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.

Visit Mary Robinette Kowal:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Patreon

Drip

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.

SaveSave

SaveSave

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”

Pep Talk Week 1: Exuberant Imperfection

Becca Campbell offers sage advice on perfection…and the importance of letting it go.

I’ve been a serious writer for eight years now. I have a dozen novels under my belt. You’d think I have this WriMo thing down.

But coming up with an outline has been more difficult this year than normal. I wasn’t quite sure why until I picked up No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, and a simple truth made itself clear:

I had slipped into the mindset of aiming for perfection.

This is a very, very bad thing for a writer. It’s not healthy for anyone, but when you’re sitting down to begin a novel, that blank page can be crippling.

You aren’t good enough, it says. You haven’t figured out all the details. You don’t even know how the story will end! And how are you going to write that one scene—the one that terrifies you to even think about?

Even when you start writing, this fear doesn’t go away. Look, you spelled that word wrong. Your grammar’s atrocious. And those lines of dialog don’t make any sense!

For me, this year the self-doubt began before I even started writing. I’ve written four stories in my current series and have four more to write. I stand on this precipice in the very middle, plagued with fear that I will take a wrong move. That I’ll write myself into a corner. That I’ll break the entire plot and won’t be able to pull off a satisfying ending. That I’ll finish the series and discover I need to completely rewrite the first four books. Continue reading “Pep Talk Week 1: Exuberant Imperfection”

That One Last Push: Victory and What Lies Beyond – Pep Talk Week 4

Just write button

We’re in the home stretch. Check out this pep talk by our own Eden Mabee, and recharge yourself to finish big!

Congratulations JuNoWriMo Winner!

I don’t know where you are in your JuNoWriMo progress.  I don’t need to know–really!  I already know you’ve won.

You see, you started a challenge that pushed you to write even when you weren’t as ready as you hoped you would be, even when you felt sick or the kids were now out of school on summer vacation, or the boss needed you to cover a few extra hours because your co-workers had left for a cruise…

You started JuNoWriMo, and you’re still here, still writing.  No matter how close you’ve gotten to that magical 50K, whether you aimed for that exactly or declared yourself a JuNoWriMo Rebel and set your own word count… you wrote.

Hopefully you’re still writing.  After all, you still have a few more days to get those words in, and a story doesn’t stop on a number.  Keep those fingers limber, your caffeinated beverages topped off, and the inspirational music playing.  If you’ve run out of story–start another. Continue reading “That One Last Push: Victory and What Lies Beyond – Pep Talk Week 4”

Pep Talk Week 2: 4 Tips to Succeed this June

Robert Chazz Chute offers his tips on how to succeed this June!

So, you’ve decided to commit to writing 50,000 words or more this month. Blood oaths have been sworn. You promised yourself, as God is your witness, you shall be a novelist! Heroes will sing your praises in Valhalla this night. As it was foretold in the prophecy, you shall write and you will finish to great acclaim. Beer, Cherry Cokes and champagne for everybody!

Good. Now that we’ve got the drama, grand pronouncements and the first flush of enthusiasm out of the way, let’s settle some priorities and expectations so you, too, can win JuNoWriMo and the love of your cold, aloof parents.

  1. You have made your writing a high priority this month. You matter and what you want is of value. We’re talking hopes and dreams here! No shame in such selfishness.

That affirmed, know that you will have to tell someone no this month. You’ll probably have to defend your writing time against the onslaught of several someones repeatedly. Fine. Do so. Your family, friends and enemies will still be around to suck the life out of you when you’re done your word count for the day. Put your writing session on your calendar just like you would an appointment for a colonoscopy. You probably wouldn’t look forward to a such a procedure, but you definitely would not miss such an important appointment.

Yes, your writing is just as important as meeting a doctor with a startlingly long air hose, a camera and a penchant for proctology.

