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8 Ways to Excite Kids about Writing This November

(c) Can Stock Photo / lenm

Guest post by Kate Willis

For most of us, November means turkey, pumpkins, and coming winter; but for a small portion of the population it spells National Novel Writing Month (fondly shortened to NaNoWriMo). These certifiably artistic people commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

Hats off to them! This year I’m in an auxiliary role with three younger siblings signed up for the Young Writers Program.

This offshoot of the regular NaNoWriMo event is specifically geared towards writers aged 17 and under. How does it differ from the 50k phenomenon?

  1. Writers set their own challenging goal. Whether that be 30 words or thirty thousand words, it’s up to you!
  2. Kid-friendly site. All forums are monitored with children in mind, and the layout and graphics are perfect for young computer users.

In my family the word count goals and writing skills vary with age but excitement and drive are very high. Here are just a few ideas to help you and your mini-novelist get ready…

  1. Set up an easy username/password. If your young writer is going to be signing themselves in and out at least once a day, this should be memorable and easy to type. Make it fun! Include a variant of their name or favorite thing to make it personalized.
  2. Brainstorm together! This is as simple as looking at pictures and imagining what is happening in them. Older young writers may enjoy creating an inspiration board for their story on Pinterest (though pictures should not be used outside of the site due to copyright concerns).
  3. With my youngest writers, I asked them simple questions such as “what is the character’s problem?” and “how will they solve it?” to help them plan out the story. Encourage slightly older ones to learn from good materials including Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine, 5 Secrets of Story Structure by K.M. Weiland, and the blog Helping Writers Become Authors.
  4. When they are ready to announce their “novel”, make a special cover by uploading a free Pixabay image or by ordering a free mockup cover from Perry Elisabeth Design.
  5. Next decorate a notebook together with happy scrapbooking paper and amazing stickers to make the daily writing/planning grind more interesting. You can find instructions to make your own on my blog.
  6. Set up a whiteboard or chalkboard in their special “writing spot” to set daily writing goals and record triumphs. Another option is Perry Elisabeth Design’s free word-tracking calendar.
  7. Spur them on with special snacks (popcorn, anyone?) and cool prizes whenever they hit a goal. The YWP website also awards them with adorable badges, which I think is pretty awesome.
  8. When November ends and the writing is done, celebrate by publishing the “book”. One copy for your budding author to keep and another for Grammy and Grandpa’s Christmas present. You can always print and staple or even publish a “real” copy through Createspace.

The memories are worth the time and effort, and who knows—maybe you’ve just discovered the next Charles Dickens or Suzanne Collins.

screenshot-2016-10-28-09-52-41Kate Willis has never fallen down the rabbit hole, her wardrobe only holds clothes, and tickets to Neverland are too expensive; but she is on an adventure. She lives with her artistic family and writes about the love of God and ordinary adventures. She would love to grow up someday and have a family of her own, but for now you’ll find her writing more books with chai tea in hand. Connect with her on her blog, read her short stories, follow what she’s reading and reviewing on Goodreads, and see her inspiration and sense of humor on Pinterest.

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15 Simple Things to Help You Survive NaNoWriMo

15-nano-survivalWhen people first hear about NaNoWriMo, they usually display the face that says, “Really? You’re going to try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days?! You do realize that’s crazy, right?”

I think most of us realize it’s at least a little crazy, but that’s kind of the point. Pushing ourselves into survival mode to make words HAPPEN.

But, of course, we probably all privately wonder if we’ll be able to survive survival mode.

Here are a few things to consider adding to your NaNoWriMo survival kit to give yourself the very best chances of winning.

(Please note, this post contains affiliate links. This means if you click one and make a purchase, we’ll earn a small commission.)

