This year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has officially come to a close, and what a wild month it was. I hope all of you who participated are proud of what you’ve accomplished. Whether you finished your book, made solid progress, or otherwise made a positive effort, here’s to hoping your December is as creative and productive as November was.
For those who are who may be feeling a bit deflated after NaNoWriMo, I feel you. After realizing I had bitten off far more than I could reasonably chew, I spent November not actually writing much of my novel, but I have taken a decent amount of voice notes to transcribe and shape later. We all have our methods for coping with a lack of quality writing time, and I’ve leaned into the short-on-time voice-recorder method myself, fitting in little bits between Mom duties and everything else that needs to get done in the day-to-day routine.
And if you had a month closer to mine than expected, perhaps together, at least, in spirit, we can take a step back and reassess exactly how we’re going to get the writing done.
Because an ambition to write or edit a book without clear and quantifiable goals and a path to achieve those goals — whatever that looks like for each of us — is just a wish. And wishes don’t write drafts. Getting back on track doesn’t need to come with a headache, though.
As if she were reading my mind through the web, Ann Gomez shared an article titled, Creative Breaths: Finding Your Writing Rhythm, and her article speaks to the process of balancing creativity against assessment, so we can push forward and plod on ahead. Ann separates divergent and convergent thinking, both of which are critical parts of the creativity process and open up writing as a form of innovation. And Ann stresses mindfulness of the body during creative work, feeling how the process feels at any given time, checking in with ourselves to ensure we’re not out of balance (and, thus, out of breath).
And we’re going to need that balance in a big way because the work isn’t done after the writing. After the writing comes the self-edit, and that’s a whole new set of goals.
If you’re the kind of writer who finished your book in November (look at you go!), you may have December earmarked for self-editing. Arja Salafranca wrote an article all about Self-Editing After NaNoWriMo, which is critical even if you plan to work with a professional editor. And the first piece of advice Arja offers? Take a break. Seriously. We all need objectivity when self-editing, and to get that objectivity, we need fresh eyes. Those only come after an appropriate break time away from our writing. But after that break, Arja lays out a logical way to tackle those self-edits when you come back to the writing desk.
Now, you may already be elbows deep in editing your manuscript. But if you’re reading this advice, chances are you got stuck somewhere. And if that stuckness is coming about because an early reader said your story was confusing, Lucy V Hay put together an article titled, Why Your Draft Doesn’t Make Sense (Plus What To Do About It). The first thing to do is to assess why and what the story lacks so you know how to address it. While Lucy’s article is written for the screenplay writers of the world, her advice is broadly applicable. Whether you’ve a genre or tone mismatch, missing backstory, setting or world-building problem, or a theme-heavy book that lacks story, Lucy provides some no-nonsense ways to identify the issues. Then, it’s up to you to make the right changes for your book.
And while Lucy advises us all not to worry about thematic elements too early at the risk of a lackluster story, John J Kelley for Writer Unboxed says Yes, Virginia, Story Themes Still Matter. And he’s right. Because if you want your readers to emotionally connect with your characters and their story, they need a reason to connect, and themes help them get there. And I’m in step with John’s line of thinking. Humans are hard-wired to look for meaning, and we’re hardwired for storytelling, so it makes the most sense that readers are hardwired to look for meaning within stories. Many of the authors I work with discover their themes through their writing processes, but many also start with some themes in mind — though they may discover others along the way.
If you’re now panicking a little, maybe asking yourself how exactly you can go about identifying and bolstering the thematic elements in your book, it may be best to start at the beginning. What drives your story? Savannah Gilbo shares How To Find The Major Dramatic Question Of Your Story. Savannah provides genre-specific examples of driving questions and examples from fiction novels, and the article is complete with insights on why and how your major dramatic question, or story driver, helps not only with writing but with self-editing.
And if this happens to be your final self-edit before shipping your draft off to your editor or early readers, Kris Maze reminds us that First Impressions Matter: in an article about Effective Front Pages. Kris’s article is a practical walk-through of the first pages of your book for publication. Details matter. And Kris also has a checklist of reader-focused considerations for those first few pages.
There was plenty more great advice this week, so if you want something extra, check out the dropdowns below. There’s something for everyone.
- 14 Do’s And Don’ts Of Time Management For Writers (From A Recovering Over-Achiever) by K. M. Weiland for Helping Writers Become Authors
- 5 Ways Journaling Can Help You Write Your Novel by Kristen Webb Wright for National Novel Writing Month
- Believing In Your Readers With Bethany Lopez by Rachel Wharton and Joni Di Placido for Kobo Writing Life
- Combatting Confirmation Bias: How Our Brains Impact Our Self-Confidence & Strategies To Improve It by Kasey LeBlanc for Writer Unboxed
- Creative Breaths: Finding Your Writing Rhythm by Ann Gomez for Anne Janzer
- Do Your Track Your Writing Projects? by A.C. Williams for The Write Conversation
- Finding That Magical Flow State As A Writer by Natasha Ruhwald for A Writer’s Path
- Getting Back On Track When Your Writing Is Derailed by Tiffany Yates Martin for FoxPrint Editorial
- Video: How To Keep Writing When You Feel Like Giving Up by Abbie Emmons for Abbie Emmons
- How To Take Care Of Yourself During The Writing Journey by Rachel Toalson for Writer Unboxed
- Is Writing A Book Worth It? Why You Should Or Shouldn’t Write by Jason Hamilton for Kindlepreneur
- Video: Joy & Balance In Your Author Journey by Jim Azevedo for Draft2Digital
- Overcoming The Rejection Machine: Why A Positivity Read Should Be Part Of Your Publishing Journey by Shawn Proctor for The Craft of Writing – SFWA
- Stronger Together by Martin Johnson for Almost An Author
- The Power Of Routine by Daphne Gray-Grant for Publication Coach
- Video: What Happens When Life Gets In The Way Of Writing? by Daphne Gray-Grant for Publication Coach
- Video: 25 On The Fly ChatGPT: Story Beats by Mira Gold for AI Writers Connection
- 5 Things Novelists Can Learn From Journalists by Peg Tyre for Writer’s Digest
- Are One Or More Objects Representing Larger Ideas That Grow In Meaning Each Time They’re Exchanged Throughout The Story? by Matt Bird for The Secrets of Story
- Are Your Characters Living In The Moment Or Watching It Pass By? by Janice Hardy for Fiction University
- Can My Non-Emotional Protagonist Be Compelling? by Chris Winkle for Mythcreants
- Dilemmas In Stories by Stavros Halvatzis for Stavros Halvatzis
- Do All Of The Actions Have Real Consequences? by Matt Bird for The Secrets of Story
- Do Many Small Details Throughout Subtly And/Or Ironically Tie Into The Thematic Dilemma? by Matt Bird for The Secrets of Story
- Does The Ending Tip Toward One Side Of The Thematic Dilemma Without Entirely Resolving It? by Matt Bird for The Secrets of Story
- Does The Story’s Outcome Ironically Contrast With The Initial Goal? by Matt Bird for The Secrets of Story
- Editing Tip: Ditch Most Filter Words! by Joyce Audy Zarins for Writers’ Rumpus
- Epilogue Vs Prologue: What’s The Difference And How To Format by Dave Chesson for Kindlepreneur
- Finessing Dialogue, Part 3 by Stephen Geez for Story Empire
- Five Elements Of Relationship Plotlines by September C. Fawkes for Writers Helping Writers
- Hook Middle-Grade Readers From Your First Page by Christa Vande Vegte for DIY MFA
- How To Avoid Writing A Contrived Plot by Donna Jo Stone for Almost An Author
- How To Find The Major Dramatic Question Of Your Story by Savannah Gilbo for Fiction Writing Tips
- How To Write Better by Janna Lopez for BookBaby Blog
- Video: How To Write Magic Systems by Brandon McNulty for Writer Brandon McNulty
- Humanizing Your Protagonist: A Crash Course In Character Development by Nikki Stern for Women Writers, Women’s Books
- Video: Is This Your Story’s Midpoint? Are You Sure? by Stavros Halvatzis for Get Writing
- Is Your Writing Ready For Readers? by Suzy Vadori for Writers Helping Writers
- Video: Live Stream: Building A Realistic Economy In A Fantasy World by Marie Mullany for Just In Time Worlds
- Loki’s Second Season Shows Why Plot Holes Matter by Oren Ashkenazi for Mythcreants
- Making Dialogue Sound Natural by Arja Salafranca for Now Novel
- My Top Seven Tips For Improving Your Story’s Opening by Chris Winkle for Mythcreants
- No Scare If We Don’t Care: Tips From Mike Flanagan’s Work by Amy Christine Parker for DIY MFA
- Rewriting: Keep Your Eyes Open And Your Ego Closed by PJ Parrish for Killzoneblog.com
- Video: Scene Briefs Will Write Better Fiction With Ai by Elizabeth Ann West for Future Fiction Academy
- Self-Editing After NaNoWriMo by Arja Salafranca for Now Novel
- Video: Stocking The Word Graveyard With Sarah Hawley by Rachael Herron for Rachael Herron YouTube channel
- Video: The Most Common Story Structure Mistakes (And How To Fix Them!) by Shaelin Bishop for Reedsy
- Podcast: The One Where Bestseller Wendy Whitman Explains Our Fascination With True Crime And How To Incorporate It Into Your Fiction by J.D. Barker, Christine Daigle, JP Rindfleisch, and Patrick O’Donnell for Writers, Ink.
