[NoNo: Preptober] Preface+ My NaNoWriMo Experience

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words. Or, should I say, welcome to A Novelist’s November, my NaNoWriMo series! Today’s post is an introduction to what you can expect this next month (and why I’m starting a week early) as well as my own personal NaNoWriMo experience. Let’s dive in!

What Is NaNoWriMo? (And What’s it Like?)

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. In short, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. But it’s even more than that. It’s also a world-wide time set aside for writers to write. It’s a time to grow as writers. It’s a website to help you achieve your writing goals with others. It’s a connection from one writer to another. NaNoWriMo is a pause button for anyone who signs up, challenging them to just plain write. 

I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year. I’d done Crazy Writing Week and joined The Young Writers Workshop, but I’d never tried such a daunting dare. My first thought was that there was no way I’d make it. My second thought was that it was easy. You’re asked to write 1,667 words a day, which didn’t seem like that much to me. At that time, that was the equivalent of one and a half solid hours a day, which didn’t feel too hard when I was excited. But as time went on and my writer’s block hit, I realized that I was struggling. Toward the end, I had days I didn’t write much or wrote nothing at all. I lowered my goal from 50,000 to 40,000 and spent 6 hours on the last day to wrote 6,000+ words, the most I’d ever written in one day. I’m a homeschool student, which means I have more time more often than most people. But life was still full. I had to help my family prepare for thanksgiving and, at the end of the month, help my family put up my Granny’s Christmas decorations. I had days that school lasted longer than I wanted it to and days when things kept me from writing. The first or second day of November, a friend came over and that was a few hours where I couldn’t write. So no. It isn’t easy. But is it worth it?

Before NaNoWriMo, my record for one day was about 2,000 words. In fact, my record for a week was probably around 10,000, and that was for Crazy Writing Week. After NaNoWriMo, I had written 40,000 words in a month, with a new record of 6,000 words in one day. Before NaNoWriMo, I’d let one project consume all my time and hadn’t given thought to others in a while. NaNoWriMo shifted my focus so that I created a whole new idea, plot, and characters in the last week of October and wrote nearly a complete novel for the first time… in one month. Before NaNoWriMo, I didn’t know how to push through writer’s block. During NaNoWriMo, I had no other choice but to learn. NaNoWriMo is the second best thing I ever did for my writing, right after joining The Young Writer’s Workshop. The Young Writer’s Workshop was definitely what gave me the skills to do what I did, but now I’m going to share some of those important skills with you this month (although I’m not The Young Writer’s Workshop. Go check it out!)! And that brings me to my next point….

What is The Novelist’s November? 

The Novelist’s November, which I’ve affectionately nicknamed NoNo, is a compilation of posts on every topic a writer could need during NaNoWriMo. I’m going to be sharing fairly short, to-the-point posts with most important information in bold and tips in italics every day from today to November 30th. Here’s some of what you can expect from The Novelist’s November:

  • The week’s posts schedule at the end of each post
  • Weekly playlists designed to motivate and encourage, if not inspire, mixed with short pep talks and/or snippets of my writing
  • Resources and ideas to help you work smarter and better
  • Guest posts and interviews
  • Weekly check-ins to discuss our projects and ideas as well as what we’re learning
  • Blog party sprints (one on November 11th and one on November 24th. Times will come those weeks)
  • A Q&A (You’ll have two+ weeks to submit questions before I answer them the final full week)
  • And so much more!

All of the posts for The Novelist’s November will be found here, under NaNoWriMo. I hope each post’s comment section would be a community where we don’t just talk to me and talk about what I have to say but more importantly about the stories you have to tell. I’m not doing this for me; I’m doing this for you writers.

I have almost all of the posts written in advance, but I also am doing NaNoWriMo, so if two posts are swapped because the scheduled one isn’t finished, I apologize. Still, I will cover every topic I tell you I will at some point because I want to make sure you have the best NaNoWriMo experience ever. 

But it’s still October, so why am I starting now? This last week of October is the final week of Preptober, the month of NaNoWriMo preparation. Here’s the schedule for this week, with today’s post in italics:

  • Preface + My NaNoWriMo Experience
  • My Top 15 Tools for During NaNoWriMo
  • Writing Powerful Themes
  • Character Tips with Gary D. Schmidt
  • Plotting with Kara Swanson
  • 7 World Building Tips and Resources
  • Outlining (and Why it Works)

I can’t wait to go on this journey with you and I hope it will be as fun for you as it is for me! Make sure to share this post with any friends who are doing NaNoWriMo! Please reblog if you have a writing blog so others can get access to all I have to offer! Who all is doing NaNoWriMo? What will you be working on? Let me know in the comments!


