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NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

Join us for virtual NaNoWriMo workshops to help you reach your writing goal this November! Play fun games to get your creativity flowing and chat with other writers! 

- Tuesday, Nov. 16, 6:30 - 8 p.m., WebEx - Writing Workshop
- Tuesday, Nov. 30, 6:30 - 8 p.m., WebEx - NaNoWriMo Celebration & Reflection

Email [email protected] to register.

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Posted by [email protected]  On Nov 15, 2021 at 2:05 PM

National Novel Writing Month: November In Review
By Elizabeth, Stacy, and Justine

Hi, library friends and patrons! How’s writing going? Whether you have 500 words or 50,000, the next literary masterpiece or a heap of confused rambling about feng shui, we’re proud of you: it’s been a tough year, and any writing feels like an accomplishment.

Aurora Public Library’s librarians and staff have been all over the board for National Novel Writing Month, too! Some of us rebelled, while others stayed loyal to NaNo’s official rules; some hit word count, while some didn’t. Check out our writing journeys below.

Elizabeth: The Sleepy Rebel

Did you know that voice-recording your story before bed has THREE big advantages? True story! Check out some of these Highly Recommended Writing Moments:  

1. “...I might be falling asleep? I can’t remember what I just said” will always get a laugh out of your writing friends if you let them listen to your ramblings (or when they make you share)  

2. Nothing says “surprising plot twist” like “I must have been falling asleep here, because now? There's a giraffe, and maybe a love confession, and now this is a mafia story.”

3. Most importantly, sleepy mumbling means extra words means extra word count! I went from 30k to 40k in ONE LONG VOICE RECORDING

Thanks to voice recording, this year, I might actually finish NaNoWriMo! Sounds fake, right? I’m shocked, too, but besides half-asleep mumbling, here’s what I really did to succeed:  
· I chose to write little stories instead of one big one,
· forgave myself for wandering off-topic,  
· took advantage of APL’s writing sessions,  
· and offered to show my writing to a great weekend writing buddy and fantastic writer (which, of course, inspired desperate rewriting and increased my word count because company’s coming, vacuum the paragraphs and hide the semi-colons, we can’t let people know we live here).  

Most importantly, writing has provided a welcome distraction from this year's background hum of holiday worry and existential dread, and it’s given me lovely characters to spend time with all over again: from pirates to, yep, sleep giraffes. 11/10, would NaNo again.

Now, I gotta go: this recording’s kind of muffled, but it sounds like half-asleep-me just tried to make a butterfly duel God, and I’d better type fast to make sense of that in the light of day.

Stacy: The Dreamer

This was finally the first year I was able to participate in NaNoWriMo without simultaneously writing a Bachelor’s thesis besides it. Ealy-2020's Stacy thought this was the year to 👏Get 👏 It 👏Done. 👏 Late-2020's Stacy realizes that was just fool’s hope.

What I expected 2020 NaNoWriMo to be:
· Wake up at 6:30am 9much earlier than my usual schedule)
· 15 minute writing warm up
· Write for 20-30 minutes before work
· Come home and do a 15 minute writing warm up
· 1 hour - ? Until I reached the days word count

What 2020 NaNoWriMo was:
· Wake up 15 minutes before I need to leave the house
· Work = busybusybusy, gogogo
· Come home and write for 30 minutes before having to start dinner and eventually pass out.  
· More Or Less

Things That Went Bad? Reaching word counts and creating a reasonable schedule.  
I thought being done with school would help me get closer to beating NaNoWriMo, but I didn’t factor in the exhaustion from adjusting to a full-time post-COVID schedule that wiped me out every single night. Nor did it help that I was constantly shifting my story ideas.  

Things That Went OK? Out of six short stories, only one feels worth continueing.  
Rather than write one long novel for NaNoWriMo, I opted for a similar approach as I did last year and wrote a collection of short stories. Out of my collection of half finished short stories, only one am I really drawn to. It’s an untitled short story about the disappearance and murder of girl in a small farm town – I like to thank my love of horror films and my own less than stellar experiences growing up in a small town as inspiration!  

