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November 8, 2017

Teenreaders + NaNoWriMo: Week 1 Check-In

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Each year during the month of November, aspiring and experienced authors worldwide participate in NaNoWriMo --- that's National Novel Writing Month for you newbies. Participants write a little each day and work towards the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30th. It may sound hectic and vaguely terrifying, but the NaNo community is always there to help --- there are forums and Twitter threads dedicated to participants and many develop lifelong bonds without ever leaving their homes. This year, we will be speaking to four writers who are participating in NaNoWriMo. We will check in with them each week to see how their novels are coming along and what obstacles or excitements they find along the way!


Tells us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey.

Emily: Hello! I’m Emily. I work at ComiXology in NYC and I have a Master’s Degree in Sequential Art, so comic books and graphic novels are a big part of my life! I have written and self-published a bunch of mini-comics, but nothing as extensive as a full graphic novel. I’m using NaNoWriMo to do just that, making me a Nano Rebel! Most of my writing experience comes from collaborative online roleplay, which can often be like co-writing a novel if you find the right partner! My favorite things to write about are young adults trying to make it in the world, monsters and combinations of the two.

Jessica: Hi everyone! I’m Jessica, and I’ve been a college YA book blogger over at The Book Bratz for the past few years. In addition to reading and blogging, I am a huge writer who self-published one book many years ago but now I’m looking to finish another manuscript and go the traditional publishing route. I’m also a huge pusher of NaNoWriMo on everyone, because it’s my favorite part of the year!

Marco: Hi! My name is Marco and I’m junior in high school and am part of the Teenreads Teen Board. It’s my dream job to become an author one day, and I want to also work in the publishing industry as my day job. I’ve attempted many times to finish a first draft of a novel since I was in seventh grade, which was when I discovered my love for writing. However, I’ve never made it farther than a few chapters before giving up on my projects out of frustration. Hopefully, NaNoWriMo can help me change that! Personally, I prefer to write YA Contemporaries that discuss heavy topics such as mental illness.

Stephanie: Hello!! I’m Stephanie and I blog over at In Wonderland Book Blog and have been blogging since October of 2012. I’m 27-years-old and I have been writing since I was like 12. I have about 41 WIPs (work in progress) but I have yet to finish a manuscript. But I’m confident that one of these days I will. I push most of my writing friends to do NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo because it’s amazing and I secretly wish there was a NaNo every month!

Taylor: Hello! I'm Taylor and I've been blogging at Stay on the Page for about a year and a half. I love to write stories and have the problem of having a lot of ideas that I want to write but have trouble finding the time and motivation to do so. NaNoWriMo is one of my favorite ways to develop a novel or idea because you're surrounded by other writers going through the same process for the month. I'm very passionate about writing queer, mentally ill and resilient female characters. I'm also an avid reader and I love contemporary YA!

Is this your first time participating in NaNoWriMo?  If it is, what made you start this year?  If it is not, tell us about your previous experiences.

Emily: This is my first year participating! I decided to take on NaNo as a way to jumpstart my creative engine after a long bout of artist and writer’s block. Being able to participate in something with a bunch of other people and having a self-imposed deadline is helping me stay motivated. I’m hoping that after the month is over, I’ll be able to carry that motivation through into the next year.

Jessica: This is actually my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ve won the past few years, but whether I won or lost the experience has always been incredible. What drew me in was the incredible sense of being surrounded by so many other writers through the online word sprints, virtual write-ins and just interacting with fellow Wrimos on Twitter.

Marco: This will be my first year participating in NaNoWriMo. I never knew such a thing existed until the beginning of this year, when a librarian at my local library told me about it. She thought I should give NaNoWriMo a try. It took me awhile to actually decide on participating in NaNoWriMo, because the chance of failing terrifies me. The idea that I may never become an author scares me to the point where I’m afraid to even start writing. NaNoWriMo is about more than just finishing the first draft of my WIP; it’s also about getting over my fear of the fact that I might not end up achieving my dreams of becoming a published author. I’m sure many people who are also doing NaNoWriMo feel the same way as I do.

Stephanie: This is my fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo. For the first 3 NaNos I’ve attempted I got about halfway with each. It was actually last year that I finally hit 50k words for the month of November. But even that was with 3 different stories. This year I am working on 2 different WIPs. But one is a collaboration with one of my best friends and the other is a solo project. I am hoping to get 50k words on my solo and at least 20-30k words on my collab done this month!