The Star That Always Stays: Author Interview with Anna Rose Johnson

Hey warriors! Happy 4th of July! I have a special post today! I have an author interview for you and a challenge for you all! Let’s dive in!

About the Book

Image from Amazon

Anna Rose Johnson is the author of The Star That Always Stay. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Growing up on Beaver Island, Grand-père told Norvia stories—stories about her ancestor Migizi, about Biboonke-o-nini the Wintermaker, about the Crane Clan and the Reindeer Clan. He sang her songs in the old language, and her grandmothers taught her to make story quilts and maple candy. On the island, Norvia was proud of her Ojibwe heritage.

Things are different in the city. Here, Norvia’s mother forces her to pretend she’s not Native at all—even to Mr. Ward, Ma’s new husband, and to Vernon, Norvia’s irritating new stepbrother. In fact, there are a lot of changes in the city: ten-cent movies, gleaming soda shops, speedy automobiles, ninth grade. It’s dizzying for a girl who grew up on the forested shores of Lake Michigan.

Despite the move, the upheaval, and the looming threat of world war, Norvia and her siblings—all five of them—are determined to make 1914 their best year ever. Norvia is certain that her future depends upon it… and upon her discretion.

But how can she have the best year ever if she has to hide who she truly is?

Sensitive, enthralling, and classic in sensibility (perfect for Anne of Green Gables fans), this tender coming-of-age story about an introspective and brilliant Native American heroine thoughtfully addresses assimilation, racism, and divorce, as well as everygirl problems like first crushes, making friends, and the joys and pains of a blended family. Often funny, often heartbreaking, The Star That Always Stays is a fresh and vivid story directly inspired by Anna Rose Johnson’s family history.

It’s being published through Holiday House on July 12th, and the audiobook will be released August 23rd. Here’s what reviewers have had to say:

“Inspired by the author’s family history, this gentle novel nimbly and tenderly confronts topics including prejudice, the challenge of blending families, young love, and staying true to oneself.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“[An] introspective, unhurried debut, filled with personal touches. . . .”

—Publishers Weekly

This book isn’t a small accomplishment; it’s a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, which, if you don’t know what that means, sets her up for more potential awards. A huge percentage of JLG Gold Standard Selections win incredible awards and do amazing things. As an author, I also want to reach this point. So I reached out to Anna, and to my great delight, she agreed to this interview about the writing process and inspiration behind the book! My questions are in bold and her answers are in plain text.

The Interview

Where did the idea for this book come from? I got the idea when I was doing genealogy research, and I realized that my great-grandmother’s childhood might make an interesting middle grade novel.

How much planning did you do? How long did it take? Initially, I researched and planned the book for about a week before I started writing, and I completed the first draft during NaNoWriMo in 2014. But when I rewrote the manuscript pretty much from scratch in 2018, I had been planning the rewrite for over six months.

How long did it take to write? The totally rewritten manuscript took about three and a half months to draft, but the revisions took much longer!

What was the hardest part to write? (If you can’t tell us without spoiling, that’s ok 😉) Probably the beginning, since it was difficult to decide where to start the story. I rewrote the opening many, many times before I got it right.

Where there any surprises in writing it? Several times while I was writing the book, I would include a detail that seemed somewhat extraneous, but I would leave it in because it felt right. Later, that detail would become part of an important plot thread, so those were some fun surprises!

When did you think it would be published? I wasn’t really thinking about publication with this book for a long time, not until I began the third draft and I knew that I’d found just the right voice for the story—everything started to click then. I began seriously querying agents once that third draft was complete, and about six months later I signed with my agent. The book deal came a couple of years later!

What is the biggest advice you’d give a writer dreaming of doing what you’re doing? My absolute biggest advice would be to persevere through as many edit rounds as it takes to make the book perfect, and to try to trust God’s timing throughout the process.

How do you think you reached this point? I was definitely blessed by a supportive family and amazing help from my mentors, Brett Harris and Kara Swanson at the Author Conservatory. So many people played a role in helping me to write and publish this book, especially my agent and editor, and I’m so grateful to them!

How did you feel when you got your JLG Gold Standard Selection? I was stunned, and at first I didn’t know if I was reading it correctly! I was so full of joy and shock, it was a delightful day.

What are you most excited for? I’m thrilled for the book’s release day on July 12th, and I’m *very* excited for the audiobook’s release on August 23rd. I love audiobooks and can’t wait to listen to my own story!

