Pep Talk Week #3: When You Feel Like a Fraud

This week’s pep talk comes from Fallon Brown. Enjoy!

When I was asked to write this pep talk, I may have frozen up a bit. What am I supposed to say? What kind of advice can I give? Who is even going to listen to me?

Confession time: Sometimes I feel like a fraud. And by sometimes, I mean sometimes at least once a day. Sometimes it’s just that little whisper in the back of your head, but sometimes it’s up to a shout. And I’ll admit, there are times when it’s hard to keep writing through that voice. But, I’ve gone the way of not writing, and I know where that leaves me. Hint: It’s not pretty. There are too many characters in my head to leave them to their own devices.

So, I write anyway. Sometimes that’s all you can do to shut that voice out. Because if I don’t, those stories won’t get told. And while I know my stories won’t change the world, that doesn’t mean they can’t be important to someone. But, that won’t happen if I don’t get words down on the page.

And writing is self-care for me. As I said above, it’s not pretty when I don’t write. There’s a quote by Franz Kafka I’ve seen around, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity” that I relate to quite well. Even when that voice tells me that no one cares what I have to say, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I should just stop; I can’t.

Words have always been important to me, been points of discovery. Whether it was discovering a new passion or discovering a part of myself that I hadn’t known was even a possibility. Words I’ve read lit the spark of that discovery, and my own words have made it burn even brighter.

So who am I to let a voice in my head tell me to stop, when maybe my words can be that spark for someone else? Yours could be as well. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as gagging that voice in your head, but here are some things to do that might help:

  • Blast music: Sometimes that can be enough to distract the voice and let your own words come out. It doesn’t matter what kind of music, I have different playlists for different projects. Whatever works.
  • Writer friends: And sometimes you need someone else to help you push that voice back. I probably would have given up by now if it wasn’t for some of those friends I’ve made.
  • Remind yourself: Your words are important. There is someone out there who needs to read it, and you’re the only one who can tell it in your way.
  • Write anyway: And sometimes all you can do is shove everything else away and write to prove that voice wrong.

You’re not a fraud. You are a writer. Don’t let anyone, even that mean little voice in your head, tell you otherwise. So, write!

Fallon Brown was born and raised in a tiny town in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. At one time, she dreamed of having a cabin in the woods or mountains where she could be left alone to write. Instead she spent three years studying psychology before realizing that wasn’t for her. She now lives outside of a slightly larger small town in the same corner of her home state with her husband, two children, two dogs, and a cat.

Website: fallonbrown.com
Twitter: @ frbrown906
Patreon: 
https://www.patreon.com/fallonrb

Pep Talk Week #2: Muck-Slinging and Word-Making

This week’s pep talk comes from Courtney Cantrell. Enjoy!

Greetings and Felicitations, Wordslingers!

And I mean that. Wordslingers. You’re past the gummy shallows of this splashy craze-fest known as JuNoWriMo. Here in Week Two, you’ve waded at least knee-deep into the ooze of creativity and subject-verb-agreement. Maybe you’re even hip-deep. (“Oh heck, it’s up to my neck!” as a certain Shel might say.) Either way, the Writer Is In, and it’s time to sling.

Sling those words. Plunge your arms into the raw, mushy heat of your story, clench your fists around whatever you can, and explode up out of that muck with verve and pizzazz. Fling those words around you like a monkey throwing poo! Don’t worry about what sticks and what doesn’t. You’ll clean up the splatters in July. Right now, your concern is smacking your immediate universe with all the gloppy characters and gooey plot points you possibly can.

If this slime-pit metaphor of wordy imagination is too ick for you, let’s move away from it for a moment.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo eight times and won seven; I’ve won JuNoWriMo once, but I’ve been loosely associated with it since its inception. And in this abundance of NaNo-ing, one of the challenges I’ve heard writers bemoan over and over again is the temptation to edit.