    1. WriteMind Planner – this planner is actually designed specifically for authors. Most planners have a calendar, right? Well, the calendar in this baby is a wordcount tracking calendar with spaces for you to track goals by day, week and month. That’s just one of the many handy organizational features of this planner (designed by Yours Truly!). Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between? You can customize the planner’s modules to suit your writing style!
    2. Post-It® Notes – You know you need these! Bits of ideas running around in your head? Jot ’em down! Stick them all over your computer. Around the window. To your forehead if needed. (You know, handy reminders for other people in your life: “Remind author to eat.”)
    3. Corkboard – for even more note-taking! Let’s face it: sticky notes might not still be sticking by the end of November. But if you PIN them up they’ll still be where you can see them easily. I love the unusual frame on this one! If you need more space, this burlap one is 2′ x 3′ and looks great!
    4. Coffee, Tea, or… BodyArmor? – Pick your comforting drink of choice! The legions of writers (and crazed NaNo writers, especially) claiming to be fueled–not just by their muse but also by coffee–are strong. There is another bunch dedicated to the slightly more unusual tea-preference. (Have you ever had Good Earth Original? Yum!) But who says it has to be one of those two?! Why not BodyArmor sports drink? (Yes, I’m a desert southwest dweller.) Tyler and I highly recommend the Strawberry Banana flavor!
    5. Writer’s Mug – There’s just something about putting your CDoC (Comforting Drink of Choice, see above) in a very writerly mug. It’s inspiration. Humor. Yum. All in one ceramic package! This one is definitely big on the inspiration! If you’re looking for a humorous way to remind people you’re busy… give them the “look” over the rim of this mug. And if you’re heading to a NaNoWriMo Come Write In, or if you’re afraid of spilling on your work this is probably the mug to use.
    6. Water Bottle – Having a good supply of your CDoC is important to make it through November, but always have even more good, old-fashioned water on hand. I find when I’m afraid I’ll spill water on my laptop, I tend to set my glass on another surface nearby… and then forget to get up and drink it. I’ve taken to using a water bottle so the spill-risk is lowered and I can keep it right on my desk. HydroFlasks are awesome because they’ll keep a drink hot or cold for hours (I’m seriously into ice water even in winter… again, desert-dweller, I know). Mine has a screw-on lid, though, and I’ve found I drink less when I have to take the time to unscrew the thing and then screw it back on! Seriously. I think I might turn into the laziest person alive when I’m focused on something. Anyway, I’ve been eyeballing these flip-top replacement caps to solve that problem. In the meantime, I’m using my glass water bottle.
    7. Snacks – You know your favorites, but be sure you have a good variety. Sugary snacks may be great initially, but after a little while they will actually leave you feeling sleepy and dull… not exactly the greatest place to be when you still have 600 words to write that day. Good alternatives are: protein snacks like jerky or nuts; fruit (think: apples with peanut butter, grapes, melon pieces); cheese and lunch meat with crackers; or popcorn. (If you’ve never had G.H. Cretors Chicago Mix, well, you’re really missing out. Pro tip: Costco carries it in a seriously wrong MASSIVE size.)
    8. Lip Balm – Seriously. Sometimes with a project this size in front of you, the little comforts can make a hug difference. I personally like Burt’s Bees lip balm, and they have so many varieties! Original, flavored, “Ultra Conditioning,” and (for us ladies who don’t want to feel like the crazed writer we might actually be) rose-tinted.
    9. Music – Whether you write to music, brainstorm to music, or relax and reset to music, include music in your NaNoWriMo survival plan! Over the course of a whole month, you are going to want variety and new songs if you’re anything like me. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can freely stream a TON of music. It’s all tidily organized so you can play specific artists, albums, or songs. I’m really enjoying their playlists and stations, though. (Variety, remember?)
      Don’t have Amazon Prime? Well, I have good news… Amazon offers a free, 30-day trial. Also, the month of November is 30 days in length. Catch my drift…?apple-products-1165364_1280
    10. Earbuds – Gotta have a way to listen to all that awesome music! I was just looking at earbuds since mine have all died tragic deaths at this point. (The little people at my house like to pop those cool rubbery tips off them!) Someone once had me try out the Apple EarPods, and they’re most awesome. That’s saying a lot, because I typically find earbuds totally annoying and uncomfortable (small person, small ear canals. What can I say…). For me, they fit in my ears, stayed put, and were comfortable despite not having any delightful-to-pull-off rubber components. These are going right on my wish list now that I’ve remember them!
    11. Stress Ball or… Cupcake? – A way to deal with a busy brain and maybe even help turn daydreaming into brilliant brainstorming! Go for something serious or get yourself a cupcake. No, really. It’s a stress ball shaped like a cupcake.
    12. Actual Writing Tools! – Planning to write by hand? Have you tried my favorite pens and pencils yet? And 50,000 words in a month might call for this. (I’d really love to try one of these some day!)
      Are you like me and write better when typing? Keyboard perfection and portability was a goal for me when picking out my computer. From my research, Macbook keyboards are the best… and now that I’ve been using a refurbished Macbook Air for a couple years now, I have to agree they are super nice for lots of speedy typing (if on the expensive side). I personally went for a 13-inch screen since I’m also using it for our graphic design work, but this little 11″ cutie would be so awesome for portable writing!
      Really love your mobile device? Consider a bluetooth keyboard to  level up your wordcount. (Unless you thumb-type faster than you keyboard type. In which case… wow.)
      Highly distracted by notifications and availability of Facebook? Try taking a small step backward with the incredible AlphaSmart Neo2. Writers everywhere are gushing about these lightweight, tough, focus-friendly devices with super long battery lives. (And they’re really affordable since you can usually get one for around $30-ish.) I couldn’t take it anymore and had to get one. They are truly very cool and definitely force me to write. And only write.
    13. Idea Books – Let’s face it. You’re going to get stuck at some point. “No Plot? No Problem!”  by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, looks like a good help! I personally own “642 Things to Write About” in all of its overwhelming glory. With that many things to write about, there’s sure to be something in there to kickstart the creative juices again!
    14. Reference Books – You won’t have a lot of time to get bogged down in details (one of the benefits of this crazy business!), but having a few of these on hand might help get you out of a bind. Try this baby name book I’ve used before (yes, for naming kids and characters), and maybe the popular “Emotion Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman and/or its FREE-for-Kindle companion guide, “Emotion Amplifiers.”friends-1013882_640
    15. Your Favorite Person – When you need to bounce an idea off someone, when you need someone else to get excited about the story with you, when you need someone to tell you it’s going to be okay and even if you do lose your mind at least you’ll have a novel to show for it… you’ll want your favorite person. I highly recommend informing them ahead of time that they’re officially on-duty for the month of November. And then…Dedicate. The. Book. To. Them.


Think you can do it? You absolutely can, especially with some of these survival kit ideas on hand.

Did we miss something helpful? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook post and share your wisdom with other writers!