NaNoWriMo: Is it Worth the Stress?

Is NaNoWriMo Worth the Stress?

Today is October 23rd: just over a week away from the first day of November.

When most people think of November, images of falling leaves, pumpkin spice lattes (which are disgusting, by the way), and the occasional Christmas tree are probably what comes to mind. But for the writers out there, November is infamous as the most stressful, and perhaps most rewarding, month of the year.

November is National Novel Writing Month, 30 days where thousands of people lock themselves up in their offices and attempt to write 1,667 words a day, or 50,000 over the course of the month. Nanowrimo is simultaneously exhilerating and anxiety-inducing, and I have yet to decide which weighs out the other.

I have never personally tried Nanowrimo (though I’ve had more than a few hopeful Octobers, only to finish November with a blank page), but I have high hopes for this year. I have more writing experience than any previous year I’ve dreamt of Nanowrimo success, and thanks to my half-written novel I somewhat abandoned this summer, I have learned a few lessons about what it really takes to be a writer.

But part of me isn’t quite convinced. Thinking about it now, it sounds almost glamorous—sitting at the keyboard for hours every day and coming out much more productive because of it—but the realist in me knows that this could easily turn into a negative thing. 1,667 words a day isn’t an unrealistic goal, it would take only a few hours, but in those few hours you are forced to sacrifice other things that you might rather be doing: reading, blogging, sleeping, etc. This is the reality whether you write a novel in a month or in a year, but I worry that the stressful nature of the challenge might spark a resentment toward writing itself.

In other words, when I write a novel I want to enjoy writing a novel. Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that in any span of time writing such a long story will constantly be your top priority, but regardless, it should be something you love. But how do I decide that Nanowrimo is not for me without even giving it a fair shot?

In Nanowrimo’s defense, it takes a huge amount of discipline to get yourself to the computer or notebook and writing those thousands of words, and that amount of discipline would be good for anyone to learn. Discipline and stress are likely to go hand in hand, but all good things require hard work and sometimes pain. The idea of working so hard on something and giving up other things I enjoy scares me, but I know that the reward in the end will be worth much more than anything I have to give up to achieve it, and the difficulty of the challenge even makes it a little more appealing.

Really, it all boils down to one question: do I want my story written, or do I want to sit on it forever while waiting for inspiration to strike (which could literally never happen)? Nanowrimo isn’t an easy task by any means, but whether I finish or not, I’ll come out of it with a lot more if I try than if I let the bad days discourage me from the whole endeavour.

Whether or not you believe in Nanowrimo, it is always worth a try. Writing your story in such a short period of time has a lot of pros: the flow will be better, the ideas will find their way onto the page quickly, and you will have a few hundred pages of horrible writing that you can spend December turning into something that can one day be amazing. But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

I don’t know how far I’ll get this Nanowrimo, but if it’s a little more than one blank page, I’ll take that as a win. I would encourage anyone considering trying it out for the first time not to let fear hold you back, because every little effort counts.

Hopefully I will have positive updates in the future, now time to start planning…happy writing!

Bailey

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green

IMG_6717A few days ago, John Green released his fifth solo novel: Turtles All the Way Down, starring Aza Holmes, an awkward girl with a dead father and crippling anxiety.

Based on Green’s reputation from his previous four novels, I had my expectations set high for his newest publication, and it fell a bit short.

Turtles All the Way Down begins when Aza Holmes, known affectionately as “Holmesy” by her best friend and partner in crime, Daisy, hears news of a $100,000 reward being offered to anyone with information about the whereabouts of billionaire Russell Pickett. She and Pickett’s son, Davis, knew each other briefly from a camp for children who lost a parent, and upon being reunited they hit it off almost immediately.

Of course, in typical John Green fashion, their romance has more than a few obstacles, the most prominent of which being Aza’s own mind. She struggles with anxiety, giving her uncontrollable “thought spirals” and inescapable fear of contracting a disease known as C. diff.

By experiencing this story through Aza’s head, Green allows the reader a rare glimpse of the thought process of a teenager struggling with anxiety and other mental illness, and highlights the inescapability of these invasive thoughts. Aza’s anxiety gets in the way of her friendships, her relationship, and even her ability to do most mundane tasks.

