Advice from past NaNoWriMo participants on writing your novel


Write that novel: Tips on winning NaNoWriMo

It’s day two of National Novel Writing Month, which means all around the world, writers are furiously typing away at their computers (or staring at blank screens—hey, it’s all part of the process!). I’m happy to report that, despite some major doubts about my plot in the days leading up to NaNoWriMo, I kicked it off by writing more than 2,000 words on day one. Even though it’s Monday and there are a million other things to do, I’m anxious to dive into day two.

But first, I thought I’d share some advice from former NaNoWriMo participants on how to tackle this month like a champ. Even if you’re not joining in on the festivities this month but are thinking about writing a novel, these are great tips to keep in mind.


A reminder that comparison is the thief of joy…

NaNoWriMo advice

…and that this is supposed to be fun.

NaNoWriMo advice

Some perspective that the first draft is just a draft…NaNoWriMo advice NaNoWriMo advice

…and every little bit counts.
NaNoWriMo advice

Always have a plan for your next session…
NaNoWriMo advice

…and don’t forget your priorities.NaNoWriMo advice

And some words of wisdom from the NaNoWriMo coaches themselves:NaNoWriMo advice

Happy novel writing!

Related: 7 tips for making sure you kick butt at NaNoWriMo

The secret to job hunting: It isn’t about you

Job hunting sucks.

The problem is, we sometimes are so desperate for a job that we focus too much on ourselves in the process of searching for employment that our desperation shows through as we try so hard to fit into the mold we think the employer wants—and they see right through it. But guest blogger Erika of All Things E cuts through the painful stuff in her guest post today to tell job seekers everything they want to know about the hiring process… from the employer’s side.

job hunt

Applying for jobs is stressful.

You agonize over tiny details, ride the roller coaster of hope and rejection, find yourself legitimately concerned that your voice “sounds weird” on the phone and overall, turn into a ball of nerves.

Am I good enough? Am I what they’re looking for? Is this job actually as great as it seems on paper?

(Answers: Yes, maybe and probably not… if you were wondering.)

The humbling, tiresome circus of applying for jobs after graduation or as a working professional is something that we all experience, usually several times in our adult life. After settling in and finding a job that I actually like (though, I have to say: I had a job from hell beforehand—it was character-building), I recently found myself in an entirely new position in the hiring process: as the one doing the actual hiring.


I’ll say this first: being on this side of the equation was not at all what I expected. Companies hire when the amount of work is greater than the amount of manpower. Because I work for a small company, the extra work plus the work of finding a suitable candidate to join our team meant late nights and very busy days.

And a LOT of pressure to find someone that would be able to step in, learn fast and contribute right away.

Luckily, we found that person. It took about 3 months, but it’s in the past and I’m on my way to figuring out how to manage (also, very weird).

I learned a LOT about the hiring process from the other side of the table and the experience made me reflect on how I’ll go about applying and interviewing for jobs in the future, so I’m excited to be sharing my insights with you to hopefully make the job-hunting process a bit less scary and anxiety-ridden.

First, the biggest takeaway from the experience:

It isn’t about you.

From the company’s perspective, you are one piece in a pretty big puzzle. I don’t say that to belittle you or make you feel small about what you’re getting into. I say it to help ease your nerves.

Because the truth is: you, as the applicant, control only a very small portion of the outcome.

So breathe easier, embrace patience and by God, take it WAY less personally when you don’t get the job, even if it’s your “dream job.”

If it were your dream job, you would have landed it. Because you would have been the perfect fit. You see, the trouble is, it’s difficult to deduce whether you’re “the perfect fit” for any job from a one-page description.

Personality traits, foundational skills (i.e. writing, talking to people, coming up with ideas) and cultural elements are all really important dimensions of a candidate that just don’t come through in a job description.

So my biggest piece of advice? EMBRACE the fact that it isn’t ALL about you. 

Once you embrace this idea (and the idea that the outcome of the interview process isn’t a reflection of your worthiness as a human being in the slightest bit), you’ll be ready and able to actually showcase yourself and your talents in a way that a potential employer won’t be able to stop thinking about you.

