Kids + Teens

NaNoWriMo: Stop Writing and Start Seeing

November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and Chronicle’s Middle Grade and YA novelists are here to help you stay motivated. We’ve invited several to give their best tips and advice. This week is Beth Kephart. Check back in for more inspiration next Wednesday, and good luck! We know you can do it!

Beth and Going Over

So you’re deep into your NaNoWriMo. You’re deep, you’re writing, you’re word counting. You’re thinking, I’ve only got thousands upon thousands of words to go.

Thousands upon thousands!

Here’s a tip, a way to keep writing forward. Go spend a little time with photographs. Take a good hard look not at the obvious subject but at the ridges, the margins, the shadows. There are details there that can speak to you.

More true? There are details there that will speak to you.

I do this all the time. In fact, I can’t imagine writing a book without poring over photographs—my own or someone else’s. I couldn’t have written Going Over, a 1983 Berlin novel, without studying the graffiti I photographed during a trip I took in June 2011. I couldn’t have written One Thing Stolen, my forthcoming Florence novel, without the photographs taken during a glorious October in 2012. I couldn’t have written the book I’m writing now without all the images of the sky I’ve taken in all its many permutations through the years.

At the edge, I’ll find a color blur. In a corner, the wing of a bird. Along the bottom margin, a blackening shadow.
There are stories there.

I’m sharing today several of my own photographs as a point for your departure. Take a look. See what you see. Find room for it in your stories.

(Then tell me all about it.)




Beth Kephart is the author of the novel Going Over, a Young Adult novel set on both sides of the wall in 1983 Berlin. Need more help with your NaNoWriMo project? Check out the newly revised edition of No Plot? No Problem! written by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo.

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