12 Tips For National Novel Writing Month Writers

12 Tips For National Novel Writing Month Writers

If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, you're the best kind of crazy.

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Writers collectively look forward to and dread the month of November. It is affectionately known as National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo). The goal of this program is to write a novel in a month that is at least 50,000 words long (1,667 words per day). It's absolutely insane and fun, but the goal is to just get it all out so that you can revise it later and make it prettier. This is my sixth consecutive year participating and will hopefully be my 5th year making my word count at the end of November. (Last year was not the move and I did not hit my word count. In fact, I quit after November 2nd.) It's a daunting, but fun program to be a part of. To join, all you need to do is go to nanowrimo.org and create an account to track your progress as well as a lot of other fun features.

For those of you participating, here are 12 tips from a 6-year writer.

1. Don't look over what you've already written.

Every single year, I've fallen into this trap. I want to go back over what I've already written and I end up making small word choice changes or changes of a town or character's name. With that trap, I end up going over what I already had and not increasing my word count by much, if at all. Don't worry about what you've already written until November is over.

2. Don't name your characters

I always always always stress way too much about naming my characters perfectly. Sometimes certain names just suit a character, but it's easier to see that after the story is done and you've seen the character in their entirety. However, in my experience, naming them right off the bat has altered the character I wanted them to become. To combat that problem this year, I assigned each character a letter instead of a name and have a running list of possible names for each character. Side characters are easier to name, so if you don't want to go to extremes, reserve the "work-in-progress" names for main characters only.

3. Hold yourself accountable

As soon as you start slacking, the extra words you have to add on to each day to get back on track gets overwhelming. If you keep yourself on schedule, the word counts are manageable and your goal is still achievable. As soon as you let yourself get behind is when the trouble begins.

4. Try a notebook

This is something new that I've tried for this year. Instead of typing into one long document, I got a journal for my novel and have been counting pages instead of individual words. This has helped me limit the endless distractions my laptop can provide and gives it a more personal feel. There's also just something about putting pen to paper that's particularly satisfying. If you'd like to try this, I wrote a few pages and then counted the words on each page and averaged them out. I got an average of 250 words per page and so I divided the daily word count of 1,667 by 250 and found that I need about 7 pages per day to keep me on track. So far, this has helped tons.

5. Don't overplan

Give yourself a rough outline of where you want to go, how you want to get there, and who you want to take along the way, but don't plan out every minute of the plot. I've tried that and it ended up frustrating me when things didn't go as planned. It ended up being a frustrating waste of a lot of time and I ended up annoyed with myself in the end.

6. Maybe don't plan at all

Some writers opt to start on the first day with nothing in mind and just let it all come to them as it does. I would be way too stressed out with this method, but for some people it works.

7. Make bold choices

Don't be afraid of making a choice that you think might be too wild. This is your first draft. This is where you test things out to see if you like them. If you end up liking them, great! You just did the thing. If not, that's what revision is for. You tried it, you now know you don't like it. Lesson learned.

8. Get your friends to do it with you

There's nothing better than moral support. NaNoWriMo is challenging and it's nice to have friends to challenge and support you. If you don't have any friends interested in joining you, there are also online communities and communities for your area with people who are already noveling this month.

​9. Worry more about quantity than quality

The idea is to get it all out. This is like a giant vent session for your novel. Let all of the ideas and the weirdness and quirkiness come out on the first try and then let it all be sorted through and improved later on. Make it complete now and good later.

​10. Schedule the same block of time every day to write

If something becomes part of your routine, it's easier to forget to write or to let other things get in the way. I'm the worst with this and write whenever I get time, but I really wish I would get over myself and schedule a writing time every day. It would make my life a million times easier.

​11. Keep yourself healthy

Don't kill yourself trying to make the word count each day. Sleeping, eating, and taking time for yourself are all important. If you don't think you can stay healthy and afloat in work/school, then this might not be the right time to participate in NaNoWriMo.

​12. Enjoy it

If this becomes more of a chore than something you look forward to doing, then don't do it. It should be a fun way to encourage yourself to write. It'll get tough from time to time and you shouldn't give up just because of that. If this evokes more dread than excitement, then maybe it's not for you.

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11 Things Psychology Majors Hear That Drive Them Crazy

No pun intended.
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We've all been there. You're talking to a new acquaintance, or a friend of your parents, or whoever. And then, you get the dreaded question.

"So what are you studying in school?"

Cue the instant regret of picking Psychology as your major, solely for the fact that you are 99.9% likely to receive one of the slightly comical, slightly cliche, slightly annoying phrases listed below. Don't worry though, I've included some responses for you to use next time this comes up in conversation. Because it will.

Quick side note, these are all real-life remarks that I've gotten when I told people I was a psych major.

Here we go.

1. So are you, like, analyzing me right now?


Well, I wasn't. But yeah. Now I am.

2. Ugh so jealous! You picked the easy major.


"Lol" is all I have to say to this one. I'm gonna go write my 15-page paper on cognitive impairment. You have fun with your five college algebra problems, though!

3. So can you tell me what you think is wrong with me? *Shares entire life story*


Don't get me wrong; I love listening and helping people get through hard times. But we can save the story about how one time that one friend said that one slightly rude comment to you for later.

4. Well, s**t, I have to be careful what I say around you.


Relax, pal. I couldn't diagnose and/or institutionalize you even if I wanted to.

