Year of Writing: A 2018 Writing Challenge

2017 is about to end, 2018 is yet to begin, and we wait anxiously to welcome the New Year with hopeful excitement for the endless possibilities, experiences, and accomplishments the following 365 will bring to our lives. We look back at the past 12 months: the memories we’ll treasure forever, the obstacles we’ve overcome, and the successes we’ve celebrated. In this retrospective reverie, our future becomes clearer: we’ve come this far throughout 2017, how much farther would we like to go in 2018?

New Year’s resolutions are a subject of much debate. Admittedly, we won’t magically become someone completely different when the clock strikes midnight and we take the first breaths in the new year, nor will our resolutions bear much fruit if we don’t put in the effort to uphold them. Regardless, for writers and readers, New Year’s resolutions can be powerful tools to help us assess our current bookish habits, decide what we want to accomplish throughout the year, and keep us focused on our goals.

This 2018, we challenge you to undertake Books & Quills Magazine’s Year of Writing Challenge.

Without further ado, we present this year’s challenge!

Year of Writing (“YoW!”)

The pen is mightier than the sword, and you, the protagonist of your life, have been sent on a journey to wield the mightiest weapon and make your mark among the literary wizards of the world.


It is your solemn duty to complete the following quests:

    1. Hero’s Quest – Every hero has their own agenda. What’s yours? By the end of your journey, on December 31st, 2018, what literary accomplishment would you like to have completed? Perhaps you plan writing the first edited draft of one book (or two). Perhaps you’d like to start blogging regularly and have 365 published posts by the end of the year. The choice is yours! Whatever it is, it should be a huge undertaking which will last you throughout 2018.
    2. Wizard’s Quests – The Wizards of Haven need your help. Every month, to be exact! Each month, a new monthly challenge will be presented to all participants. Use these monthly sub-challenges to work towards the completion of your Hero’s Quest. Consider these your “side quests.”
    3. Main Quest – In order to become a true “Epic Questor,” you must undertake each of the 12 Wizard’s Quests and successfully complete at least 6 of the 12. With your loyalty and determination, you will become the most renown Epic Hero in all the Literary Land!

Wizard’s Quest

Jumpstart January – Plan / Edit

It’s time to start our literary journeys for the year! Let’s focus on preparing for the coming months by fixing up an existing project or taking the first steps of a new journey.

Sample Goals:

  • Outline the plot for a new novel
  • Edit a Work-in-Progress (WIP)

Flash Fiction February – Write

This month, work on writing all sorts of things using flash fiction! We’ve got a surprise to help you out, don’t worry!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 4 short stories in the month

Miracle March – Edit

You’ve had a month to prepare and a month to write, now it’s time to turn what you have so far into a true gem like the miracle-worker you are.

Sample Goals:

  • Complete the first edited draft of a WIP

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo – Write

It’s time for April’s writing getaway. Pack your bags and work hard during Camp!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 25,000 words of novel-writing
  • Write a 100-page screenplay

Mapping May – Plan

Every story needs a world, and most worlds do have some form of a map. Spend this month preparing the scene and drawing your maps! Get ready to know the ways (around) the world!

Sample Goals:

  • Create a major world map with names of at least 5 towns
  • Complete the 30-Day Worldbuilding Challenge

June Journaling – Write/Plan

A journal can be a great way to get to know the world around you and yourself! Use that fact and start working on a journal- whether it’s for you or your characters!

Sample Goals:

  • Write a personal journal entry every day
  • Use a bullet journal to plan your next novel-writing steps and keep relevant notes and information

July’s Camp NaNoWriMo – Write

Get ready to head back into the wild, it’s time for Camp, summer edition!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 25,000 words of novel in the month
  • Write 50,000 words and treat it like NaNoWriMo

Ambitious August – Edit

So far, you’ve had three months to write, a month to prepare in between- but with all those words, it’s gonna take a lot of ambition to edit it all! Work hard, hero! Persevere!