  1. You are here for the writing and this will be fun. Not always, of course. If scratching out words were an easy  and endless gigglefest, everyone would be a novelist. There is a trick that will help you through the rough spots: just as with a bad movie, you can always fix your manuscript in post.

Write confidently. Write swiftly. Don’t look back. Push through to the end. Editing and worry is for later. The key to a great book is to start with a crappy one. There will be plot holes. You can fill those in another time. Too often, writers compare the wretchedness of their first draft to some genius’s finished work. Trust me, that so-called genius looks like half an idiot in his or her first draft, just like you and me. Relax into the inevitability of disappointment with your first attempt.

This isn’t baseball. In writing, you can take as many swings as you like until you hit a home run. Writing is a sport for cheaters. We keep our lousy attempts in locked drawers and the fans only see our triumphs in highlight reels.

  1. I guarantee you will have a ton of fun with this challenge if you resolve to stop being so precious about writing. We fetishize the act like some dudes dig the smell of leather when they’re naked. We talk instead of write. We develop elaborate rituals, light candles and demand everything be perfect before we can begin. We think too much about how hard writing can be. But wait! Remember physical labor? Remember that sunburnt summer you got a job as a roofer pouring hot tar and day after airless day was a heatwave full shimmering punishment? Or what about that summer retail job that was so bad you studied harder in September so you would never have to work that counter at the mall again?

The quiet solitude of writing combined with the social support of JuNoWriMo is heaven compared to those mundane horrors. Writing is play. Look around. Writing is everywhere. You can already write so don’t make too big deal of it. If you want to be a novelist, be a novelist and be grateful. Storytelling looks just like typing at first. After we learn more craft, we call it writing. Eventually, we call ourselves writers and it doesn’t even sound weird when spoken aloud. Your parents will remain fretful and unsupportive, sure. But hey, you knew Mom and Dad weren’t going to change.

  1. I know you probably think writing should be hard. I had a lot of false starts thinking that way. When I got into traditional publishing, I had a romantic view of the profession. Then I drove authors to signings where no customers showed up and the author blamed me. I attended literary parties hoping for witty repartee with great minds. Sadly, the number of geniuses in the publishing industry is no more nor less than what you’ll find among any random clutch of accountants, plumbers or dentists. Elite publishing parties are more about bon bons than bon mots. You’ll find ego, avarice and envy at those cocktail soirees, but surprisingly little material for your next book.

Freedom came when I let go of all those trappings and got to the core of what you and I do. We write. Creative writing is a meditative, hopeful act of faith. When the words are coming fast, a neural engine chugs along that changes the way you think and feel. You won’t know where the ideas are coming from but it feels magical. Writing is the only magic I believe in.

This is a great thing you are attempting. If you hold on to that, you’ll persevere. Congratulations on getting started. I hope you discover a great story along the way and end up with something you’ll love. Remember, you don’t have to love it all the time. Sometimes the only virtue in the exercise is that you made your daily word count so you don’t have to write more today. Fix it in post. Tomorrow, find the fun again. Repeat until complete. Write so much and so freely that you stumble upon the magic.

Throwing down words to build stories is addictive. Let’s get high on this wonderful drug. Once you crush this goal, you’ll probably find that 50,000 words was a great start. Most serious writers I know write at least 50,000 words every month. That’s how you know you must be victorious in JuNoWriMo. If mere mortals can complete this task or something like it twelve times a year, surely you can do it once. As your confidence grows, what once seemed difficult will become easier. This might even turn out to be your new day job.

But you don’t have time to read this. Write now right now.

Robert Chazz ChuteA former journalist full of self-loathing, Robert Chazz Chute is now an award winning suspense novelist (still full of self-loathing.) He writes assorted apocalyptic epics, SFF and crime thrillers that would make your momma pee the bed. Learn more at AllThatChazz.com and love him, dammit! Since you’re climbing JuNoWriMo, you might especially like Crack the Indie Author Code.