Beautiful Books NaNoWriMo Linkup

Hey guys! Today I’m gonna do something a little different. A blogger I follow just did a blog linkup called Beautiful Books. So I went on the website, and it looks awesome, so I decided to try it! If you want to participate, here’s the link: So on to the questions!
What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For this one, it was the plot, but it can happen both ways for me. I can be a plotter or a pantser. For this year, I’m kind of a crazy combination. I have half of it outlined plus the end, but I think I’m just going to let it flow from there.
Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?
It’s tentatively titled, Hero or Villain? (Not Your Average Fairytale)
And here is my blurb:
In a futuristic world, Jenna Pond is chosen to essentially be the villain in her generation’s fairytale, sentencing her to one of the only two fates given to the people that play villains: death or imprisonment. Her best friend Clara is chosen to be the heroine. They are taken to be trained for their roles along with the other main character, William, who will be the hero. Jenna struggles with accepting her death sentence. In the middle of the fairytale, Jenna stumbles across information that changes her perspective on her world, her fairytale, and herself.
It needs improvement, but it’ll do. (Yes I am a Whovian, however did you notice?)
What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?
50,000 to 75,000
Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.
Jenna Pond is chosen to be a villain in a fairy tale, and knows she is going to die. Her best friend, Clara is chosen to play the main character. Jenna finds out information that changes her perspective on everything.
Sum up your characters in one word each.
Jenna: Loyal
Clara: Dreamer
William: Complex
Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!
I think it’s a total tie between the three of them! All of them are so complex. Jenna is too loyal for her own good, can sometimes be clueless, sometimes wise beyond her years, and is always striving to do the right thing.
Clara was a total tomboy, until the Story Makers got a hold of her. She has always had a fascination with all things that look rich, but she has a conscience, and feels bad about certain things she is made to do.
William is probably the most complex of them all. He has a strong love for truth, but yet he has never worked up enough courage to tell his father how he really feels about all of his hero training. From the time he could hold a small dagger, he has been groomed in the ways of a hero, but that isn’t what he wants.
What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?
My villain is…wait for it…the president. How original! His goal is kind of a spoiler, so I can’t say…yet.
What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?
To expose the lies of her government. Again, original! And several things stand in her way. Her loyalty to the people closest to her, Clara’s lack of belief, and then of course, the villain.
What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?
When she’s selected as the villain.
Where is your novel set?
In our world in the future.
What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?
When Jenna is selected, when she finds out the big secret and I can’t say the last one because of spoilers.
What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?
Probably the one between her and Clara, although they aren’t aloud to see each other for a little while, and then she becomes really close to Will, which is also interesting.
How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
She isn’t as afraid to stand out and be good, and to tell the truth.
Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?
I do, although it may get tweaked a little when we get there. We’ll see.
What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?
I hope it will get published, but that’s a big hope. Again, we’ll see. I’m hoping it will leave the impression that it’s okay to stand out, and if something doesn’t feel like it’s right, then don’t do it.
So that’s it for today, I hope you liked this, and comment below if you want me to do more posts like it. Also, two days until NaNoWriMo! Who’s excited? On the first day I’m going to a cafe where a bunch of NaNoers are going to meet and write for three hours. Super excited!
What are your plans for the first day of NaNoWriMo?


NaNoWriMo 2014

Hi everyone! So continuing on the recent theme of NaNoWriMo, I have a question for y’all: how many of you have done or are doing NaNo as a rebel? That is my plan this year. I need to finish a novel I’ve already started, and I plan to use NaNo to do it. Even so, I’m slightly overwhelmed, to be honest. This is my first year doing regular, November NaNo (I did Camp in July), and with school and everything…let’s just say it will be interesting. I also found out I’ll be away from a computer on the first few days of November. Yikes! I may have to set a lower word goal for myself than the 50,000, just to maintain my sanity.
I have about 20,000 words to go on this novel, and then I’m planning to work on a novella for a contest. After that, I’ll hopefully take a few weeks off and begin to edit the novel.
What are your plans for this November? Any tips or tricks for a first-timer? For those of you in school, how do you get your homework and writing done everyday?


My NaNo Prep: Less Then A Week Left!

