Write 2 Books in 1 Month?!

November is National Novel Writing Month. The time when many writers will embark on a mission to write a novel in 30 days. Or at least 50,000 words towards a novel project. “Winning” at NaNoWriMo means reaching the 50K benchmark by November 30th.

Will you be NaNoWriMo’ing? Have you ever “won”?

Learn about NaNoWrimo.

Drafting a novel is a slow process of writing and rewriting for me. I’ve unsuccessfully attempted NaNoWrimo four times before, BUT this year will be different. This year, I have an actual deadline, the experience of several published projects, and—more importantly—a plan. (Look for a follow up post in December to find out if this plan succeeds.)

There’s still time to join. You can sign up on NaNoWriMo’s site to track your progress. If you send me a buddy request, we can cheer each other on (kacummins).

The Plan

Writing one novel in 30 days is no easy feat. So writing two in 30 days. . . well, at least both projects are middle-grade books. They’ll be shorter than a traditional novel. And if I’ve learned anything about the process of writing, it’s this:

  • You don’t have to write every day to finish a novel. You only have to write and be committed enough to see it through to the end. No matter how long it takes.
  • And the consistency and efficiency of your routine directly affects how long it takes to finish a project (much like losing weight with a fitness routine).

My ever-evolving process is best described as structured chaos. There’s a blurry consistency throughout the various stages of brainstorming, planning, drafting, editing… and the scrap-it-all stage, where I set aside a finished draft and start the project over again.

Pre-writing work and writing habits have increased my consistency and efficiency over the years. So maybe spending more time brainstorming and planning (to avoid the scrap-it-all stage) and sticking to a daily routine will finally put the 50K goal within reach?

The Plan: Beef up pre-writing work though journaling and set a daily routine that accounts for habits and naturally productive times.

Pre-writing Journals

I’ll be using a new approach for pre-writing work: journaling. It’ll need to be completed before November 1st in order to stay focused on drafting during NaNo.

For those who find it helpful, below are the eight sections included in my pre-writing journals (along with links to some free worksheets I created last year):

  • Story premise/hook/idea/log line—A high level view of the central story plot focused on the protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and what’s at stake. Typically, it’s anywhere from one sentence to a whole paragraph, but it’s good to have a couple of pages in this section for brainstorming when you’re starting a new story. (Story Spine Worksheet on TpT)
  • Protagonist(s) & Antagonist(s)—These are separate sections, but they contain the same type of information: goals, wants, needs, backstory, etc… (Character Development Worksheet on TpT)
  • Plot Points—A high level outline of the entire story, including the ending. It develops from the premise and incorporates the main character arcs. (Story Spine Worksheet on TpT)
  • Worldbuilding—If you’re writing speculative fiction, you’ll likely need several pages for this section. Otherwise, you may only need a page or two for this. (Worldbuilding Worksheet on TpT)
  • Characters—The rest of the cast. (Cast List Worksheet on TpT)
  • Chapters/Scenes—Building on the outline from Plot Points, this is a more detailed breakdown of the story by chapters or scenes.
  • Notes—This is like a writer’s miscellaneous drawer. It’s a good place for all those random thoughts or story considerations that don’t have a home. (In that spirit, here’s a set of visual organizers for writing: Story Elements on TpT.)

Daily Routine

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days (25,000 for each book) requires a daily writing average of 1,667. Taking off on Sundays increases this goal to a daily writing average of 1,923.

That’s way over my daily writing average of 500 words (on the days I write, not including regular work writing). Hopefully, breaking it down into a few mini-sessions will get me over that barrier.

  • Morning writing session: 1123 words
  • Noon writing session: 500 words
  • Evening writing session: 300 words

To keep the momentum going during drafting, I’ll save edits for after November 30th. Leaving notes when a plot point gets changed or a name or detail stumps me helps. (It’s not unusual find things like THE OBJECT and NEW FRIEND in an early draft.)

And at the end of the day, every word written counts!

As mentioned above, there’s still time to join! Sign up on NaNoWriMo’s website.

Hope you find this helpful in your writing journey.

Book Review: I Need My Monster Series

At-A-Glance

Title: I Need My Monster, Hey That’s My Monster, Are You My Monster?, and How I Met My Monster

Author: Amanda Noll
Series: I Need My Monster
Books in Series: 4

Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Genre: Picture Book, Fiction
Release Date: 2009-2019

This book reminds me of: How to Catch A Monster by Michael Yu

Review

I Need My Monster focuses on friendly monsters whose job it is to keep children in bed at night. The books work well as independent stories or as a collection. Each story is infused with playfulness, through the prose and the enchanting illustrations. It’s what I most enjoyed about the series.

