An Explanation, Apology, and Plan + NaNoWriMo Update

Hey warriors. Today’s post is one I’m extremely sad about, but I need to make it. We need to talk about why I didn’t post over the last few days and what’s going to happen. Let’s dive in.

Explanation and Apology

I’ve been recovering lately from some burn out. I realized after a big church event that kept me from writing and posting that I couldn’t let blogging come before two things: health and the church. Those things come first. Then I had a check-up with my doctor. I’m not going into detail but we discussed my workload and anxiety and it’s definitely been too much at times. Posting almost daily is nearly impossible, even though I’d love for it to be easy. I wish I could just keep posting amazing Novelist’s November posts as quickly as writing my name. But I can’t.


Another thing I need to announce is that I dropped NaNoWriMo this year. This has been weighing heavy on me for almost two weeks now, as I quit three Thursdays ago. I dropped it because both my co-writer and I felt too overwhelmed this month and could use a break. Burn out is far worse than quitting when you physically can’t do it, and I was already burnt out to some extent. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still be supporting and cheering on the NaNoWriMo writers. It doesn’t mean that I quit The Novelist’s November all together. But what it does mean is that I’m going to be less forceful towards myself. As much as I adore posting consistently and faithfully, and as much as I hate any trust broken by my inability to fulfill The Novelist’s November, I need to remember that without me, there is no Words. And without a healthy me, there is no content worth liking or commenting on. If I don’t put my mental health first, I won’t produce content that encourages follows but content that produces unfollows. And while this blog is still an author blog and a place for authors and readers alike, I can’t promise that it won’t become just a little more casual because right now, I don’t absolutely need new followers or increased views. I’m going to try and not look at the numbers and just write what you and I want when I’m able to write it. I want to enjoy being a teenager.


You’re probably wondering how that affects the Gary D. Schmidt interview. Well, I’ve decided that I won’t spread it out anymore, even though it’s over 10,000 words long. Instead, I’ll make the post and add it to my resource page so you can all find it again and again. I’m nearly done transcribing and working on converting it from the way people talk to something a little more readable, though I’m not changing a lot and doing my best not to lose the essence of the interview. This interview has taken a lot of work, even though I absolutely loved getting to have it. I can’t promise when exactly I’ll post that whole thing, but I can promise it will be before December. Hopefully there will be no more postponing and I can get it to you very soon!

As for my schedule… I’m going to be trying to blog once a week once December starts, although I can’t say that it will always be every Friday or every Monday. I will try my best to get a grasp on the blog and establish some plans. It’s high time I take my own advice and develop doable consistency. But! Although this event flopped, I hope to thoroughly plan and prepare for other events and exciting things in the future. I hace ideas but this time, no promises until I know I can keep them. I’ll be posting more once I’m healthier… and who knows? Maybe just maybe Words will branch into language comparison posts, individual word profiles, lyric analysis, book reviews, and even Writer’s life posts with more lifestyle content! Perhaps we can sprint together sometime and maybe the Weekly Help posts will become a monthly thing. I don’t know yet what the future holds, but I do know I love blogging and refuse to just give it up.

One last comment: thank you all for your patience! I’ve been amazed to see more followers and no unfollows in the past couple weeks, as well as more likes than expected. You guys are the best and I love you all so much! 💙

Dream with me, warriors. What kinds of posts do you really want to see? What kinds of posts would you want more of? What events might you be inclined to see? What interests you? Let me know in the comments.


[NoNo] Weekly Help #2 – Walking Forward

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! I hope you’ve been making good progress on your books! Today we have another weekly help! Let’s dive in.

Playlist: Classical Goes Pop. I listen to this to study all the time and it’s really helpful! I’m going to keep adding to this playlist, too. Even if you don’t know the songs, it’s instrumental music with the typical musical elements of pop. I personally love it!

Sprint: Sprint on the Beach

Snippet 2: Testing

“Lie down, Sylas. You know the drill,” the official said, much too cheery as her pen etched boring personal details about me she didn’t really need to know onto a page. “Your examiner will be here shortly. In the meantime, put this on and drink this.”

I bit back a reluctant sigh as I attached the device to my head. The ear pieces were extremely uncomfortable and the wires that criss-crossed it to make a sort of hat always tingled ever so slightly when they rested on my head. I disliked tests immensely with good reason, but I accepted the small cup of purplish liquid and poured it down my throat. It was vile, with a bitterness that practically stung. But it began to kick in as I got as comfortable as possible on the small bed low to the ground. Things were about to get weird.

Just as I’d predicted, my body quickly went numb and I felt bleary by the time the ceiling turned on. It was a screen, with a false movie of me and others on it paused. That’s when I realized I’d forgotten to check what the test was really for. I’d assumed it was a job test or a placement test but… there were girls on the screen. Just like my match test, which I’d hated every minute of.

Don’t worry, Sylas. The match test has been improved based on your previous results and your current capabilities, as well as including a few girls who weren’t of age previously. The examiner’s voice entered my brain, also creepily cheery, alerting me that he’d taken control and was testing the device by reading the input. Thankfully, however, he didn’t comment a moment later when I tested the possibility of his presence by falsely observing how ugly the girls were. I knew I was free to think carefully as the movie began and the device beeped.