5. OMG! I have the perfect first client for you! *Proceeds to vent about ex-boyfriend or girlfriend*


Possible good response: simply nod your head the entire time, while actually secretly thinking about the Ben and Jerry's carton you're going to go home and demolish after this conversation ends.

6. So you must kind of be like, secretly insane or something to be into Psychology.


Option one: try and hide that you're offended. Option two: just go with it, throw a full-blown tantrum, and scare off this individual, thereby ending this painful conversation.

7. Oh. So you want to be a shrink?


First off, please. Stop. Calling. Therapists. Shrinks. Second, that's not a psych major's one and only job option.

8. You know you have to go to grad school if you ever want a job in Psychology.


Not completely true, for the record. But I am fully aware that I may have to spend up to seven more years of my life in school. Thanks for the friendly reminder.

9. So you... want to work with like... psychopaths?


Let's get serious and completely not-sarcastic for a second. First off, I take personal offense to this one. Having a mental illness does not classify you as a psycho, or not normal, or not deserving of being treated just like anyone else on the planet. Please stop using a handful of umbrella terms to label millions of wonderful individuals. It's not cool and not appreciated.

10. So can you, like, read my mind?


It actually might be fun to say yes to this one. Try it out and see what happens. Get back to me.

11. You must be a really emotional person to want to work in Psychology.


Psychology is more than about feeling happy, or sad, or angry. Psychology is about understanding the most complex thing to ever happen to us: our brain. How it works the way it does, why it works the way it does, and how we can better understand and communicate with this incredibly mysterious, incredibly vast organ in our tiny little skull. That's what psychology is.

So keep your head up, psychology majors, and don't let anyone discourage you about choosing, what is in my opinion, the coolest career field out there. The world needs more people like us.

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To Percy Jackson, I Hope You're Well...

Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus are both series which helped shape my life. I want to share my love for them here, with you.

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Two days before I moved from New Jersey to California, I had a late night at a friend's house. Just a few miles outside of my small town of Morris Plains, his house was out of the way and a safe haven for myself and my mother during a harrowing and strenuous move. My father had been across the country already for almost two months trying to hold down his new job and prove himself. His absence was trying on me (at the tender young age of nine years old) and my mother, and we often spent time at my friend's home, as our mothers got along well.

That night came the time to say goodbye for the very last time, and as our mothers were tearfully embracing at the door, he ran up to me and shoved a book in my hands. Bewildered and confused, I tried to give him my thanks but he was already gone - running away in a childish fit that expressed his hurt at my leaving more than any words he could've said. I looked down at the book in my hands. It was a battered copy of Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief," with its binding bulging slightly out in a strange fashion, the cover slightly torn and bent, and quite a few pages dog-eared. The book wasn't in good condition, but I took the time to read it. I was ensnared and enchanted by the lurid descriptions of mythology, of the lovable characters of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, and the upside-down world they lived in. Over the course of the move and our eventual settling into our new California home, I devoured the series adamantly, reading "The Battle of the Labyrinth" almost five times in the fifth grade and eventually finishing out with "The Last Olympian." The series accompanied me through a difficult move and a whirlwhind of early puberty; by that time, Percy and friends I knew intimately as my own companions. When the series ended, I happily parted with it, and began other literary conquests (namely in the realm of classics).

After an almost year-long break, I re-discovered the series in sixth grade. I hadn't realized that there was a companion series to the first, in fact, a continuation - The Heroes of Olympus. I lapped up "The Lost Hero" and "The Son of Neptune" with greed, and eagerly awaited the arrival of "The Mark of Athena" the following year.

One of my most vivid memories of middle school was sneaking downstairs the morning of the Kindle release of "The Mark of Athena", sneaking past my parents' bedroom as stealthily as I could in the wee hours of the morning to get my kindle and immerse myself in the world. I believe I finished it in about two days. For the next two books in the series, I followed the same pattern: get up early, read it as fast as I could get my hands on it. "The Blood of Olympus", the last book in the series, came out in my freshman year of high school. After finishing the second series, I shelved my much-loved paperbacks for good, and turned myself to other literary pursuits. I eventually relocated to Virginia, and went to college. Percy and friends were almost forgotten until my first year at the University of Virginia.

I was devastatingly alone my first semester at university. I didn't know what to do with myself, entombed by my loneliness. However, at the bottom of my suitcase, I found my old Kindle Paperwhite, with both of Percy's series neatly installed for me. I made a resolution with myself: I would reread both series, reading only at mealtimes where I sat alone. By the time I was finished, I wanted to see where I was compared to when I started.

Re-reading the series was like coming home. It was nostalgia, sadness, and ecstasy wrapped into one. I delighted in revisiting Percy's old haunts, his friends, his challenges. However, it was sad, knowing I had grown up and left them behind while they had stayed the same. It was a riveting memory train which made me look forward to meals, and eased my loneliness at school. Gradually, as the semester progressed, I was reading on Percy's tales less and less, as I found my friends, clubs, and organizations that gradually took up more and more time.

I still haven't finished my re-read, and am about halfway through "The Blood of Olympus". I've come a long way in the almost decade since I first received that tattered copy of "The Lightning Thief", and I still have some ways to go. So thanks, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Jason, Piper, Reyna, Nico, Frank, Hazel, Leo. Thank you for growing up with me. I'll never forget you.

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