It’s hard to believe there’s less then a week left until NaNoWriMo! But I think I’m ready.
I had a lot of trouble figuring out what I was going to use for my NaNoNovel, first I thought I was going to use this one novel that I had partially outlined and I really loved, which I will call V. But then, I decided that there where some plot holes that I couldn’t fix on time, so I went to another novel that I had wanted to write for over two years. And then I found out that it would take too much research in such a short amount of time, because part of it is a historical. Then, I went to a novel that I had developed a bit, but when it came to the enthusiasm check, I found out my enthusiasm was wavering. Plus, I had just come up with this great new idea that was about a dryad. So I tried to figure it out, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there.
So two days ago, I was left with no novel, and very little time. I was thinking about not doing NaNoWriMo this year. And then a way to fix the plot holes in V struck me! I wrote them down, and then decided to do V. Which is good, because I had the most enthusiasm about it. The most I’ll say about it here is that it’s a cross between dystopia and fairy tales.
So how much progress have I made preparing for it? Well I’ve outlined about half of it, I have the ending outlined too, and I have the first scene written in my head.
I’m super excited for NaNoWriMo, and I hope a lot of you all are doing it too.
How are you preparing for NaNoWriMo?

A Young Writer’s Guide to Summaries and Shame

Anyone of us who’s pulled a notebook out at school has fielded a barrage of questions. Being an introvert, it’s a little like being trapped in a zoo pen.

And here, we have the writer in her natural habitat. See how she scrawls in a tilted half-cursive? See how she only uses Pentel EnerGel pens?

You naturally get asked the omnipotent question: what’s your book about? For some, it’s easy. It’s about a brother and sister on the run from the law. It’s about a couple first year of marriage. For others, it’s complicated. You can’t think of a way to describe it quickly, so you get into this long, rambling explanation and end up with something that you’re pretty sure sounds like the lamest thing on the planet.

No fear, writers!

Consider this a pep talk: your novel is your baby. Maybe it’s a bit rough around the edges. Maybe a few people think it’s ugly. But it’s your baby, and you’ll always know it’s beautiful. So don’t be ashamed. That’s an order. But because orders don’t always stick, here are some things I do when I’m feeling weird about whatever I’m working on.

I’ve devoted a lot of time to coming up with an elevator pitch. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s a summary only a sentence or two long that can be given in the time it takes an elevator to go between floors, and it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. To practice, spend some time writing them for books/TV shows/movies that you like. Here are some examples:

A group of boys with no memories work to find their way out of a maze in which they are imprisoned. (The Maze Runner by James Dashner)

A recently-disbarred lawyer returns to a community college in order to replace his bogus degree while doing the minimum work possible—only to find himself the leader of an eccentric study group. (Community, created by Dan Harmon)

A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a paraplegic superhuman in order to attain his dream of going into outer space. (GATTACA)

Having an elevator pitch in reserve makes it easy to spit out an answer when you’re ambushed by that kid that sits next to you in math, or wherever else you may be.

Or, you could go the self-righteous, philosophical route. Tell people it’s a social commentary. Talk about theme more than character and plot. This is especially impressive when bragging to adults.

Lastly, if talking about your book makes you feel self-conscious or embarrassed, it may be a sign that something needs to change. Go with your gut. Try reading through your manuscript again and look specifically for that sort of odd, uncomfortable feeling, like an itch in your brain. It might be obvious. You might actually cringe. I know I’ve done that before. But don’t be so quick to ignore your feelings, people. They’re there for a reason.

To quote our good friend Shakespeare, ‘to thine own self be true’. Writers who write for trends or what they believe will sell do not end up with anything close to the caliber of a writer whose work is the very manifesto of their soul. If you love all of your ideas and you love seeing them in action, then the rest will follow.

What Is NaNoWriMo?

(The How To Start A Teen Writer’s Group has been postponed.)
There’s a lot of excitement this time of year for people preparing for NaNoWriMo. If you’ve been in the writing circal long, then you’ve probably heard of it. But maybe you don’t exactly know what it is. So what is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo is, simply put, a self imposed challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Which means that, “officially”, you have to write 50,000 words in 31 days. Think you’re up to the challenge?
If not, and you’re under 18, then you can join the Young Writer’s Program of NaNoWriMo (both web addresses will be pasted at the end). There you can take a word count test and set your own goal. You can also interact with other young writers your age through the forums.
Cinder, the YA book by Marissa Meyer was written during NaNoWriMo. I haven’t personally read this book, but it’s on my to read list, and I’ve heard several people talking about it.
Remember, NaNoWriMo is a self imposed challenge, don’t put to much pressure on yourself if things don’t go your way. If you don’t get 50,000 by the end of the month, don’t worry, at least you got some writing done. And plus, you can always try again next year.



Obviously, to write you need story ideas. These can come from anywhere, at anytime. Yes, that includes school, and not just in writing-related classes like English.

For example, in French class we were reviewing train station vocabulary. My teacher explained that the term meaning “waiting room” was somewhat misleading because most people didn’t actually wait there, since they can’t tell if their train is coming from that room. Most people wait for their train on the platform so they don’t miss it, unless they have several hours before their train arrives. Surprisingly, this sparked a shred of an idea. I wrote in my binder the line: We waited for the train for three hours, and we missed it. Now, it’s not much, I know. But it could turn into something. Why were you waiting for three hours? What caused you to miss it, if you were there so early? How important was it that you made it on the train? Where was the train going? See? It doesn’t take much.

