08 November 2012

online finds 11/8: the nanowrimo “must read” list

Usually the Online Finds series is dedicated to web resources. This week, however, in honor of National Novel Writing Month, I’d like to share some great books for writers who are undertaking the NaNoWriMo challenge! What follows are some of my favorite books with tips for starting, plotting, and writing your novel. Enjoy!

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
By Chris Baty

Folks who have been doing NaNoWriMo for a few years known that Chris Baty used to be the big man on campus at NaNoWriMo; he is the event’s founder, and served as the bold leader until a couple of years ago when he made the choice to write full time. No Plot? No Problem! is a major staple text for NaNoWriMo, and not just because it was written by the founder. Baty’s book features pep talks, “essential survival strategies,” and advice for all the major stages of writing your novel in 30 days (including how to “nest” for your novel, plot planning, a guide to each week of the challenge, and a “Now What?” section). 

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
By K.M. Weiland

I love K.M. Weiland’s tips for writers—she provides tons of helpful advice on her website and blog. In Outlining Your Novel, Weiland provides a rather persuasive argument for outlining your novel and using that outline as a road map to a strong story. Some folks may think of outlining simply as figuring out a basic skeleton of your plot; Weiland makes it about more than that. The book features tips for “discovering” your characters, structuring scenes, choosing settings, and more. And if you don’t want to take her word for it that outlining is a good thing, she also provides several interviews “Asking the Authors” about their outlining processes and experiences.

Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days
By Victoria Lynn Schmidt

This book and I have history. Back when I was still too stubborn to really want to invest in books that promised to guide me through any kind of writing process, this book was recommended to me by a friend who knew I did NaNoWriMo. I can remember flipping through a friend’s copy with my skepticism still intact, only to find myself searching for the fastest way to get my hands on my own copy soon thereafter. Book in a Month is a simple guide to creating writing schedules, setting goals, time management, and all the little things that contribute to the writing process in big ways. Even if you go on to break every rule in the book (i.e. one of the first “secrets” the book teaches is to “Leave Out Subplots,” and I’ve never been able to force myself to do so), it’s a quick and easy read with several extremely helpful tools (including a “Character Arc Tracker” which I think is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen and a “Villain Brainstorm” chart that leaves me cackling with delight every time I fill it out).

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain
Jamie Cat Callan

Okay, so this one isn’t a book … you could play “one of these things is not like the others” about that, or you could hone in on the fact that the title includes the word “Games” and feel just as excited as I did when I first stumbled upon this little gem. There are plot starters and element cards you can mix and match to create unique story ideas. There’s a timer. There’s a book of exercises and exercise sticks. One of my favorite writing days ever was sitting my parents down with one of the games and having us all write to the same plot and coming up with three wildly different results. This is a great toolbox to use on your own or with a group of friends, whether they are writers or not. Take it to your next writer “sit-in” and see what happens as you work with some of the exercises and games as you work on your novel!

What are your favorite writing guides, resources, and cheat sheets for pulling your novel together? Share yours in the comments below; let’s steal inspiration from each other!


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  1. Once again, Khara, so many great resources! Thanks!

    1. My pleasure; I absolutely love these books, and hope you will, too :)


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