Things That Went Good? Weekend writing sessions.
My work week was atrocious. I thought being done with school would help me get closer to beating NaNoWriMo, but I didn’t factor in the exhaustion from adjusting to a full-time post-COVID schedule that wiped me out every single night. Nor did it help that I was constantly shifting my story ideas and leaving stories half finished to pursue a new one.  

Typically my weekends have much more productive! On an average weekend, I would write for maybe 2 or 3 hours a day. Was it enough to catch me up? No. Was it enough to keep me from feeling like I was completely drowning? Sort of – only almost completely drowning. Sadly, I was never anywhere close to reaching a daily word count nor am I anywhere at all close to the 50,000 words.  

Things For 2021? No more short stories.
I find that I get so focused on writing everything perfectly the first time that it prevents me from getting far enough to really make any dents. Somehow for 2021, I need to work on writing without that focus. I need to be able to let loose and let the writing flow, whether or not its “good.” For 2021, I need to take a lesson from the other’s writing experiences. Maybe try to do more Sleepy writing sessions with a voice recorder like Elizabeth?

While I think the official rules for NaNoWriMo states that you’re supposed to write one novel for the entire month, without picking up from a story you’ve already started - I can already tell you that unless inspiration really strikes me, I will probably use 2021 NaNoWriMo to expand on the short story I liked from this year instead.  

Justine: The Comeback Kid

The first time I won NaNoWriMo was back in November of 2010, as a senior in high school. I finished it between homework, extracurriculars, and college applications. Once I began actively pursuing my dream of becoming a writer, I assumed I’d win NaNoWriMo every single year thereafter, but I was sorely mistaken. In November of 2011, I was several months into my freshman year of college and was struggling to keep up with my peers. I wrote every chance I got, but I was too stressed to continue. I didn’t write past 10,000 words.  

The year after, my creative writing professor dealt a major blow to my confidence. “You don’t got it, Justine. Whatever makes a good writer, you don’t got it.” I was devastated. My professor was suggesting I change my major and give up on my dreams of becoming a renowned author. Although I didn’t heed his advice and I continued on with my degree, and earned it, writing was no longer my passion. I couldn’t stop seeing every error, every plot hole, how vapid and one dimensional my characters felt. “No one would ever wanna read this. So why should I write it?” I attempted NaNoWriMo several more times, never breaking past 10,000 words nor attempting to write beyond the first week of November. My love for the craft was gone and I felt certain it was gone for good. He was right. Whatever “it” was, I didn’t have it.  

10 years later, I had no idea I’d be living through a pandemic and that my social life would screech to a grinding halt. I was losing brain cells vegging out in front of the TV and not doing anything intellectually stimulating. I started reading Stephen King’s Misery and in the words of his main character, a writer named Paul Sheldon, I asked myself: “Can you?” Can you complete NaNoWriMo now that you have no excuses? You’re supposed to be home anyway. There are no new Pokémon games out, no social obligations to distract you, and nothing else to do. No one ever has to read it! Can you at least try?  

And try I did. I committed to writing the most self-indulgent, most unpublishable novel in the world. Something just for me that no one else would ever see or even have to know about. The chains came loose and words began to pour out of me. I didn’t think I could ever write again after the pain I had associated with it from my college years, but once the pressure of it being good or publishable was no longer there, I found myself falling in love with it again, like reacquainting myself with an old friend.

“Can you write a novel in one month? Can you love writing again, even if it’s only for you? Can you?” I can, I did, I do, and maybe I don’t “got it,” but I have something so much better. I have a sense of accomplishment that no professor could ever give me. I did it because I liked it. I completed something I set my mind to, and I didn’t do it to make a point. I did it for me.

Final Thoughts
So, did you win NaNoWriMo this year? Better question: can you win NaNoWriMo this year? I don’t know if writing’s a win-or-lose sport. Maybe this year, in 2020, NaNoWriMo served another purpose. In the words of fantasy author Neil Gaiman:

"Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art.”