“Hello, Sylas!” a girl’s voice said in my head. She smiled on the screen, looking sickly like she was in love with me. “I was wondering… would you like to go on a date with me this evening?”

No, I’d rather be studying the atria and the ventricles. They’re what really makes a heart beat, I told the girl in my head, trying to hide the harsh sarcasm from the computer. Conveniently, I smiled on screen. The computer hadn’t caught it.

Another girl laughed, obviously a medical student based on her scrubs and apparently a little older than me. “You’re funny, Sylas. Maybe we should study together some time.”

Perhaps we could, but I don’t believe my ventral tegmental area and my caudate nucleus will be activated. You might want to study with someone else. It was getting harder not to laugh as I roasted the girls with my medical nerd humor.

“Sylas, you do realize that those aren’t the only parts of the brain where you feel love? And the feeling is a hormone, activated by… touch.” And she grabbed my hand with a smile. Now I physically wanted to throw up. But I remained calm.

Unfortunately, however, you have succeeded in triggering my left amygdala, left inferior frontal cortex, and insular cortex. I am experiencing feelings of disgust. I would never actually talk to a girl in this vicious, robotic way, but if I was going to suffer through the test, I might as well have fun with it.

Quotes: Pressing On

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

E. L. Doctorow

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Ray Bradbury

Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s.

Stephen King

Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader.

Joseph Joubert

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Jack Kerouac

Word of help: Hope

If there’s one thing a writer should have a solid grasp on, it’s hope. Hope is what makes your character press on in the dark hour. Hope is the friend that helps them fight the dragon. Hope is the tie between the reader and the story. Hope is what makes the story flow out of you. Just focus on your hopes for the book and recognize that the journey is unexpected. If you think it’s going nowhere, go read a book, drink a cup of tea, take a walk, and remember all you hope this book will do and stop thinking about what you hope it will be. That can be worried about later.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! The next part of the Gary D. Schmidt interview is coming tomorrow, but if you missed the first part, here it is! How are your books going? Can we get a little snippet? Let us know in the comments!

[NoNo] Character Tips with Gary D Schmidt (Part 1)

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! Today I finally have my Gary D. Schmidt interview… or at least the first part. Over this week and next, I’ll be sharing the 13 questions and answers from our hour long conversation. It’s going to end up in several posts because he’s so full of wisdom and I got as much as I could! So without further ado, let’s dive in!

1. How do you decide whether or not to write in a single perspective or multiple perspectives?

The point of view and the narrator are, in some ways, everything in the story. Every story is different because of the way that you see it, because of the person that you’re looking at. So a novel that has x person telling the story will be very different if it’s y person telling the story, will be very different if it’s the narrator from outside the story. Or if there are multiple ones, where there are several people telling the story, then the play there is usually that they are so distinct, so there’s different people saying different things. Karen Hesse has a book called Witness. It’s set in New England, in a town that’s being taken over by the KKK, and I think there’s something like 20 different people who are telling the story. It’s so complicated that at the front of the book there are pictures of each of the people who tell the story with their names so you can keep track of who’s saying it. What makes that story so interesting is that their perspectives are so very very different and each one authentically is telling the story as he or she sees it but we see very clearly that something is not right and they all can’t be right. Those are really hard to write and often they tend to be, at least for me, kind of gimmicky, or they feel that way to me. So I haven’t really tried to do that except for once, in a novel that’s called an epistolary novel where you have letters that are being sent from character to character and in the end, I didn’t like it and it’s never gotten published, for which I’m very grateful now. But when you do choose a point of view, whether it’s going to be a first person character telling the story or there’s going to be a narrator in third person point of view or there’s going to be a character on the sidelines telling the story, those are huge choices. Especially first person because you’re essentially saying that you’re going to tell the story as this person would see it and that makes it interesting. Some day you’ll read Moby Dick (and you will read Moby Dick some day) and it’s told from the point of view of Ishmael. It’s his perspective on what he sees. But if the captain of the ship, Ahab, had told the story it would be utterly different and Ishmael wouldn’t have appeared in it at all. Ahab doesn’t care about Ishmael. And that makes the story really really interesting. The only way I know of to decide what you’re going to do with perspective is to try every way. One of my novels is called Okay for Now and Doug tells the story. It took me about a month of starts. Every day I would start and I didn’t want to have a first person and I didn’t want to have Doug from a previous novel but every time I told the story it was just boring. It was just flat. And finally it was coming to Doug and I remember the day, just sort of sitting and going, “Ok, alright, we’ll let Doug have a shot and see how it goes.” And then it sang. It just really worked out well. Then you know it was worth waiting for the right narrator. But that’s one of the most important decisions of all. Who’s going to tell this story and what difference does it make?

2. In your book, Orbiting Jupiter, the narrator can’t necessarily be called the main character. Instead, he’s telling another character’s story. Why did you decide to do this and what was one thing you learned?