You know how it is, lovelies. You sit down at your computer, your typewriter, your pen-n-paper, your reed-n-clay-tablet — and you essay to re-read but a fraction of what you scribbled during your previous writing session. Just to get the juices flowing, y’know. Or maybe you don’t re-read. Maybe you just sit down and launch into the keyboard-pounding frenzy (don’t break your reed stylus, those are delicate). Either way, something catches your eye. Something you wrote prior to this session. You remember a phrase you were unsure about yesterday, and you need — you absolutely NEED — to check over it again. And the next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour nitpicking a paragraph or prodding a recalcitrant sentence into just the right shape….

And ya coulda spent dat hour writin’, kid. Ya coulda been a contendah.

(I just wholly dated myself, and I don’t care.)

(I make an awesome date.)

(I do not create fruit.)

*ahem*

Where was I. Oh yes. NOT TO WORRY. You’re still in the JuNoWriMo running. You’re still a contender. You are still fiercely amazing for even attempting these fabulous writing shenanigans. The point is this: during these month-long noveling capers, the Dread Pirate Editing is a temptation for all? most? many? of us. (I have no stats, just edumacated guesses.) The shadow of the Dread Pirate Editing looms over us, threatening to pillage our time and loot our first draft of progress. ’Cuz that be what ye’re pennin’, me hearties: a 50k-word first draft in the space of a month. (Note: that’s 50k more words than most humans in history ever wrote in their lifetimes.)

And if you give in to the Dread Pirate Editing, you’ll end up wanting to FIX ALL THE THINGS and your novel will taking a looooooong (not to mention wet) walk off a very short plank. (And there are sharks down there. They eat plot bunnies.)

Here I am with the metaphors again. Okay. So, in plain English: if you spend your time polishing words, sentences, and paragraphs — instead of generating new words — you will not reach your June 50k-word goal.

Thus…WHAT TO DO?

I can’t make you exercise self-control and ignore your editing urge. I can’t peer over your shoulder and remind you to get back to making new words instead of fiddling around with the old ones. I wouldn’t do any of that even if I could, because I wouldn’t be doing you or myself any favors.

What I can do is offer just a few practical tips that work for me. Your mileage might (and probably will) vary. If you wanna come find me on Twitter or at my sadly neglected blog, I’m happy to chat it out.

In the meantime, suggestions!

  1. Recall these tidbits from writers more well-known than I:
  • “It is perfectly okay to write garbage — as long as you edit brilliantly.”

—C. J. Cherryh

  • “You can fix anything but a blank page.”

—Nora Roberts

  • “Write your story, and don’t be afraid to write it.”

—Nnedi Okorafor

—> i.e. DON’T WORRY. JUST W̸̟̜̜͈͇̱̩̍̈́̿̊͜R̸̦̳̲̄̆̐Ī̸̗̮̗̲͙̳͖̳̌̊͋̓̄̐̕͠Ì̶͙̺̻̳͎͈̘͇̩͂͌́͠I̸̪̱̰̠͆͠Î̸̢͈̫Ï̸̧̲̝̝̭̪̽̈́͆̓̓Į̴̻̳͓̠͖̠͇̦͋͋̂͐́͘̕Ĭ̸͈̱̒͑Ì̸̢̛̱͎̭̑̂̃Ỉ̶͔͎̪̲̈́͑̈́͠I̶̗̯̹̱̰̐̽ͅỈ̵͚̻̮̱͎̖͙̖̣̆͆̄̏͊̾̾̾͜͝I̷̢̺͊́́̀̕I̶̡̛̳̥̻̞͎̠̱͂̆́͊Ȋ̴̧͔͔̯̺̙͕̬͖̒̋͝Ĩ̶̩̈͂̿̅̓ͅI̴̥̖͔̘̣̱͓̗͔̽͊̈́̓͊̋͐̒I̸̝͉͓̻̖̓̈̍̓̄̓̃͗͠ͅT̴̠͖̠͕̔̿̋͐̅̈͆̂͝E̶͇͖͙̰̮̾̔ (write).