You did it. In the face of overwhelming hardship, when you were probably burnt out and tired and mentally calculating whether or not you could go home for Thanksgiving, you chose to make art, and that choice is a victory all on its own. (And yes, if your family asks how your novel’s going, you can tell them we said that. We’re librarians, right? We know.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Finish strong, and happy writing.
Posted by [email protected]  On Nov 24, 2020 at 1:23 PM

The Dreaded Writing Bog: How to Overcome Writer's Block
by Justine

Can you believe you’re already over halfway through with NaNoWriMo?! I know it snuck up on me. At this point, logic would dictate that you should have written over 25,000 words by now. If you’re like me, you may not be anywhere close, and that’s okay. Sometimes, it seems the further you get into your story, the harder it can be to conjure words. Your character is at Point A, you want them to get to Point C, but Point B eludes you. You are stuck in the dreaded writing bog known as writer’s block. It is the bane of all writers and bound to strike at the least convenient time, like when you’re 10,000 words into a 50,000 word novel with time running out (a completely arbitrary and randomly chosen number—not from personal experience, oh no). The good news is, this is National Novel Writing Month. It’s not National Best Novel Writing Month or even National Good Novel Writing Month. Your only goal this month is to write a novel! It doesn’t have to be your best work, it doesn’t have to be good, and you don’t have to share it with anybody. That’s the beauty of it! Once you get past that and accept that your only goal is to churn out words until the cows come home, you will have a much easier time overcoming writer’s block. Just in case you’re still feeling freaked out and unsure, though, I have some tips for you as a fellow treader of the bog.  

When In Doubt, Deus Ex Machina
Roughly translated from the Latin for “god from the machine,” this plot device is an author’s best friend. Deus ex machina comes in handy when you’ve got a problem in your story that your characters just can’t overcome. Maybe she just unwittingly stepped into quicksand, is sinking rapidly, but you already established eight pages ago that her compatriots are days away and she’s in the middle of nowhere with nothing to grab onto to save herself. “Uh oh. Now what?” you may ask. Well, with deus ex machina, nothing is impossible! Maybe a friendly and freakishly strong eagle happens to fly overhead and drop a vine so she can pull herself out. Perhaps her friends’ trip is cut down by a magical shortcut they found miraculously and they save her in the nick of time. You could suddenly just decide the quicksand drags her down not to her death, but into another dimension, and the story could take a wild turn! It can be as ridiculous as you want it to be. Don’t get wrapped up in the details and just have fun getting your characters out of whatever impossible bind you’ve wrapped them in.  

Accept Imperfection
This is going to be a tough one for you perfectionists out there (trust me, I’m one of them!), but one thing to keep in mind is this is only a first draft. You may develop writer’s block because you’re so overwhelmed by all the grammar, spelling, and syntax errors staring back at you. The squiggly red and green lines under your words and the inelegant prose might hurt to think about, but try not to get discouraged! Again, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is the fact that no one has to see your work if you don’t want them to. It isn’t for a grade and you are your own harshest critic. If you find that you’re bumming yourself out over all the imperfections in your writing, it might help to stop looking at it. I know that sounds strange, but hear me out. Think about it like the rearview mirror in your car. If you keep looking behind you, you can’t focus on what’s ahead. You could get in an accident if you obsess over what’s back there. Instead, focus on looking forward out the windshield. Occasional glances back to make sure the story is progressing the way you want to is fine, but don’t keep your eyes there. Right now your goal is quantity, not quality, so if it hurts to look at all those errors just don’t look at them and simply write! Writing badly is better than giving up and not writing at all. Accept the imperfection, love it, and laugh about it later.  

Seek the Root
Do you know why you’re suffering from writer’s block? It might be an obvious problem like your neighbor blasting loud music during your writing time, or it could be something harder to pin down, like being intimidated by other writers’ success or the fear of writing poorly. Whatever the problem is, getting to the root of it could be helpful in your pursuit of the motivation to continue writing. Sometimes it’s something you can fix and sometimes it isn’t. You may not be able to convince your neighbor to turn down the music, but you could choose to write another time of day or use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones while writing. It can be hard to write when you feel like other writers would do so more skillfully, or if you feel like your writing isn’t up to anyone’s standards, but reminding yourself that it isn’t a competition and that literary recognition isn’t the bottom line can help you feel a little bit better. Remember: writing anything is a huge accomplishment! Find the root of the problem, uproot it, tell it to shoo, and let the words flow freely.

