Four Tips For NaNoWriMo 2018 (And Then Some) ~

Hello, dears readers, and welcome.

Ah, it’s getting to be that time of year. Autumn (Aki — or 秋, to make further use of my studies) is finally in the air, which here in Florida means the breeze is somewhat cool at certain points during the day, and there’s Pumpkin Spice drinks everywhere. Halloween is approaching, and I still need to watch some movies. And I have to stop myself from buying every bat I see (I love bats, in case you were wondering).

There’s one thing about autumn (秋) that I love more than anything, though–

NaNoWriMo…also known as National Novel Writing Month.

Started back in 1999, NaNo is a month-long writing challenge that spans the whole of November. The challenge is to write 50K (50,000 words) of a novel you’ve been dreaming to write — write alongside people from all over the world (pun intended)! It’s plenty of fun, and if you haven’t tried it, I recommend giving it a go at least once if you’re interested in writing, even if you have no desire to publish.

This will be my 9th year doing NaNo (almost to 10!), and I’m very excited. Every year on my old blog I wrote a post with tips for NaNo, and this year is no different. So sit back, relax, and prepare for some advice!

(And after you read this year’s tips, take a look at the bottom of the page for links to previous year’s tips.)


Tip #1: Don’t Edit!

*cue music from NaNoWriMo: The MusicalTrack Name: “Cannot Edit”*

My #1 writing rule (which I will get further into at some point) is this: first drafts are never last drafts.

Before this scares you, please wait a moment. This is actually a good thing!

In her book Bird By Bird, well-known amazing lady Anne Lamott calls the first draft the “shitty first draft” (pardon my words), and she’s exactly right. The first draft of a novel is almost always…well, if not awful, definitely not something you could shop to a publisher.

But that’s okay. Because the first draft is where you let your imagination run wild and run all over the sandbox of your mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect, because it’s play.

If you want to write a good story (and especially if you want to publish) you’re going to write more than one draft, from scratch. It’s just the way it is. You get to know more about your story and your world the more you write. But that doesn’t mean the first draft isn’t important, or that you should worry about having to rewrite it. It’s actually all part of the fun.

This leads to my tip: don’t edit during NaNo, because you’re going to rewrite everything anyway. And even if you’re just writing for fun (in which case you don’t have to worry about multiple drafts), it’s best not to edit, because it’s wonderfully easy to get stuck writing the same thing over and over again, and never get any further with the story.

If you’re unsatisfied with what you wrote last, keep going anyway, because you can fix it in the next draft. You can write notes on what you’d like to do differently next time if you want, but keep going. Forward momentum is key during NaNo. Worry more about having fun than that fun being perfect.

(Now there are some people who write a chapter they hate, and can’t go forward no matter what they try because they’re dissatisfied. In this case it may be a good idea to write that chapter you hated over again — saving your word count from the “dud draft”, and adding it to your overall. People aren’t cookie-cutter, so advice doesn’t work for everyone. The important thing to remember, I believe, is that you want to keep going and finish the story. If you need to tweak things a bit to get there, then fine — but don’t stop your forward momentum!)


Tip #2: You’re Not A Loser!

I love NaNo, but everywhere you turn you see “50K” flashing in your face, and sometimes this can be disheartening…especially if it’s halfway through the month, and you’re still at 10K or less.

Yes, the flashy goal of NaNo is to reach that 50K, what is (loosely) considered a novel. It’s a good accomplishment, and it’s worth being proud of. But what if your story is over at less than 50K? What if you only get halfway through the project? Or less than halfway? Does that make you a loser?

You know what is really worth being proud of, even more than reaching 50K?

Perseverance.

I have not reached 50K every year I did NaNo, though I used to feel like I had to. The first year I “lost” was difficult for me (you can read about it here). I’m a perfectionist, so I always want everything to be orderly and amazing. I expect far too much of myself. You might be like that, too. But there’s a difference between challenging yourself and holding yourself to an impossible standard.

Is it possible for you to reach 50K? Yes, it is. It may not be during NaNo because of whatever reason, but you can finish your story. That doesn’t mean the work you put in during NaNo isn’t worth something, though.