Narrators are fun, right? You don’t always want to do the same thing. Or at least I don’t. You learn different ways of doing it. So to have a character tell the story when it isn’t his or her story, or where he or she isn’t the most important character is sort of an interesting way to get at it. And the great, great example of that is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald where you have the story told (and it’s a hard story) by Nick. He is involved in it because he has to be in order to know what the story is, he has to know enough that he can recount it to us, but he’s not the hero and he’s not the villain. He knows the characters but he’s always on the sidelines, which is in fact the point of him, and that’s really an interesting place to tell the story from, where you’ve got a character who isn’t the first character or in some ways even the second but is still sort of invested enough, he or she cares enough, to tell you the story. That really is the model. I think it’s a brilliant book and I love the voice of that novel. I mean, just to listen to his voice is so interesting and so it feels like what I was trying to do in that technique is to in fact do exactly that: try and capture what it’s like to tell the story without being the center. It’s fun. Another possibility, and this is really interesting too and I’ve only kind of done this a little bit, is when you have a narrator who really can’t be trusted. And that doesn’t mean the narrator’s malicious or that the narrator wants to hurt you. But it means that the narrator isn’t seeing it fully or isn’t willing to tell everything that’s going on. The great example of that is Wuthering Heights by Brontë, but another really good one is Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. You’re hearing first person and all the way through you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh her sister’s such a creep and this guy is such a doofus” and on and on and on and it’s so sad what’s being done to the narrator and it’s so unfair and she has every right to be really upset about this… and then you finally discover that what she’s telling us is really not true. It’s not really a fair recitation of what’s happened in her life and, in fact, we can’t trust anything she says. And then suddenly the whole novel switches. That’s really cool. Then you have to go back and say “Wait a minute, she said this and this and this, but is that really how I should see it?” And usually it isn’t. I love that stuff. I love playing with that. Narrators are so much fun because you can be so playful with them and really surprise the reader.

Even just those two have so much insight! I hope you enjoyed what he had to say and are excited for the rest of this interview! What stuck out most to you? What’s your favorite kind of narration and what kind are you writing right now? Let me know in the comments!

Confessions of a Human

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today I’m taking a break from The Novelist’s November (just for today! Don’t worry, that interview and other things are still coming!) to be real and raw with you. This post is a confession, a snippet of reality. The purpose of this blog has been and will be to further my job, my goals as a writer. But today I’m just being real, not because I’m never real but because I’m never not hiding. And this isn’t meant to expose everything about me. I’m just opening up. Several of you have already read some version of this, but it’s important to me that you really know what’s at the heart of what I say and do. Let’s dive in.

I have come here today not to profess my greatness but to announce my imperfection. I am here to take off the weight that burdens me. I am here to stand before your opinions, compassions, and raw emotions. I am standing here, a human in the center of a stadium full of people. Here I am.

Why have I come? I have come to break. I have come to take off the mask, though it’s mostly translucent and has been removed countless times before. But today I take it off before you all. Not to point out only the scars but to reveal both the scars and the hope in my eyes. I have come to open the door and let you all in.

Why am I opening the door? I am opening the door so you needn’t guess around at what’s inside. I am declaring boldly that the place is slightly amiss with perhaps some decoration you may come to appreciate, so that now it is not a question of what’s inside but rather whether you like it enough to stay or not. I am not suggesting you leave, but I am not forcing you to stay. I am opening the door because I want to simply be before you, allowing you to tread beside me or pass me as is best for you.

Friends, enemies, strangers, acquaintances, I am an awful person with an awesome God. I am an unfaithful and thoughtless teen, loving and pursuing a faithful and all-knowing God. I am broken, but here my God and I are one: I have broken and so has He. I am made new and He is ever new. I have borne the pain of rejection, temptation, betrayal, and loss. So has He. Still, He is rich and consistent, though spontaneous, and I am merely a bunch of emotions in a blender, waiting to see which emerges strongest. I ought not follow such emotions, but I am a human like you. I am young, like you. And here I rest my case, that as imperfect as I may be, I see a God who is Perfect who lives His life in me for His expression.

I cannot write words anymore on my own. I don’t know quite what that sentence will mean, but I simply cannot. This battle has raged, this war has been fought, and I stand in the center of the battlefield, faced with the choice of who wins. Will I allow the Lord who bled and died for me and for all I love and see to have His way? Who conquered death and lives within my heart? Who is eternal, the true Author who gives any of the meaning my life holds to me? Or shall I choose the selfish creature Satan, the vain angel that only sought his own welfare and kills without mercy, who will die in the lake of fire and simply seeks to steal all I have and all I could have from me? Friends, I can make no other choice but to declare that my God will win. But for me to cross the battlefield and reach His throne where I will lay my pen and my heart, I must be stripped. I must admit that I have forsaken promises to complete tasks. I have spoken harshly and hurt, whether or not you admitted it. I have acted quickly by my own inspiration and started things I could not complete. My yes did not always remain yes and my no was often not a strong no. But today, it is all “amen.”