Taylor: This is my seventh year participating in the November session of NaNoWriMo. I also do the Camp NaNo sessions in April and July. I've won a few of the years, but one of the years I “lost” actually turned out to be the book I developed and started querying. For me, NaNo isn't about winning or losing. It's about making the commitment to show up and try out an idea while connecting with other writers. I actually haven't been able to do the November NaNo for the past two years because I was in the middle of revising the book I'm querying now two years ago and last year I was too busy with a thesis and grad school last year. I've been really excited to participate this year because I've really missed it!

Why did you choose to participate in NaNoWriMo this year?

Emily: It’s a great way to get back into writing after a long hiatus. I want to make writing specifically for the comics part of my career, and this is a good way to get some experience under my belt.

Jessica: Although I’ve done NaNoWriMo for the past few years, this year I am super serious about wanting to finish my current manuscript so I can possibly participate in the next round of Pitch Wars. So I’m using NaNoWriMo as the kick into action that I need to get it done!

Marco: I think NaNoWriMo will be a great way to end my year! I also want to get back into the habit of writing, because I haven’t written much since 2016 ended. When I finish NaNoWriMo, I plan on using the first two weeks of December to take a break from my WIP and then go back into it with fresh eyes to start the editing process. I made a promise to myself that I would at least get somewhere with my WIP by the end of this year, and I am going to do everything I can to keep that promise!

Stephanie: Because I love it so much! I love the writing community and the NaNo journey in itself. It doesn’t matter if you finish 50k words or not. All that matters is that you try and you do the best you can do. And I love the camaraderie that forms when you do NaNo. I just love it so much and I think everyone who has a story to be told should try it once in their lifetime!

Taylor: I wasn't going to do NaNo this year initially. I committed to doing it about 48 hours before it officially started. I didn't want to miss out on it again and so many of my friends we’re doing it. I decided to try and find a way to squeeze it in despite being very overwhelmed during my first year of grad school! I'm also not complaining about the fact that I'm finally getting the chance to finish this draft of a book I've been developing in my head and really excited about writing for months.

Can you share anything about what you’re writing? (Genre, age category, etc.)

Emily: I’m writing a script for a dark comedy graphic novel about a girl who mysteriously grows a literal mouth across her stomach as the result of some psychological trauma. The story is about her relationships with her friends, college campus and herself while she also deals with her newfound body modification.

Jessica: Basically I’m writing a YA contemporary love story about the daughter of two famous writers, but she actually has zero writing talent herself --- so she winds up going on a writing retreat with her parents so she doesn’t disappoint them, and in the process she meets this quirky, sarcastic, super-charming rebel boy that shows her the different directions her life can go in without succumbing to doing something she doesn’t love just to make her parents happy.

Marco: My NaNo project is a YA Contemporary that deals with grief. The story follows my main character as he mourns over his brother's death after a car accident they were both in. Not only that, but he has to deal with going back to school only to find out that rumors of his car accident are going around and people start treating him differently. My project mainly focuses on how friends and family can be the biggest asset when someone you care most about dies. It’s also an own voices novel for my gay and Latino characters, since I am both of those.

Stephanie: For my solo project, I am writing a YA contemporary about a girl who falls in love with her brother’s best friend. For the collaboration, we are writing a YA paranormal boarding school story and I am so in love with it!

Taylor: I am writing a YA contemporary romance about Lucie, an asexual teen girl who loves to bake, but also struggles with anxiety and a selective eating disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). After her boyfriend breaks up with her, Lucie’s best friends decide to send her on a series of hilariously disastrous blind dates to find a replacement prom date, sending her on a wild journey that leads to finding in love where she wasn't expecting.

Who or which authors/books inspire you?

Emily: Admittedly, I read more comic books than I do regular books. My favorite comic writer has to be Kieron Gillen. He has such a good handle on his characters and he expertly balances tension and comedy to create a rollercoaster ride of a story. I never cry when I read comics but his ongoing original series The Wicked + The Divine has had me tear up multiple times. His attention to his characters and their relationships is what I aspire to as a comics writer.

Jessica: It’s hard to choose just a few, but John Green and Sarah Dessen have been some of my favorite writers for the longest time, even though the relationship aspects of their stories tend to go in two totally different directions. And Adam Silvera. I am quite possibly one of Adam Silvera’s biggest fans, LOL. The love aspects in their stories inspired me to write my own!

