SCBWI Canada East Blog

November 7, 2018

8:11 PM 3
Tackling NaNoWriMo?
Guest Post by Marla Lesage

Don't hesitate. Sink your teeth in.
(Sketch by Marla Lesage)
I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to reconnect with my graphic novel manuscript. (I’m several drafts in and need to smooth out that mucky middle.) Here’s some advice for those of you tackling a first draft.

Do you have a word count target? 

Word count targets are a great tangible way to keep an eye on your progress. There are online trackers and apps available or you can keep track the good old-fashioned way. But remember: some of us write light and then expand when we start revising. Others write a lot and have to cut cut cut when we start revising. It’s okay to adjust your target as you go.

Are you a pantster or a plotter? 

Or a combination of both? Even if you are a pantster it’s good to have an end goal in sight for your story. Instead of writing a plot outline, consider writing your logline first. (What’s a logline? A summary of the heart/plot of your story. A quick internet search and you’ll find lots of resources for writing one!) A logline will give you a clear path as you set out to write. 

I’m definitely an in-betweener. I wrote a logline and then pants’d my way through several scenes. Most of these scenes were cut in the first round of revisions but they got the momentum rolling. If you’re a plotter, give yourself the freedom to write out of order and to drift from the outline when you have ideas you want to explore.

Sitting in front of a blank screen and feeling stuck? 

Take a long walk, do the dishes, pull out a notepad or scratchpad. I like to go back and forth between writing/typing/thinking with no set routine. It seems to help me bypass those moments of writer's block. And not all writing takes place on the page. A great deal of my writing takes place in my head - so those days spent just thinking about the story count just as much as the days with a large word count logged.

First time writing a novel? 

Invest in a text book! I used Cheryl Klein’s The Magic Words to guide me. Her approach and advice work well whether you are a plotter or a pantster. 

And last but not least: Find a critique/support partner. If you’re a first-timer, getting some encouragement and feedback after the first few chapters can help keep the momentum going. 

Happy Writing,
Marla Lesage 
SCBWI Canada East

Marla Lesage writes and illustrates stories for children. She is determined to finish her graphic novel sometime in the not-so-distant future. You can find her on Instagram & Twitter: @MarlaLesage.


  1. First time for me, and this is super helpful. Will look up the loline info as you suggest. And good luck with the murky middle of y oUr graohic novel!.

  2. I never do NaNoWrimo, because I have my own inner drive. But I wanted to chime in and say these tips are good ones regardless of whether you use them this month or any other. :)