- Video: The Science:Fiction Ratio For Authors by Philip Athans for Fantasy Author’s Handbook Channel
- Podcast: The Woman King: When Storylines Compete by Valerie Francis and Melanie Hill for Story Nerd
- Video: This New Ai Tool Is The Dream For Fiction Authors by Jason Hamilton for The Nerdy Novelist
- What Is A Novella? The Art Of Concise Storytelling by Philip Kinsher for BookBaby Blog
- Podcast: What Makes A Story Slow by Oren Ashkenazi, Chris Winkle and Adam Wik for Mythcreants
- Why Your Draft Doesn’t Make Sense (Plus What To Do About It) by Lucy V Hay for Bang2write
- Video: World-Building Mistakes: How To Avoid Inconsistency by Marie Mullany for Just In Time Worlds
- Writing Vs Editing: Which Is Harder? by Daphne Gray-Grant for Publication Coach
- Writing: Your Novel’s Ending by Linda S. Clare for Linda S. Clare
- Yes, Virginia, Story Themes Still Matter by John J Kelley for Writer Unboxed
- Video: You Finished Writing Your Book! Now What? by Tim Grahl for Story Grid
- Audiobooks Continue To Increase Market Share by Dan Holloway for Self Publishing Advice
- What Is Selective Rights Licensing For Indie Authors? by AskALLi Team for Self Publishing Advice
- Subscriptions And The Creator Economy With Michael Evans by Joanna Penn for The Creative Penn
- First Impressions Matter: Effective Front Pages by Kris Maze for Writers In The Storm
- Be Ready To Engage With Readers—29 Ideas For Social Media Updates To Share by Edie Melson for The Write Conversation
- 57 Writing Contests In December 2023 – No Entry Fees by Erica Verrillo for Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity
- Video: How To Create A Clean Amazon Link For Your Book by Julie Broad for Book Launchers
- Investments In Your Writing Career Are Valuable by Cindy K. Sproles for The Write Editing
- Podcast: Mastering The Crowdfunding Success Mindset With Russell Nohelty by Nick Kotar for Self Publishing Advice
- Podcast: Lessons From 20books Vegas With Jennifer Hilt by Bryan Cohen and H. Claire Taylor for Sell More Books Show
- How To Design Beautiful Chapter Themes For Your Books by Dave Chesson for Kindlepreneur
- Book Formatting Services: The 7 Best Options To Hire by Dave Chesson for Kindlepreneur
- A Cynical View Of Titles & Cover Art by John Gilstrap for Killzoneblog.com
- Video: Positioning Your Book For Book Marketing Success With Sarah Bean by Book Launchers for Book Launchers
- Video: Living The Bestseller Life by Mark Dawson and James Blatch for Self Publishing Formula
- Video: Define Your Kickstarter USP by S.D. Huston for S.D. Huston
- Self-Publishing News: A Week On From OpenAI’s Meltdown And Courts Push Back On Ai Copyright Case by Dan Holloway for Self Publishing Advice
- How A QR Code Can Help Book Sales by Linda Wilson for Writers On The Move
- Self-Publishing News: Webcomics — Publishers Jump On The Indie Bandwagon by Dan Holloway for Self Publishing Advice
- Understanding Sales Figures For Indie Authors: We Need To Talk About… Numbers by Robin Phillips for Self Publishing Advice
- Why And How Your Book Cover Is Always Your Business by Carolyn Howard-Johnson for Sharing with Writers and Readers
- Why You Should Pitch Your Book Before, During, And After You Write It by Korina Moss for Writers and Publishers Network
- Are You Invested In Your Book? by John Briggs for A Writer’s Path
- It’s Not Your Book That’s Getting Rejected; It’s Your Query Letter by Anne R. Allen for Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris
- Video: How To Sell Your Books Direct, Stand Out & Get Preorders by Shelby Leigh for Marketing by Shelby
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