Stop Writing
Call me crazy, but it really works. Sometimes you’re so stuck that nothing seems to help. Maybe you already deus ex machina’d the heck out of your story, you accepted your imperfect writing, you sought the root of your block, and you’re still at a loss for words. When you’ve reached this point, taking a step back might be just what you need. Go take a shower, get some fresh air, grab a snack, or even take a nap. The motivation to write is an elusive beast and one best tamed by occasionally ignoring it, as counterproductive as it may sound. As they say, a watched pot never boils. Walk away for a little while and come back fresh and ready to write. If you’re anything like me, some of your best thinking might occur when you’re away from the computer or typewriter; they even make waterproof notepads for the shower now so you never lose your revelatory shower thoughts! Even if you have to stop writing for a day or two, it’s better than giving up altogether. Your story will be patiently waiting for your return!  

These are just a few tips for overcoming writer’s block, but I hope they’ve given you a little bit of solace if you’re starting to feel the pressure. There are so many things that can land you in the bog, but like in the deus ex machina example, I aim to be your freakishly strong eagle friend and help you find a way out of it. Whatever you write will be wonderful no matter what you put on the page, so please don’t give up! In the words of Sylvia Plath: “Every day, writing. No matter how bad. Something will come.” Keep writing, my friends. I’ll see you at the finish line. 

Posted by [email protected]  On Nov 17, 2020 at 8:52 AM

NaNoWRiMo: Keeping the Motivation

by Stacy  

It’s official! It’s been one week into November and that means our first week of NaNoWriMo is already over! How are you feeling? Cool as a cucumber? Honestly, I am very impressed and you’ve probably done NaNoWriMo before. Panicked and running around with your head cut off? Trust me – same. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and thinking that NaNoWriMo might have been just a little bit more than you can chew, don’t worry because that’s how most people are feeling the first week into NaNoWriMo. I find that keeping up the motivation to write is what I struggle with the most as I settle more and more into November.  

Let’s talk about some ways to keep the motivation up and inspiration coming!

Motivation - great when you have it, impossible to find it. If you’re struggling finding the motivation to write, start by taking a look at what’s working and what’s not working. It’s okay to change things as you’re writing your novel if you find that it isn’t working for you! The best examples I can give are taking them straight from my own current NaNoWriMo experience.  

What isn’t working for me…. My routine and schedule. The writing routine and schedule that I came up with before November sounded great and easy to accomplish, only for me to realize a week and a half in that I am consistently more stressed because in actuality my schedule is immensely unrealistic to what I can actually accomplish. The likelihood that anyone has the same routine every single day is so slim. Even if you do have a consistent work/life schedule outside of NaNoWriMo, how can you possibly block out hours of writing when you also have to fit in errands, chores, holidays, appointments, family, etc., etc., etc.? Despite working a consistent schedule of 9am – 5pm, I could not reasonably find a block of time for writing. I would get off at 6, get home by 6:30, then be expected to cook dinner, clean the house and work on all my personal projects. Now it’s 10pm and I have done zero writing and have to go to bed, so I can wake up early for work.  

Work smarter, not harder: Writing Blocks vs. Writing Sprints

Writing blocks did NOT work for me this year. The past few years for NaNoWriMo, I was a student in college – sitting down for 3 to 12 hours to work on one assignment novel was cake! Now, I would be luckily if I could find 3 hours to work on anything, let alone my novel. To work more with my life schedule, I changed my daily writing expectations to fit into smaller “word sprints” instead! Rather than writing for 3 hours straight, I will plan to write for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes on my lunch break, and 30 minutes to an hour after work! It’s been two days of being on this new schedule and I have already felt less stressed and writing has come easier.  

My morning word sprint consists of 10 minutes of free writing on something completely unrelated to my novel. And if I’m really lacking ideas and inspiration to write, I will use a random word/plot generator to get something started. Usually the 10 minutes of writing is all I need to get focused and inspired for the day, so I will spend the next 20 minutes writing my novel. However, my lunch and nighttime sprints tend to focus more on the novel itself!  