Will I be perfect from now on? No, I will not. Will I continue to live my life, occasionally a fool and occasionally wise and occasionally somewhere in between? Indeed. The scars will not leave. The hope will not leave. The pieces of my soul will not change, at least not before your eyes. But here I am, peeling off the mask, stepping out of the armor, slowing my watch, and raising my hands up in praise to Christ Jesus my Lord, King of the Universe and all that ever was and will be. I am opening myself to be a safe place for you and for all I know. I am opening myself to say that I’m broken and that I do not know nor have answers. I am pointing to the heavens.

After today, I shall remain the same. But perhaps after today, you shall no longer see the girl you once saw. Perhaps after today, Jesus alone will reign in my heart and perhaps He shall reign in yours. Or perhaps not, though I pray towards each end.

Dear warriors, I don’t know what tomorrow may hold. I don’t know if I will post, forget, or simply become unable. I don’t know if the Lord will one day take my pen and my blog away, or if I will forever use my pen as my sword to overcome His enemy. I don’t know what He has in store except that His will is perfect, and I want to be willing to give all to remain in His will. I know what may be good, but I am not always good. Instead, I seek His righteousness, which may not seem good in the darkened world. Whether 10, 100, or 10,000 hear my voice, I want to stand firm for Jesus is my Lord and King. I want to be able to follow His leading to the cross, whether that cross takes my words or my life. I want Him to be my faith, my speech, my walk, and my living. I want Christ to be everything to me and the Church to be my goal and aim, as it is His.

I am a human and that is all I profess to be. I am imperfect, and that is what I confess to be. But Jesus is Lord. And so I bow my knee.

Part of my goal in sharing this is to really learn what you all want and need from me. What posts might you like? What kinds of things might Words expand to reach so it can serve you best? What questions do you have for me, for the Q&A or for a more urgent reason? Please let me know, warriors, for the battle is not won in anything by one man. It requires an army.

[NoNo] Keeping Commitments During NaNoWriMo

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! How is everyone doing on their projects? Mine’s going well so far! This post is all about commitments, which ones to keep, and how to keep them during NaNoWriMo. Today’s post follows up Tuesday’s post on Burnout, so you might want to check it out here. Let’s dive in!

Reasonable and Unreasonable NaNoWriMo Commitments

During any especially busy time in your life, commitments should be sorted into three categories:

  • My priorities
  • Most important in general
  • Not that important

This system helps you select the commitments that matter to you personally as well as those that you can’t get away with not keeping. But there are also things you’re asked to do that you can easily say no to if you don’t think there’s room at the bottom of the list and it isn’t qualified to go at the top. When you’re sorting your commitments, try to list them all out (in a short answer, not broken down first) with their categories, like this (This is my personal list right now!):

  • My priorities
    • Writing 50k this month
    • Posting every day but Wednesdays and Sundays
    • Taking care of myself in the process
    • Read the Bible and spend time with the Lord.
  • Most important in general
    • School
    • Chores
    • Work
    • Family time
  • Not that important
    • Music practice – not important this month
    • Planning future events – don’t burn out!
    • Making covers for other people
    • Photography

This system helps to lay out a foundation for what needs done. Then you can split them up into individual lists, if this will help you. For some people, this won’t help at all, but for others, it’s amazing. Here’s how I do that:

List 1: My priorities

  • Writing 50k this month
    • Write 1667 words every day possible and extra on super free days
  • Posting every day but Wednesdays and Sundays
    • Try to write posts on free Wednesdays and Sundays but mostly use those times for other goals
  • Taking care of myself in the process
    • Remember to sleep, shower, eat, drink water, and get up and move. Read books too!
  • Read the Bible and spend time with the Lord.
    • Catch up on Bible reading
    • Do morning devotionals when possible
    • Pray every morning and night AT LEAST. Try to stay in touch all day (by His mercy, not my strength)
    • Listen to a testimony or Bible reading before bed every night

When I look at this list, I can see that my relationship with the Lord should be taking up a good amount of time and it helps me figure out just how much time I need for each thing.

List 2: Most important in general

  • School
    • One lesson a day (or more) in math
    • English class work
    • Get back into Spanish
    • Keep up with philosophy homework
    • Keep up with history homework
  • Chores
    • Clean room weekly
    • Keep up with laundry
    • Do house chores daily and weekly
  • Work
    • Clean client 1’s house once
    • Clean client 2’s house twice
  • Family time
    • Spend time with siblings
    • Spend time with parents
    • Help out with meals
    • Don’t forget your church family!

I’ll be referencing this list the most because these are my commitments to people that have a cost.

List 3: Not that important

  • Music practice – not important this month
    • Play guitar/uke on the worst days only because it helps
    • Bring guitar, not uke, to youth group
  • Planning future events – don’t burn out!
    • Continue research on college requirements and print out on a free day
    • Look into [redacted secret blog plans] for 500 followers in a few years
  • Making covers for other people
  • Photography
    • Only when on quick breaks between sprints and school to calm down

These lists together will help me to keep track of all the things I need to get done in the month. I can make similar lists each day, but setting limits on the number of items I can include and working to estimate how much time each thing will take to maximize my time will also be useful. Today, for example, I made a minimal to-do list without the categories. I’ve also used a to-do list template from Canva.