Sample Goals:

  • Edit ⅔ of WIP
  • Edit 2 WIPs.

Systematic September – Plan

Every story has a system or five. Whether it’s language or beliefs, the laws of the land, or something else entirely… It’s time to figure out those systems and prepare them for the journey’s greatest challenge to come!

Sample Goals:

  • Set up languages for two species/locations
  • Set up the belief system of the people of YoW

October Odds-n-Ends  – Plan

If you’re working on the great challenge of Chronicling the journey of YOW!, now’s the time to bring the odds and ends together and tie any loose strings. No matter what you’re working on, find the holes and prepare to fill them! It’s time for the odds to even out!

Sample Goals:

  • Finish 3 character sheets for secondary characters
  • Organize all notes for story
  • Decorate your notebook for your novel

NaNoWriMo – Write

Your greatest challenge in the literary world, it’s time to cram a novel in a single month. Don’t forget you’re not alone- you have allies at your side, and have much equipment from your preparations. Use them wisely and flourish!

Sample Goals:

  • Write 50,000 word novel

Drop-It December

You’ve worked hard and the year’s nearly up. It’s time to take the breather you deserve and look back on your accomplishments, Hero! Whatever you do, don’t touch your NaNovel! Stay far away from it….for now!

Sample Goals:

  • Start reading all the books you bought but haven’t gotten to read yet from writing all year
  • Find 3 new musicians to enjoy
  • Start writing a new WIP that came to mind this year that you haven’t started yet because of concentrating

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

It’s dangerous to go alone. As you face the perils of literature, find refuge in our Writer’s Haven, where wizards, pirates, questors, and–of course–writers from all over the world form a virtual community of support and shenanigans. We write together, give each other advice, share useful information, laugh together, watch movies together, and build an unending wealth of memories.

You are more than welcome to participate on your own, but why not participate surrounded by the support and shenanigans of an entire community? Our Writer’s Haven Discord Server, an online community of writers from around the world, will spend this upcoming 2018 participating in “YoW!” and it’s monthly challenges.

The portal to Writer’s Haven can be accessed by simply clicking this link:


Questors who join our Writer’s Haven and participate in “YoW!” alongside our virtual community will have the chance to earn the opportunity to be featured in our literary magazine, social media, or articles. Keep an eye out for these opportunities in our Writer’s Haven!

Chronicles of “YoW!”: Birth of a Legend

Join the story and help write ours with our special YoW contest! Join the adventure and pave your way to literary greatness!

Write an original work of fiction based on the world and characters of the Chronicles of “Yow!” …. which you get to create!

Must join “YoW!” in our Writer’s Haven by January 20th

Midnight on Halloween, PDT GMT-7

-Minimum 5,000 words; Maximum 25,000 words

How to Win:
Entries will be read in November and winners will be chosen in December. The winner of our Chronicles of “YoW!” Contest will be featured on our site. Their winning entry will be published in our Literary Magazine. The winning author will also receive a permanent “Chronicler of YoW!” role in our server.

Haven “YoW!” Events

Havenians will be questing and writing year-round. We’ll have a month-long writing competition, as well as several 24-hour competitions throughout the year. The details are a surprise (no spoilers!), but the basic premise is that participants will be split up into two teams. Both teams will compete against each other throughout a set timeframe during which all participants will try to write as much as possible.

We also have a few participation and achievement roles for members who are participating in “YoW!” within our Writer’s Haven:


Saga Questor
–Joined “YoW!” by Jan 20th

–Participant Joined “YoW!” after Jan 20th


Epic Questor
–Prerequisites: Saga Questor
–Permanent Role
–Complete the Main Quest for “YoW!”

Chronicler of “YoW!
–Prerequisites: Saga Questor
–Permanent Role
–Win the Chronicles of “YoW!” Contest

which wizard’s quest you most look forward to? let us know in the comments! happy writing! 


