NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2019
November is nearly upon us, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month.
Yes, it’s the month where writers around the world try to write a novel in 30 days. If that seems impossible, remember that John Boyne wrote The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in just two and a half days, and Enid Blyton could complete a novel in a week. Also, Marissa Meyer drafted books 1, 2 and 3 of The Lunar Chronicles during one NaNoWriMo for a total of 150,011 words. That’s three times the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000!
Clearly anything is possible, and while NaNoWriMo founder and writing teacher Chris Baty argues that a deadline can be more important than a plot, we at Sweet Cherry believe that a good idea is more important than either.
So what are you going to write about this November?
If you’re a children’s writer, we’ve got some suggestions for you. We asked our Editorial team what sort of stories they’d like to see in our inbox with the hope of giving you some inspiration. Here’s what they had to say:
Cecilia (Managing Editor)
When I’m reading submissions, characters are absolutely key. They can be cheeky, shy, playful, focussed, or complete daydreamers, but young readers have to be able to relate to them. This means that I’m looking for engaging characters that accurately represent modern children and modern society. In the lower middle grade category, I’m looking for exciting books about sports, especially those sports that often get overlooked. A book about karate could be very cool, as could a series about a climbing club.
In upper middle grade, I’m a sucker for retellings. I really loved Katy, Jacqueline Wilson’s reimagining of the children’s classic What Katy Did. It’s such a great read because it keeps the charm of the original, but updates the setting and portrays disability in a realistic and positive way.
At the end of the day, retellings are fun. They let us explore ideas like, would Hamlet be obsessed with Tumblr? Would Anne of Green Gables join Extinction Rebellion? I’d love to see what you think your favourite characters would make of the times we live in!
Cecilia’s favourite recent reads are: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Kellie (Senior Editor)
Sweet Cherry specialises in middle grade fiction, so novels for 7 to 9 (around 15-20,000 words) and 9 to 12-year-olds (roughly 30-55,000 words) are our thing. Of the two, there are fewer books available in the 7 to 9 range so I’d love to see something fresh and ambitious for that age group. Something with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) theme, maybe? Plus the characters have to be really engaging since we only publish series and no one wants to follow uninteresting characters for three-plus books.
It would be good to depict some more varied family structures and home lives. Young carers, for example. As well as what I’m calling ‘incidental inclusivity’, where characters might be differently abled or oriented without it being the main focus of the story. I like books that explore cause and effect. If a character has lost the peripheral vision in one eye, for example, they might accidentally crash into the school bully who was in their blind spot. And the school bully might very well be acting out or truanting because of all the responsibilities they have at home.
Kellie’s favourite recent reads are: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown and Frostheart by Jamie Littler
Tori (Senior Editor)
My ideal submission would dive straight into the big issues, the biggest of all being the environment. Children are just as intelligent, emotionally adept and deep-thinking as the rest of us. They deserve to have stories which broach ‘heavy’ topics, but in an approachable, interesting and sometimes magical way.
I would like to see a manuscript that aims to empower the reader, whether emotionally, morally or physically. A story should always teach a lesson of some kind. We specialise in middle grade fiction, so ages 7-9 and 9-12. Children of those ages are already standing up and doing their part to help protect the environment – make these children the stars of your story. Bring together a revolution, where the voices of the next generation lead the way. Bring in STEM topics, bring in animals, bring in emotional intelligence, take the story wherever you want to take it, but always bear your reader in mind.
Last but not least, do not forget to be inclusive. When creating your characters, try to reflect the world around you – a world in which each and every person is entirely unique.
Tori’s favourite recent reads are: The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari.
Jasmine (Junior Editor)
I personally love a seasonal read, so would love to see some middle grade stories for children that are holiday-focused, or that play around with the seasons. And, commencing straight after Halloween, NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to get writing them. I would love to see a darker, slightly spooky story to add to Sweet Cherry’s middle grade collection. Something set in Victorian England with quirky characters and a rich atmosphere could be a lot of fun – and a dose of magic never goes amiss.
Speaking of spooky, supernatural creatures such as vampires are making a comeback. It would be brilliant to see this concept worked into a unique and imaginative series for younger children (perhaps in the 7 to 9 age bracket). Christmassy books are also on my wishlist. A winter-themed, snowy adventure would be lovely – perhaps something with a Scandinavian feel.
Wherever and whatever time of the year your book is set, imagine how the story could come alive through illustrations. Grasp every opportunity you can to write something that could have a vivid and exciting accompanying image.
Jasmine’s favourite recent reads are: The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton and Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Above all, NaNoWriMoers, remember what Stephen King said: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”
Once your novel is written, rewritten, edited and polished to a sparkle, you can find our submission guidelines here if you think it might be right for Sweet Cherry.
P.S. If you’re a fan of quotes about writing, make sure you’re following @SweetCherryPub on Twitter for a daily dose during NaNoWriMo 2019!