Once Holmesy is reunited with Davis, the story’s focus strays from the mystery of finding his father, and becomes more of a minor subplot compared to the events of their romance and Aza’s thoughts. I expected there would be more regarding the enigma of his father’s disappearance, but where the story lacks an abundance of crime-solving excitement, it makes up for in heartwarming romance and valuable life lessons.

The title Turtles All the Way Down refers to the idea that the Earth is flat and resting on the back of a giant turtle, who is standing on the back of a giant turtle, and so on: it’s turtles all the way down. The reference brings up questions of the existence of God, which is never directly mentioned in the book, but contemplation of the meaning of life is hardly new of John Green’s writing. His intended message with this title is left up to the interpretation of the reader, but it certainly bears some relation to mental illness and the “thought spirals” that Aza experiences.

Turtles All the Way Down is a short, easy read with a good bit of power. The characters are interesting but not very relatable, and are basically the same as those in every other John Green novel. Overall, the story has its ups and downs, but I do believe it has earned its spot alongside John Green’s other novels.

5 stars

 

 

5 Unique Places to Find Writing Inspiration

There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down in front of your laptop or notebook, ready to write, and having nothing to say. It’s a feeling most people can relate to, and that can (most of the time) be easily fixed.

One of the best ways I have found to cure the issue of writer’s block is to break down all the elements of my story. These are plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting. If you can’t come up with an idea for a story, hone in on one element or create a random mixture of a few and just see where it goes.

Probably the most common way to do this is the internet, but that’s not always the most fun or original approach. I like to find my inspiration in everything around me, and it’s amazing how places you visit every day can become major sources of inspiration just by changing your perspective.

1. Public Transportation

It’s crazy how many ideas I’ve picked up from riding the trolley. Public transportation is full of different types of people, and watching them can inspire characters with more depth. Overheard conversation can turn into story starters and anything you see along the way could be your setting. Be creative and let your imagination turn these situations into stories, the possibilities are endless!

2. Peoplewatching

Peoplewatching (from a distance!! please don’t follow people around), is one of the best ways I’ve found to develop characters. Similar to what you might do on public transportation, take note of the people around you and pay attention to the little things about them that make them stand out to you (streaks in their hair, interesting tattoos, clothing choices, mannerisms) and write them down. Another exercise I like to do with this is to pick a person and try to guess as many details about their life as possible, which can lead to the making of a great character with little effort.

3. Conversations

Inspiration can even come from the people you talk to every day. Noticing little things about you conversations can help you to create more realistic dialogue, and a topic you’re discussing could spark a story idea. It’s all about paying attention and noticing things that we let slip by us every day.

4. Reading

It may sound cliché, but to be a good writer it’s important to be a good reader first. That’s not to say you should copy ideas from your favorite books, but reading new stories will get you thinking and expose you to the ways other writers go about crafting their stories. Write down things you like, such as how well the character development was pulled off and how they did it, or other things that stand out to you and seem to tie the story together.

5. Get Out of Your House!

Finally, some of the best ideas you’ll find are the ones you get when you get outside and start living. It’s amazing the things you can discover when you go for a hike or even just hang out with your friends late at night; take note of the things that make little moments special and think about how you can articulate that feeling into your writing.

I wish you all the best of luck on your projects, and I hope you find some inspiration on this list!

8 YA Series You Need to Read Right Now

If you’re looking for something new to read, or just something to add to your already huge TBR list, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite series for you, which I’ve read over the past few years and  still hold close to my heart. Most of them are pretty well-known, but if you’re skeptical whether to read them, you should definitely give them a try!

