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Start Your Novel Tomorrow

Debby DeRosa

If you’ve always been meaning to write a novel, you don’t have to wait until the New Year to make a resolution. You can start your novel tomorrow along with 400,000 other writers participating in the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

The goal of the project is to write 50,000 words during the month of November, which breaks out to a little over 1600 words a day. If you free write without editing and don’t get stuck staring at your screen for long periods of time, this task could take about an hour each day, a challenging but feasible goal for almost anyone. At the end of the month, you would have a rough draft around the length of The Great Gatsby. And you would be an official NaNoWriMo “winner.”

One of the best parts of NaNoWriMo is the community of writers who help you along the way. You can sign up for a region and participate in write-ins, which means you meet other writers at a physical location and write with them. Also, you can participate in forums and read scheduled pep talks from known authors. As you make friends, you can add these people as “Buddies” in your dashboard, and you can cheer each other along. Because let’s face it. Writing can be a lonesome activity, and we all need encouragement.

Then, in January and February, you can participate in the “Now What?” Months. During this period, you revise your novel for possible publication. Over NaNoWriMo 250 novels have been traditionally published.

However, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about getting published. For many people, writing a novel is kind of like running a marathon, a challenge worth undertaking for its own sake. And what you learn in the process of writing your novel it is far more important than the achievement of the final goal itself.

In a participant testimonial on the NaNoWriMo website, Deana Anker says, “Honestly, no one really ever told me I could be a writer. The first time I even considered it was NaNoWriMo 2010. A few friends had posted blurbs about NaNoWriMo and I signed up on a whim. It was the single most transformative and enlightening experience of my life.”

NaNoWriMo believes we all have a story to tell and that each person’s story matters. Participating in NaNoWriMo is about breaking away from the pressure and the feeling of being judged. It brings the writer back to his or her own creativity.

“Every year, we’re reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world,” says Executive Director Grant Faulkner. “NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us.”

Are you ready to get started? Sign up today, and write your first words tomorrow.


Debby DeRosa holds a BA in English from the University of South Carolina-Columbia and an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College.  In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of South85 Journal, she is the Marketing Manager of Five Star Plumbing Heating Cooling in Greer, SC, and she freelances as a copywriter and content developer.  She and her husband, Joe, live in Greenville, SC, with their two daughters, Aimee and Ruby.

Recipe Cards

Katrina Johnston

Recipe cards are my nemesis and my friend. They’re strewn all over my desk–but none hold recipes.

I tote around two hefty decks; these cards are my real efforts to track my written submissions. I’m carrying them to the coffee houses where I normally work and then I use the shop’s WiFi to submit my short fiction. One deck of cards lists the title of each manuscript and a further list of when and where and to whom I’ve submitted.

Another bundle is slimmer than the first, and it provides information about where I may submit in future. These include a list of publications that have previously looked upon my efforts–or perhaps they’re new. God forbid that I mistakenly submit the same manuscript two times to the same journal, submit in error, or submit when one of my stories is still undergoing the editorial digestive process.

I remember once that I sent a sweet, home-style essay to a place that wanted only the darkest cutting-edge of hard science fiction. That story didn’t launch my writerly career. I try for more suitability these days.

A bulging box of recipe cards is filed at home and more cards are haphazardly laying idle on my desk, the remnants of all the places that I have ever submitted manuscripts. A bit of shuffling from time to time reorganizes what I take to coffee shops. I make new cards as new publications pop up like literary blades of grass.

Yet another mess of cards has been bunched together and put aside. That’s the cards that I deem ‘sketchy.’ These cards include the places that have not bothered to respond; apathy devastates me most of all. I will gracefully accept any rejection if an editor is straight-talking and knows the drill, or even if it’s boilerplate. ‘Least then I’ll know.

Occasionally a literary contact has been less than joyful. More than a few definitive ‘never agains’ reside within the sketchy cards. But there are a few listings I can also celebrate and these include the kindest and most encouraging rejections, the ones that make sense and offer sound writing critique, or are so well thought-out and meaningful that I cannot help but agree and go back for a re-write and more editing. I send effusive heartfelt gratitude. Thanks for the advice. Thanks to these kind and wise and experienced publishers and to other writers. Several have helped me to become a better storyteller.

I know it’s ridiculously old school, this card system, and I should teach myself how to adapt a spreadsheet program, or a database that would better track a zillion submissions and rejections and help me highlight the occasional acceptance.

I am able to embellish a scattering of my manuscript cards with a fat blue pencil– marking these with a heavy-handed and definitive “A” for Acceptance, and a joyful star and a then a smiley face when the piece finally appears as published. Not many, but the odds fare better now.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to actually use these recipe cards for recipes? Then again, there are many other things I’d rather do than cook.


