What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) finishes on Wednesday. I participated for the first time this year along with my former teaching partner and a dozen students. We made goals and we tried to write every day and reach our goals. We met on Wednesday afternoons, and a few of us met on Saturday mornings at Panera to write. It looks like all but two of the fourteen who started will complete their goals.

I bet all of us learned different things about writing and about ourselves as writers this month, but I bet we learned many of the same things as well.

Here’s my list:

  • I can write 200 words a day every day no matter how busy the day is. It’s a small enough goal that it’s always possible. When I know I’m going to write 200 words, I keep my eye (and ear) out for inspiration.
  • 200 words add up. At 6000 words, I have discovered characters and problems and storylines. I have something to work with.
  • There are lots of blogs on the web that help when you’re stuck writing. The pep talks from different authors on the NaNoWriMo site were excellent. I really enjoyed reading Maureen Johnson’s blog. During the month of November she wrote a post answering questions about writing a novel so fast. They’re worth looking up!
  • It’s more fun to make goals with other people and check in on how everyone’s doing.

Congratulations to everyone who attempted NaNoWriMo!  No matter how far you got towards your goal, you’re amazing for trying.  I hope some of you will add more to my list.  Leave a comment!

Choosing a Book, Part 3

Friends are probably the most used resource when it comes to choosing books. If your friend tells you to read a particular book, you’re likely to do so—and to enjoy it. I keep a running list of books friends recommend to me.  Tell other people about books you particularly like!

Librarians and booksellers are great resources for finding books also. Most libraries and bookstores have staff recommendations in a newsletter or posted on the shelves. If you can tell them titles and authors of books you’ve enjoyed in the past, they can often suggest other books you might like.

I’m happy to come up with titles for you. Write a comment or send me an email. Be sure to tell me some books and authors you have enjoyed in the past or what type of book you are looking for.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving–and lots of reading time over the long weekend!

Choosing a Book, Part 2

Lists are a great way to find more books to read—especially if you can find annotated lists that give you a sentence or two about the books on the list.

One of my favorite places to look at lists is the ALA (American Library Association) website. Each year the ALA produces many lists for teen readers. You can find the ALA lists here.

The 2010 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list has many good books.  Try Ship Breaker, Trash, Bamboo People, or Revolver. 

Or try Unwind, Tantalize, or Leviathan from the Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults.

Quick Picks, the Alex Awards, the Printz, and the Newbery are all listed on the site.  Check them out.

Writing Every Day

My goal for NaNoWriMo is 200 words a day. It’s not a very large goal, but it’s one that allows me to keep thinking about my story and keep discovering what it’s about and who my characters are. It’s a goal that’s possible no matter how busy I am with other things. And by the end of November, I’ll have plot elements and characters to work with and begin shaping into a real novel.

 When I know I’m going to write every day, I find that I am always thinking about my story and characters. I see things during the day that influence and inform what I’m writing. I write notes to myself to remind me to write a particular scene. My notebook right now has this list:

kennel—where dog is—what are you going to get?
cow pound
video—there is a house

Each day when I sit down to write my 200 words, I choose one of these and write to describe my character in this place. Every day as I go through the day, I add to my list.

Prompts are another way to get into a story. I use prompts to discover action or to find out more about my character. Here are some prompts that I use over and over. Sometimes I use them as starters for the next section of a story. Sometimes I write them from the point of view of a character as though he/she is saying or writing it. Try these when you’re stuck and see if you can write 200 words!

I love the smell of…
It always seemed so far away…
You can’t be serious…
I wish I never…
I knew I could…
I could never forget…
When the house was quiet…

Don’t worry about how this section will fit into your story. As you keep working and keep thinking, you will figure that out.

I’m ahead of my NaNoWriMo goals. How are you doing?

Choosing a Book, Part 1

Unless you have a particular title in mind or you have an author whose work you follow, walking into a bookstore or library can be overwhelming. There are so many books to choose from. How do you pick?

 Even though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, the cover is a big part of its advertising. Pictures, colors, mood all play into whether you think a particular book is for you.

 One thing I do is to keep a small notebook with me all the time. I write down books I hear about from friends or reviews or NPR. I write down when books by my favorite authors are coming out so I can look for them when it’s time.

 Another way I find good books is that I read several authors blogs. They often talk about books they like which sound good to me. Two blogs I especially follow are by two of my friends and are both specifically to recommend books. One is by author Debbi Michiko Florence called Debtastic Reviews. Since Debbi and I have a similar taste in books, I like seeing what she recommends. Another is Jennifer Recommends written by an agent and bookseller. Jenn recommends adult books as well as middle grade and young adult and makes them all sound so good I have to find them.

 Next time you’re looking for a recommendation, check out these two sites!

Link for NaNoWriMo Help

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow!

If you’d like to do some thinking about your plot, I found these videos very helpful.  Keep your notebook nearby and jot down ideas while you listen!

I’ve made a goal of writing 200 words on my brand new project each day for the month along with my other writing goals.  I’ll be keeping track here.

What’s your goal for November?


NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)

 November is National Novel Writing Month.  For years many people have signed up on the NaNoWriMo website (ywp.nanowrimo.org) and pledged to write a certain number of words in a month.  The Young Writers section of the website is filled with ideas for developing your story and completing the words.  It also has a tracker to graph your progress.

Imagine making a commitment to writing every day.  By the end of thirty days, you’d have a lot of work done!

What kind of goal would you make?  A journal entry every day?  A page of your story?  A poem?  A certain number of words?

I’d love to set up a class on the NaNoWriMo site.  Students from my former school and writing camp, let me know if you want to join!

Think about your own commitment to writing for the next month.  What will it be?

Four Thousand?

 Four thousand sentences.  Whether you’re reading or writing, this is true. But which four thousand sentences should you spend your time on?

  Every Wednesday I hope to post a reading recommendation here.  Maybe you’ll find books to add to your reading list.  Let me know if you read something I recommend.  Tell me what you’re reading and what you recommend. 

  I’ll also be posting about writing on Mondays. I’ll talk about things I’ve learned in my own writing. I’ll post links that give great writing ideas, have places where teens can publish, or run writing contests for teens.  If you have a question about writing, ask!

  Of course, I don’t count sentences in either my reading or writing.  I’m more likely to use number of pages or word count, measures that are easily available.  I like goals for myself for both reading and writing.

  What about you?  Do you try to read a certain number of pages a day or week?  A number of books?  Do you write a certain amount?

  I hope you’ll check back next week when I talk about NaNoWriMo and choosing books!  Please follow this blog by entering your email in the box to the right.