But How Do I Keep Commitments When I Waste Time?

Let me have a moment of honesty: today hasn’t been a good day. I’m severely behind on several things. But I have a plan to get it done. Here’s what I’m doing to make up for lost time:

  1. I found the least important tasks and x’d them off. I only allowed myself to mark off small ones that could be done in a little bit, like dusting and my ACT practice that’s due Wednesday.
  2. I’m running a timer (one that’s loud, so everyone in the house hears them go off. This will keep me accountable
  3. I’m taking breaks, even when I don’t think I deserve them because you know what? It’s ok, so long as it’s very short.
  4. I’m doing things to make me feel better able to focus while I work, such as drinking water and getting up and moving every now and then.
  5. I’m doing fun things and not fun things back and forth so that my brain doesn’t get too angry at me
  6. I’m going to block YouTube and other distractions so I can’t waste any more time.

These 6 things should help me to improve how I use my time tonight and they should help you when you get behind, too. Remember, a tired brain can’t function even if it doesn’t have logical or obvious reasons to be tired. Taking care of yourself matters.

Quick reminder before the outro, I’m hosting a Q&A! Remember to submit your questions in either the comments or on my contact page! They don’t just have to be about the topic of writing, either! Any question you’d like to ask me, I’ll be open to answering, although I may not answer every question.

Well, that’s all for today, warriors! How are your projects going? What are your top priorities this month? Let me know in the comments!

[NoNo] Weekly Help #1: Calm and Steady

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! I hope you’ve been enjoying the posts! I know it was a surprise that I was planning on cutting back and I know the last post wasn’t my absolute best work, but hopefully we should be getting back into it! Today I have a collection of inspiration and motivation. Let’s dive in!

Playlist of the week: Lofi for focus! It’s easy to be distracted with nerves and excitement at the beginning, but it’s time to get writing!

Sprint of the week: Sprint for Focus

Void Snippet 1: Library

A cold breeze nearly blew me off my feet as I neared the conical building. I pulled my coat tighter around me and pressed the button to open the door. The panel of glass beside the button moved backwards and to the side, letting the warmth of the library thaw my face as I stepped inside. There weren’t many places I liked in this country and there were many things I didn’t like about the government, but when I ignored the heavy censorship on books, the library quickly reached the top of my favorite places list. The door slid shut behind me as the scent of coffee and the sounds of machines whirring and pages turning flooded my senses. I almost smiled, but my test still loomed ahead, so I passed the small cafe at the front of the building and hurried towards the shelves of books on basic medicine. I passed the first three selves and scanned the fourth for a moment before pulling out books on the heart and the brain. I didn’t know exactly what would be on my anatomy test, but I couldn’t afford one more bad grade. If I couldn’t get an A this time, there was a good chance the government would reconsider their choice to put me in college as a pre-med biology major, and I was lucky I even got the major and college I wanted as an option. After I collected four or five thick books, I spotted an empty clear cubicle and went inside. Throwing down my books and my backpack, I opened myself to the study of the cerebrum and the cerebellum, the atrias and the ventricles. But the tiredness hit as soon as I was still. I sighed. Maybe skipping coffee was a bad idea.

Quotes: Getting Started

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

Jack London

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

Terry Pratchett

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

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

Word of help: Growth

Allowing yourself to add in 200 words to your total on NaNoWriMo long before you’re done writing is encouraging because you get to watch your word count slowly grow. You can see your total slowly drift from 100 to 3,000, from 3,000 to 40,000. Utilizing the stats section of your NaNoWriMo profile is also so helpful for tracking your progress because it helps you see how much is left in one day of work and what you’ve done over the past few days. Make sure to cheer for every badge you get because it’s a milestone in the challenge. You can do this! It takes little steps but your story will be a novel before you know what’s happened! Celebrate every step and relish in the little bits of growth. Without them, you won’t get where you want to go. They’re worth it.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’ll be doing these every Thursday until the end of NaNoWriMo. (Yes, Void is my current WIP! I cut out spoilers and will do so until the end of NaNoWriMo… although we’ll see when and what we end up doing with the book.) What features did you enjoy? How are your WIP’s going? Let me know in the comments!

[NoNo] Avoiding Burnout and Writing Consistently

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! Happy NaNoWriMo! I can’t believe it’s November already, but here we are, and I have some news and my best tips for healthy consistency today. Let’s dive in!

(Quick note to my followers: thank you so much! You guys brought me to 100 followers and I’m so grateful that even 100 people in this big world read my words. I can’t wait to see where this blog takes me, but it’s already taken me somewhere I’ve never gone before. You guys are the reason I keep posting. Thank you!)

What is Healthy Consistency?

In my opinion, healthy consistency only pushes you to write something each day. Healthy consistency does not demand that you push to write a certain amount that’s hard for you every day. You can either write beyond normal or write every day, and every day helps you expand your capacity more quickly. Trying to do both is setting yourself up for burn out and is not healthy.

How do I Remain Consistent?