Remember: It’s okay to miss!

We’re all human and life is pretty hectic – don’t stress so much you get sick or neglect other important things going on. It’s okay to miss your writing sprints and your writing blocks - It’s even okay to miss writing days!! If you’re really serious about trying to reach the 50,000 word limit, just make sure you make up that writing time over the weekend or on a day you are less busy! Trust me, writing for NaNoWriMo will come much easier the less stress that’s involved so don’t be afraid to change things up as you go! Create a new routine and/or system that works for you.  

Posted by [email protected]  On Nov 10, 2020 at 1:07 PM

Noodles at the Wall: Getting Started When You Have Absolutely No Ideas at All 
by Elizabeth

‘Twas three days after NaNo, and in the library, 
some fast-tapping typists were feeling quite wary. 
“I’m supposed to have how many words?” they all sighed. 
“But I have no clue what to write, there’s no time!” 
Some writers had ideas but still felt a fright 
when faced with so many words day and night. 
Others suffered from dreaded writer's block, 
and wanted a nice nap to lessen the shock. 
“50,000’s too many!” “My ideas are too few!” 
Writers all around had no clue what to do. 
Then from the Aurora blog, a voice rang loud: 
“Don’t worry! Cheating is DEFINITELY allowed.” 
“I’ve here without characters, setting, or plot, 
but that’s not gonna stop me. Guess what I HAVE got?” 
And with that, the blog shared five quick writing tricks 
to help get a story moving lightning-quick! 

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, I never have a plan.  

I wish that I were one of the writers with pages of careful outlining, character charts, fascinating plot twists I’m longing to explore. Most years, I’m the writer who, three days after the month starts, looks at their calendar and squawks in dismay. I don’t know why I panic every year if this is what I DO every year, but it always feels like there are no more stories left in the well, like every creative brain cell vanished the instant November started. 

This year’s even worse than normal: I’m worn out, and every fiction I write seems less strange than what’s happening in the world outside my window. Maybe it’s like that for you too? If this is your first year dealing with the dreaded NaNo Starter’s Block, don’t worry: here are five tricks I’ve used to start stories in previous years, and I hope one of them works for you. 

The Best Thing That Could Possibly Happen 
Have you ever played TBT? No, not Throwback Thursday: The Best Thing game! It’s a cure for sad days and sadder stories: sit, breathe and think of the Best Thing that could possibly happen to turn this day around. Maybe someone delivers a cupcake to your doorstep. Maybe you win the lottery; maybe you find that lost phone number you’ve been hunting for all weekend. The key is that the story can’t just be one event. This isn’t “A Good Thing Happens,” this is the best thing. That means it’s going to ripple outward, changing more small things in its wake: maybe that phone number belongs to a long-lost friend or a cute barista, maybe the lottery is just what you need to put a down payment on a house.  

Transformation’s a key element of stories and a great starting point for something miraculous. There are several excellent stories that start with The Best Thing That Could Possibly Happen. Children desperate to avoid growing up meet a magical spirit who can take them to Neverland. A poor teenager finds a map to Treasure Island. If you’re feeling dark, you can also start a story with the WORST thing that could possibly happen: what if your uncle threw your dad off a cliff, then blamed you for it and banished you from the Pride Lands? Whichever road you choose, dramatic change will always act as a catalyst for a story. 

No Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead 
Think about the people in your life. They’re interesting, right? You wouldn’t be friends (or enemies!) with them if they weren’t. You can probably think right now of some of their quirks: how your best friend starts sentences three times when he’s nervous, the way your cousin gets excited when talking about efficient work practices, how that one colleague in the Zoom call always forgets to mute their mic. You probably know some secrets, too, or some wild stories: I’m fairly sure my closest friends could pick me out even if I shape-shifted into someone completely different, because they know my mannerisms that well.  

Well, these are your people, right? You know them, you love them. So combine them. Take two or three of the people you know, squish them together, and make them a new character. Add a few of these combos and you’ve populated a world. If you steal from your friends, steal responsibly, of course! Don’t cast them in a role they hate! Stephen King’s preferred method of writing is to throw two interesting people in a room together and see what they do: strong enough personalities can make even trips to the grocery store interesting. (And come on: if you’ve assembled a bed from IKEA, you KNOW how interesting “two people in a room” can get.)  

