Kid Writers: How to Join the Young Writers’ Program for National Novel Writers’ Month in November

You’re a kid. You’re a writer (or you just like making things up but you’re not sure you’re a writer; you might be a game designer or a director or a singer, you haven’t decided yet).

There’s an awesome writing challenge coming up in November called the Young Writers’ Program. It’s part of the National Novel Writing Month.

The challenge: Write a lot of words during November 1 to November 30. (You get to decide how many words.) If you meet your writing goal by November 30, you win! Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to talk your parents or teacher into giving you prizes; the Young Writers’ Program website won’t send you any money or anything.

A LOT of kids will be participating, all over the world.

How to sign up:

Click on the Young Writers’ Program signup link here. You will have to provide an email address. After you’re signed up, you can add a picture, give a summary of your book, make buddies, and use the word counter to count your words.

How to pick your word count challenge:

A short story is usually 1000 – 5000 words. A chapter in a Goosebumps-type book is usually about 1500 words. A Goosebumps-type book is usually about 25,000 to 30,000 words. If you want to write a book that’s the same length as a different book (like Eragon, yikes!), take the number of pages with the story on them (don’t count the title page and other non-story stuff) times 250, which will give you a good guess.

Whatever amount you pick is okay. I suggest that if you don’t write a lot, go for a short story. (If you get done early, you can always write another short story.) If you do write a lot, go for a whole book. Try to write a little more than you usually do–or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, a LOT more than you usually do.

How to know how many words you need to write every day:

You can do this two ways:

Figure out how much you need to write every single day (30 days). Figure out how much you need to write every day, minus weekends and Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving (20 days).

Personally, I always figure out how much to write for 20 days, then take two days off every week to rest, play games, and read.

If you’re writing all 30 days, you will need to write about 33 words for every 1000 words you want to write, total:

1000 words: Write 33 words a day. 5000 words: Write about 167 words a day. 10,000 words: Write 333 words a day. 25,000 words: Write 833 words a day. 30,000 words: Write 1000 words a day. 50,000 words: Write 1667 words a day.

If you’re writing for only 20 days, you will need to write 50 words for every 1000 words you want to write, total:1000 words: Write 50 words a day. 5000 words: Write 250 words a day. 10,000 words: Write 500 words a day. 25,000 words: Write 1250 words a day. 30,000 words: Write 1500 words a day. 50,000 words: Write 2000 words a day.

There’s also a calculator at the website.

How to decide what to write:

You can write about whatever you want. Nothing is wrong. Okay, not everybody’s going to like what you write about, but if you try to tell yourself that you can’t write about something, you’re going to get stuck. It just works out that way.

What if you don’t like what you picked anymore? Then add something weird, like a ninja, to your story and see what happens. Writers do this all the time; just finish your story!

What if you have too many ideas? You can mush them together and write a story that uses all of them, if you like. Again, writers do this all the time. A romantic story of two spies who have to save the world from Godzilla, zombies, and evil bunnies. Why not?

How to write all those words:

Repeat after me:

“I promise I will delete NO words during November for my Young Writers’ Project story. Anything I write, no matter how stupid I think it is (or how great), will stay exactly the way it was when I first wrote it. I will not fix spelling, fix the names of things that I’ve changed, rewrite anything in neat handwriting, or change anything else. Only new words are allowed.”

Then you have to figure out when you’re going to write, like right before you do your homework.

It helps if you can tell your family what you’re doing, because 1) maybe they’ll supply a prize if you win, 2) they’ll probably be proud of you whether you win or not, and 3) they might help out with chores so you have more time to write (hint hint).

How to get unstuck:

Skip the hard parts. If you’re stuck on something in particular, go off and write a different part of the story. Make something new happen: have one character kill another; have two characters who don’t really like each other fall in love; have aliens kidnap someone. In my opinion, zombies are always good. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. Talk to someone about your story so far. Telling a story to someone has a tendency for our brains to make up more stuff, because the person is right there, listening to you. However, as soon as you get the idea, stop talking–run off and go write! People who are friends with writers have to deal with this all the time. Take paper and a pen or pencil with you everywhere you go all month. Be ready to jump out of the shower, write two sentences, and jump back in the shower. If writing is making you nervous in general (for example, if you think you’re a bad writer), ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I finish this story?” Um, you just never let anyone read it, if you think it’s so bad. But what if someone stole it, read it, thought it was stupid, and laughed at you? Well, they were a jerk who was going to be a jerk anyway, so no big loss.

Important survival tips:

If you’re writing something bad about someone, change their name, so they don’t find out (or can’t prove that it was them). Type on a computer if you can, so you don’t have to count EVERY SINGLE WORD. And so you don’t have to think all the time about how neatly you’re writing. Find other writers and talk to them about how things are going. People who like to write will usually like each other, too. We’re kind of weird. We like to find out about things, to tell (and listen to) interesting stories, and to say odd things. Other writers will understand what you’re going through. You can find writers through the links at the Young Writers Program or by asking your teacher or librarian, who can find out if there’s a program for writers in your area. Go to a group writing session if you can!

The most important part of doing a project for the Young Writers’ Program in November is to have fun! Even if you don’t finish all your words, you had fun writing, and you got a lot more done than you would have if you hadn’t taken the challenge, right?

Good luck!

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