Pep Talk Week 3: Strategies for Writing through the Middle

We’re entering week three of JuNoWriMo. Some of you have already crossed the 50k line, some of you are close, and some of you are writing madly while knowing you won’t make that goal. The thing that all of these have in common is that you are writing and that is fantastic.

Today, I’m mostly speaking to the folks who aren’t finished yet and are trying to jam out a whole bunch of words. Yes, you can just write random stuff and bump up your wordcount that way, but wouldn’t it be nice to have words that you’ll be happy with later for more than just the quantity of them? Here’s a list of strategies find words you’re excited about.

  1. Remember that you are telling a story and you are telling it to yourself first and foremost. We are, all of us, readers. So when you’re sitting there staring at the page, don’t think about what you should write next, think about what you would want to read.
  2. Remember what excited you about the story in the first place. Bring it back. You liked the flying monkeys in chapter 2? No reason they can’t make a reappearance here.
  3. Doodling for writers. Write description from your character’s point of view. Ridiculous descriptions. Describe the woodgrain on the desk sitting in the corner of the room that your character is in. At some point, your brain will say, “Really? We’re talking woodgrain? I have some plot here. Would you like some plot?” That description isn’t wasted. It tells you about the space that your character is in and you can often cut those words up and put them in other places in your novel
  4. Pick a technique to practice. Dialogue. Setting. Internal monologue… Now doodle for writers with that, until you find your way again.
  5. Gift your character with your indecision. They don’t know what their plan is either, so think about the smartest thing that they can do — but think about it on the page and in their point of view.
  6. Figure out what your character wants overall and also in this scene. Now. Systematically deny it to them. They want a glass of water? Fine, break the faucet. They go to call the plumber? Tough luck about the phone coming off the wall like that. Be mean to them.
  7. Brackets are your best friends. If you are on a roll, don’t stop to look things up. Put it in [square brackets] and come back to it.
  8. Bored with a scene? Just jot down what happens next so you can get to the part that you really want to write. Sometimes, you’ll come back later and find you didn’t need the part you skipped.
  9. Set a timer for twenty minutes and tell yourself that your fingers cannot stop moving. Before you hit start, pick a goal for the scene — something specific like “they break out of prison with a mason jar” or “she realizes she loves him.” Now write.
And if you don’t hit 50k by the end of June? No big deal. There’s always next month. Sure, JuNoWriMo is in June, but dude– writers write. And you, my friend, you are a writer.

Mary Robinette KowalMary Robinette Kowal is the author of historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’sClarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Visit maryrobinettekowal.com.

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