Instant Story, Just Add Dragons 
Okay, it doesn’t have to be dragons! Picture your favorite book. What if you changed the genre? Try to rephrase the book’s premise to incorporate a different genre. Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book” is just a spooky ghost retelling of “The Jungle Book”. Who can forget “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Hamlet? You don’t have to go with classics, either: try taking an incident that happened to you in real life and teleporting it into the past. What would baking a cake look like in Victorian England?  

Hey, Cheaper Than Therapy 
You know that haunting feeling? The pervasive feeling of existential dread, the quiet grief of a decaying friendship, the gnawing hunger for a chocolate chip cookie? (Okay. Maybe not that last one.) Humans are complicated, and most of us have emotions bouncing around inside all day long, going unexamined. Why not turn them into a story? If you’ve already examined all of your life’s hardships, even better: it’ll be so much easier to retell them in fiction. Change the names, and who’s to say your life’s memoir isn’t total fiction?  

Noodles at the Wall 
None of these sound ideal? No problem. When you’re cooking pasta, you can tell it’s done one of two ways: you can taste the noodle, checking to see if it’s al dente, or you can throw a noodle at the wall and see if it sticks. One of these methods is more reliable than the other. The other is undoubtedly more fun. Pick a broad category – food, clothes, recreation, jobs – and set a timer for ten minutes. Freewrite everything you can think of about that topic. It doesn’t matter what you write, it doesn’t matter if it’s good. You’re not writing fiction right now, you’re brainstorming. Just keep your hands moving. 

When you’re done writing those words, read through what you’ve just written. One of the sentences should feel stickier than the others. Maybe it bothers you; maybe you want to say more about it, or maybe you believe it more than you’ve ever believed anything in your life. Great. That’s the first sentence of your first chapter. Copy it into a new document and keep going. 

Thanks for joining the Aurora Library for our writing tips! I hope they were helpful! 

And you heard a voice say, as you closed the website, 
“Happy writing to all! It’ll turn out alright!” 

Posted by [email protected]  On Nov 03, 2020 at 2:58 PM 1 Comment
by Stacy

"I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles." – Shannon Hale


Alright – you know what NaNoWriMo is, you’re game for the challenge, there’s only a few days until November 1…. now what?  

While November is the month of writing, September and October are really the months for prepping! If you aren’t like me, you probably have a pretty good sense of time and maybe you’ve already started prepping for NaNoWriMo – which is totally awesome and I’m jealous! Maybe you didn’t know what NaNoWriMo was until now and wish you had a few more weeks to prepare? NaNoWriMo’s official website has their own preparation guideline you can follow as early as September 2021.

However, maybe you are like me. Maybe life is pretty busy and you probably don’t even know when November is – let alone that it’s in two months, or one month, or even three days. Aha – then this is the blog for you! Not official by any means except to me, I am going to share with you how I prep for NaNoWriMo before November!

Create Goals
First and foremost – Create. Your. Goals. 
(Trust me, this is so important.)

You know your end goal is 50,000 words by November 30. Now it’s time to create mini-goals to last you from now until November 1 to get you as prepared as possible to start writing. I will share with you my personal NaNoWriMo 2020 mini-goals and a bit about each one – maybe your mini-goals aren’t exactly the same and that’s perfectly okay! There’s no one correct way to write a novel and that’s what this month long challenge is all about!

My NaNoWriMo Mini-Goals:
- Develop an Idea
- Plot/Characters/Setting/World Building
- Outline, outline, outline!

Develop an Idea
Yeah, okay, maybe this one sounds like a no-brainer, but unless you’re already flowing with creativity (which I am not) this is a really difficult first step.  

Luckily there are a lot of ways to generate story ideas! Listening to music, watching movies, reading books are all classic ways of getting ideas. All you need is that one line or that one piece of imagery to move you in the right direction – sometimes the whole work can move you. I’m pretty notorious for writing adaptations of my favorite older movies and books like “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carol and “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.  