  1. Do word sprints.

These are set periods of time — 10 minutes, 20, 30 — during which you force yourself to keep your butt in the chair and make words. Any words. It’s almost a free-association kind of thing.

Just write, write, write. (W̸̟̜̜͈͇̱̩̍̈́̿̊͜R̸̦̳̲̄̆̐Ī̸̗̮̗̲͙̳͖̳̌̊͋̓̄̐̕͠Ì̶͙̺̻̳͎͈̘͇̩͂͌́͠I̸̪̱̰̠͆͠Î̸̢͈̫Ï̸̧̲̝̝̭̪̽̈́͆̓̓Į̴̻̳͓̠͖̠͇̦͋͋̂͐́͘̕Ĭ̸͈̱̒͑Ì̸̢̛̱͎̭̑̂̃Ỉ̶͔͎̪̲̈́͑̈́͠I̶̗̯̹̱̰̐̽ͅỈ̵͚̻̮̱͎̖͙̖̣̆͆̄̏͊̾̾̾͜͝I̷̢̺͊́́̀̕I̶̡̛̳̥̻̞͎̠̱͂̆́͊Ȋ̴̧͔͔̯̺̙͕̬͖̒̋͝Ĩ̶̩̈͂̿̅̓ͅI̴̥̖͔̘̣̱͓̗͔̽͊̈́̓͊̋͐̒I̸̝͉͓̻̖̓̈̍̓̄̓̃͗͠ͅT̴̠͖̠͕̔̿̋͐̅̈͆̂͝E̶͇͖͙̰̮̾̔). Use a timer. When it goes off, stand up, walk

around, get a drink and/or snack, use the restroom, run around the block once. Ten minutes later, get your butt back in the chair and do it again. Look for Twitter hashtags #wordprints #wordmongering #wordgrab and find other Gorgeous Wordslingers Like You(™) online who are sprinting together (or against each other — maybe a little competition will light fires under that cute, melded-to-chair butt of yours).

2. End your writing session in the middle of a sentence that excites you.

I know, this sounds counterintuitive and even downright agonizing. But trust me. If there’s anything that can cannonball you directly into the goopy mass that is your story, it’s sitting down to your next writing session and plunging right into that cramazing sentence you so desperately wanted to finish. Finish it — and then keep going. Do. Not. Stop. Let the momentum carry you like a bulbous sludge-shark hauling you along behind it through the gook. It’ll take you to whatever miry depths you need to reach.

And so, I believe, we arrive back at the muck-slinging glop metaphor. You’ve got this, O Writer! Ye’re a wordslinger, Harry. You wield your words like a mage their wand, an Annie Oakley her gun, a seven-year-old her fistful of mud, a chimp his excrement. Sometimes you make magic. Sometimes you make slop. It’s FINE. That’s exactly what it’s like for every other writer in existence ever. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Welcome to the party. This is where we dive headfirst into what makes other people wrinkle their noses in disgust, and we have a raucous good time with it. So come on, writer. Jump in. The goop is great. Keep getting your hands dirty.

Slimily Yours,

Courtney

Courtney Cantrell is the author of twelve book-length works, including: epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers, paranormal series Demons of Saltmarch, and short story anthology The Elven Dead. She’s also a 7-time NaNoWriMo winner. Her writing career began when she was 8 with “a Tiger that growld”; continued with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing; and most recently grew to encompass epic fantasy murder mysteries (The Priestess Murders, coming soon!). Courtney lives in Oklahoma City with a husband, a daughter, and a hobbitcat.

You can find her at her blog: courtcan.com or on Twitter: @courtcan


Pep Talk Week #1: Kindness (to Yourself) Is Your Key to Success

To help us start this month strong, Angi Griffee gives a little encouragement for all of us writers.

Hey there JuNoWriMo-ers! How you doing?

This summer has been a challenge for me. This year, actually, has been a challenge for me in the writing department. There’s always something telling me I don’t have time or I’m not good enough, or maybe I’m even being left behind.

But you know what? None of that is true. And it’s not for you either. If you’re joining us for JuNo, writing matters to you. And we always find time for what matters. It’s not a hobby or extra or whatever, it’s your soul trying to get out on the page – and that matters.

You matter.

You’re good enough. Remember, this is a first draft. If it’s perfect on the first draft, please come teach me your ways, you word wizard! But you are making words and telling a story and that is good enough.

And I know as writers we tend to get into the comparison game, but you know what’s great? If one bookshelf gets full, we can just make another. There’s no getting left behind, it’s just a matter of endurance. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And you’re doing awesome.

Just remember to feed yourself, get up and stretch, and hydrate. Races are long, even if you’re only competing with yourself. And you’re close to crossing that finish line.

So no matter how it’s going, keep going. One word in front of the other.

It’s always easy to sit down and write when the words are flowing. Those are the best days. You sit down, stretch your fingers over the keys, and with that gentle tap-tap-tap the world that lives in your brain comes to life in front of your eyes. True magic

But what about those days when it’s hard to put a sentence together? What about the times when life stands in between you and the keyboard? The days when you’ve convinced yourself you’re not a writer. Those are the days I’m talking about.

First – everyone has those days. Every. One. If they say different, they are selling something.

Second – it’s gonna happen. Sometimes I can sit down and pump out so many words I have to double check the count to make sure I actually did that. Sometimes, I can’t do anything but read over my last chapter and delete the ten times I used the word Justandalso and so.

Third – One bad day does not equal a wasted month. (Or year, or book, or whatever our brains would like us to believe)

When I get stuck I try to remember those three things. I take a deep breath and think them through.

Don’t get inside your head. Just keep going. You can mold and edit and fix what you write, but if the words aren’t there, it’s harder. We tend to take a slow day of writing and turn it into OH MY GOD I’LL NEVER WRITE ANOTHER WORD WHAT AM I DOING HOW DID I GET HERE WHERE ARE THE SNACKS IS IT FIVE OCLOCK YET?????

But remember – feed yourself, being kind to yourself, stretch, hydrate. It’s amazing what a little grace toward yourself and a deep breath can do

When you start to struggle, think about what you would say to someone else who is struggling. I bet you’d encourage them, tell them they got this, and give them permission to have a slow day. Talk to yourself like you would a friend. Some days you might need tough love, some days you need a break, but every day you need kindness.

So now, do that for yourself. A lot of us think we’re not writers because of where we are in the process. Some of think we’ll never finish that second (or third or tenth) book. All of us worry it won’t be good enough.

If you are writing, you are a writer.

You will finish whatever you put your mind to.

And your words will speak to the people they are supposed to.

All it takes is a whole lotta bravery and a little patience with ourselves.

So happy writing, my friends!!

Now, take a deep breath! Drink your water. Eat some fruit. Because I believe in you. You got this!!! And slow or fast, you’ll get there. Happy writing!

With magic words and love,

Xo,

Angi

Angi Griffee is a dance and theater instructor whose love affair with words helps her create books. She also bakes, sings, and owns Wise Owl Words Editing.

Pep Talk Week 4: The Final Push

Hey everybody! Week 4!! We’re so close to the end of the month!

I thought about talking about word counts, final pushes, or finding something super inspirational—but instead I’m going to say this:

Good job!

Look at what you’ve accomplished! 5 words? 50 words? 50000?? Great! You decided to do a thing and you did it. You’re a writer. You made art. You did something original.

You still have this last week to meet your goal, but if you don’t, that’s okay. You can still write in July. You can write in August. You can set a new goal and try again in November.

As long as you keep writing, you simply can’t fail. There aren’t any wrong answers here or only one way to do it.

Your way is the best way for you. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

So, my writing friends, here’s to the last week of June. It might be the end of JuNoWriMo 2018, but it’s only the beginning of your journey. So keep on writing. Keep on making art. Keep on believing in you.

Peace, love, and words,
Angi

Angi GriffeeAngi Griffee is a dance and theater instructor whose love affair with words helps her create books. She also bakes, sings, and owns Wise Owl Words Editing.

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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Pep Talk Week 2: How To Keep Writing

This week, Angi Black helps you sail through the halfway point of JuNoWriMo (and probably also your diet if you’re on one).

Hey there JuNoWriMo-ers! It’s week two and we’re nearly halfway done!! 

How you doing? 

Two weeks in is always the tipping point for me. If I’m sailing, I only build steam. On the other hand, if I’m struggling, I think about quitting. And that’s what today’s pep talk is about. How to keep going no matter how it is going. 

It’s always easy to sit down and write when the words are flowing. Those are the best days. You sit down, stretch your fingers over the keys, and with that gentle tap-tap-tap the world that lives in your brain comes to life in front of your eyes. It’s like magic and you are the wizard. 

But what about those days when it’s hard to put a sentence together? What about the times when life stands in between you and the keyboard? The days when you’ve convinced yourself you’re not a writer. Those are the days I’m talking about. 

First – everyone has those days. Every. One. If they say different, they are selling something. 

Second – it’s gonna happen. Sometimes I can sit down and pump out so many words I have to double check the count to make sure I actually did that. Sometimes, I can’t do anything but read over my last chapter and delete the ten times I used the word Just. 

Third – One bad day does not equal a wasted month. (Or year, or book, or whatever our brains would like us to believe).

When I get stuck I try to remember those three things. I take a deep breath and think them through. 

Have you ever been on a diet? That was a silly question. I’ll rephrase. Remember the last time you were on a diet? And you ate that pizza and then you had a birthday party and ate cake and then because you’d done all that you finished the day with one (or three) too many glasses of wine? No? 

Oh. Me either then. But hypothetically speaking… Because you’d felt like you’d blown it you decided to make your little bonfire into the explosion behind Ironman as he walks away. This is the same thing we do to our writing when it doesn’t come easy. We take a slow day of writing and turn it into OH MY GOD I’LL NEVER WRITE ANOTHER WORD WHAT AM I DOING HOW DID I GET HERE?????

And you know what’s great? It’s the easiest thing not to. All you have to do is this – be nice to yourself. 

I know, weird, right? 

When you start to struggle, think about what you would say to someone else who is struggling. I bet you’d encourage them, tell them they got this, and give them permission to have a slow day. 

So now, do that for yourself. A lot of us think we’re not writers because of where we are in the process. Some of think we’ll never finish that second (or third or tenth) book. All of us worry it won’t be good enough. 

If you are writing, you are a writer.

You will finish whatever you put your mind to. 

And your words will speak to the people they are supposed to. 

All it takes is a whole lotta bravery and a little patience with ourselves. 

So happy writing, my friends!! 

Now, take a deep breath! Because I believe in you. You got this!!! And slow or fast, you’ll get there. Happy writing!

With magic words and love, 

XO 

Angi

Angi GriffeeAngi Griffee is a dance and theater instructor whose love affair with words helps her create books. She also bakes, sings, and owns Wise Owl Words Editing.

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Pep Talk Week 1: Writing Isn’t Just Writing

Get excited for this month’s challenge with a poignant and funny reminder from author Chuck Wendig that writing is so much more than “just writing.” 

The good news, and the bad news, is that there is nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know.

You already know it’s going to be hard. Writing, despite what some assume, isn’t easy. It’s an act of mining – except instead of chipping rock, you’re chipping away at ideas, at emotions, at the schist and bedrock of your own mind.

You already know that it’s going to be weird. I mean, c’mon. You sit in front of a computer, basking in the glow, and you look at that glowing square and try to impress upon it the breadth and depth of a whole story. You also make people up. Like, you invent them. Wholecloth. Thin air. Entire beings that are you, but aren’t you, at the same time.

You already know that nobody will really appreciate it. I’m a NYT-bestselling author, and I still meet people who know I’m a writer, and their response is basically, “That’s nice.” And then they tell you a thing as if it’s somehow equivalent: “Oh, I found a sale today on a nice jacket,” and you want to respond, “I CREATED A WHOLE UNIVERSE WITH MY MIND, IT ISN’T THE SAME, JANICE,” but they just blink and smile and you can’t really crack that nut.

You already know that to write, you need to write. You need to quantum entangle YOUR BUTT with THAT CHAIR and herd those words. Writing can’t happen without writing, can it?

You also already know that writing isn’t just writing. It’s also a whoooooole lot of wandering and dreaming and thinking and worrying. It’s showering and mowing the lawn and then reading and re-reading and editing and weeping and eating cake under your desk.

You already know that desk-cake is the best cake, but also the most worrisome cake.

I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

But you and I both know, too, that no matter how weird and how hard it is, writing is what you do and who you are, and it’s worth doing just the same. Stories are sublime. Books are amazing. You don’t come to this ignorant of that. It forms part of a fantastic tradition – a tapestry of words and tales to which you wish to add your very own thread. You know that it matters. That being this thing and doing this work is important to you. Because you’ve read so much already by so many others that has left an indelible print on your soul.

You know you’re going to do it.

You’re a writer, and a writer writes. You know that, too. In your heart. In your gut.

So go write. Show us all what you know.

See you on the other side, penmonkeys.

Chuck WendigChuck Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, Zer0es/Invasive, and his upcoming epic, Wanderers (Del Rey, 2019). He’s also worked in a variety of other formats, including comics, games, film, and television. A finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus, he is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and his books about writing. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

Social Media: @chuckwendig on Twitter and @chuck_wendig on IG

Pep Talk Week 4: 5 Creative Habits to Leverage Your JuNoWriMo Success

In this final stretch, boost your creativity for success with these five tips from Judy Lee Dunn.

For years, I thought that creative people had been blessed with a special gene. That they were sprinkled with magic dust from the patron saint of imaginative thinking. Though some people try to make it complicated, it’s really not that hard. Because while creativity is part ability and part attitude, mostly, it’s a habit. Now that you are in Week 4 of JuNoWriMo, you are probably noticing how much easier it’s getting to hit your word count with each passing day.

You’ve been showing up every day and coming up with new ideas has become a habit.

One thing I learned as a teacher of lower primary school kids is that we all have it, this creativity thing. My students came to school ready to explore, to try new things. They were imaginative, full of wonder and curiosity. They taught me so much about writing and blogging and the joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes.

How can we as writers nurture our creative sides so our idea banks are always full? Here are a few starters: Continue reading “Pep Talk Week 4: 5 Creative Habits to Leverage Your JuNoWriMo Success”

Pep Talk Week 3: Friend or Foe?

Dan Wells helps you soldier on even when you feel like writing your book is a chore.

You made it to week three! Woot woot! You’re over the hump, and it’s all downhill from here, and ha ha ha ha I can’t even finish that sentence.

Real talk: this is where it sucks. Week three is the worst week of all, and I’m sorry. Don’t worry, though, we can get through this together.

Week one was about getting started, and everything was kind of new and intriguing. Week two was about finding your groove, and week four will about sprinting to the finish line. They’re all awesome, in their own way. Week three has nothing. Week three is about keeping your head down and getting the work done; it’s about pushing forward when all the novelty has disappeared, and the finish line is still too far away to see. There’s nothing sexy or easy or exciting. You’ll get to the end of the week and hate your entire book, along with maybe everything you’ve ever written.

Depressed now? Don’t be. Because here’s the good news: week three is my favorite one.