I recently met a young girl who quit NaNo last year because she didn’t get very far, and work got in the way. When I encouraged her to try again, I said she’d win even if she only reached a few thousand words. She looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

But it’s true–

Writing is the real goal of NaNo.

Trying something new. Working and continuing to work. Believing in what you have to say. Because this is what “real” writers do — write when they don’t feel like it, when they’re under pressure, when everything seems to be going wrong or you have no time. If you keep pushing forward, you’re being a real writer, even if you only write ten words a day.

50K is great, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that it’s the ultimate goal.

If you’re working and persevering — no matter how many words you write, or how sloppy a chapter is, or how trite the dialogue seems — then you’re winning.

Reaching 50K is just a bonus.


NaNo-2018-Writer-Badge


Tip #3: Love That Story!

As I mentioned above, the first draft of a novel is the equivalent of a sandbox. There might be hidden toys or coins or old candy wrappers somewhere in the sand. You don’t know–

But it’s your job to find out what’s there…and what to do with it.

Can you build a novel out of old junk? Sure you can. Writers recycle ideas all of the time, and that’s not a bad thing; we humans love to put a new spin on things. But you might find that if you polish that old junk, it will turn into something beautiful…even something new once you add a few flourishes.

Chances are, you chose whatever story you’re working on for a reason. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, because it (and the story) are unique to you. In my experience, we tend to write about things that are personally important to us, or things that we personally like. So embrace your likes and passions, no matter how strange they may seem to someone else.

It’s your story, after all.

I’ve switched ideas (I tend to do this) and am working on a sci-fi novel. It’s a product of my complicated relationship with technology and science, born from several of my favorite shows and characters. The story is very close to my heart, though someone else would probably laugh about it.

But who cares?

This is my story to cherish and love, just as your story is yours to cherish and love.

So be loving to your story during November, and be loving to yourself. Remember why it’s important to you, why it matters.

Unless you let them, no one can take that away from you.


Tip #4: Take Care (Of Yourself)!

Who here tends to forget to eat, sleep, and stop working?

*raises hand*

Hopefully I’m not the only weirdo out there. But if I am, oh well. I’d love to not to be in good company, because none of the above things are particularly desirable. I’m hoping you don’t need this bit of advice, and can move on to the bottom of the post.

But just in case I’m not the only weirdo, I’ll give you a (probably) much-needed reminder (which I am also giving myself):

Writing is great. Goals are great. Challenges are great.

But remember to take care of yourself during NaNo. 

You can’t finish that novel — or write another one — if you don’t care for yourself. Your body is only made to take so much. Overwriting can be damaging to your arms, back, etc., so remember to stretch, to take breaks, to take days off if you need to (don’t look at me like that; your health is more important).

Remember to eat well, and sleep. Bring snacks to your desk if you have to (I do). Showers will keep you from feeling too grimy to write, and your (real and imaginary) friends will thank you.

Also, remember to spend time with your family. Carve out a schedule if you must, but don’t ignore people during the month. Not only are family, friends (and your fellow Wrimos) great sources of encouragement, but they can be great sources of inspiration, too.

Also, go to a NaNo event if there’s one near you. Writers aren’t usually serial killers — just the characters in their books.

(I mean: we can be a strange bunch, but we’re usually fun. Go meet someone who loves words as much as you do, and help support them in their writing, too).


I hope you enjoyed the post, and are excited for NaNo to begin. It’s coming soon, so stock up on snacks, pens, paper, and charge up your laptop to get ready to go!

As promised, here are links to my previous NaNo posts. Enjoy!

Alexandra ~


NaNo Prep: Using The Word “No” (2014)

NaNo Prep: Gather Your Inspiration Information (2014)

NaNo Prep: Leave Your Novel Worries Behind (2014)

NaNo Prep: Goodbye To Inhibitions (2014)

NaNo Prep: Remaining Courageous (2014)

Plotting Tips For The Pantser (2014

Why I Still Need NaNo: Writing To Win…Not Win (2015)

To NaNo, With Love — Includes Free Worksheet! (2016)

NaNo Prep: Worldbuilding List — Includes Free Worksheet! (2016)

NaNo 2017 Post — Do It!


