My Nanowrimo Survival Kit

We are just days away from Nanowrimo, everyone! I hope you had a good month of prepping. I’ve participated in the past 2 years but I’ve never won. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Because those times I was able to get a quick start on a project that I wouldn’t have started otherwise. It also helped me understand myself as a writer since I was always writing short stories and poems but never took on a huge project like a novel before. Now that I’m on Year 3, I’ve put together a survival kit!

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My Nanowrimo Survival Kit:

Coffee shops //  It’s completely okay to want to work alone in the comfort of your home but sometimes grabbing your favorite latte drink and getting outside your own head by leaving your house helps draw out inspiration. Go outside and get those creativity juices flowing!

Pinterest // Start a Pinterest account. Create a board. Name it “Nanowrimo Inspiration” or “The Title of Your Book Visuals”. Having a visual board helps me to envision my setting or characters better. There’s so many details I think to write down when I have those visuals. Sometimes we need pictures to create words. If you’re ever stuck, write a one sentence line or an entire paragraph that goes along with your story + the image that inspires you.

Hot beverages & Snacks //  Stock up on your favorite tea and coffee brands. Get your hot apple cider and hot cocoa mixes. Whatever you need. It doesn’t have to be a hot beverage. It can be wine or something cold (though I am totally adding red wine to my hot cocoa). Have some easy, filling snacks on hand like popcorn or trail mix.

Novelizing music // Not only does this help arouse your imagination, it’s relaxing. You brain might be over-thinking or dishwasher in your house might be distracting you, but music can help to focus your senses on one thing. You can use any playlist you like or you can curate one specifically to go with your novel scenes. I personally recommend instrumental because you might get tempted to sing-along to the lyrics of a song.

Social media // You heard me correctly. I think Twitter will be the best option for this. Facebook ONLY for Nanowrimo groups. If you know you’ll go on just to scroll and get distracted by all the fun your friends are having, I’d avoid Facebook completely. Tumblr and Instagram are great because you can snap a photo of you on Day 5 with a mug of coffee and inspire others. Twitter is my favorite because I tend to come across more writer’s on that platform. You can share in each other’s pain and joys of the process without staying on too long.

A Calendar //  If you can’t find a Nanowrimo calendar to print off, get a planner or a desk calendar. Or simply Google “printable November 2017 calendars” and decorate it yourself. Put a sticker on every day that you complete 1,667 words. Tracking your progress and seeing your progress helps your mind to want to achieve your goal more.

Rewards // Pick a reward. If you finish Nanowrimo, I get to buy __________________ . What did you put in the blank? Will you do 4 small rewards for every 10,000 words you finish? Or will reward yourself on Day 30 with one big bookish award? Maybe your significant other can be your sponsor and take you out to a nice dinner when you win!

Be sure to add me as a buddy!

General Tips //

  • Remember to not focus too hard on writing chronologically unless that works for you. This is something I want to try for myself because I always get writer’s block from trying to write too linearly.
  • Don’t focus too much on winning. Write every single day no matter what.
  • If you feel you’re getting writer’s block or lagging behind, lean on support. Watch a TV show or a movie and forget about your idea for an hour.
  • If after 2 weeks you’re getting burnt out, don’t feel discouraged. At that point, you’ll hopefully have nearly hit 25,000 words and that’s still incredible! If you are determined to finish, step back and do some outlining. Bullet-point the rest of your novel. Add a new character. Do something different to shake yourself out of your routine. Whatever you do, WORK ON YOUR NOVEL even if you’re not writing it.
  • Stay positive! Remember self-care comes first. Don’t risk your mental or physical well-being. You’re not a failure even if you’ve only written 5,000 words. I believe in you!

Do you have Nanowrimo tips? Do any past winners have suggestions? Send me a link to your list and I’ll comment on your post!

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Novel Writing: A Mary Sue Conundrum

Novel Writing // Volume 1.7

I am currently working on my novel outline and as you all know, novel outlines involve fleshing out your character(s). As I was working on my main character (MC) I realized that I may have created a “Mary Sue”. Mary Sues are usually rather ordinary, nice, friendly, and while many boys might like them they are unaware of the attraction or coy about their beauty. Sometimes we create a Mary Sue so that the readers can relate better to our character. Sometimes we create them because we are playing it safe, or worse, we simply do not wish to pour more energy in making a more remarkable character.