Beyond that MAJOR piece of insight (seriously, take it to heart), there are a few pieces of advice that I know I’ll be keeping in my back pocket for when I go back to the other side of the table:

  • BE THOROUGH. Small details matter. Spelling, grammar, layout and presentation of your resume and cover letter DO make a difference—it’s easier for the hiring manager to weed out the people who were too careless to run spell check or make sure that their cover letter made sense. Also, things like thank you notes and proper email etiquette go a long way. Present yourself with polish.
  • BE HONEST. I was flabbergasted by the number of people that straight-up lied to us about the very things that we spent ALL DAY doing for work. It was actually kind of offensive. If you don’t know something, say so. If you lie about knowing how to do something, your employer is going to expect that when you start, you know how to do it. Don’t set yourself up to fail from the get-go.
  • BE PREPARED. Know something about the company and come prepared with questions to ask the interviewers. It shows that you’re curious and know how to use Google, which are two very important skills. Make a list of questions if you think you’ll forget it when you’re in the moment and please, make sure this one is on your list: “What would a normal day be like for me in this position?”
  • Finally, BE YOURSELF. Nail down the “tell me about yourself” and “what do you like to do outside of work?” questions with interesting, complete answers. Practice delivering them—it’ll give you confidence. Talk with passion about something —anything—and you’ll stand out. Personality goes a long, long way. Many people shy away from their personality in interviews because they want to show how professional they can be. Don’t. Interviews are impossibly boring and when you interview a lot of people, they all run together in your mind. The people who had a great personality stood out a LOT.


Obviously, every job is going to be a bit different, as is every job interviewer.

One thing I really believe to be true after this experience is that one of the most critical times to be your true self is when you’re in the process of finding the job that you’ll spend a HUGE chunk of your waking hours doing.

So if you walk out of an interview feeling like you represented yourself in an honest, engaging way and you don’t get the job?

It wasn’t the job for you.

And it wasn’t about YOU.

So tell me: what’s the best piece of job interview advice you’ve ever received?

Erika SevignyErika Sevigny is a 24-year-old single gal living, loving and learning in St. Louis, Missouri. She writes about friendship, books, self awareness and daily life on her blog All Things E and wholeheartedly believes in long hugs, cold coffee and handwritten letters. Say hello on Twitter @ErikaSevigny or at erika [at]

Paging Dr. Cassie

In my almost twenty-one short (or long, depending on what mood I’m in) years of life, I’ve received a lot of advice. Most of it has been given to me without my even asking. Some people are really thoughtful that way. Some of it has come by request from me, only to be completely ignored and for me to do the opposite of what has been suggested. Example: “Cass, don’t jump off your bunk bed.” “Leave me alone! This is the safest and most rewarding activity I could possibly partake in!” Five seconds and one nearly spine-shattering landing later: a potential back problem that will likely set in 10 years sooner than it would otherwise and me screaming bloody murder.

A lot of the advice I’ve received, such as the above mentioned, has come from my parents, because that’s what parents are supposed to do. Much of their advice, when first given, was wholly unconsidered by yours truly, occasionally followed by an eye roll, only for me to later deem it worthy of my attention. I’ve certainly received a fair share of advice from other loved ones such as friends, and it’s sometimes so the opposite of what I’ve expected or just simply wanted to hear, that I disregarded their guidance, too. Example: “Cassie, that outfit is hideous. You should change.” “No! Lime green spandex pants are totally in right now!” Five minutes and four little giggling middle-school twits later: a wounded ego and a several-year-long exploration of what kind of clothes are flattering for a young girl to wear.

Every now and then, I’ll get a life lesson from a stranger or someone who hardly knows me at all. This type of advice is sometimes of the most value—a stranger can have the most objective outlook on your situation of anyone you encounter. Other times, it’s simply the most maddening, i.e. “Who the hell do you think you are to give me your idiotic, unwarranted advice?” Because, in reality, most people are just dumb.

Why do I even bother asking for advice?

Despite these flaws, I’ve learned a lot from the people around me, whether I realized in the moment just how valuable their guidance was or not. And I know I’ve had several people confide in me with their problems, and each of them has told me what a good listener I am. They also know that they can trust me, because I would never share their problems with another soul.

So, I’ve decided to try something fun and different. I’m starting an advice column here at Witty Title Here. I want you to send me your issues and dilemmas. Absolutely anything that’s going on in your life that you need a second opinion on—well, you’ve come to the right place. Want to know what you should wear for your first Friday night out as a singleton? I’ll clue you in. Need advice on what you should do about your boyfriend who wants to explore no-strings-attached relationships with other people? Uh, I’ll let you know exactly what I think about that. Can’t decide whether something is black or navy? I’ll help you figure out that life-altering difference.

Whether it’s mundane or truly serious, send it on in. You can choose to remain anonymous or not—it’s up to you; I won’t reveal your identity. Remember, though, I am not a certified advice-giver. This means the advice you receive might be ridiculous or unsatisfactory. You cannot hold me responsible for whatever potentially disastrous things happen as a result of my uninformed counsel.

 Post your questions as a comment here (use a fake email address if you don’t trust me), or if it’s really private—in which case, I’m not sure why you’d send anything to me in the first place—you can email me using the “Get in Touch” page above. Just remember to include my blog name in the subject. Give me some good stuff, and gimme everything you got! The more questions I get, the sooner you can see the wacky results. This should be fun.