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Kieros Chronicle: Shadows of Past Pages ~Prologue~

Kieros Chronicle Book #1: Shadows of Past Pages

By: Alexandra Lanc


Prologue ~ 

Time halted, hanging on a single question… 

“Well, what do you say?” Those brilliant, gleaming, nearly emotionless eyes were the most terrifying thing she’d ever seen, the voice whispering in her twitching ear was as heated as  the breath that accompanied it.

What should she say? What should she do? 

How had it come to this? 

This wasn’t what she wanted—

…was it? 

Her ears flattened, her tail twitched, her body shaking with the fright of not knowing the answer to any of these questions. She stumbled back a step, reeling in indecision. 

Moments ago she was dancing, enjoying the rare company grouped throughout the ballroom. A day ago she had sworn a solemn oath, feeling the weight of a pendant settle around her neck. One week ago she had stepped outside the castle walls for the first time, feeling dirt between her toes…

But now—

Now one question threatened to shatter the fragile life she was beginning to create for herself. Now her suspicions and fears were quickly being realized, confirmed. Now she was back to being a prisoner with a choice. 

So what would she choose? 

What could she choose? 

What should she—

She had to say yes, of course, to reach forward and grasp onto her power with both hands. She wanted to understand the extents of her ability, to learn and grow. 

That greedy, hungry desire slithered through her, urging her on, and for a brief moment the heavy red eyes watching her were not so terrifying; the question she had been asked did not seem quite so complicated. Those eyes lost their overwhelming weight, and she felt lighter than air, able to do anything, if only she said yes and—

“Please don’t.” A voice said from behind. 

The grasping hunger abruptly died as a hand landed upon her arm, shattering the spell avarice had put her under. She turned, looking up to meet a pair of familiar amber eyes. 

The careful calm Ikura worked so hard to maintain had fallen away. His ears were flattened against his cobalt hair, his amber eyes narrowed, his top lip pulled back to reveal a hint of fang.

“What he promises will never be given, Reaye.” Ikura said, grasping her arm tighter—not with force, but desperation. “That power will destroy you, just as it did your ancestors…” His lips formed a hard, thin line, as if he were trying to hold himself back from saying more. 

But in his eyes, Reaye saw what he didn’t say.

She saw what else her power would and could do—

She saw the monster she may become, and the fear of it brought tears to her eyes. 

What should she do? 

What should she say? 

What had seemed clear only a moment ago was once more muddled with uncertainty. 

All her life she had felt powerless, and now power was poised, ready at her fingertips, only one ‘yes’ away. She was both afraid of and intrigued by it, but neither fear or intrigue were an answer. 

She needed time to think—a place to think…somewhere safe and so far out of reach. 

Ceinosshe thought, willed, begged, remembering the stories. 

The power she so admired and feared activated in response to her sense of desperation, to that wild and unspoken wish. The ballroom and the Xaera and Ikura and those red eyes all disappeared abruptly as color drained from the world…and Reaye felt herself falling, falling, falling towards the place of her dreams. 

She closed her eyes, willing two words out into the universe: 

I’m sorry.”


Terren breathed in and out, heart racing, fingers clutching tightly at the sheets. For a brief moment she wondered where she was, eyeing the shadowy darkness, trying to discern what those shapes were. But after that moment all became clear, and she found herself once more grounded in reality—

There was her desk, her wardrobe, her lamp.

Here was her room; she hadn’t left it after all.

Terren_Bedhead_Kieros_Chronicle
Terren has bedhead.

Those lingering images were nothing but a dream, as vivid and possible as the dream had seemed. She was safe inside her home, inside her familiar life. She could breathe easily.

The quietness of predawn reached her, and with a glance at her lighted clock, she snuggled deeper into her purple coverlet, fighting off the autumn chill.

But that dream—

She couldn’t leave it sit. She didn’t want to forget it.

Some things were best forgotten, but this wasn’t one of them.

She closed her eyes, and she could see it once more: a gilded, ethereal ballroom clothed in trees, vines, draping velvets, and wrought-iron standing mirrors. A scene from a dark fairytale, a teasing fantasy.

It would make a good ending. I could build a story around it, Terren thought, lips curling, eyes fluttering open. And I do need a project for my life as a Wordsmith. 