Things like this have also happened in math. I’ve never been a math-minded person. It’s never been what I enjoy at school. But recently, my teacher has been saying things (normal, math-related things) that have given me ideas for a story. A lot of getting story ideas is taking something (e.g. something your math teacher said) and asking questions. Questions like what if? Take something normal, and change it. Make it the opposite and see what happens. Expand on it. Make it important.

History is a great class for story ideas, if those are the types of stories you like to write. History classes and textbooks often seem to focus on what happened, when, who was involved, and the significance and impact of the event. These things are important, for sure. But what if you considered how the people involved felt about what was happening? What was everyday life like? How was it for adults, teenagers, children? What would be different about your life if you lived in a different period of history? Make a story out of that.

In fact, I would challenge you to pay extra attention in all your classes, and try to get even just a shred of an idea from every class. Allow yourself to be inspired by even the most mundane things. Listen carefully. Take things you hear or read or see and expand on them, think about what would make them interesting. My idea about the train isn’t very interesting if they were just going to the next town to shop for clothes. But what if they were going to visit a very sick grandmother in the hospital, or to an underground meeting of a secret agency? Suddenly the story gets a lot more interesting. Give those shreds of ideas meaning.

How do you get ideas? Has school ever inspired you?


What’s Coming Up This Week

How many people are doing NaNoWriMo? I am! I am super excited to be a part of it this year, as I have been for the past two years. I’m also starting a teen writing group at my library that will focus on NaNoWriMo. So in fitting with all this preparation and research that I’m doing, I thought it would be fitting to do a few series on what I’ve learned, so that I can share my new knowledge with you all who are doing NaNoWriMo. Also, if you want more writing tips and tricks, go over to, where they have a series on planning for NaNoWriMo (I guest posted for that series). So here’s a schedule of what and when I’ll be posting this week:
Monday : What is NaNoWriMo? by Elizabeth
Tuesday: Ideas by Katie
Wednesday: How to Start a Teen Writer’s Group: Planning by Elizabeth
Thursday: A Young Writer’s Guide to Summaries and Shame by Hazel
Friday: Preparing For NaNoWriMo: Word Count by Elizabeth

Writing Dystopians

Hi! I’m Hazel, yet another teen writer. There seems to be a lot of us, doesn’t there? I live with my mom and dad up here in Canada and spend almost all of my time either writing, reading, or watching Community. As of Fall 2014, I’ve been shortlisted for a national short story contest and am working on the fifth draft of my novel, No Peace Without Victory. You can find me on my blog


When you wake up in the morning, you breathe, your eyes see, your skin feels. We walk through the world every day, under our governments, interacting with people through what has become convention. Our five senses absorb information every moment of every day. From what? Our world.

But sometimes our protagonists inhabit different worlds. The far future, the distant past, even a fantasy realm of your own imagination. But to simply carry over traditions from our present world is not only weak outlining, but it just might not work for your story. Today, I’ll be talking a little bit about sci-fi, dystopian and apocalyptic worldbuilding—but I hope to speak about fantasy later on.

In the case of many dystopias, as well as in science fiction, the world is already in place. It’s an old world. They live and breathe the soot of the cities, or maybe they have adjusted to life with lower gravity. They understand the limitations and realities within their universe.

Apocalyptic fiction is often different. It can often be an example of the new world, or a different paradigm that begins after the story’s opening. The YA novel SYLO by D.J. MacHale is a shining example of this—Tucker lives a normal life until the day that everything changes. Likewise, in Michael Grant’s GONE series, Sam Temple and the other inhabit a 21st century California until all the adults mysteriously disappear.

This isn’t necessarily a given. Many works of apocalyptic fiction are set after the disaster and reference it only through flashbacks or memories. James Dashner’s The Kill Orderbegins about a year after the sun flares ravage the Earth and gives flashbacks every few chapters to bring readers up to speed.

These categories aren’t in stone: you could have a galactic empress descend upon the planet and establish a fascist regime in the first few pages or an apocalyptic landscape that has been nearly empty for hundreds of years. It’s all a matter of what you think would work best for your story and—perhaps more importantly—what doesn’t.