What are you planning to do next? I’m currently working on a couple of other novels, but they have to remain secret for now. 🙂

Tell us about the book! Not just the blurb, but the passion behind it! I’m very passionate about this book, because as I mentioned, the main character was inspired by my great-grandmother. That has given this process an extremely special element. It’s also my desire to give families wonderful new books to read that remind them of old favorites like Anne of Green Gables or Little Women.

About the Author

I’m so glad she agreed to doing this interview; her answers were really fascinating and helpful! Here’s a little more about Anna:

Anna Rose Johnson is a journalist, blogger, and seasoned correspondent for Inside Gymnastics. Anna is passionate about historical fiction, the Native experience, and writing for children. She is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe; The Star That Always Stays is directly based on her great-grandmother. Find her at annarosejohnson.com.

A Challenge

Remember how I said I had a challenge for you all? I have a bit of a favor to ask, in exchange for a cool opportunity!

Because Anna is a part of my writing community, we want her to do extremely well! We hope that even people who don’t buy the book can read it, so here’s the challenge: See how many library requests for The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson you can make happen by June 12! (If you don’t know how to request a book, you can usually talk to a librarian or contact the library through their website.) You can request it in multiple formats at your local library, convince a friend to request it, get a family member to request it, or post about it and get others to request it. Every request in every format you make happen is five points! The person with the most points by July 12 gets a prize

Okay I’ll stop because this post is long. 😂 The person with the most points wins an interview with me over any topic they’re passionate about! I could be raising excitement over your book, promoting your blog, promoting a cause you love, or anything you want!

Of course, even if you don’t choose to take up the challenge, I suggest you preorder the book now from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (though there are other places you can get it, too). Be part of the reason this book is able to touch others! Trust me, it’s worth it!

Are you planning on requesting the book? Was this interview helpful? Are you as excited for this book as I am? Let me know in the comments!

Summer Reading Challenges To Try

Hey, friends! Welcome or welcome back to Words! As we enter into the summer, people my age and younger have more time and are starting to think about what to do with it. Meanwhile adults see the fun kids are having and, even though most are working, embrace the nostalgia, fun, and sun this season brings. If you’re looking for reading challenges for the summer, here’s a few I came up with! I’m doing two of them. Let’s dive in!

Two Books a Month

You know that one friend or family member who always has a list of books you should read? And you know how you normally have a few books for them? This is the challenge for the both of you! For this challenge, you and a friend swap a list of six-eight books and, over the summer, you each read two a month. This really helps knock out a little of that TBR and forces you and your friend or family member to chose which books are really the highest priority. My sister and I are on our second summer of doing this!

The Sequoyah Master List

As some of you may know, this next year’s Sequoyah master lists are out. I’m planning on reading through the children’s list later this year. This list isn’t extremely long but it has several fresh books worth reading. I don’t know what’s on the teen or adult list, though; you may want to research the content of the books.

Out of Your Genre

If you spend most of your time in a certain genre, you may want to try something different for the summer. For this challenge you choose a genre you normally wouldn’t read and find a number of books in the genre. This doesn’t sound hard but it can be! I read certain books much slower than others.

Family Book Club

If you and your siblings are around the same age, a fun option could be a summer book club. Everyone would pick a book they’d like to read and over the summer everyone would have to read all the chosen books. If you wanted to make it harder you could allow everyone to chose two. I think this challenge could be extremely interesting and a cool way to get to know your siblings better, even if you’re busy or have different schedules.

Other’s Choice

If you don’t have the one friend needed for the two books a month challenge but would love to do it, that’s ok! You can ask multiple people to give you one must-read book and organize your reading the same way. Ask people you don’t talk to as much, such as someone online you know or a librarian. This way you get a lot of variety and fun surprises!

Through a Library Section

This one is the most ambitious challenge: most libraries are divided into sections and, a month or two ago, I decided I’d read through one. I chose the children’s section. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m reading every book in the section, but I’m slowly reading through every title and as many summaries as possible. Then I choose the ones that interest me most. This is more organized browsing and so much more in-depth. I’ve found several books I wouldn’t have normally seen.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for the summer, I’m working on my reading list page. You can find my favorites and recent reads, as well as short reviews and content warnings. I’m going to be updating it often. Note, it’s still in progress and started recently. I’m still working on it. If you have suggestions for me, you can comment or reach out through my contact page.

Thank you for reading! What challenges are you doing this summer? Are you going to try any of mine? Let me know in the comments!