NaNoWriMo starts Sunday, so this is prep time for all you people itching to start a novel. The Young Writer's Program offers a novel workbook, author pep talks and venues to connect to other teen writers.
NaNo launched in 1999 and last year 325,142 participated. Since it's beginning over 250 NaNo novels have been published, including Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl and Marissa Meyer's Cinder.
Here's how it works. You go to their website, fill out a profile, hang out with other writers and commit to trying to write 50,000 words in a month. At the end of November, you stop. Not everybody makes the goal, so don't feel bad if you don't. There are badges that reward your best efforts. Display them with pride!
Fifty thousand words is a lot to write in a month. The great thing is, no one expects them to be brilliant. You just write the story straight from your head. It will probably be a mess. Like most first drafts, it might make you wince when you read it. But it might also be the beginning of a good book.
NaNoWriMo is a fast, fun way to prove you have a novel in you. It doesn't guarantee it will be a novel worth publishing. The value of the words you write depend on you learning to write them well. So if you start NaNo as a beginning writer, don't expect to create a blockbuster novel. Use it as a learning experience. Most authors start by writing books no one will ever read. Why not do that with a legion of new writer friends? And for experienced writers who are using NaNo to bring a third or fourth book into the world, who knows? It could be the next Eleanor and Park.
October 18-24 is Teen Read Week. Sponsored by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, the theme for this year's event is Get Away, and it encourages teens to take a break from their busy lives by escaping in a book.
Before I grew serious about writing books, I read fiction to escape. I loved finding new favorite authors, waiting for their latest titles to emerge and savoring every word. But for the last seven years, I've read with a focus on learning to write better. When you're dissecting sentences and analyzing plot, it sort of steals the pleasure from the story. I miss the old me that approached each book like a house full of hidden treasure, anticipation tingling up and down my spine as I opened the cover.
And it still happens. Even with my brain set on Study Mode, I find books that draw me into a story so completely, I abandon the analyzing and dissecting, latch onto the protagonist and follow them like an adoring puppy. Because I love books. I love picture books that tickle and dazzle with carefully chosen words and brilliant art. I love middle grade stories, especially the ones that touch my heart. And of course, I love YA books, and not just because I write stories for that age.
My favorite books are the ones that make me see the world in a new way. Sometimes that's fantasy, sci-fi or magical realism. But just as often, it's a contemporary or historical tale. Good books take us to another place and when we leave, we're changed. Our minds have stretched to allow room for new thoughts and perspectives. I just finished reading the graphic novel Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson. I'm not into comic books or super heroes, but somehow this book landed on my reading pile. And I loved it. It's a book after all, with a story to tell, so I shouldn't be surprised.
Do you have your literary vacation picked out for Teen Read Week? Is it one book or a stack? Will you cozy up with familiar authors or try something new? There's still time to search. Go on now, what are you waiting for? Oh, you're in the middle of Algebra II, squinting at the impossibly twisted formula the teacher just scribbled? That's okay then. But the very next time your fingers hop online, head thee to the library and reserve a book. You deserve a vacation from mind-tangling math formulas!
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor