Pep Talk Week #4: The Curse of Writer’s Block

It’s week four of JuNoWriMo, one of the most challenging weeks. By now you may be worn thin, your story may have lost its shine, or you may have run out of ideas. It’s common for me to hit a wall somewhere beyond the middle of my novels. But what do you do when you just feel stuck?

In On Writing, Stephen King provides a chest full of gold nuggets – encouragement, inspiration, solutions to problems every writer faces. These tips may be the vital pieces you need to break through and finish JuNoWriMo. Just in case you don’t have time to read it right now, I’m going to share one of the ways King’s wisdom has helped me.

The Curse of Writer’s Block

What is writer’s block? It depends on who you ask. The causes are even more varied, especially because it can attack all writers differently.

In my personal experience, I’ve found that writer’s block often is this: the excuse not to write. That may sound harsh, but I’m speaking for myself here. Sure, we all get stuck sometimes. I’ve had my share of big, gaping plot holes to hurdle. I’ve also experienced times of creative funk when I had absolutely no motivation to work. It’s miserable. But often what we call “writer’s block” is nothing more than a lack of tenacity – not being willing to stick with it and write through the block.

If you can figure out what’s blocking you, it makes it easier to push past it. Personally, when I get stuck, it’s usually because I don’t know what happens next in the story.

Fighting Bad with Worse

In On Writing, King made an excellent point about his own experiences with writer’s block. He said often the best solution is to add a new problem. In other words, let tragedy strike your poor, unsuspecting characters. The moment I heard that, I began analyzing periods in my work when writing was a struggle. I found that most of them were indeed at a point in the story where there was more apathy than disaster, more dull tranquility than teeth-gritting struggle.

But when I throw adversity at my characters, I instantly have something to write about. A little more self-analysis, and I determined that the times I had beaten writer’s block often happened because I initiated a new dilemma in the plot.

If King hadn’t so plainly stated his solution to writer’s block, I don’t think I would have had the conscious realization on my own. When I got stuck with my story, my gut response was for a solution to get my characters out. It’s the same thing I do in life – looking for the bright side, trying to patch up the bad with the good. But my natural optimism didn’t do my stories any favors. Actually, I’ve come to believe that seeing all the things that can go wrong is an ideal vantage point for a writer. Pessimists rejoice!

So I suppose I’ve switched sides. At least when it comes to writing fiction. I’ve finally learned that the best way to fight writer’s block is to let the plot take a turn for the worse.

Maybe you’re in the same boat?

Double bonus: if your story is nearing the end, it’s the right time for the tension to ramp up anyway. So here’s my final challenge to you for these last few days:

Focus on building in all the bad stuff you can as your characters ride up that coaster’s final, steep hill.

Let’s race to the end!

An author and dabbler in all things creative, Becca J. Campbell loves thinking up stories about supernatural abilities, experimenting with painting techniques, drawing in her sketchbook, and recycling stuff into cool products for her Etsy shop UpCycled Chic By Becca.

Pep Talk Week #3: I’m Talking to US

Week 3: I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to US.

By: Jessica Dragon Cheramie

What?!?! It’s week 3.

Are you kidding me? Time disappears way faster than this stupid coronavirus.

How are your words looking?

I hope you are doing great and words are pouring out of you like a spewing volcano destroying any distractions that dare to brave your path. If this is the case:

STOP RIGHT HERE.

I’m not talking to you. Go write more words. Hehe

I’m talking to you who are still reading because the words aren’t pouring out of you or you are stuck or feel like this challenge is impossible. Actually, no, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to us.

Can I be honest?

It looks so glamorous on social media, but writing is HARD.

I’m always so pumped and ready on week 1 with my plan I worked on the month before or not, if I’m just winging it. I’ve been doing WriMos for years.

The first two weeks, I sit down to write, listen to my curated playlist to inspire me, and I just write the movie that’s playing in my head.

I’ve been the ones we aren’t talking to right now whose story magically unfolds and words flow like the Mighty Mississippi River. I’ve finished WriMos in crazy fast times. But this isn’t what usually happens. OH NO!

Typically, I’m writing for a while until…WHAM! Brick wall.  This just got real.

Whatever the reason—cruelties of life decide to vomit all over my perfect plans or time just isn’t being kind to me or I can’t figure out why I’m writing this story to begin with and have no idea where to go with it—it happens.

I know this too well. I’m in the trenches with you.

Now, it’s week 3.

Where did that time go? How can I meet my goals now? There’s no point to keep going. I FAILED.

Does this sound familiar? Are you with me?

This happens to me, and I see it happening to others too often. Participation in sprints and in the group ebbs about this time, and it’s time to make a change.

We need to do better. We can do better.

We are NOT quitters. We are finishers.

We are NOT procrastinators. We are time-managing experts. (I’m trying to convince myself on this one.)

We are NOT perfect. We are perfectly imperfect, and we will do this.

We’ll do this by remembering why we want to do this.

We aren’t doing this because we feel like writing 50k words this month. We’re doing this because we want to write a book, and we want to write it in a month.

But let’s be honest again. When the month ends, we’ll still have what we’ve written, and we can still finish this month.

So why do you want to finish this book in this month? What does it mean to you? Make a list and post somewhere as a daily reminder. (Seriously, I’m not going anywhere. You can finish this after.)

I want to finish this book in this month, so I can get to editing next month. Sure, I can continue writing it next month if I don’t finish, but I’m choosing not to make that an option. It’s now or I move on.

Here’s the thing: I’m giving you a deadline. You have 2 weeks.

Two weeks to finish your 50k words.

I’m holding you to this, and I’m holding myself to this. We’re in this together remember.

I trust you that you can do this with me. Can I trust you? (I know we’ve only just met, so I’m banking a lot on you. Don’t let me down.)

But two weeks from now, what do you want to say? That you gave up or that you did it?

Don’t look back on this in a month or a year from now and wish you would have. Do it now.

We aren’t promised tomorrow. If this virus teaches you anything, let it be to spend more time with loved ones and to stop putting your dreams on hold.

Even if you don’t reach the goals, giving up now only gives you what you had. But if you go for this, what can you do?

There’s only one way to find out.

Why do you want this? Will you be a finisher with me?

Two weeks. Just write. NOW.

Jessica Dragon Cheramie is a Young Adult Fantasy author with a love of all things magical, dragons, and her crazy holistic ways.

Pep Talk Week #2: Padding Your Word Count – The Good Way

I hope your writing is right on track, but if you’re a little behind, don’t lose hope yet! There’s still time to pick up that word count and make up whatever ground you still have to cover.

Let’s face it, there are ways to increase your word count that are not so healthy to have as writerly habits. Included in the list of Worst Ways to Pad Word Count are: copying and pasting a block of text multiple times, adding needless obscenities as adjectives before every noun, omitting hyphens, etc.

Padding Your Word Count The Good Way

Last week, Jessica Dragon Cheramie gave some great JuNoWriMo tips. Here are my own strategies to make your JuNoWriMo as wordy as possible (in a good way!):

  1. Outline – Did you neglect to prewrite before June? Has your story arc changed since then? If your story’s began to slide down a slope to who-knows-where, now might be a great time to regain some focus. Type your outline in your novel, and suddenly you’ve added both words and direction.
  2. Add character descriptions – By now you probably know more about your characters than before you began: what they like, what they don’t, and who they want to kill at the moment. Writing a character description will help both your clarity of background info and your word count. If you want to keep things organized, do it in a separate document – remember, you can still count the words since you’re writing them during June.
  1. Write deleted scenes – You know the scenes that won’t make it into the final draft because they don’t advance the plot? How about the ones that happen before your story begins? Just because they don’t happen in the book doesn’t mean writing them won’t help your story. Sometimes allowing yourself the chance to really explore backstory will help to enrich your main story. Remember, you can always delete them (or move them to another file) after JuNoWriMo.
  2. Write another point of view – The story is all about your protagonist, which is where most (if not all) of your points of view should be focused. But writing (or re-writing) a scene from another point of view might be incredibly eye-opening. You may even spark an idea of something you want to change.
  3. Say it another way – Don’t like the last sentence you wrote? Try it again. And again. But don’t erase the previous attempts. They’ll count for you and also give you options when you go back to edit later. You don’t even have to decide which way you want to say it – JuNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity for indecision! Let the words spew forth and reap a boost in your wordcount.
  4. Add sub-plots and tangents – When editing your story later, you’ll whittle away the fluff and the unnecessary plots that muddle up your main story arc. But right now it’s JuNoWriMo! This is the time to get out all your excess ideas. Let your characters roam where they want or navel-gaze for five pages. It’ll only help you get to 50,000 faster.

Remember, write now—edit later.

I hope these ideas help you get past Week Two. Now get back to it. Happy writing!

An author and dabbler in all things creative, Becca J. Campbell loves thinking up stories about supernatural abilities, experimenting with painting techniques, drawing in her sketchbook, and recycling stuff into cool products for her Etsy shop UpCycled Chic By Becca.

Pep Talk Week #1: It’s a New Dawn, and It’s Calling You

Before you read this: For your safety, please wear a face mask and wash your hands. Ha ha. That’s probably getting old, but I had to.

♫ It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Can you hear what I hear?

The rambling of your muse itching to come out to play though you locked her in a box, waiting for June 1st.

Can you feel it?

The excitement bubbling inside, mixing with determination to finally do something normal again.

Most importantly, how are you?

What a crazy few months this has been! Although I told myself at first that I was going to use all that time to write and edit undisturbed, it just wasn’t in me.

I was preoccupied with numbers and the health and well-being of my loved ones. Trying my best to not crumble at times from fear or loss, I turned to different outlets.

My writing goals were replaced with fun family time I wouldn’t have changed for anything, such as “glamping” in the backyard.

But, now that we’ve established some sort of normalcy, my old goals are creeping in, and I’m ready to write and take on a new WriMo challenge.

IT’S JUNOWRIMO TIME!

So, this WriMo might look a little different for you whether your state is still under lockdown or venturing to a new normal, and that’s okay. But here are some ideas on how I’m tackling this JuNoWriMo. Hopefully, it can help you too.

The New Dawn JuNoWriMo:

Here’s how to tackle JuNoWriMo during these crazy times.

  1. Wash your hands. Like we say in the South, “I don’t know what those hands have been touching. Wash your hands.” And don’t forget to sing a 20 second song clip while you do it.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes. Yeah, this is an old, tried and true WriMo tip that works, but this one has a twist.

The twist: The 1st timer you set for the day, make yourself sit in front of the computer with your word-processor of choice.

If you feel the writing/editing inspiration, go with it. Keep writing. Join a writing sprint.

If after 10 minutes nothing comes, give yourself permission to try again later.

  • Wash your hands.
  • Write bad and be proud of it. There are so many tricks that suggest ways to get more words in, such as write out your character’s whole name in place of he/she/they/I/you.

This is not what I mean. Those tricks make editing extremely tedious, trust me.

When I say write bad, I mean don’t correct your mistakes. Any of them. For example, if you have a new idea for a scene, don’t delete what you’ve written. Rewrite by writing it as an addendum to what you’ve previously written. You may end up liking the other better or be able to use it in another piece or writing.

The twist: Use this the next day as what you read during the 1st timer you write. You can edit it if you wish at this time or just use it to coax your Muse out of hibernation.

  • Wash your hands.
  • Set small goals and hold yourself accountable. It’s not about the 50k words in one month. It’s about the small goals you achieve to get there. How does Miley Cyrus say it? “It’s the Climb.” Managing to get 200 words in 10 minutes is an awesome attainable goal, but once you hit it, set another. 400 words in 10 minutes. Challenging yourself this way builds your word count to that 1667 before you know it. And of course, hold yourself accountable. For instance, report your word count every day on our Twitter feed or FB group.

The twist: Instead of rewards for goals, make consequences. When you don’t have new words to report, what is something you have to do since you didn’t? Maybe yours will be not watching the next episode of Outlander until you hit a goal or not reading another chapter in Sarah J. Maas’s latest book.

For me, knowing I’d have to write ‘I will not talk to my friends during class.’ a hundred times was a much bigger motivator for me not to talk during class than if I got an ice cream for not talking during class.

  • Wash your hands. By now, you’ve probably washed them down to the bone, so go clean the dirt outside.

Then, come back and let’s write, because it’s a new dawn. It’s JUNOWRIMO!

What goals or consequences are you setting for JuNoWriMo?

Stay Happy and Healthy out there.