Consistency is the habit of doing the same thing in a similar way regularly. For some, that means writing at least two sentences a day. For some, that means writing 200 words a day. For some, that means 1,667 words a day. But it’s not the same for everyone. Consistency also sets a standard but you do not have to meet it constantly. That’s the benefit of being a writer, especially an unpublished one. You have room to take breaks, breathe, and just chill. You have room to slow down. Here are my best consistency tips:

  • Start small. If you demand your brain to write 1,000 words, you’ll give up quickly. But if you set it at 200 and consistently reach that, you’ll feel happier and inspired to try even more. Then you can work to 250, then 300 and so on.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. Remember, no matter how many words you write, they’re meant to be read. If you want readers, it needs to be at least a little fun to write and it needs to be your best work.
  • Find accountability partners! Here on Words, we’re happy to do that for you! Just comment that you want someone to see if you comment each day or respond to someone who’s commented offering to keep them accountable in exchange for accountability for yourself. And if the idea of swapping word counts sounds terrifying, just know it will push you to just write something.
    • Write with others. Sprinting is so helpful because it keeps you accountable! This can also easily turn competitive, which is good for some people but not for others. Make it clear whether or not it’s a competition before you start.
  • Set aside the time. Whether you write at 4 every day or after lunch or for one hour, setting aside some time specifically to write is so helpful in making sure you do it!
    • Set an alarm for writing. Just like the above, setting the time aside with an alarm you can’t ignore is helpful for making sure you don’t forget it.

How do I Avoid Burn Out?

Burn out is a state of exhaustion and lack of inspiration. Though you don’t need inspiration to write, you do need at least some energy and as important as words are, they’re rarely the most important thing. Some days you just won’t be able to write because of life. But sometimes we push ourselves too far. How do we prevent that?

  • Take care of your health. Exercise, drinking water, eating healthy foods, and sleeping enough are great ways to keep yourself at your best.
    • Walks are the best for figuring out plot holes because you’re moving and not having to focus on anything but going forward. Going outside can also help clear your mind.
  • Block YouTube and other distractions. Distractions drain your energy so you don’t feel able to get the words down. If you’re able, block them!
  • Go somewhere inspiring. If you feel most inspired in your back yard or in your bedroom or a certain Starbucks, go there when possible to write. Doing this often also sends the message to your brain that it’s time to write when you go there. Don’t write in your bed or where you eat if possible.
  • Know when to stop. It can be hard to break a promise or stop a challenge you’ve set for yourself, but your readers, friends, and family prefer your best you to your barely-hanging-on you. If you have to take a break, do it.
  • Read and listen to music. The things that get your brain thinking or your heart feeling and not just doing nothing can help you feel motivated to write words!
  • Clean your room. I know it sounds crazy, but cleaning your room and putting on clothes you’d actually go to a job in helps your brain to feel serious and think clearly.

Now, I speak these words to myself. I have a tendency to overbook myself and expect too much from myself… like, for example, posting every day while doing NaNoWriMo and doing high school work. It’s a crazy commitment, but one I still want to keep. So here’s the new and improved plan:

  • I will still do the posts I listed yesterday and link to the page where you can find previous posts, though again, they may take a little while.
  • I will no longer include a schedule.
  • I will not post on Wednesday or Sunday. Those two days are busy days and it’s unrealistic to post on those days every week for a month while doing everything else.
  • I will still share tips, guest posts, playlists, and sprints (the first of those is coming up next week!)
  • Posts may include more lists, which are easier to read and easier to write for me.
  • There may be a few lifestyle posts inspired by NaNoWriMo thrown into the mix of posts.
  • There will still be the Q&A! Remember to comment any Q&A questions for me to answer or to send them through my contact page!

Hopefully this arrangement will help both me and you to not be overwhelmed by The Novelist’s November and hopefully creating content will be easier and more fun again. I don’t do promises well and one thing I’ll be resolving to do in the new year is to make less of them. That’s starting now.

Meanwhile, how did writing go today? Was it fun to start your book? What’s your favorite thing about your book so far? And what tip above what your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

[NoNo] Writing Mental Health Topics (Guest Post ft. Anna Pearl)

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! We’re kicking off this week with a guest post by one of my best friends on a topic many of us have thought about: Should we write mental health topics? And how should we do it?

Let’s dive in!

Writing is always a tough thing, but some things make it an even harder mountain to climb. When you feel like you’re dragging yourself through each chapter, it can make you wonder, “Why am I even doing this?” Adding mental health topics into your writing can be one of the hard things you may find yourself struggling with.

We insert mental health into our writing for many reasons: To relate to others, to address problems we see, to process what we’re going through, or even to add an extra dynamic to a piece of writing. And these are all great! But we have to be careful about how we do it; otherwise, we might address the issue incorrectly.

Whether you’re a fiction writer or a non-fiction writer, this issue is important to you. Why? Because even in fiction, the reader needs to relate to what you’re addressing. If you’re talking about anxiety and someone with anxiety can’t connect the story with their lives, then how are they going to sympathize with the character?

