Summer Writing Club July: Novelette

Welcome to the Summer Writing Club! Are you ready to write your first novel?

This year Summer Writing Club will consist of two Challenges: One in July and one in August. Each Challenge will help you write a 5,000 word novel (we’re calling it a “novelette”) made up of multiple chapters. There’s no assigned theme—you can write about anything you want.

We will coach you through the novel writing process week by week, releasing tips and tutorials as we go. To pace yourself, set a goal to complete at least one chapter per week. By the end of the month, you will have a finished novelette! Here are the writing skills you’ll master in July:

Week 1 - The Protagonist: Before you can begin, you need a clear idea of who your main character(s) will be.

Week 2 - The Antagonist: Every villain has a backstory. This week, we’ll look at how to build a better bad guy.

Week 3 - Plot: You might think that figuring out the plot should come first when you’re writing a novel. But with longer works, you often have to write the story to find out what the characters will do! This week we’ll show you how to keep everything on track and moving forward towards a spectacular finish.

Note: Unlike last year, the weekly tutorials are not writing prompts. They will be exercises to help you better understand the novel-writing process as you go. One way to approach SWC this year is to think about July as your rough draft. Once you get the basics down, you’ll be ready for the advanced tutorials that will follow in August.

For more information about the Summer Writing Club, check out our FAQ and downloadable Calendar.

Do the Challenge

Week 1 - The Protagonist

Great characters are the foundation for great stories. The protagonist is the hero of your story. The supporting characters are the friends, family, and/or love interests who help the hero achieve her goals. Supporting characters can be very important, even central to the story, but there is generally always a single protagonist driving the action.

Let’s take some examples from popular books:

Katniss Everdeen: Protagonist
Peeta Mellark: Supporting character

Hazel Grace Lancaster: Protagonist
Augustus Waters: Supporting character

Harry Potter: Protagonist
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger: Supporting characters

When you are beginning a new story, your characters come first. You have to know who you’re writing about before you know what they’re going to do. Your characters are at the center of the action in your story, so you need to know them really well. What do they want? What choices would they make? How would they react in different situations? What motivates them?

The better you understand your characters, the better your readers will be able to relate to them. So, before you begin your novelette this month, take a minute to sit down and think first about your main character. Have a heart-to-heart with your protagonist and find out everything you can about them. You can use the questions below to get started, or better yet, print out the worksheet we link to in the post and write down the answers so that you can keep them handy as you’re writing.

One of the goals of the Summer Writing Club—and Storybird—is to help you become a better writer. (The other goals are to have fun and make friends.) Some weeks we’ll use video from past workshops to help illustrate the topics we’re writing about. Don’t worry if it looks familiar; we’re also adding new material to coach you along so that you can write the best novelette you can this summer.

Let’s do this! Watch this video for a quick tutorial, or jump right in to the character worksheet below.

1. The Basics
Name: (first, middle, last, and nickname)
How old is he/she?
What does he/she look like?
Where does he/she live?

2. Background
Where did your character grow up?
Are her parents married or divorced?
Does she have siblings? If so, is she the oldest, youngest, middle?
Which family member is she closest to?
Which one does she keep secrets from?

3. Self Image
What is her strongest personality trait?
What is she most proud of?
What does she wish she could change about herself?
How do other people see her, and is it different from how she sees herself?
What is she most afraid of?

4. Desires
What does this character want?
How far would she go to get what she wants?
Where would she draw the line?
Do you think she’d be happy if she got her heart’s desire?

5. Summary
Read back over everything you’ve written about your character and summarize in one sentence what he or she wants, and what obstacles stand in the way. Use this to guide you as you keep writing your story.

Now repeat this exercise with other characters in your story, such as the love interest, the sidekick, or the long-lost father who abandoned the family many years ago. The deeper you explore each of your characters, the more your story will come to life.

Click here to download worksheet


1. Theme of the month: Your choice! - This week, build your character(s) and write your first Chapter. Please remember to follow our community guidelines and do not include identifying information in your book (last names, your town, or your school). The maximum wordcount for your novelette is 5,000 words, so aim for 1,000-1500 words per chapter.

To be eligible for inclusion in the monthly roundup, you must submit a story with at least two finished chapters to the Challenge by July 25, 2016.

2. Choose your artwork – Browse our library of images to find the artwork that inspires you. Select an artist to be your illustrator, or search for a keyword to use multiple images.

3. Submit - When you have finished your chapter, select “Summer Writing Club July Challenge: Novelette” on the book details page before you submit to moderation.

4. Eligibility Any Storybird member can participate in Summer Writing Club. You join simply by participating each week. Paid membership is not required (but it will allow you to display your beautiful badges, receive printable certificates for each challenge, and get lots of other perks.) Click here to receive a discount for new and existing members. Ends soon!

You must have a Regular account for your story to appear in the public library and to be featured on our blog. Stories published from Student accounts are only visible to members of your class.

Update, July 06, 2016: Due to the overwhelming popularity of this Challenge we have added two new rules to give as many people as possible a chance to enter:

  • We will not accept previously written stories—except those from the backstory Challenge.
  • We are now only allowing one story per person to be entered. Make it your best!

The Badge for this month’s Challenge is:

Do the Challenge

Add your comment

Sign into Storybird to post a comment.