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Recap: Virtual Meetup 10-30-23

NaNoWriMo, here we come!

Salutations, Fictionistas!

We had a perfectly festive group of fiction folk join us for last night’s meetup. For those of you who couldn’t attend in (virtual) person, we have immortalized our groundbreaking discussion for you here. If you don’t have the time or the bandwidth to watch fourteen of your closest fiction friends talk shop adorned in costumes, you can cruise through the recap below for the bullet points.

Thank you to my co-hosts

and for keeping this show on the road. And thanks to for plugging the event on “Office Hours” yesterday. We had a lot of new faces in the crowd, as well as a few familiar faces we hadn’t seen in far too long. I’m looking at you, .

NaNoWriMo Time!

We spent much of the evening discussing our respective plans for participation in this year’s NaNoWriMo experience.

There was a good mix of first-timers, second or third-timers, and eleven-timers represented at the meeting, so we got to hear from all sides of the topic. Here are a few takeaways from our contributing voices:

  • said she hopes this year’s contest will help her get reinvigorated to start a daily writing habit and admitted she wasn’t overly concerned about reaching the 50K word count goal this time around.

  • Jackie agreed that the total number of words is not important, and success could be measured simply by committing to writing SOMETHING every day in November.

    • Reminder that Jackie will be posting weekly NaNoWriMo discussion threads on Fictionistas to keep everyone motivated and connected. Those will go out every Monday. Stay tuned!

  • Jordan admitted his impulse is to start a brand-new novel on November 1st, but also feels compelled to finish an ongoing project that’s been pulling at him. He asked for folks to weigh in on the decision to use the NaNoWriMo window for a somewhat non-traditional project.

  • In response,

    reminded us that the contest is intended to be modified to fit the writer. While the word “NOVEL” sticks out in the title, it’s not necessary to produce a brand-new novel or a novel at all during the 30-day sprint. Others chimed in similar sentiments to back this up.

    • Make November what you need it to be to help you toward a writing goal, whatever that goal may be.

  • We discussed whether or not we’d be sharing pieces of our works-in-progress with our Substack audiences. It was widely agreed that this is a great way to get double value from your NaNoWriMo work. You get words down and your audience gets a glimpse of your process in real time!

  • We met eleven-time NaNoWriMo champ

    , who sang the contest’s praises, noting that many of his past NaNoWriMo projects went on to become published books! He also admitted that he didn’t always finish those books during NaNoWriMo, but that the contest served as the jumping off point for drafting a work with real potential. He also offered coaching sessions – pro bono – to anyone looking for guidance in navigating the NaNoWriMo scene or help staying motivated to cross the finish line.

  • shared her thoughts on the community aspects of NaNoWriMo, and suggested the level to which you participate in group activities, virtually or in person, is up to you. Accountability partners are great to have, but don’t feel like you need to join every offering out there if you’re just as happy holing up in your basement and texting your one writing buddy when you hit a milestone.

  • (Lou) made her decision to join the fray this year based on her current work-in-progress’ status. In the past, November hasn’t always lined up for her as being a time she needs to actively write, but this year she’ll be picking up a novel she’s already 24K words into with the hope she’ll have a complete work of 80K words by the end of the month. Another great example of making the model work for your particular project needs.

  • advocated for being a NaNoRebel by setting your OWN goals for a final word count rather than adhering to the 50K standard. She also shouted out the Camps NaNoWriMo hosts throughout the year which can be great for working on smaller projects. Lastly, Alexx says she plans to update her followers on her NaNo progress on Notes, which is likely to become a trend in the coming weeks.

  • Jackie highlighted more of the community opportunities, including regional groups and write-ins. She recommended diving into these spaces for anyone who struggles with motivation or just enjoys being in a shared space with other writers when they work. She also reminded us to use the NaNoWriMo page to update our word count every day, if for no other reason than the sheer joy of watching those little graph points climb.

Juggling Publications and Going “Paid”

For the second half of the evening, we touched briefly on the challenges of keeping work on your Substack while trying to submit that same work to other publications or contest that require exclusivity to enter.

  • noted that the reason behind a publication limiting an author in this way could be financial. They don’t want you giving something away on your Substack for free that they’re going to try to sell on their platform. She mentioned Amazon being particularly stringent about this.

  • With regard to contests, you might need to pull a story from your Substack – or paywall it – until the contest results are in. Then when the “rights” are essentially returned to you, you can do whatever you want with the story, including return it to your Substack. It’s a pain, but it seems to be the easiest way to avoid disqualification from a contest.

We shifted topic a bit and started veering into how the Substack platform can benefit a writer in different ways depending on where they are in their career.

  • Lou (

    ) is an independently published author of loads of books, and she has a robust audience of readers waiting for her next project. For her, Substack serves as a way to keep them engaged with her and her process while she’s churning out more books to sell them. She recognizes that for some writers this scenario is flipped. They came to Substack to build an audience so that when they have a book to sell, they have people to sell it to.

  • Lou also shared with us an experiment she did recently where she put a novella up on her Substack for readers to enjoy, for a limited time, for free before moving it to Amazon. She was pleasantly surprised to find both her sales and review rates came in faster than they had for past projects she didn’t preview on her Substack. The experiment shows that just because you offer your readers a book for free, doesn’t mean they won’t still buy it down the road when you decide to sell it. They might even be MORE likely to buy it!

All this talk of SALES eventually led us into a chat about “going paid” on Substack, which is a notoriously tricky business for fiction writers.

  • William shared that he’s considering offering deluxe versions of some of his short stories for purchase through his Substack. These would be downloadable pdfs and would contain bonus material. This could be a way for him to get a few one-off sales from readers who enjoy his work but aren’t ready to commit to a monthly or annual subscription.

  • Jordan posed the idea that often times what our readers are willing to pay for is “us,” the writers of their favorite Substacks, not necessarily the “extra” we’re willing to give them for a fee. His approach to paid subs has been to offer the same level of quality and consistency his readers expect, and simply ask them to consider valuing it with a paid subscription.

“The default is probably to just share your stuff and if you want money, ask for it.”

Well said.

Finally, Meg offered up another way to approach the recurring payment model. One she credits fellow writer

with pioneering. People can have a real block or hesitancy about signing up to pay you every month or every year in perpetuity, but they might be less hesitant to drop some cash one time for a book or story collection you’re selling. What Meg and Amran have done is reformulate the payment model so that readers who buy into their Substacks do so only one time, and that one-time payment grants them a subscription they don’t ever have to pay for again. There are lots of ways to modify this, but if you’re interested in how Meg and Amran are pitching the idea to their readers, there are links below for reference.

We talked a bit about the Substack in-person meetup trend, as well as how we can find our ideal readers and then keep them engaged. Both of these items will likely be topics at our next meetup which will happen sometime in mid-December. We’ll keep you posted as we iron out the details.

Unfortunately, I did not have access to the chat feed when I wrote this post, so I don’t have everyone’s NaNoWriMo handles to share for those who wanted to buddy up. If you are looking for a NaNo buddy, just drop your profile name in the comments.

And Brad – please share your coaching links in the comments as well!

Thank you so much to everyone to showed up and contributed to the discussion last night. As always, it was great to see you and talk fiction.


Until next time,

Happy NaNoWriMo!

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Virtual Meetups
Save-the-dates and recording/recap posts for our ongoing virtual meetups.
Meg Oolders