How can you get people to sympathize with your characters? How are you supposed to be authentic and realistic about your mental health portrayal?

Unfortunately, you have to do research, just like with everything else. But this kind of research, depending on what kind of person you are, might be a bit fun.

What I like to do is find a friend who doesn’t mind talking with me about what it’s like to have anxiety, to have depression, or even just to be normal. And then I compare those experiences to other experiences I’ve heard of people adding. The results I’ve gotten have been eye-opening. The key to this approach is to ask your questions respectfully and gently. After all, they’re doing this to help you.

Of course, then there’s the not-so-fun research—the stuff where you actually have to go on Google or whatever web browser you use and look stuff up. The details you need aren’t going to be things that your friend may know to tell you about. Sure, they can tell you what a panic attack is like, but can they tell you what someone else might experience in a panic attack? No. You need a variety of resources and a variety of experiences because no person is going to be exactly like your friend. And no person is going to have the words for everything about their condition. One person might know how to explain their anxiety; another might know how to explain depression; another still might know how to explain their dissociation and why they do it. None of these people can do all three, and maybe someone out there can, but the point is, you need an array of sources.

Researching is, in my opinion, the most important work you can do as a writer. Some people would say it’s the writing, but you can’t portray things unless you’ve learned how they work, whether through your own experience or through online research.

Once you do have the research, though, you can put together a piece that is really meaningful. Your character can defy the odds stacked against them, surpass challenges, and learn who they are just like in normal situations like you may see, but they’re special in their own way.

One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that addressing mental health topics isn’t for everyone. Some of us who go through mental health struggles aren’t going to be able to talk about those in writing in a healthy way, and that’s okay! Someone who doesn’t struggle with mental health issues might want to process some things that have happened to a friend, or they want an outlet to learn through, so they may write a story about a mental health topic. Others might want to reflect on their own mental health journey, so they’ll write something similar to a memoir. Or perhaps they’ll write a poem to encapsulate the feelings that were provoked in them when they heard about someone going through such a hard time.

In the end, the moral of the story is: You have to figure out what’s right for you.

Let’s compare some pros and cons of writing with mental health issues, starting with the pros!

  • You might make a difference in someone’s life–whether big or small
  • You might bring clarity to a struggling person!
  • You can work through your own mental health journey
  • You can illustrate your knowledge of mental health topics via a character

There are just as many cons, however, excluding the ones not mentioned, which may hold more weight than the pros. Again, it all depends on who you are and how determined you are to embark on such a hard and grueling journey.

  • You might offend someone who doesn’t relate to your characters but has the condition you were trying to portray
  • You might convey it in a way that seems to just “spice up the story,” not actually work through the issue
  • You may portray it wrong entirely!
  • You may touch on a controversial issue within the sub-community of a certain mental health topic

In the end, it all depends on why you want to add mental health conditions to your writing. Do you want to “spice it up”? Or do you want to genuinely connect and work through issues that real-life people deal with? If your answer is the former, I’d recommend you think through things a bit more. Mental health issues are a serious thing that people struggle through each and every day. Anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, confusion, “mirages” such as delusions and hallucinations… We may not know who to trust, and sometimes, we turn to books about people like us to learn and feel like we aren’t alone. Are you ready to be that person we try to trust?

We need ready people who will support mental health writing, but we need you to portray it well. We need to be able to trust you to understand us. Can you dedicate that time and energy to learning who we are?

I want to note something else that’s really important, too. Mental health writing can be so powerful when done correctly. It can literally change people’s lives and alter the way they view certain struggles. It can give people hope when they thought there was none left.

The key is to write with intentionality and forethought. Don’t go into things haphazardly, assuming that you can do it. Try your best, put your all into it, and try to honor those who struggle with what you’re portraying.

Most of all, be compassionate; mental health warriors are people just like you.

Anna Pearl is a teen writer who struggles with a couple different mental health conditions. She loves frogs, writing, and helping others.

That really helped me a lot! I hope it helped you, too! As for this week’s schedule, here you go!

  • Writing Mental Health Topics (Guest Post by Anna Pearl)
  • Avoiding Burn Out and Writing Consistently
  • NaNoWriMo Playlist #1
  • Avoiding Writers Block
  • Character Tips with Gary D. Schmidt
  • Weekly Check-In #1
  • Keeping Commitments During NaNoWriMo

If you missed last week, here’s where you can find all of those posts! If you want to keep up, make sure to follow!

I also have some news! Towards the end of the month, I’ll be answering your writing questions. If you have a question you want answered, make sure to comment below and tell me what it is. There’s no limit to how many you can ask, just what you can come up with!

What did you learn from this? What mental health topics are you including in your book? Let us know in the comments!

[NoNo: Preptober] Outlining Interview with Diamond

Hey warriors! Welcome to the last day of Preptober in The Novelist’s November! Today’s post is a co-interview with Diamond from I Have 12% Of a Plan over outlining. Let’s dive in!

Questions for Diamond

K: How much outlining do you typically do?

D: Not a ton. The process normally takes me less than a month, and I’m usually still working on my last WIP. I tend to be more of a pantser, so there’s a lot I find out after I start drafting.

