that a character deciding to go for a drive at 3am only to discover some life changing advice will happen. As will your character deciding staying inside all day is a perfectly good idea. Again, go with it. You’ll read it back later and probably question what on earth you were thinking, but you might also find a hidden gem you never would’ve discovered if you hadn’t let the story do what it wanted.

5. Reward yourself.

Reward yourself for writing each day. Reward yourself for giving your character something to do. Reward yourself for reaching the halfway mark. Reward yourself for actually hitting the 50k mark.

Writers love to reward themselves. Just make sure it’s justifiable. It’s incredibly easy to pat yourself on the back for writing down a single word and then proceeding to watch Youtube videos for 3 hours. We’ve all been there. Perhaps tell yourself to write 500 words, then you can reward yourself by watching an episode of your TV show. Perhaps tell yourself to plot out a scene, then reward yourself by going on a shopping spree. Whatever makes you happy, keep it as a reward for doing some good writing. Or for when you’re in a writing slump and you just wanna smile for a while.

Most importantly: enjoy yourself!

If NaNoWriMo becomes too stressful and you’re only writing to reach the 50k goal, don’t. Sure, it might seem like a competition, but it’s supposed to be a challenge for you to complete because you want to write this story. Not for bragging rights or to keep going no matter what. We all have limits, so please listen to them.

Good luck everyone!

Are there any tips you wished you knew when first starting out in NaNoWriMo?

What Is NaNoWriMo?

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NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month as its known, is a non-profit organisation that created a writing challenge where you have to write 50,000 words in November. A chance for writers each year to up their productivity or for new writers to start a project, regardless of what their final word count is.

The challenge is as intimidating as it sounds, especially for new writers undertaking the challenge for the first time. However, NaNoWriMo is the chance to be encouraged by other writers to make it to the 50,000 word mark with organised write ins, word sprints and other writing related events/tasks to try. The community can be so supportive and are designed to help you in whatever they can. The website has a section for you to find your local community so you can join them, even if it’s not in person. They might have a forum or a Facebook page you can check daily for help, inspiration or a kick up the ass.

While NaNoWriMo can help you reach 50,000 words, it doesn’t matter if you don’t reach the end goal. Any words you’ve written towards your project are still words written. There are plenty of people out there who want to write and always talk about their stories, but they never write them down. Taking the first step to write down actual words is the first huge step.

However, I have heard complaints about NaNoWriMo because if you do want to write as a career, you need to be writing all year round. Additionally, 50,000 words isn’t that long for most stories, so you’d need to write more after NaNoWriMo, and I’m definitely a guilty person for not doing so (although, that’s because December is always manic month for me). I do definitely agree with the complaints, especially if this is something you want to turn into a career.

NaNoWriMo is an intense writing challenge, but it does help just as much as it might hinder. It can help you decide when you write best, or help you find time in the day to write. Writers always say to set aside time to write, but if you don’t have a deadline, it can be hard to motivate yourself. In that respect, NaNoWriMo is brilliant. It gives you a set goal to work towards. Add in a friendly community to encourage you to write and little tasks to keep up your pace and you have a great challenge that will help you make serious leeway on your story.

But if you’re only going to put in the work during NaNoWriMo, you won’t make it into a career. Writing should be year round if you’re serious about it, regardless of everything else going on around you. Even if you can only squeeze in 300 words everyday, that’s still writing everyday. If you leave writing to NaNoWriMo, you won’t be disciplined enough to do this full time, because then what would you do with the rest of your year?

To summarise, NaNoWriMo is a great challenge to undertake if you’re new to writing or want to make serious leeway on your story or for bragging rights. If you’re serious about writing, keep going even when the challenge is finished. You will finish that project if you do, I promise.

Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Will you be entering this year?

Genre: Horror

DSC05687Horror is one of the easiest genre conventions to identify across a variety of mediums. Even the word horror conjures up specific images in your mind. They’re typically scary thanks to the surprise plot twists you don’t see coming, along with a few other features.