Another thing I like to do when I feel stuck on an idea, or lack thereof, is use random word, story or sentence generators online such as Plot Generator. This website gives you random generators for story ideas, opening lines, etc. A lot of times this can sparks new ideas that you wouldn’t be exposed to in your day to day life! This tool is actually one I use a lot when I write – not only is it good for creating ideas, it’s a really great daily writing practice I use before I pick up my NaNoWriMo novel for the day.

Character/Setting/World Building
Okay you have your idea – now on to the hard stuff.  

I find it impossible whether I’m writing a novel for NaNoWriMo or writing a novel for an entire year to have all three of these things figured out in detail. So absolutely do not stress about having all of this set in stone. I guarantee you it will all change as you are writing and discover new paths and developments for your story and characters.

Character: I like to start with a few characters – namely, my protagonist. Really, my only goal with characters before November is to get some names down for my primary characters, a few names for my secondary characters and any important information that will make starting the story easier. For me, I prefer to let my characters come out as I write.  

Setting: I know it’s difficult – who wants to write about the state and town that you grew up in? It seems so boring and dull, where’s the excitement? It doesn’t seem as glamorous as Hollywood or New York City. Real life isn’t glamorous. I grew up in a small farm town where my middle school graduating class was maybe 500 kids, essentially the exact opposite of glamorous. But that’s what I know – that’s where my childhood is rooted, it’s where I learned the fundamentals of who I am. Is it glamorous? No. Is it pleasant and fun to write about? It can be. Do I confidently feel that I could believably write my hometown in a way that will create a strong setting for my characters? Yes!  

World Building: World building can be soooooo much work. It doesn’t have to be though. If you decide that you want your world set in our real modern day Earth, your fictional world will likely follow our same rules and laws. World building can be as easy as modern day Aurora, Colorado or as extensive as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. If you’re like to me and like to create fantasy and sci-fi stories, world building is crucial. You’ll most likely start a whole world entirely by scratch. This can include maps and landscape, lore, currency, religion, laws, government, etc. Trust me, it sounds like a lot because it is. I personally lovelovelove world building and taking the time to create a fictional world can be such a blast.  

Again; I guarantee that you will change you character/setting/world as you are writing and discover new paths and developments for your story and characters. This is super common and expected, especially for NaNoWriMo.  

I understand that not everyone outlines. Outlining can be tedious and it can be slow, especially when you’re in a dry spell for ideas. I know a lot of writers who don’t outline at all – they just begin writing and create an outline/story path as they go! For me though, honestly, sometimes I get so invested with outlining, I forget to actually write my stories. Outlining is always what I spend the most time on when I write novels.

I create two documents; one is my general/overall outline and another I call “chapter/idea outlines.” The general overall outline is my story from start to finish. The likelihood of me getting an outline completely finished before November 1 will never happen, even if I started it the previous November. A lot of this time this outline will start in the middle of my story or at the climax, and I will outline my way to the end before going back and outlining backwards to the beginning. My “chapter/idea” outline is when I have something specific that I know I want to happen, but not sure where to fit in yet. This document allows me to express and flesh out all of my ideas, while giving me the time to fit it in rather than force it in.  

Come into NaNoWriMo on November 1 as prepared or unprepared as you want to be! My favorite part of novel writing is the research, planning, and world building so I spent a lot portion of my time catering to these expectations. If you haven’t tried preparing for your stories before, 2020 might be a good year to try it out! Normally over plan like me? Forgo it! Wing it – see how your story comes out!  

Posted by [email protected]  On Oct 29, 2020 at 2:20 PM

National Novel Writing Month: APL Edition!
by Elizabeth

“Sorry, I need extra pie and an hour of silence! For, uh. Writing inspiration.”

As October comes to a thrilling close, we’re getting closer and closer to one of the library’s most celebrated holidays: a time when our patrons come in looking haunted, horror stories are whispered and recorded and candy is consumed at alarming rates. No, not Halloween, though I love October’s spooky spiders and skeletons! No, I’m talking about AFTER Halloween: National Novel Writing Month.

