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NaNoWriMo: A Writing Exercise for Facing Your Fears

By Laura Nsafou

 

NaNoWriMo has arrived! Unfamiliar with the acronym? It’s the writing challenge of November–the National Novel Writing Month. You can learn more about it in The List’s article Everything you need to know about NaNoWriMo, but the basic goal of this challenge is to write an entire novel in one month.

 

Every person who has attempted the NaNoWriMo challenge knows that you experience several obstacles. One obstacle is that you’ve got inspiration, but now you must write it down. So…how do you do it? Writing every day seems easy at first, but what NaNoWriMo teaches many writers is that the act of writing and having an idea are two different beasts.

 

The next set of obstacles form after the writing is complete. Doubt, curiosity, and fear will creep into the creative process if your preparation has not been vigorous.

 

Is my piece original? Have I written enough? Can it be a good novel if I’ve only spent one month writing it?

 

NaNoWriMo not only makes the writer question their personal process of putting ink to paper, it also underlines what we don’t think about when it comes to creating a story.

 

Below are four tips that will keep your courage strong during NaNoWriMo this year.

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You Never Know How Your Story Will Bring About Change

Looking at comics, representation, and impact in the United States and France

By Laura Nsafou

 

When books get press in articles and magazines, this is when the general public gets a view of what “society” feels about certain topics. These outlets represent a certain readerships’ views and expectations. What is fresh? What has become cliché? In the comments, we oftentimes see the even more interesting responses, allowing for more unearthing of society’s thoughts via a dialogue between readers, including editors and librarians.

 

As an author, being aware of and using the environment where you live is a great way to evaluate where your manuscript may fall in the global discussion. Depending on the country, this global conversation about diversity in literature will be different.

 

For example, Persepolis, a successful autobiographical graphic novel written by a French-Iranian author, Marjan Satrapi, won an Alph-Art Prize for Scenario at Festival of Angoulême, Newsweek put it on its list of ten best fiction books of the decade, and after adaptation won the Academy Award for Best Animated Featured in 2008. And yet, this book appears among the 10 most banned books in the United States and has been censored in Iran and Tunisia. Does it mean that Persepolis wasn’t good enough to please everyone? No. These disparities only mean that some countries were open to the topics Marjan Satrapi broached – sex, violence, historical events – while others were not. But why should those countries’ different viewpoints concern us? Recently, a comic book illustrated exactly why.

 

Raising Dion, a comic book by Dennis Liu, drew attention by using a single Afro-American mother, Nicole, as the main character who raises her superhero son. Compared to a superhero story with a main character that is wealthy, Caucasian, and a man – like Batman – Nicole’s story underlines not only race and gender, but also class and parenting. As an agency that values stories that showcase the fact that people from any culture could be in any situation, this project fascinated us and we wanted to delve deeper into the reactions it stirred not only in the United States, but also in France.

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How to Bring Diversity to Your Story

By Nicole Pierce

 

Here at Quill Shift, we look for and encourage books with diverse characters. When we say “diverse characters” we are referring, but not limiting, to characters of different races and ethnicities, religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, and physical and mental abilities.

 

Thousands of others are asking for these types of stories, too. The problem is that although there are more being slowly published, there are still not an overwhelming number on the market considering the majority-minority status the US is approaching rapidly. One of the big reasons for the shortage in young adult and middle grade fiction with diverse characters is that some writers are not sure how to create these characters. These writers may be thinking:

 

I want my story to have a ______ main character but I’m afraid I’ll portray someone incorrectly/afraid I may use a stereotype on accident/ I don’t know much about their cultures or beliefs.

 

First, it’s okay to feel this way. But here’s some advice—don’t think of writing diverse characters as a new concept. Just write! Your character is more than one identity trait. They are more than just their ethnicity or religious beliefs. It’s important to think when writing a story with diverse characters that all of your characters need to be nuanced people with many different facets to who they are.

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Pacing Your Story to Avoid Annoyed Readers

By Nicole Pierce

 

When readers, writers, reviewers, and editors talk about what makes a good story, you’ll hear a lot about the characters.

 

  • Do the main characters grow throughout the manuscript?
  • Are the secondary characters just as fleshed out as the main ones?

 

You’ll also hear about the plot.

 

  • Does it follow the rising action-climax-falling action scenario?
  • Is it engaging?

 

Something that has a huge effect on how the plot pulls the reader in is the pacing.

 

Why is Pacing Important?

Pacing is, in a nutshell, how your story is moving. What you, as the writer, want to do is manipulate how the story unfolds. There should be points where you let the reader breathe, and points where the action you’ve created sweeps the reader through the pages.

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Turning Your Followers into Customers…for Free

By Dredeir Roberts

 

Authors have been urged to create social media accounts and work to increase their followers, but what is the next step when authors want to convert their followers into a book-buying following? How much is that conversion going to cost authors? Zack Bulygo tells us in his article How to Acquire Customers on a $0 Marketing Budget that converting your followers into customers costs you absolutely nothing.

 

If you have a product that people want, you don’t need a $100,000 marketing budget to acquire customers.

 

Bulygo begins by emphasizing the first step to recruiting customers is having a product that people want. Lucky for authors, the first step has been taken care of by the creation of their book. The next step is to connect and incentivize your followers to share and promote your work.

 

Remember, everybody likes free stuff

 

An author can encourage followers to share their content with a free sample of forthcoming work, free tickets to a book reading, a classroom reading appearance, or an upgrade to a signed copy of a new book.

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