Camp NaNoWriMo Tips & Tricks: Part 1


Tip #1: Writer’s Block and Characterization

When I get “writer’s block”, my first step is to take a deep breath and diagnose the problem, much like you would a coding error or an illness. Sometimes the cause of writer’s block is a lack of concrete characterization for your point-of-view character, as was the case with my own writing this week. Though I’m writing in third person, and though I created this character over a decade ago, I realized I did not truly “know” him.

Don’t be afraid to take a bit of time away from writing to develop your characters’ personalities. If the only thing you can think of to move your plot forward is to throw stuff at your character and have them passively react to things in a generic manner, then you might be suffering from this type of writer’s block. Try making a character music playlist, collecting songs that they might listen to or that describe the situations they find themselves in (unrequited love, a decision that is tearing them apart, reflection on fond memories of their childhood, etc). I spent a good portion of a day creating a playlist for my character, and through that I discovered that the character I once thought of as calm and emotionless actually has a destructive and intense personality that he is able to keep in check. This has informed my writing of him and I now see the motivations behind the actions he takes throughout the novel.

If that doesn’t work, or if music isn’t your thing, try another creative outlet. You can make an aesthetics mood board (like the ones found on Pinterest) to get a feeling for your character, or you can answer a personality quiz from the point of view of that character. Whatever you choose, it is never a waste of time to take a break from writing and focus on developing your character’s personality. They will thank you for it.

Tip #2: Writing Speed

Basically: if you think you’re writing too slowly, DON’T WORRY. Anything you write is still forward progress. Plus, the more you write, the faster you will get. I’ve only been writing for Camp for the past three days and I’m already getting much faster. Like anything, it just takes practice and perseverance.


Tip #3: Falling Behind

Don’t worry about falling behind. Life gets crazy. Stuff happens. And time or willingness to write slips between your fingers like water. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we owe it to ourselves to take a moment, take a deep breath, and take one step back in order to propel yourself seven steps forward.

If you’re frustrated, don’t force it. It will be an uphill battle and your frustration might seep into your words through robotic tone, choppy sentences, or a careless plot. Throw your hands up in the air, wave them like you just don’t care, maybe go out or watch some Netflix. Your writing won’t go anywhere; it will still be there waiting for you.

Tip #4: Perfection is a Process

It took me a long time to realize that works of art become just that after continuous shaping and polishing. Don’t expect your writing to be absolutely perfect as soon as your ink touches the pages. Remember: it’s a work in progress. The beauty in writing is shaping the words between your hands until you’ve sculpted them into something breathtaking. Even paragraphs that you might not be proud of can turn out to be diamonds hidden in the rough.

Genre of the Month, October - Horror

Alternate Media Picks: Horror

Before we close Horror Month, we’d like to share our alternate media picks with you! 

Check out some of our staff’s favorite horror games, music, TV shows, and movies!

Kayla’s Picks





Carol’s Picks





Mayra’s Picks



  • The Walking Dead

Tara’s Picks






Pantsing, Plotting, and Plantsing: The 3 Styles of NaNoWriMo

When the clock strikes midnight on October 31st, welcoming November and NaNoWriMo along with it, participants will spend the rest of the month writing towards a 50,000-word goal. Each writer has their own writing methods. Our staff shares insights on the three basic styles of NaNo: Pantsing, Plotting, and Plantsing.

Pantser: Suzanne Wdowik

Panster: A writer who pantses their NaNovel (the novel, or project, they write during NaNoWriMo), i.e. flies by the seat of their pants, i.e. writes without a plan.

A pantser’s life in the days leading up to NaNoWriMo are easy, yet stressful. All we must do is wait for the clock to strike twelve, and much like Cinderella, lose our glitter and our sweet ride and transform back into a sleep-deprived starving artist. Nevertheless, we fret over what our story will end up being. Should we have at least some idea before taking the plunge? What will our characters be? Do we want names ahead of time or should we just put blanks or placeholders? What flipping genre are we even writing, anyway?