Let’s Talk Characters

Hey guys, this is Elizabeth. This post is by my new contributor, Katie. I’m super excited to have her on the Written Path team! I am looking for one or two more people to contribute once a week, or every two weeks. If you’re interested, please contact me through the guest post page. And without further ado, here’s Katie!
Hi everybody! I’m Katie. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a teen writer. I’ve wanted to be published ever since my first-grade teacher read my class a picture book written by a ten-year-old. Naive little me was shocked at the idea that a kid could write a book. My thought was, hey, I want to do that! So here I am, all these years later. I usually write fantasy/speculative fiction, and I’m about halfway through the first draft of my novel, Tempest. Aside from writing, I like hanging out with my friends and watching TV shows on Netflix. I’ve been a reader for a long time too. I love the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, almost anything by Gail Carson Levine, the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, etc. I love dogs (I have a golden retriever), chai tea, comfortable clothes, words, and rainy days. I’m very excited to be blogging here with Elizabeth, and hopefully I’ll get to talk to you all soon!

So let’s discuss characters. Characters are huge. Think about your favorite books and stories. What about them comes into your mind first? What did you like about them? Think about what makes you like or dislike a book. Did it have something to do with the characters? A lot of times, the answer is yes. As a writer, you have to consider the impact of characters on your readers. So how do you create a realistic character your readers will like? Here are a few ideas:

1. Talk it out. I’ve found that, when creating and developing characters for the first time, it helps a ton to work aloud. You could do this alone, or, as I’ve done, you could ask a writing friend, a non-writing friend, a sibling, or someone else willing to help to talk about your character with you. Bounce ideas off of them. Ask them questions. If you have online writing friends, do it over email.
My writing friend (who I know in real life) and I usually talk through a character worksheet (see number two for that). It’s nice because when there are two of you, you can “check” each other, so to speak. One person might suggest something about a character, but the other might not think it fits that character’s personality. You get a stronger character because of it. My friend and I were co-writing something when we did this, so the character “belonged” to both of us. But even for something you’re writing independently, you can try talking aloud about the character to someone else, to reason things out, ask questions to a potential reader, and make sure the character sounds realistic.

2. Use your resources. There are lots of great character-building tools out there. Take advantage of them. I recommend the worksheet mentioned on this page (hit “click here” to access it) from Go Teen Writers’ Jill Williamson (this is the one my friend and I use). This page has links to websites where you can take the Myers-Briggs personality test for your characters, as well as articles with details on the different personalities. Also, try actively listening to people around you. Compare the ways they speak. See if you can identify a word or phrase they use often, or if they pronounce a certain word differently. Infuse your characters with different, real-life voices.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words. I like to find pictures of people who look generally like what I think the character looks like. Pinterest is a great place to look. You could also try photography websites or Google images. Then, when you’re writing about that character or from their point of view, get out the picture and have it near you. Imagine the person in the picture speaking and doing the things their character does in the story. Get to know the person that is your character.

So there you have it. What about you? Are there any character-building resources you use? Do you have pictures of your characters? Do you think you’ll try any of these ideas? I hope they gave you some new techniques to consider, and that they will help as you create amazing characters!


The Path To Publication Step Six: Before You Write Your First Draft

Today’s the big day, or so you think. You’ve planned, outlined, and you’re rearing to go. That’s great! But, you still have a few more things to do before sitting down and starting the novel that you’ve dreamed about for the past month.
One thing I suggest you do before starting your first draft is to look at my Becoming a Writer Series, especially the post about setting up your writer’s spot. You’ll need it before starting your novel.
Another thing to do before starting your novel is to sit down and look at how many words you want to write. This varies from book to book, and genre to genre. Here’s a rough estimate:
Picture Books: 32 pages, or 500-600 words
Middle Grade: 20,000 to 55,000 words, depending on the target ages of the readers
Young Adult: 55,000 to 80,000 words, though you may want to be careful when you get up in the seventies and eighties
Adult: 70,000 to 100,000 words, depending on the genre
(Note: I got all of these facts from an article in Writer’s Digest, but I have seen similar information elsewhere. Check out the original article here:
That is my quick guide to word count. Also note that your first draft may be shorter or longer depending on if you tend to write more than necessary or less than needed, and can change during the edits. For example, with my current MG (middle grade) novel, it’s at 37,000 words, but since I tend to underwrite and leave out description, I estimate it will gain about another 3,000 or 4,000 during edits, which is a healthy size for my genre and target age group.
Now that you know around how many words your novel is, you need to figure out how much you want to write each day, when you don’t want to write and have a day of rest, and how long it will take you to write your novel. For instance you may be writing a YA (young adult) novel that you estimate will be 60,000 words. You need realistically to look at how much you can write a day, and what days you want to take off. I suggest you at least take one day off a week, to get a little rest. Say you have work or school, and can only write 500 words a day. That’s okay! And you decide to take Sundays off, meaning you write 3,000 words per week. Divide 3,000 (how many words you write per week) into 60,000 (how many words you estimate your novel will be), and you get 20. It will take you twenty weeks to write the first draft of your novel.
That’s all for today, stop by Wednesday where my new partner Katie will be talking about characters!