Jessica Dragon Cheramie is a Young Adult Fantasy author with a love of all things magical, dragons, and her crazy holistic ways.

Pep Talk Week #4: The JuNoWriMo World Series

It’s week 4. Like the World Series of Baseball. Did you know there is a Poker World Series? It came up when I googled World Series for this. Crazy. But that’s not what I’m talking about so back to baseball.

This week, you have 7 playoff days before you can grab that championship ring. It’s shiny. It’s purdy. It Can Be Yours. Do you have what it takes?

You might have given up already. Hopefully, not. But even if you did, you can still win this. Maybe you did already win this thing, you can add another 50k. Even if you are at 0 words. You can still win this thing. And let’s face it. Sometimes we just need that win.

7 ways for 7 days to win the World Series of JuNoWriMo (Yep, made that a thing.)

  1. Set your goal. So 50k words turns out to be roughly 7143 words per day. It’s a lot. I won’t lie. But, it’s doable. In fact, I’m going to go one step further and say. Shoot for 10k a day. Why? If you get that 10k, first, you get the 10k in a day badge. Wowza. A bonus perk. Second, it puts you ahead of schedule. It gives you time to reward yourself or take a breather later. You’re amped when you first set your sight for this, so use the motivation. It would’ve been better to do this week 1, but procrastination is just more fun sometimes. Extra challenging, right?
  2. Order out for the week. Unfortunately, as living things, you have to eat. Grumbling bellies and parched lips only distract us from our championship ring. You need words. Let those take-out apps or your own personal butlers (AKA significant others or awesome friends) be your chefs for the week. You need to write.
  3. Ignore the world around you. Say no to any and everything. Even to your boss. Okay, if you must do the work thing to pay those bills. Go ahead. Nah, I’m talking about the other 16 hours in your day. Turn off the TV. Turn off your phone, or at least, put it on silent. Crank up the music. Focus on one thing. That blank, white screen in front of you with the blinking cursor. Oh, and don’t sleep unless you fall asleep at your computer.
  4. Forget good hygiene. Don’t clean your messy house. Don’t do laundry. Don’t shower. Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t brush your hair. If you’re really gunning for this, you can even keep a urinal by your computer and cut that part out too. Hehe. These are precious minutes, people. Okay, sometimes, showering or a bath can help me work out my plot. For some, it’s washing dishes. So, these are tools for writing that sometimes must be used out of necessity. **Please note: This is not really something you have to do, except for not cleaning your house or laundry.
  5. Writing in sprints. Most people write more words sprinting against the timer. If you don’t know this already, with JuNoWriMo, you have the awesome word sprints going on throughout the day on Twitter at #JuNoWriMo. Take advantage of that. It helps you to stay focused for a set amount of time. Imagine. You write 200 words in 20 minutes against the clock. Well, 60 minutes later, you have 600 words. The more you do it, the faster you get. Before you know it, you’re doing 1k words in 30 minutes. Five hours of that gives you 10k words. It’s tough to do, but with our community on Twitter, you’ll be amazed at what you will do. Use it.
  6. Set rewards. Rewards are a very powerful thing, but they have to be used correctly. They must mean something. Sure, doing small rewards for small goals works short term. For major goals that require so much sacrifice requires a substantial reward. For instance, just saying you’ll get to binge watch a show doesn’t hold clout if you’ll do it anyway. It should be something that you’d never get or do or have unless you read the finish line. Your championship ring. What would that be?
  7. Just Write. Write anything and everything. Some internal dialogue you have with yourself could spark ideas for things later. There are no such thing as wasted words. Everything can be turned into something. During editing, I’ve come across lines like ‘I’m not sure where this story was going.’ I wrote what was in my head until something clicked, and I picked back up with the story or changed it into something else entirely. The rest can easily be erased or fixed later. Don’t stop to edit. Don’t correct mistakes. Keep Going. The important thing is to not stop. Just write. Some people will write out every character’s first and last name, no contractions, and other tricks like this. While they will help you up your word count, it will make the editing process later even more tedious, but they do work.

It does take sacrifices to do a 50k week, but it is possible. On the plus side, you likely have some words written, so yours may not be as extreme. Don’t let excuses and negativity weigh you down. You can do this. How badly do you want this win?