Stop. Take a breath. Look at the date. Now look back at me. Now back at the date. Now back at me. I’m riding a horse. No, wait, that’s the Old Spice commercial. Anyway. You have only a day left until November 1st. That is a good thing. Already have an idea? Great. Your job in the next few days is to keep yourself pumped about your project. I bet your fingers twitch every time you see a piece of paper or a keyboard. As long as you’re excited about your project, you can get your 1,667 words (or whatever personal daily goal you have) written that first day. Don’t have any clue what you’re doing? That’s okay, too. Take some time in the next few days to draw inspiration from multiple sources. Listen to some music. Ask a friend to suggest a song or band you’ve never heard before. Go take an hour-long walk, and look closely at the world around you. Read a book. Watch a movie. Sooner or later something will start to grow inside you. It might be a character, it might be a theme, or it might simply be an emotion. Grab onto that and don’t let go. That is going to be your driving force for your NaNovel.

So, what do you do once you start writing?

First, find out when you’re going to write. If you set a writing schedule for yourself, it’s easier to make yourself write every day. You’ll get used to sitting down and saying to yourself, “I have to rid myself of distractions now, this is Writing Time”. Inspiration may hit at any time, so keep your notebook/laptop/AlphaSmart/etc handy. Don’t worry if your muse decides to take a multiple-day break, though. This is common. You can make yourself write even when the ideas aren’t flowing out of your fingertips like melted butter. And if your inner editor tells you “this really sucks and I don’t know why you decided to write a crap novel in the first place”, grab them by the throat and chuck them out of your mind. Or, if you’re really not the violent type, find their volume dial and turn it all the way down.

When you pants a novel, it’s easy to get stuck or to feel like you don’t think your novel is going anywhere. You might experience a mid-week or a mid-month lull when your story seems to want to stop and graze for a while instead of plowing forward. Don’t be afraid to let it do its own thing for a short time. Your characters might lead you to a climax you could never have come up with on your own. Or they may try to derail your story. If the latter happens, lay down some track and gently nudge your characters towards them. If they won’t budge, skip ahead in the story. Start a new section from a different point of view. Add a new character. Kill someone off. Add a dragon. Don’t be afraid to take chances, and to write something that might not work in the long run. You can always cut things out later, but you can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Plotter / Planner: Mayra Pérez González

My muse has a lousy worth ethic.

She hardly ever shows up for work. Even when she does, she simply sulks in a corner, grumbling and groaning and refusing to be of service. She enjoys leaving me at the mercy of my own lack of creativity, taunting me with her disinterest and negligence.

While my muse is on vacation in Tahiti, I’m about to embark on the most dangerous and daunting mission: preparing myself for literary battle.

As much as the allure, thrill, and adventure of spending November flying by the seat of my pants intrigues me, approaching NaNoWriMo without a concrete plan means definite defeat. Going in without plotting beforehand, for me, is like going into battle without any weapons or protective gear. Might as well wave a white flag.

My weapon of choice? The Snowflake Method.

The Snowflake Method is the brainchild of Randy Ingermanson of Advanced Fiction Writing. His method is a way to reverse engineer your novel by starting small and expanding little by little. You start off with one simple sentence and end up with summaries of various lengths, a list or spreadsheet of scenes, and profiles and descriptions of your characters.

The Snowflake Method makes it easy to plot a novel if your muse is virtually nonexistent. You don’t have to vomit a detailed outline onto paper on your first try. You build your novel from the bottom up, giving you a chance to coax the story out of the inner workings of your mind. (Ha! Take that, Muse!)

Ironically, I am both plotter and procrastinator. Only a few days before NaNoWriMo, I stand at the foot of NaNovel Mountain and look up, trying to distinguish the mountain’s summit through the clouds. “I wish I would have started planning sooner,” I grumble.

Depending on how badly I’ve procrastinated, I might not be able to make it through every step of the Snowflake Method before NaNoWriMo—or I might not get to it at all. As a plotter, it’s crucial for me to plan—regardless of how much time I have until November. If NaNoWriMo has already begun and I still don’t have a plan, I’ll dedicate the first few days to planning and push myself a bit harder, later on, to catch up. (I refuse to go in without a plan! You can’t make me!)

