Getting Started (Writers)

There are several ways to write novels with the Young Writers Program. On this page, we're going to cover the basics to help you get started with your very first one. If you need more help at any time, check out our Help & FAQ

Write on!

 1. Accept a challenge from your dashboard.

If there's an official NaNo challenge (like NaNoWriMo in November or Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July) you can participate by clicking "Yes, start a new novel for it!" when the "Take the Challenge" box appears on your dashboard the month before. 

If there's no upcoming or ongoing challenge, don't worry! You can work on a personal writing challenge any time of year (except November) using the "Challenge Yourself" box on your dashboard.

Start your novel now

(In the future, when you've already created some novels, you can accept challenges with them instead. That means you can keep working on them as much as you want. For now, though, ignore the "Yes, continue working on a novel I've already started," button if you see it.)

2. Fill out your title and synopsis.

If you don't have an idea of what to call your novel, don't sweat it! Just write something down. You can always change this later. 

A synopsis is a short description of what your novel is about. It includes parts like the name of the character and what their big problem is going to be. This section can also be changed later, so just do your best!

Title and synopsis

 3. Decide where you're going to write. 

I Will Write On The YWP Site: Choose this option if you want to type your novel directly into the YWP writing space, or if you want to type it somewhere else but then copy and paste it into the YWP writing. Our site will automatically count your words as you type or paste them and add them to your word-count total.

Where will you write?

I Will Write Elsewhere And Update My Word Count Manually: Choose this option if you want to write your novel somewhere else not on our site (like in a notebook or a different typing space). If you choose this option, you'll have to manually update your word-count total in order to keep track of how close you are to your goal. That means every day or so you'll have to count your words and type in the total amount.

Where will you write?

4. Select your genres.

Genre is a fancy word for the type of story you're telling. If you're telling a scary story that's set in a big city, maybe your genres are horror and urban. If you're telling an exciting story set in a magical land, maybe your genres are fantasy and adventure. It's up to you to choose!

Here are the genres I selected for my example story about Med on the sinking island in the future:


 5. Set your word-count goal. 

Your word-count goal is how many words you're going to try to write during the challenge. To set it, make sure you consider your age, experience, and schedule. If you're super busy and have never written anything before, your goal should probably be lower; the opposite is true if you've got lots of time and love to write. 

You can use this page to help you set a goal. Remember, you can change this goal at any time. If it ends up being too easy, raise it. If it's too hard and frustrating, lower it. 

Word-count goal

NOTE: Don't use commas in the word-count goal box; just type plain ol' numbers. If you filled in all the boxes correctly, then the START NOVEL button will turn blue and you can push it. If it doesn't turn blue, go back and see if you missed something. 

 6. Add a note or chapter to start writing.

Once you click START NOVEL, the site whooshes you away to your writing space. There's a lot on this page, so let's walk through it together!

If you're typing your story in the writing space, you'll need to add a note or a chapter. First, click the + symbol in the "Chapters and Notes" box.

Add a chapter

A note is a place to jot down ideas - nothing you write in a note gets counted towards your word-count goal. A chapter is where you can actually write your novel! During a challenge, anything written in a chapter counts towards your goal. Feel free to get more creative with your chapter naming than I did!

Note or chapter

(If you're writing off the site, then you don't need to create a note or chapter here at all unless you want to. No words you type in them will count towards your goal, since you decided to input your word-count total manually.)

7. What happens if you type before a challenge starts?

You can start typing in the writing space as soon as you create a chapter or note. However, only words written during the dates of a challenge will count towards your word-count goal. Your Total Project Word Count will update, but none of the charts or badges in the "My Word-Count Challenge" box will change. 

In the example below, I joined the NaNoWriMo 2021 challenge which goes from November 1 to November 30. See how that challenge box has gray stripes through it? That means the challenge hasn't started yet, or it already ended. So, those 30 words I typed in the chapter updated in the Total Project Word Count, but not in the "My Word Count Challenge" box.

Typing before a challenge

8. A challenge is starting! What do I do?

Woo-hoo! Time to write! 

If you decided to write on site, then you can create a new chapter or keep working on one you already started. Since the challenge is active, your charts and badges will update as you type, along with your Total Project Word Count. Click the dropdown arrow above the graph to see different charts and stats showing your progress.

Active challenge

If you decided to write off site and update your word-count manually, then just type your new Total Project Word Count amount into the box to see your charts and badges update. 

Manual update box

9. What if I need to change something?

Anytime you see a wrench button, that means you can change or edit something. So, to edit any of those novel details you added when you started your novel (like title, synopsis, and genre), or to delete a novel, click the wrench in the "My Novel" box.

Novel settings

To edit your word-count goal (or challenge dates for Personal Challenges), or to leave a challenge, click the wrench in the "My Word Count Challenge" box.

Challenge settings

To edit your chapter title, or delete a chapter, open up the chapter and then click the wrench in the upper right of the writing space.  

Chapter settings

10. Keep writing!  

There's a lot to explore on the YWP site! We hope you're inspired to write and revise many stories with us all year, and that we get to see your name on the cover of a book one day. 

In the meantime, if you get stuck or have questions, check out our Help & FAQ. If you don't see your answer there, you can submit a help request