Throwing off her coverlet, Terren suppressed a shiver, sitting up slowly in her bed; despite her care, a faint wave of dizziness washed over her, but she rode the wave as best she could. Clicking on the nearby lamp, Terren pulled on her booted slippers before stumbling for her writing desk, words already burning bright inside her mind.

Still, she had to hurry—

There were only a few hours before Aura would arrive, signaling the official start of Rush Day.


Hello, dear readers, and welcome to the beginning of Shadows of Past Pages, the first Kieros Chronicle book. If you’d like to know more about the story and where it came from, check out my Introduction To Kieros Chronicle post. I’m very excited for the story, so thank you for reading it. 

Did you like the Prologue? The first official chapter goes up in 2 weeks, so please check back and enjoy! ありがとうございます! (Thank you!)

I call the doodle above “Terren Has Bedhead”. I’ve been away from drawing (regularly) for a while, so I’ve been trying to get back into it. I also included the Katakana (Japanese) for  Prologue (pororogu orポロローグ) in the drawing (with my iffy handwriting), since I’m trying to use my language-study as often as possible (plus I think it looks cool…but that could just be because I love Japanese, and this story is heavily inspired by anime and manga, not to mention folklore).

I’ll be posting a “normal” photo of Terren in the first chapter, so you can see what she looks like without hair all over the place. I’m also working on a cover for this story, which I hope to finish soon. Please look forward to it! 


Hopefully I don’t actually need to say this (and I won’t say it every time, because that would be redundant), but: this is copyrighted material, so please don’t copy/edit/save/etc. without consent from me. Stealing is rude, guys. Not to mention, you know, illegal. 


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An Introduction To Kieros Chronicle

Hello, dear readers, and welcome!

Saturday is fast approaching (as is the middle of this month!), and I will admit I am very excited to be posting the first chapter of Kieros Chronicle Book 1, also known as “Shadows of Past Pages” (cover coming soon!).

But before we get to the actual posting, I wanted to tell you a little bit about this series, and what it means to me…

It’s been over ten years since I sat down and wrote the first chapter of (what was then) Shadows of Past Memories, the title the first book had when it was originally published back in 2013. It was only a few days after my older brother was involved in a very severe motorcycle accident, which almost killed him and left him with plenty of recovering to do, not to mention turned our lives upside-down.

I remember clearly the morning I woke up from a strange dream, the story that would eventually become SOPM in my mind. I was finally in a real bed and not at the hospital, waiting and praying. I had actually managed to sleep a little bit since my brother was out of his initial surgeries. At the time, that dream was my lifeline, because it was a story I could cling to and work on — and for me, stories have always made sense when everything else has not, no matter how strange those stories may be. Writing is my way to understand the world.

So I got to typing. And I kept typing — through those months at the hospital, through the time my brother had therapy, for the year+ that he couldn’t walk properly. And somewhere in typing I realized something: I could be a writer after all.

I’ve shared the story of how I decided to become a writer on my former blog several times (here and here), but I’ll give you the short version: I read a book that inspired me to create a world of my own (Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, if you’re wondering). That’s probably not a unique thing for a writer, but after I finished SOPM I felt, for the first time in a while, like I could be that writer for someone else down the road.

So I kept writing, and I vowed that SOPM would be one of my first books published. And finally, after several years of writing and editing, I released it in 2013 as my second published book (Clara Claus, a bestselling Christmas story, was the first). I was over the moon, and I dedicated the tome to my brother.

61b33atijfl-sx331-bo1-204-203-200_orig

But, like so many things in life, this story did not go as I expected…

I self-published for 7 years before closing up shop, so there’s way too much ground to cover in detail, but basically: I doubted myself. Over and over again.

I released the book in 2013, then I felt that it was missing something, and I did an edit, adding quite a few pages of new content and published a new edition (shown above). Some time later I unpublished the story for various reasons. But I could never seem to let the story go, even when I was advised to do just that.

So I kept writing, over and over again. I hashed out SOPM — giving it different names and somewhat different settings — fourteen times. Meaning, I wrote fourteen drafts of this story, from scratch. I wrote a prequel and posted it on Wattpad. I posted the novel to my website for free reading. I gave away ebooks. But nothing seemed to work, and still I doubted myself.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and in this case, that is very true, because it wasn’t until easier this year that I realized something:

I needed to let it go. 