Katrina-PortraitKatrina Johnston is the winner of the CBC-Canada Writes True Winter Tale. She lives in James Bay in Victoria BC, Canada. Works of short fiction may be found at several online venues. Occasionally, she breaks into print. The goal of her storytelling is to share.

Writing as Hobby

Larry Lefkowitz

A few years back I told somebody that I was a writer.

“Do you support yourself writing?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

“So it’s a hobby,” he said.

Inwardly offended, I nodded in unconvinced agreement.

Later, I thought about it. Almost all of my stories, articles or poems appeared in “little” magazines that paid in copies. To be honest, considering mailing costs, paper, etc., as far as my writing went, I was in the red. Financially speaking, my writing was indeed a hobby.

When I was younger, I had aspirations of having my books published; or my plays, or a collection of my short stories, none of which I ever achieved. I succeeded in getting an occasional story, poem, or article published. Over the years they amounted to a repectable total. But individually, it was nothing earthshaking.

Back then, if I could have known what I know now – that I would have to be satisfied with occasional success – I would have been disappointed. I would also have been chagrined to know that I would be unable to support myself by writing and would have to work at a job and write on the side – another basis for characterizing my writing as a hobby. Today, I am satisfied with this situation. It is a matter of appreciating the success of the random and the lesser, rather than the permanent and the spectacular.

For me, then, as for most people writing, the occasional success is a reason for celebration, and not frustration. Not sour grapes, but pleasure from an occasional use another word—repetitive savoring of the vintage.

Sure, in the back of my mind remains the hope that perhaps one of my four novels will be eventually accepted for publication, or one of my six plays, or a book of my short stories, or a book of my poems. And if not, there will still be the satisfaction of, if not “less is more,” then “less is enough.” I do not say set your sights low. On the contrary, set them high. But if, with time, you achieve but occasional success, this, too, is something. Grasp the pen, not half empty, but half full.

LarryLefkowitzThe stories, poetry and humor of Larry Lefkowitz have been widely published in journals, ezines and online in the US and abroad. His literary novel, The Critic, the Assistant Critic, and Victoria, and his book, Laughing into the Fourth Dimension, 25 Humorous Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, are available from on. He has also self published humor books including Humor for Writers.


Jake Wolff

So I’m working on a novel set in early 2003, and I’m stuck on this one scene. I’ve had this thing baking forever but it keeps coming out like a sugar cookie—way too plain. It needs frosting.

I go to the facts: What was happening in the world at that moment? Now I’m surfing the web. And I remember, duh, that the Space Shuttle Columbia blew up on February 1st of that year, killing all seven crewmembers. I think: Perfect! I think: That will set the mood for my scene.

So now I open the scene with a description of Columbia reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Everything seems normal. Then the shuttle starts to shake. Then the alarms go off. Then the fire starts, and the temperature rises, and the astronauts look at each with depth, because they know what’s happening. And at this point I’m doing some serious, look-at-me-go Creative Writing. I pretty much have the Pulitzer wrapped up.

I finish the three paragraphs on the Columbia disaster just as the reminder on my phone goes off. The reminder says: Hey, moron, you have to teach a class called Fiction Technique in twenty minutes so why aren’t you in the car already?

I get in the car. I turn on the radio. It’s loud. My wife, who last used the car, blasts NPR like it’s heavy metal. I lower the volume but keep the station. Terry Gross is interviewing some guy. He’s an astronaut. Weird coincidence!

Terry says something like: Have any of your crewmembers ever died on the space station?

And this astronaut, I don’t know his name, I’m joining the interview halfway, says something like: No, but of course I was already an astronaut when the Columbia exploded.

And then he starts to cry.

He’s crying but talking through it. He says: I’m guilty for what happened. He says: I felt in my gut that something was wrong but I didn’t speak up about it. He says: Terry, I helped kill those guys.

And now I’m crying!

I get to campus, and I find a parking spot eventually, and I teach this fiction workshop—it’s Halloween and half the class doesn’t show—and then I drive home and I turn on the computer and I delete every last word about the Columbia explosion because I don’t care whether it happened ten years ago or ten thousand, if I’m going to write about the deaths of seven human beings for no other reason than cookie frosting and if I’m going to write those seven deaths without really feeling them, deep in my heart, like that poor guy on the radio, like it happened yesterday and I’m to blame for all of it, well, then I can pretty much go fuck myself.


Jake-WolffJake Wolff‘s work has appeared in journals such as One Story, Bellevue Literary Review, and Tin House. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he’s currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Florida State University.  Visit him on the web at

We Want to See Your Work!

After taking a break for the summer, South85 Journal‘s editorial staff has opened its reading period for its 2014-2015 issues!

We will be accepting poetry, fiction, and non-fiction through April 30, 2015. We will continue to accept blog and visual art submissions year-round. For more information, check out our submission guidelines. Or use the button below to submit now!

We look forward to hearing from you.