Dumb Protagonist

Let’s be honest, the protagonist isn’t the smartest person in the group, if there is a group. They’ll be the one to run upstairs instead of outside, or they’ll suggest everyone should split up, or they won’t listen to the smart person who tells them not to do the thing. But without this character, the horror story wouldn’t happen, so it’s a pivotal part of the story.

Scary Occurence

There’s usually some kind of scary occurrence that kickstarts the plot. Whether it’s a literal scary monster or people disappearing thanks to some psychopathic killer, the horror has to include a scare element in it. Otherwise, it’s not a horror story. The level of scare usually determines how much the audience will recommend it to loved ones via word of mouth. If they found it really scary, they’re more likely to pass it on than if they found it to be ‘eh’.

Eerie Setting

Even if it’s set in a normal, suburban home, the house becomes eerie due to an unknown feature, such as a secret door they never knew they had. This includes any houses they temporarily stay in or visit. But other locations could include on a haunted train or a school. Regardless, the place becomes eerie and scary because of the scary occurrence that takes place.


Horror is an easy genre to identify, but it can be quite hard to write since you have to keep the surprise twists coming without making it too obvious or anti-climatic. Still, when done right, horror can be one of the best genres for keeping an audience interested and flipping the pages.

Have I missed any genre conventions from horror?

Genre: Romance

DSC05687Romance is one of my favourite genres to both read and write. I love love, so go figure I’d be a hopeless romantic. I don’t care what medium they use either. If there’s a cute couple that isn’t incest or toxic in any way, I’ll ship them (regardless of sexuality, gender, etc.) Romance is a nice escape from reality and my (lack of) love life, so I can live vicariously through these cute couples.

Protagonist Meets Their Love Interest

It’s a pivotal element to any romance story. The story won’t be told otherwise.

How, when and where they meet is as pivotal as the story unfolding. They might meet at a coffee shop. They might meet at school/work. They might meet through a friend. Finding love is one of the most random aspects of reality and we’re all curious to know how, when and where a couple met. It’s one of the first questions you ask. Some writers pick an interesting environment that probably wouldn’t be realistic, but most pick a setting familiar to us. A situation you can easily imagine happening to yourself.

Their relationship towards one another is equally as important as where and when. Do they like each other? Do they hate each other? Do you even know each other? What’s their first impressions? Crafting a story around two people requires you to figure out what their relationship is first. Choosing between whether they’re already acquainted with one another or total strangers meeting for the first time.

Obstacles

I know this one is quite vague, but no matter what romance novel you read, there will always be plenty of obstacles that lead to a temporary breakup. Always. Note the word temporary because nearly all the time, the couple end happily ever after.

The obstacle can be a huge secret one person never told the other. It can be one of them has a moment of weakness and cheats on them. It can be anything that will cause the couple to have an argument, at the very least, and potentially break up.

Then, usually, someone close (or several) to the protagonist will encourage them to reconcile with their love interest. They’ll tell them they were an idiot and that their love interest still loves them, giving them a chance to go back to their lover. Typically, this is when the protagonist realises what an idiot they are.

Big Romantic Gesture

There’s always a big romantic gesture in every love story. Always. From asking someone to date them for real, to asking them to marry them, to asking them to move in, to taking them on a romantic holiday. It doesn’t matter what the gesture is per say, just that it’s a big enough gesture to show how much the other person cares about them. Usually this ends up with the protagonist and their love interest getting back together again.


I know there are only three points here, but romance usually fits in with the three act structure quite neatly. Additionally, this is the one genre that has undergone a huge change since the genre first began with gender stereotypes being changed constantly, therefore I didn’t see the point in including outdated stereotypes.

Have I missed any genre conventions from romance?

Genre: Young Adult (YA)

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Young Adult has a bad reputation for being predictable, and yet I still keep indulging in them. Sometimes, they deliver. Other times… best not talk about those ones. YA is such a varied genre, but there are some conventions that are consistent throughout.