What is This Holiday?
National Novel Writing month

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is one of my favorite times of year. It was founded in 1999 by a group of friends who realized their lives seemed…kind of empty. When they were kids, they’d been wildly creative, but as adults, they went to work, came home and collapsed into sleep. Winter blues and the holidays were just around the corner. What could they do before then that would actually mean something?

Well…write a novel, of course!

The goal? Write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s as long as “The Great Gatsby”, which my English teacher always claimed was the Best Novel Ever Written. Sounds promising, right? (And kind of exhausting!)

Other novels around 50,000 words long include:
⦁    “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
⦁    “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
⦁    “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
⦁    “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
⦁    “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks
⦁    “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk
And more!

Novels 50,000 words long

Okay, But…a GOOD Novel? (Short Answer: No.)
Most of the time, what you write for NaNoWriMo won’t be fantastic. Writing just under 7 pages a day is a ridiculously fast pace, even for the most experienced writers out there! If you’ve got the Great American Novel bottled up somewhere inside, this might not be the time to write your stunningly perfect masterpiece. Making a perfect story isn’t really the point! This is more about getting creative and adding one more life goal to your bucket list: climb Mount Everest, finally finish watching the Great British Baking Show, learn to juggle, write a novel…

Some books have been published after National Novel Writing Month, though; it isn’t entirely impossible!

From cute romances to wild fantasies and everything in-between, here are some NaNoWriMo novels:
⦁    “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer: cyborg Cinderella falls for the attractive Prince Kai and must save him when the Moon’s residents plan an assassination
⦁    “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen: an orphan joins the circus, befriends an elephant and falls for one of its star performers
⦁    “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell: a first-year college student balances new life experiences with writing her favorite familiar fanfiction
⦁    “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern: two young rival magicians at a mysterious one-night-only carnival fall in love
⦁    “Not Your Sidekick” by CB Lee: a high school student desperate to improve her college applications gets an internship working for a supervillain
⦁    “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan: a girl in a mysterious fenced community discovers…zombies!

Published NaNoNovels

Check out more published NaNoWriMo novels here.

Some of these books are deliciously weird. Some are familiar and comforting. Some NaNoWriMo books get published; others (like mine) sit on a computer’s hard drive in a folder marked “Never Look at This Again.” Still, I’d say even those novels that never go anywhere are worth it. (Mine all were.)

Why Even “Failed” Stories are Worth It
My first National Novel Writing Month adventure was in high school, my junior year. Suddenly, my friends and I needed to get ready for the Real World. That meant applying for colleges, taking the PSAT, and staying up half the night with homework. It also meant no more time for hanging out. Every conversation with family members revolved around My Plans and Being Productive: had I aced this test, taken that class, filled out enough applications, figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life?

I missed my friends, so I started a campaign those last two weeks of October: who wanted to write a novel with me? It didn’t have to be good. It didn’t even have to be the full 50,000 words long. Who wanted to meet on Saturdays and write silly stories while we ate too much popcorn and candy? We could say we were writing novels for college and spend some time together.

They agreed.

Honestly? Almost none of us finished! The stories were terrible: teenagers storming Neverland, intergalactic emperors fighting space blobs, vampires quoting Hamlet word-for-word and swooning all over the place. We made terrible bets, joked about our stories, quit because there was too much homework, finished and danced around Walmart in victory.

I’ve tried NaNoWriMo 9 times since, and I’ve only “won” twice. Most of the time, I don’t come anywhere close to 50,000 words, but I still have a great time.

Save Your Thanksgiving (and Your Sanity)
So why should you try NaNoWriMo?
⦁    Want to finally finish something big?
⦁    Longing for something to brag about over those family holiday Zoom calls?
⦁    Wish you were as creative as when you were a kid?
⦁    Already watched everything good on Netflix?
⦁    Need to stay off of Twitter and stop obsessively checking the news?

Join the Aurora Public Library for National Novel Writing Month! We’ll have writing prompts, encouraging words, write-a-longs and virtual help all November for your virtual noveling needs. Whether you want to write about vampires, zombies or cyborg Cinderella, there’s a place for you here. We can’t wait to see you!
Posted by [email protected]  On Oct 22, 2020 at 11:05 AM