Marco: Just like Jessica, Adam Silvera is someone who inspires me. He is my favorite author of all time and if you haven’t heard of him or read any of his books than you need to right now because his books are AMAZING. He is the master of writing about heavy subject matter and sad stories, and I can only hope to write just as stunningly as he does. I’m also inspired by another one of my favorite authors, Benjamin Alire Saenz. There is a specific book however, called FALLING INTO PLACE by Amy Zhang, that is the biggest inspiration for my WIP.

Stephanie: There are so many but the main author who inspires me the most is Susan Dennard. She is such a remarkable person and has amazing advice and isn’t afraid of being real. I look up to her so much and I can only hope that I am half the writer she is, because she is truly amazing!

Taylor: There are so many amazing authors writing today that inspire me to tell stories and strive to be a better writer. My two favorite authors are David Levithan and A.S. King. I love that they both write stories that are deeply invested in the notions of hope and empathy. I love David’s lyrical style that makes me think about the rhythm in my own writing and the way that Amy tackles such dark, but real and important topics in a way that is complex and captivating from cover to cover. Some other authors who inspire me that deserve a shout out are Paula Stokes, David Arnold, E. Lockhart, Adi Alsaid and Jeff Zentner.

What are your favorite writing snacks? Music? Outfit? Anything else you NEED to get started?

Emily: I don’t really eat while I’m writing, but I will make myself several cups of milk tea or hot chocolate to keep myself going. I listen to a lot of Postmodern Jukebox and I have a playlist of top hits from the 1920s-30s I started listening to for another writing project but I find it very soothing and not that distracting. My favorite writing outfit is an oversized sweater, sweatpants, and fuzzy socks --- I gotta feel warm and fuzzy to hunker down and get in writing headspace.

Jessica: Snacks: Anything like chips or pretzels where I can just keep the bag propped up next to me and snack as I go along. Music: I actually have to write in complete silence --- music is too distracting for me! Outfit: The comfiest sweatpants and sweater I can find, obviously. My theory is if you’re uncomfortable, you’ll keep getting distracted by it, and then won’t get any of your writing actually done.

Marco: I make it a rule to not eat food while writing; I get easily distracted when there’s food around me. As for drinks, I only drink water while writing. I don’t like coffee or tea very much, and whenever I drink hot chocolate I end up with stomachache (which sucks, because I love hot chocolate). For music, I tend to listen to a singer called EDEN, since most of his music is really relaxing when writing. I like to write in warm, comfy clothes when writing, and I get most of my writing done around nighttime.

Stephanie: Snacks: Well during the November NaNo’s you HAVE to have some candy since it starts the day after Halloween. But other than that, I like to munch on things that aren’t too messy, so I don’t have to keep wiping my hands. So I love pretzels, wheat thins, gummy worms, cashews, fruit (dried and fresh), etc. I also have about 5 cups of coffee or tea a day while I’m writing. Music: I put Pandora on and listen to Two Steps From Hell or Vitamin String Quartet. Outfit: leggings or yoga pants, oversized sweater or sweatshirt, socks and my slippers are the best outfit for me to get some words down!

Taylor: Snacks: I tend not to eat when I'm writing just because I get so immersed in what I'm doing. I will drink a mug of coffee or tea, though, and generally keep one by my computer during writing sessions. Music: I have a Pandora station set up for each other my books based on the voice/personality of my main character and the type of music I think they would listen to. For example, I'm listening to a lot of Panic! at the Disco and showtunes for this NaNo book so I set up stations with those vibes. Outfit: I tend to wear pajamas when I'm writing, so just lounge shorts and a baggy t-shirt.

What do you use to write? (Word, Google Drive, Paper, Phone)

Emily: I’ve been using Google Docs to write because I have a Surface Pro instead of a proper laptop. I also use the Memos app on my phone to write on my commute because it’s more portable when I don’t feel like bringing my Surface to work with me.

Jessica: I use a combination of Word and Google Drive, actually! I write the actual manuscript in its entirety in Word, but I save each chapter in its own individual document in Google Drive as a just-in-case precaution. But I do all of my outlining in a notebook!

Marco: I only use Google Drive to write. While I have tried Scrivener before, I found it confusing to use and decided on sticking to Drive this time since it’ll be easier that way. I also use this website called WriteTrack to keep track of my writing because unlike the NaNoWriMo tracker, WriteTrack lets me edit how much I plan on writing each day. That way, I can tell if I’m actually behind or ahead of my writing goal. 