Besides, even if you give the best week ever and it doesn’t get you to that 50k, think of how far you’ve come. You’re still that much closer to finishing your book. Overall, that’s the goal we all want to achieve. That’s the ultimate reward. How badly do you want it? If you’ve already hit 50k, are you striving to double that this week?

So, grab your bat and leave a comment on how badly you want to win JuNoWrimo and how you’ll make it happen this week. Batter’s up.

Jessica Dragon Cheramie is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author with real Dragon blood. Seriously. It was her surname from birth until the day she said, “I do.” This has inspired every aspect of her writing. As a girl with dragon blood, she has a love for shiny things, coffee, painting, knitting, and wine. Her website scribblingdragon.com will be premiering soon.

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 1: Three Ways to Win by Margaret McNellis

This week’s pep talk is brought to you by JuNoWriMo crew member Margaret McNellis.

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When you feel like 50,000 words is an impossible goal, follow these three methods for building word count in mind and in practice.

Word Wars for the Win

Word wars saved me during my first novel challenge, and again during each and every novel challenge I’ve taken on since. A word war is when, given a pre-set amount of time, you write against the clock and fellow challengers–in a cafe, online, or anywhere you put pen to paper or fingers to keys. Word wars are immensely useful in that they provide support and friendly competition. There’s something about racing against the clock that keeps the words pouring out onto the page.

Keep a Writing Schedule

Your novel is important, or else you wouldn’t bother writing it–so make sure you give yourself the time to write. For some people, the morning is best–others are night owls. If you’re having trouble writing, try switching to a different time of day. Give yourself 15-30 minutes (or more) of uninterrupted writing time each day. Schedule it into your tablet if you must; enable the “do not disturb” on your smartphone, and breathe life into your story. Maximize your word processor or avoid electronics and other distractions if you like to write by hand.

Set Realistic Goals

If this is your first novel-writing challenge, don’t promise yourself that you’re going to write 200,000 words. The goal of 50,000 words is suggested because it means you only have to write 1,667 words each day to stay on track. That’s only a little more than 1,500, or about 4 pages single-spaced in most word processors. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to write 10,000 words in the first day–you may find yourself burnt out by June 15th. The true success of a novel-writing challenge isn’t to create a perfectly polished manuscript ready for a publisher in 30 days. The true success is to break the barriers set by the inner editor, self-doubt, and sometimes, writer’s block. The true success is to develop consistent writing habits that can eventually lead to a beautifully polished manuscript ready to share with the world. Slow and steady wins the race.

Of course, nothing horrible will happen to you if you don’t reach the 50,000 word mark by midnight on June 30. Your computer won’t turn into a pumpkin. Your notebook(s) won’t self-destruct. If and when writer’s block does settle upon your shoulders, skip to a different part of your story, write a foil character for your protagonist, or jump head first into a word war.

In addition to being a writer, I’m a martial artist. Winning a novel-writing challenge is much like a black belt test–it’s all about attitude and perseverance. When a student tests for his/her black belt, the rank is there for the taking. They just have to finish the test with a good attitude–an attitude that’s unwilling to quit just because something is difficult. If you write daily, whether you write 1,667 words per day or 200, at the end of the month you will have a product you can be proud of. You will have developed the habit of writing every day, and you will have started the process of writing a complete novel.

People often talk about when they can go from being aspiring writers to writers. When I was new to writing fiction, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Higgins Clark. I asked her this question–this equivalent of “What is the meaning of life?” for writers–she smiled and succinctly replied, “Writers write, so start writing.”

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Margaret & NekoMargaret McNellis first participated in a novel-writing challenge in 2008. In 2010, she became a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo–a post she held for three years. In 2013, Margaret joined the JuNoWriMo team, helping to run word wars and sprints via Twitter. Margaret began writing fiction in 2006 and, after completing coursework with the Long Ridge Writers Group, Margaret enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University, where she is currently pursuing her Masters in English and Creative Writing with a Concentration in Fiction. Her story “A King’s Life” appeared in the premier issue of Fictitious Magazine, and she has published articles in regional magazines and news sources. For seven years following her graduation from Southern Connecticut State University with a BA in Art History, she worked as a freelance writer, covering art shows, literary events, book releases and more. You can find Margaret online here.

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