Female protagonist

The ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope is almost a must in this genre. Typically shy, awkward and not popular, these girls are ‘unique’ for these reasons. Perhaps this is a reflection on the author, or perhaps being ‘unique’ is something every girl should strive for. Either way, I wish it would burn. Pitting girls against each other is outdated and, frankly, very annoying.

Love triangles & love interests

Love triangles can be one of the most infuriating love triangles if it’s not handled right. It’s an age old trope used time and time again because in reality, love triangles do happen, especially in teenage relationships. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be included all the time, especially if it’s a sloppily written to create conflict. Well written? Fine. But most aren’t.

The love interests are nearly always unobtainable. The male love interest is nearly always popular, good looking and charismatic. Again, I don’t know if this is a reflection of the author or if this is just a regular school trope. Everyone always wants the popular boy, or not depending what type of girl your protagonist is, which is just a general rule of school.

But even when these YA stories aren’t set in school, the male interest is usually mysterious or intriguing in some way that makes the female protagonist like him. Or at least want to know him.

Criticism on society

If there’s one thing I love about YA novels, it’s how they write about society. From gender expectations to sexuality to political events happening, YA is the best for including a critical commentary on societal norms. Even when they’re set in a dystopia, they break societal norms in that world, such as the Hunger Games, by subverting what’s expected of them.

Defeating the evil

Usually, there’s some kind of evil that needs to be overcome. From a literal dictator to a concept such as homophobia, the protagonist finds a way to overcome them. They tend to have a group of people to help them, by either supporting them or fighting with them to defeat this evil.


YA is good for tackling issues most mainstream stories don’t touch, such as different sexualities or showing different political viewpoints, and insecure teens (or people in general) can find comfort in them because they might finally be represented in a way mainstream doesn’t represent it.

Have I missed any genre conventions from young adult (YA)?

Genre: Crime / Mystery

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Before I begin, both crime and mystery are separate genres but they have the same convention: a crime has been committed, they have to find the culprit and ensure justice is served. However, the severity of the crime tends to vary between crime and mystery.

For starters, you need to determine if the protagonist is a detective or inspector or involved with the police force in some way, or if the protagonist is an ordinary person who wants to solve this crime/mystery. However, even if the protagonist is an ordinary person, they still need the police force at some point so the antagonist can be arrested.

Crime

Crime usually focuses on murder over other crimes, and the murders tend to be very violent since murders are, realistically, violent.

The protagonist has no loved ones so the stakes can’t be raised. Usually, they’ll have flings, but never a serious committed relationship.

Protagonist might have an addiction problem, typically alcohol, sex or drugs. It doesn’t necessarily get in the way of solving the crime, but it does feature in the story.

The entire story tends to be more violent with the protagonist finding themselves in life threatening danger or with multiple murders in the one story.

Mystery

Compared to the crime novels, mysteries are usually less violent because the focus is on solving the mystery not on the crime itself.

Because the reader wants to try to solve the mystery along with the protagonist, you need to introduce all the culprits to begin with and plant red herrings throughout so the reader isn’t left dissatisfied by the ending.

Leave out information that the protagonist can reveal later, but make sure it’s not a vital clue that would feel like a cop out. A subtle clue or two that only the protagonist would’ve seen but the audience didn’t works well.

When mysteries happen in secluded locations, such as mansions or trains, it makes the mystery easier to solve since all the culprits are in one place. However, that also makes it more interesting since they have to commit the crime and try to escape without being caught.

When the mysteries happen anywhere, it makes the story more interesting since the protagonist has to go and find the culprits and investigate the scenario.


Both require a compelling antagonist and an interesting ending so the audience doesn’t feel cheated. But most importantly, the audience wants to leave the story satisfied by the conclusion.

Have I missed any genre conventions from crime and/or mystery?