1. Harry Potter

First and most obvious, we have Harry Potter. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, I’m not really sure how you’ve made it this far, but you need to pick it up it right now (watching the movies doesn’t count!). You will not be disappointed. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

2. Percy Jackson

If you’re looking for adventure, look no farther than the Percy Jackson series. The story follows a young boy as he discovers his father is Poseidon, the god of the sea. The stories are filled with plenty of exciting run-ins with famous characters from Greek mythology, and the humor and cleverness of the young heroes make for an interesting ride. (The Lighting Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian)

3. The Heroes of Olympus

Another Rick Riordan series full of references to Greek mythology, we have The Heroes of Olympus. The series is somewhat of a continuation of Percy Jackson, but could most likely be understood without having read the previous series. If you love Percy Jackson, this is the perfect way to get more of his exciting stories. (The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, The Blood of Olympus)

4. The Trials of Apollo

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re right. Basically any Rick Riordan series is amazing, and The Trials of Apollo is no exception. This series follows the god Apollo after he is turned mortal by his father, Zeus. This could also be read out-of-order, but references are made to both preceding series, so I would recommend saving these books for last. (The Hidden Oracle, The Dark Prophecy, The Burning Maze (coming 5/1/18!))

5. The Darkest Minds

One of my favorites on this list is the Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken. These books are perfectly crafted with some of the best character development and storylines I’ve ever read. The attachment you will feel to the four main characters as they run from the adults who fear their powers will leave you in tears countless times. I won’t give too much away, just read them! (The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, In the Afterlight)

6. The Mortal Instruments

These books were pretty much my favorite thing in the world in middle school, and at almost any age you can enjoy them as much as I did. This journey through the world of shadowhunters follows Clary Fray, a girl with a hidden talent her mother never wanted her to discover. The six-book series is full of ups and down, love and war, and just about everything you can imagine. (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, City of Heavenly Fire)

7. The Infernal Devices

The Infernal Devices series is also written by Cassandra Clare, and is a loose companion to The Mortal Instruments. It takes place hundreds of years before the other series, and in my opinion is even better than the other shadowhunter stories. The love triangle between Tessa, Jem, and Will will break your heart, but it will be worth every second. (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, Clockwork Princess)

8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Finally, we have Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As the name suggests, the quirky characters make up an odd bunch, but they are balanced out by a painfully ordinary boy who discovers he may not be so ordinary after all. The stories will pull you into a fairy tale and show you what friendship really means. (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, Library of Souls)

If you haven’t read any of these series, you should definitely pick them up! These are my personal favorites, but let me know if I missed any of yours!

 

5 Easy Tips to Stay Focused When Writing

As much as I enjoy writing, I can’t pretend it’s always my top priority. This summer I was busy with two jobs, tennis, and summer classes, and on the rare occasion I wasn’t doing any of that, all I really wanted to do was sleep.

But despite that, I managed to write 25,000 words of my first novel over the course of my summer break.

I’m not going to lie: my goal was a bit higher at 33,000 words, but I am proud of the progress I made and I owe it to these five tips I’m going to share with you today. Hopefully you can put them into practice in your own writing!

1. Make a Writing Playlist

Listening to music is one of the easiest ways to stay focused on writing. Personally, I use a playlist of my favorite songs, all of which have lyrics, but you might find it easier to focus with instrumental music. Either way, music helps to drown out background noise and get you ready to write.

2. Set Goals

When I started writing my novel, I set word count goals on my Google calendar, making my goal 500 words a day. I by no means followed this guide (some days I would write 250, some days 2500), but it was useful for me to track my progress and make sure I was staying on track. This also helped make writing a priority, because it added a fun challenge and a motivation to meet my goals.

3. Reward Yourself

Not only should you set goals, but you should reward yourself when you reach them! I decided that for every 10,000 words I wrote, I would earn a reward. Rewards can range from ice cream to new shoes to just a day off from writing. Whatever it is, it should be something that you want and don’t normally allow yourself to have.

4. Find a Comfortable Workspace

There is no right answer to what is the perfect space to write. For some people it’s a desk, but for others it could be a table at Starbucks, a quiet bench outside, or the comfort of your bed. Wherever you decide to write, it should be somewhere you feel comfortable and ready to focus.

5. Find Ways to Enjoy It

This is easily the most important tip on this list. If you’re writing at all then you probably have some love for it, but that’s not to say you’ll always be jumping for joy when you sit down in front of the keyboard. Writing can be difficult, and often discouraging, so it’s important to think of it as a fun part of your day and not just another chore. You could put on your pajamas (if you’re like me, you were probably already wearing them), light a candle, pick up your favorite snack, or anything else that makes you feel comfortable and might make the writing process a little more fun.

I hope these tips help you out, and let me know what helps you stay focused when writing!