Expert Tips for Young Writers Considering NaNoWriMo

Expert Tips for Young Writers Considering NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo! Every year at this time, thousands of writers challenge themselves to write an entire novel in just thirty days.

This year, we teamed up with some of the editors here at Tyndale House—some of whom have personally participated in NaNoWriMo on multiple occasions!—to get their best advice for young, budding writers who are considering participating in NaNoWriMo. Keep reading to hear tips from some experienced writing professionals that you can share with your child.

Tips for Helping You Meet Your Word Count for the Month:

    • Divide up your 50,000 words (or whatever your goal is) by the days that remain so you know how many words to shoot for each day.

    • Take days off! This sounds counterintuitive, but having break days where you don’t have a word count hanging over your head really helps you make it to the finish line.

    • Write before you sit in front of the screen. November is a short month (AND it includes a holiday), which means you need to maximize the time you have to write. Think about what you’re going to write at every spare moment—when you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re in the car, when you’re eating lunch—and then when you’re ready to write, you’ll know where you’re going.

    • Turn off your phone. And your internet. There are a million rabbit holes you can fall into that are cleverly disguised as research, so avoid the temptation altogether by turning off access to the outside world while you write.

    • When you’re writing the first draft, don’t worry about where the story is going or whether you’re making mistakes. There’s plenty of time later to fix and add and cut and move pieces around. The first draft is for getting your ideas and dreams onto the page!

    • Don’t give up writing. Even if you miss your daily goal, keep putting words down on paper. You’ll be surprised at how quickly those pages will fill up, so long as you keep working.

Tips for When You’re Stuck and Not Sure How to Keep Writing:

    • Try writing some descriptive passages—your character’s clothes, backstory, the world in which your story takes place, etc. You’ll probably edit a lot of that out later, but it can help make your story richer and get your ideas flowing again.

    • Use sticky notes to plan your novel. Describe one event or scene on each note and post them on a large empty wall or sheet of cardboard. When you have twenty or thirty notes, start rearranging them. You can always add more notes or rearrange them further as your story develops.

    • Try writing longhand. When the blank screen feels daunting, grab a notebook or a pad of paper and write old-school. I don’t know the science here, but something about this technique helps to trick your brain out of writer’s block.

    • Ignore your inner critic. You can invite your internal editor to the party in December, but for November, tell him or her to scram!

    • If possible, do some of your writing (or pre-writing) in a location that occurs in your novel. Take notes as you try to observe every detail of that location. You may only use a few of those details in your actual novel, but this exercise can help you notice something significant that uniquely describes that place or ties to a theme in your writing.

Tips for Strengthening Your Writing Skills:

  • Expand your vocabulary. Try to learn one new word every day and practice using it in a sentence.

  • Choose colorful words to paint a picture for your reader. Use all your senses in your scenes. Don’t just pay attention to what your character can see or hear. Think about the things he can smell or taste or feel. Consider making these outside aspects either mirror the emotion of a moment or contrast what your character is experiencing. Is your heroine in a happy place? Give her something sour to taste or funky to smell. Is your hero feeling sad or angry? Send a downpour or thunderstorm his way.

  • Don’t be afraid of feedback. Seek out people you trust who can read your work and give you kind yet honest feedback. Other people notice things about our writing that we can’t always see ourselves, and that ultimately makes you a better writer.

  • Don’t sacrifice precision and clarity for style. It’s important to develop your own voice and style in writing as you grow, but while you are young and practicing, focus on making your writing clear for others to understand and read. Personal style is something that develops over time. There’s no need to force or focus on it now.

  • Write with others. It’s easier to practice regularly when we find other people who are doing the same thing to encourage us. Plus, then you have a built-in support system to give you feedback and help you edit.

  • Read, read, read. Reading widely and deeply can help you became a better writer because you will see and experience all kinds of writing. Other writers can show you what works well and what does not.

Happy Writing!

A special thanks to our fabulous contributors for this blog post: Debbie King, Ellen Vosburg, Erin Smith, Sarah Rische, Sarah Rubio, and Stephanie Rische!