*Cue bad Frozen karaoke*

But seriously, the time had come. I had been working on this story for so long, pushing it so hard, that I had failed to realize something: I was trying to make it into a “success” — something I could query despite the fact that I had already published it, something that was as good as the stories from my idols — instead of loving the story for what it was.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this story. I love it to pieces. It knows me better than I know myself. This is part of why I simply couldn’t let it go for so long. I even wrote a post a few years ago titled “Story, I’m Not Giving Up On You”. I have a definite belief that no one can love a story more than the creator, no matter how great fans are or how invested they are in a world.

But still, I felt something in my soul telling me to step back, to let it go; God was being insistent. It sounded crazy, and I didn’t want to do it. This was in March, after I attended a webinar on querying. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I decided to listen…and I started working on another story–

The story I am currently working on, which I will hopefully query next year. We will call it RM. It’s a never-before-published work, and I am very proud of it. I’m sure it would have been years before I finished it if I hadn’t set what is now Kieros Chronicle aside.

But here’s the thing: if I hadn’t done all those rewrites for Kieros — thousands upon thousands of words, because I am many things but brief is not one of them — then I never would have been prepared to write RM, not just when it comes to prose, but in every aspect: plot, character development, theme, not to mention the writing of challenging topics.

If I had given up on Kieros, then I wouldn’t have had the tools necessary to write RM, or the confidence that, even though it’s not one draft and done, I can do this. I can write as much as I need to to find the story lurking underneath — not just a shadow of it, but the real, whole thing.

I say all this to say: I am really grateful for Kieros. And no, I am not ready to give up on it.

Back in March, I thought I would set it aside for good, but my wise friend, whom I call Neko (“cat” in Japanese), looked at me knowingly and said: “Never say never.”

She knows me too well. And, it turns out, so does God (no surprise there).

Because one day, as I was thinking about where I wanted to go writing-wise, it occurred to me that I had never really gotten past book one of Foxfire Chronicles (Kieros — whatever). I had started book two way back when, after publishing SOPM originally, but I hadn’t finished it because I was caught in doubting myself. And then I realized another thing: there was a reason for this.

I’m sure I’ll rant about this some other time, but to summarize: learning to be a good writer takes time and ridiculous amounts of effort. If you’re not up for that, then you need to quit pursuing publishing (not to be mean, just to be realistic…although if you never intend to publish, that’s another story entirely, and write on). The slogan in the publishing industry is: “Hurry up and wait.”

Writing is not an easy job, my lovelies. I’ve been writing novels for over fifteen years, and I still learn new things every day — after publishing for years. I do believe you can become a Writing Master, but I don’t believe you can ever stop learning new things about writing.

So here’s the truth: my younger self was not capable of finishing the series, or writing what needed to be written. The ideas were there, but the tools and the experience were not, because I simply hadn’t learned enough yet. And I don’t claim to be the best writer there ever was, but I feel I’ve learned enough to at least be capable now.

And so a few months ago, God gave my story back to me and said: “Here, Alexandra. Go right ahead.” 

That’s when I decided to start this blog, something I’d been thinking about for a while. And while RM is currently my priority, as it’s always been my dream to be traditionally published — and I just know this is the story — I also would genuinely like to finish Kieros in my own way, on my own time.

So I decided to include it in this blog, to release one chapter at a time and write more. The first book is nearly complete, but I feel posting will spur me onwards to finish the series. It will take a while, of course, but I’m excited about it. I plan to post a chapter every two weeks.

I’d be most grateful if you’d join me on the journey.

And to all those writers out there: don’t be in such a rush to be great. There’s something to be said for hard work and time. Our society makes it seem like greatness is built overnight, but I think the real success is in continuing forward when your dreams seem like they’re taking forever to manifest. It’s not enough to be a bestseller, or a published author, or to have films and fame…because at the end of the day when it’s just you and your story, you have to be able to be content with finding your own answers.

The first chapter of Kieros Chronicle: Shadows of Past Pages will be published here Saturday, October 13th, 2018! See you then.

Best Wishes,

Alexandra ~


What have you learned about writing from your passion project? Is there a time when you had to set a story aside, and did it return to you? What did you learn from the experience? 


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Thank you very much! ありがとうございます!