K: What method of outlining do you use?

D: I’m fond of the Save the Cat! Process. I use the book by Jessica Brody. This one utilizes the three act structure and has different story beats like “All is Lost” or “Fun and Games.” Then I just fill in the various story beats with what needs to happen in the story.

K: What is the best outlining tip you’ve heard?

D: You have to know your characters before you can know the plot. Once you know your characters, then you can know how they’d react to certain situations. Also, everyone’s outlining process is different, so don’t compare your process to others’ too much!

K: When did you write your first outline and why?

D: Umm, probably with my first novel attempt Vivantir, which I eventually abandoned. It didn’t work, so my first real outline was for my novel Betrayal of Thorns. I made the outline because I was frustrated that I’d never actually seen a draft through to completion. When I used the Save the Cat! Process…it actually worked! I finished a draft, and I was so proud of myself for that.

Questions for Kaley

D: What is your preferred outlining method?

K: I typically write a chapter-by-chapter list with a brief summary of what happens in each, with one sentence or two to describe each chapter. I found a video by Ana Neu (I believe…) where she used the table feature of Google docs to put the chapter number and summary side by side and everything clearly separated. I’m using that method this year. My outlining process is the one that’s changed least over time.

D: How long does outlining take you?

K: Outlining after a loose plot is super easy for me, so the most it usually takes is an hour. I usually take 15 minutes to 30 minutes if I’ve thoroughly planned everything else first. Outlining doesn’t need to take forever to be done right!

D: Do you ever have to come back to the outlining process after you’ve started drafting?

K: Outlines always change for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book where plot twists didn’t just happen for the reader- they happen for me too. For example, I might be writing a scene where they break their friends out of prison. I go in knowing that that’s the outcome, but usually I’m not sure what happens to get there and the action can easily change what action comes next. Characters have surprising back stories and act on a whim a little more than I ever plan for. But hey, that’s what makes them feel alive, even to me. It’s their story, not mine.

D: How many words would you say your outlining document is for a typical novel?

K: Oof, that’s hard. It depends on the novel and whether or not world building is involved. For example, marking where world building is needed takes more words than just saying “the popular girls show up.” We already know what this world is like. I don’t need to clarify for myself that it happens in a hallway because it’s an easy concept to remember. But mine are fairly short…. I think the max is probably 5,000 words so far. I feel like the character’s mom, making an agenda and knowing they’re going to be late or forget their shoes or something random will come up. So I leave plenty of wiggle room.

I hope this post was helpful! Thank you so much, Diamond, for doing this post with me! If you want to see the posts from this week, here are all the links. Follow to see next week’s!

What outlining method do you use? How long is your outline? Let us know in the comments!

[NoNo: Preptober] 7 World Building Tips and Resources

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! Today we’re diving into world building, and this will be about where posts start getting a little shorter. In order to give you all the best quality with little time required on either end, the posts will be shorter from about here on out. Still, I hope you enjoy them! Let’s dive in.

What is world building?

World building is the act of creating a world for your story to take place in. Typically this is associated with fantasy, dystopian, science fiction, and other genres where the world is different than ours, but even realistic fiction requires some level of world building. You need to know things about the area of the world you’ve chosen and will probably want to research, even if it’s your own home town. This post will help you to improve your world building.

1. Step into it

Think about what aspects of your world always affect you, such as laws that keep you safe, the food you eat, the places you go, and the weather. Think about the questions you’d ask if you woke up in this strange world. What would you ask first? Second? What would you probably learn after a month with your main character? These questions give you both a connection to the main character and to the world.

2. Use Story Embers

The Story Embers world building questionnaire is amazing! It was the basis of mine and is in some ways more thorough and also better explained. I did remove parts for my template when I was combining it with another, so I would still recommend checking it out!

3. Read!

Read as much fiction with fantastic world building as you can, such as The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Harry Potter. This tip doesn’t apply during NaNoWriMo when you’ll want to write your own concepts, but when you aren’t writing as solidly, reading is a powerful way to learn world building.

4. Ask Others

Have people interview you about your world! We already discussed how you can connect to your world, but what would your readers want to know? Ask others! You can do that in my chat room page or here in the comment section!

5. Read the Bible

The Bible is the first book with world building because the Bible tells of the real world coming into being. It has detailed descriptions of buildings, a thorough law, lists of all the types of things God created, and so much more. If you ever get lost, open to Genesis or Leviticus. Still, be careful. The Bible should be a book of life and you need to come with a desire for God, too. Otherwise it will be letters that kill

6. Make a map

Making a map is really good for figuring out how long it takes to get from one place to another or where the sun is if your characters are on a journey. It can also help you and your reader think of it as a real place because it gives a visual picture of the country! I find maps to be fun and helpful.

7. Use my template

Use my world building template if you aren’t sure where to start! I’ve compiled absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about your world. Here’s the link to the post with all my templates!

I hope this post is helpful! Here’s the schedule for this week:

What’s your favorite tip or resource? What’s your world like? Let me know in the comments!