Ethan’s monster, Gabe, has gone fishing in the first book. Other monsters are sent in Gabe’s place, but none Ethan is happy with. Similarly in the second book, Gabe leaves to help keep another child in bed—Ethan’s sister Emma. There is a “boys need boy monsters” moment in the first book when Ethan turns away a monster for being a girl.

The third book is a departure from traditional storytelling. In it, Ethan compares all the monsters featured in the series to his monster, Gabe. It reminded me of Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.

The last book in this series, How I Met My Monster, shares Ethan’s first encounter with monsters and the moment he met his monster, Gabe.

I enjoyed Hey, That’s My Monster (the second book) and How I Met My Monster (the fourth book) the most. Overall, the series was fun and charming. I loved the illustrations.

Storyline

A unique monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this picture book relies on the power of humor over fear, appeals to a child’s love for creatures both alarming and absurd, and glorifies the scope of a child’s imagination. One night, when Ethan checks under his bed for his monster, Gabe, he finds a note from him instead: “Gone fishing. Back in a week.” Ethan knows that without Gabe’s familiar nightly scares he doesn’t stand a chance of getting to sleep, so Ethan interviews potential substitutes to see if they’ve got the right equipment for the job—pointy teeth, sharp claws, and a long tail—but none of them proves scary enough for Ethan. When Gabe returns sooner than expected from his fishing trip, Ethan is thrilled. It turns out that Gabe didn’t enjoy fishing because the fish scared too easily.

*** View more book reviews here. ***

Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Text for hosting #IMWAYR. Check out the other It’s Monday! What Are You Reading posts!

AL Renaissance Faire

Come enjoy the festivities of the Alabama Renaissance Faire and stop by to say hi! I’ll be hanging out in the Shoals Writers Guild booth from 4 pm to 6 pm on Saturday, October 23rd.

The Alabama Renaissance Faire takes place October 23-24 in Florence, Alabama at Wilson Park (behind the public library). For more information, including an event map, visit their website: https://www.thealrenfaire.orghttps://www.thealrenfaire.org

About The Shoals Writers Guild

The Shoals Writers Guild is an educational guild for published authors and writers seeking publication. Each month, they host two speakers at their meeting: an author and a community professional. You can learn more about them through their Facebook page.

Book Review: Classified

I’m switching up the review format on the blog and hope you like it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

At-A-Glance

Title: Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

Author: Traci Sorell
Series: None
Series Order: Standalone

Illustrator: Natasha Donovan
Genre: Picture Book, Nonfiction
Release Date: March 2021

Review

Classified is a non-fiction picture book about Cherokee aerospace engineer Mary Golda Ross, Lockheed’s first female engineer who helped pave the way for others. She worked on several notable project over the course of her career. But this book goes beyond her career and introduces readers to her life and the Cherokee values instilled within her—like humility, working with others, and education.

Charming illustrations offer additional insights and convey a classic time period feel. I loved seeing the different plans and the graphs incorporated into the pictures.

I also loved that Classified offers more than a typical biography written for children. The way the Cherokee values are incorporated into the the story, readers gain sense of how these values influenced and enhanced Mary Golda Ross’s life. There is so much packed into this 32-page picture book—between the story itself and the supplemental information at the end. Classified would be a wonderful addition to any home or classroom library.

Storyline

Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecraft as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s first female engineer. Find out how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work.

Cherokee author Traci Sorell and Métis illustrator Natasha Donovan trace Ross’s journey from being the only girl in a high school math class to becoming a teacher to pursuing an engineering degree, joining the top-secret Skunk Works division of Lockheed, and being a mentor for Native Americans and young women interested in engineering. In addition, the narrative highlights Cherokee values including education, working cooperatively, remaining humble, and helping ensure equal opportunity and education for all.

*** View more book reviews here. ***

Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Text for hosting #IMWAYR. Check out the other It’s Monday! What Are You Reading posts!

Teaching Resources for High School

Looking for resources to supplement your literature curriculum? There are three new (or recently updated) high school resources available on my TpT store. And like all resources in my TpT store, they’re FREE!

A guide for writing book reviews that includes quick-start questions, story analysis word bank, and a visual organizer.

A comprehensive list of literature vocabulary words that includes three activities: defining, analyzing, and applying.

A unit study on short stories. Includes vocabulary, structure, and discussion questions.