While I sometimes wish I could just sit at my computer and bleed, creating a plot and characters haphazardly and watching them fall into place serendipitously, there’s something special about being a plotter: the dedication you pour into your novel even before you start writing it makes you, in a sense, loyal and more dedicated to writing and completing it. Besides, on November 30th, with 50,000 words under your belt, you’ll feel like an architect standing in front of a newly finished building. Their building and your novel will be the awe-inspiring translation of a carefully designed blueprint.

Plantser / Hybrid: DosAguilas

Now, to some people, the ideas above are out of their element. A planner will panic at the idea of a pantser just flying by the seat of their pants. A pantser will shiver unpleasantly at the rigidity of order the planner finds the most comfortable.

But there exists a happy medium, one that is ice and fire, one that combines the recklessness of one and the steadfastness of the other.

Welcome to the Hybrid.

Where planners thrive on planning and pantsers thrive on improvising, the Hybrid method of winning NaNo is the Red Mage of sorts, and is a force in his or her own right as well as a great support for the Planners and the Pantsers in your little tight-knit group.

A Hybrid person (or Plantser) will make outlines, but rather than outline every single eventuality that could go on in their novel project, they will be vague. That vagueness allows them to move around, improvise, add entire paragraphs, even make cosmetic adjustments to the outline as they go along.

A Plantser will set their limits. They will establish some railways that allow the water of inspiration to go through from one place to the next without splashing all over the place.

I’ll share with you guys my own journey to Plantsing.

I was hardcore Planner in my first few attempts at NaNo. I had outlined not just the novel I was planning on finishing, but also the two sequels and the prequel. I had created an entire world, religion, financial systems. I had fleshed out my characters and then designed them in the Heromachine program I had. I had created a plots and subplots and sub-sub plots. Everything was set so that when I tried NaNo, I was going to tear through the month like I tear chunks of tortilla de harina with barbacoa Saturday mornings.

November 1 rolls around, I write a couple of paragraphs, fail to meet the targeted 1,667.

No worries, I’ll try again the next day.

I get close to 1,000 words.

Next day, I don’t write a single word and instead find myself staring at the big mess of an outline and character sketches and plot ideas that I have created and I found myself giving up too easily. I didn’t sweat it, there’s always next year.

Next year, I realized I had built this really elaborate house and forgotten to put in doors between the rooms and so my NaNo experiment was over before it started.

So last year, I decided to do something different. I picked a new project, and rather than outline everything to the molecular level, I gave myself a very skin-and-bones outline to work with.

What I discovered was that, while I was writing, I was fleshing new ideas out. I was able to say, “Okay, that’s not going to work.” during the writing process, and fixing it on the spot rather than pulling three figurative Jenga pieces from the bottom of my project and having it all tumble down. Not only that, but also I was discovering things about my characters instead of shoehorning them into a role they weren’t born to play, and all of this added to a word count.

And I won! I broke the 50,000-word mark on November 30.

You could argue that maybe I should have just pantsed the whole thing but here’s why I don’t think pantsing wouldn’t have worked: I needed some level of structure.

Let me give you an example. I’m just going to write stream of consciousness in the next sentence:

There was once a giraffe and she saw several black and red and orange skulls and there was a voice while she sang with the muses and the angels in the jungle riverbed mechanism world religions unhooked phone is what was ringing again.

That’s why structure is important to me and why I prefer to be a hybrid.

For the rest of you, there’s no right way to do this. The only wrong way is using a method you’re not comfortable with. The important thing is getting to that goal.

In Mexico, there’s a famous folk song that has the lines: “No hay que llegar primero, hay que saber llegar,” which translates to: “It’s not about getting there first, it’s knowing how to get there.”

We hope that throughout this guide has helped give you an idea as to what path you’d like to follow. Keep us posted! Let us know if you’re TeamHybrid, TeamPlanner or TeamPantser. We’d love to know!