Stephanie: I use Scrivener and Google Drive. Everyday I learn a little more about Scrivener and it truly is amazing! So, I definitely love to use that as often as I can. But I backup everything on Google Drive so that I can always use my phone if I’m away from my computer. I also always have a notebook with me in my purse in case I need to just write!

Taylor: I use Scrivener, Google Docs and Microsoft Word depending on what stage I'm at and where I'm writing. I use Google Docs to write on the go because I can write offline and access what I did seamlessly from my laptop. For the first few drafts I'm in Scrivener where I can move things around and separate scenes and chapters. Then I move into Microsoft Word when I start engaging with beta readers and preparing to query. I also keep a notebook for each novel project I have with handwritten notes and the cover matches the tone of the novel.

What is your current word count? Are there any struggles you’re dealing with this week?

Emily: I’ve written a total of 55 pages so far. ScriptFrenzy rules (which I’m basing my personal NaNo challenge on) suggests a minimum of 100 script pages written as an end goal. I know already I’ll be closer to about 150-200 pages when the story wraps up. My current struggle is maintaining a strict schedule to write --- I got a little sidetracked over the weekend.

Jessica: 37,613, currently (I’ve been pulling a lot of all-nighters to get that done). This week, I’m struggling a little bit with connecting the major plot points that I have thought out in such detail --- I’m fine with planning the big parts, but it’s the filler parts where I always stall and get nervous.

Marco: Currently, I am at 11,323 words, which is exactly where I need to be! I was ahead of my goal for awhile, but then I didn’t write anything for the past two days since I had to work on my English and history essays instead … school’s been getting in the way of my writing. I don’t have school for the next two days since it’s the end of the quarter and grades will be coming in, so I plan on writing at least 6,000 words on those days. 

Stephanie: As of 1pm (CST) today, I am behind at 7993 words total. I’ve had a crappy couple of days where the words just weren’t flowing. But, I am hoping to turn that around today after my 6 month old goes down for her nap!

Taylor: I'm at 15,474 words today and looking forward to adding a bunch of words when I write tonight! The writing is going really well. I haven't felt this good and confident about a book I've been writing in a while. I'm just struggling with giving myself time to write during the week because I'm a very busy graduate student who also works a lot during the week.

Do you have any tips for someone who is participating for the first time?

Emily: Just do it! It’s okay if you don’t make your 50,000 words or your daily word count, as long as you write a little bit each day, you’re doing great! You will learn a lot about yourself as a writer through the process. NaNo is about the community and the rush that comes from participating in a challenge with a ton of other people.

Jessica: Absolutely, without a doubt, give it a try. Just jump in there and get writing, even if you’re hesitant. It’s not about winning and hitting 50K --- it’s really about what you learn about your own writing process and the connections you make with other Wrimos along the way!

Marco: Do the absolute best you possibly can and don’t overthink things. Something I always like to tell myself whenever I start writing for the day is that first drafts are supposed to be bad. There is no such thing as a good book that didn’t get at least some editing. Adam Silvera even said on Twitter that when writing the first draft of his book MORE HAPPY THAN NOT that he ended up editing around 95% of the entire novel before it hit the shelves. Remember, you will always have time to edit after the draft is finished.

Stephanie: Try not to be a perfectionist. When it comes to creativity, I am one of the most perfectionistic people out there. I am constantly editing what I have and that’s what always kills me to never finish a manuscript. This year I have tuned out my inner editor/voice of perfectionism and I am hoping to actually finish a manuscript. After all, the first draft is just to get the story out. 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts are for making it as good as it can be. So, if you’re down because it’s not the best thing you’ve ever written…who cares?! First drafts are meant to be sucky! I have to start listening to myself on that one. Just give it a try! You never know what you can accomplish if you don’t try!

Taylor: I would say to just jump in and have fun. There's no way to really prepare for the intensity and awesomeness that is your first NaNoWriMo. Deciding to participate makes you a winner. Wanting to write a novel makes you a winner. Writing a sentence of your book in your character’s voice makes you a winner. Reaching 50k is great, but that's not what NaNoWriMo is ultimately about. It's about giving yourself a chance to tell a story and finally commit to getting your novel down surrounded by a community of other writers with the same goal. So don't worry about the number of words. Worry about how you're going to have time for all the amazing friends and writers you're going to meet along the way.