My MC is not ordinary when you include the fact that she can see ghosts. But I realized as I was working on her, she was made interesting mostly by her association with the supernatural. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it reminded me of the Bella Swan thing. Bella Swan is a completely ordinary human and is only interesting by the sheer fact that the most good-looking guy in school wants to date her. She is made even more interesting when that guy happens to be a vampire. Now we ALL have our opinions on Twilight, but I wanted to point out a very common issue I’ve seen in writing, which is making an average girl less average by association or making a girl who isn’t average not realize her extraordinary self until a guy tells her she is.

While my story isn’t a love story by design, my MC does fall in love with the ghost and since she’s a teen it’s going to very easy to write my MC in a way that her entire self worth and growth revolves around the love interest. I am going to try VERY hard not to allow that to happen.

I dug deeper into my MC’s background. I asked myself is there anything about her parents or childhood that if revealed would make the readers see her as more than average? While my MC is quiet and reserved, can I write her to be strong-willed and stubborn? What flaws makes her not relatable? For example, in Throne of Glass Celeana Sardothien is a ruthless killer and never patient and in the beginning, is mostly concerned about herself. I did not relate to that at all. However, I related to the fact that Celeana/Aelin was imprisoned before we first meet her and she makes many tough choices that could potentially risk the lives of people she cares about. That ruthlessness, impatience, and initial selfishness worked with her character well because we get to watch her grow. While she does change, a lot of her key flaws remain and alter the course of the story in a way we would never imagine if she were just a good, ole Mary Sue.

This is all to say, what kind of character is my MC without a supernatural sub-plot? What’s the worse thing I can imagine her doing? Does she actually do it? How does her upbringing effect her character today? Was she ever mistreated or did she have everything handed to her? My genre is mostly a contemporary with a supernatural sub-plot. In the contemporary teen stories I read, teenagers are written realistically for the most part. Unless they are dealing with substance abuse or a death in the family, most teens in YA start off pretty ordinary until we find out their goal (get the guy or girl, get accepted to their dream college, self-discovery, breaking away from their parent’s expectations, come of age/acceptance from peers, healing a broken relationship with a sibling or friend, etc). What is it about the character’s goal that makes us keep reading? We want to see them achieve their goal, right? Sometimes there are obstacles to those goals. I daresay it’s not the character that makes a character —– obstacles make the character.

So I guess the real question is: If my main character didn’t have the ability to see ghosts and I want to avoid writing a Mary Sue protagonist, what obstacles do I want to give my character to face aside from her finding out about her abilities?

If anyone else is struggling to avoid writing a Mary Sue protagonist, I am in the trial and error stage of figuring that out and this entire post was written in one go. I’m asking these questions to help myself. Maybe asking yourself not what makes your MC so special, but asking what obstacles she must face will help you, too!

Love,  V

Fall TBR Pile

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Fall To-Be Read:

Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein by Mary Shelley // A graphic novel version of a classic! It has all the original text but with graphics. Allow me to be honest and say I wouldn’t have been able to focus on a version with small printed words.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff // It’s dark and twisty. Enough said.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab // I don’t feel like I stick with book series enough, but the first book in ADSOM is still fresh in my brain and has stuck with me enough that I want to continue it. Also, MAGICIANS.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch // This is a science-fiction thriller and I think it might have some literary elements. I feel like the less I know the better, but I’ve been reading SO much fantasy that I thought I ought to throw in something realistic (but not)

 

-Waiting On – 

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green // This one is a BRAND new October release (the 10th to be exact) I feel like this release was so low-key prior to release announcement! I have a love-hate relationship with John Green books and I really can’t wait to see if John Green does something new.  I MUST know.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone// I’m super excited for this October  (17th) debut as well. What actually drew me to this book is this snippet of the premise found on Goodreads.com: “Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.” I think there is something very The Diary of Anne Frank that drew me in. Anne Frank and MLKJ are both talked about figures in history because of the oppressive conditions of their time and I look forward to the modern way Nic Stone approaches this.

What’s on your TBR pile this month? Let me know! Maybe I’ll add more to my list!
– V