Week three is the work horse. It’s where the thing you started because it was fun turns into a thing you keep doing because it matters. It’s where the words you were writing because they were easy give way to the words you keep writing because they’re worth the effort. It’s where your investments start to pay off; where the threads you placed start coming together and the whole thing finally starts to look like “a story” instead of just “a bunch of stuff that happens.” The mid point is where, more often than not, your characters stop reacting to the plot and start acively driving it: they’re sick of this crap and it’s time to take matters into their own hands. Enough running from the Nazgul: let’s take this ring to Mordor and destroy it. Enough waiting around for Dumbledore: let’s break into the dungeon and protect the Sorcerer’s Stone ourselves. And the great thing about it is that we, as the authors, get to do the same thing. No more relying on the outline/the writing group/the inertia/the emails from random authors on the Internet. It’s time for you to pick up your sword and/or laptop and finally become the kind of hero your story needs.

Week three isn’t finished. It’s not the home stretch, and it’s not the polish, and it’s not a finished bicycle that you built yourself and can ride around on. It’s something better: it’s that beautiful moment where you’ve put together enough of the bike that the gears start to turn each other; you can push one part and another part spins, and you know in that moment that you’re not wasting your time. You really can do this, and it really can work, and it might not be done or pretty or even recognizable by doggonit but it WORKS. It’s a THING, and you made it YOURSELF, and it WORKS. And sure it’s going to need a lot of work before it’s done, but that’s okay because you can do it. You’ve gotten this far, haven’t you? Do you think that’s easy? Only amazing people can do what you just did, and that means you’re amazing, and the second half of the process is going to be…well, not easy. But doable. Reachable. Accomplishable. Those aren’t even real words, and they’re still true. That’s how amazing you are.

So write! Write until your fingers bleed and your eyes burn and your butt gets sore and your back curls into a permanent hunch. Write until you wish you’d never started this stupid book and no one’s going to want to read it anyway and why am I even doing this? Because you’re a hero, and that’s what heroes do, and even though you can’t see it yet, you’re going to win. You’re going to slay this dragon or save this world or solve this mystery or unite these lovers. You’re going to get to that home stretch and it’s going to be thrilling and you’re going to be victorious. And week three is the only thing that’s going to get you there. See? It’s not a monster. Week three is your best friend.

Let’s do this.

Dan Wells writes a little bit of everything, but he is best known for the Partials Sequence and the John Cleaver series, the first book of which is now a Major Motion Picture. He is a co-host of the educational podcast Writing Excuses, for which he won a Hugo and now helps run a yearly, week-long writing conference. In addition to novels, novellas, and shorts, he has also written and produced a stage play, called “A Night of Blacker Darkness,” and works as a staff writer on the TV show “Extinct.” He has lived in the US, Mexico, and Germany, and currently resides in Utah with his wife, six children, and 439 boardgames.

Twitter: @TheDanWells

Tumblr: @thedanwells

Pep Talk Week 2: The Dreaded Week Two Blues

This week, Becca Campbell gives you some tangible tricks to beating the monster of Resistance, the big bad boss of week two.

Congratulations You made it to Week Two. Yay! Now, can I rain on your parade? No? Well, here I go anyway…

The Monster

I’m going to be bluntly honest with you. Week two is the worst week of this challenge. It’s the week your story hits its halfway point—that slogging, muddy middle where you have no idea how you’ll make it to the end.

Week two is when you lose your buffer of surplus words (if you even had a buffer). It’s when you run out of ideas. It’s the point where you realize that everything you’ve written is total garbage. It’s where your story suddenly derails because your plot-train jumped the tracks and ended up at the edge of a cliff, barreling ahead over nothing but thin air at a hundred miles an hour.

And should I even mention the outside forces trying to pummel you off track? Your boyfriend starts asking why you’re too busy to answer his texts. Your friends remark that you’ve gone AWOL. Your neighbors complain that the grass in your yard is a foot high. Your wife asks when you’re going to get groceries because the fridge is empty, and oh, by the way, have you fed the kids today?

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls these forces “Resistance.” Week two is when all these forces of Resistance come to a head. Suddenly, it feels like every living creature in your world does not want you to write that book.

Week two is when most writers quit.

There’s only one way to make it through week two. Continue reading “Pep Talk Week 2: The Dreaded Week Two Blues”