Mat Morris comes to us as a veteran of the 30-day novel challenge–and not only a veteran, but a wizard, having completed 50,000 words in 24 hours. Enjoy his Pep Talk; we know it’ll fire you up for the challenge ahead!
Greetings, fellow Dream Warriors. Welcome to the beginning of the end.
Most of you don’t know me, and that’s fine. This isn’t about me. It’s about you.
You see, you’re about to embark on a journey that will change your life. You’re about to do something that most only fantasize about. You’re going to take that little voice whispering in your ear, and you’re going to set it free. And I’m going to share with you a dirty little secret that will let you do it.
Everyone has a story to tell.
Now, you might be wondering why I called you a Dream Warrior. And we’ll come back to that. Promise.
More importantly, you might be wondering why someone you’ve never heard of was asked to impress upon you some words of inspiration. Honestly, as I sit here on the night of my deadline, writing what amounts to my third attempt at arranging my thoughts into something coherent, I’m wondering the very same thing.
So, a short bit about me—the current voice in your head.
You see, I was asked to write this because of my past successes in completing these little word challenges. Technically, I’ve completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a single month on more occasions than I’ve actually counted. But what seems to impress (read: stupefy) people the most is that, on four occasions, I’ve completed it within a 24 hour period.
This week’s pep talk is written by novelist and interactive fiction writer, Alana Joli Abbott.
There are few things that make me more stressed than being late. Whether this is being behind on a writing deadline or just running late to drop off my daughter at school, the result is the same. I feel frustrated that I can’t move things along faster, or that I made the choice to check the weather (or worse, Facebook) online instead of getting stuff done. And I’ve discovered that sometimes I have the absolutely worst coping mechanism for dealing with being late.
When you’ve worked on your novel intensely for three weeks, your brain may feel like it’s been boil-washed and tumble-dried. However hard you wring it, you can’t squeeze another drop of creative juice from the shrunken, crumpled rag.
Here’s an instant fix: go for a walk.
I find walking does miracles – and I’m not alone. Many writers observe that the steady rhythmic movement clears stress from the brain and makes room for creative ideas.
After twenty minutes, ideas pour into my mind: solutions to plot problems, insights about my characters, and little details to flesh out the current scene.
The thoughts flow faster and faster, and after forty-five minutes of walking I need to pause and write them down lest I forget. For this, I always carry a hardback notebook and a supply of pens (and sometimes an Alphasmart) in my backpack. Then I sit on a park bench, on the sandy beach or in a coffeeshop, and write for a while until it’s time to walk again.
On sunny days, I walk and write for hours. My favourite routes are through fields and meadows from the village of Newenden to Bodiam Castle along the meandering River Rother, and from Hastings to Bexhill along the seafront – the latter has the advantage of several nice cafés along the way, and in summer the chance to swim and sunbathe on the beach.
When it rains – which happens often here in England – my walks tend to be shorter, though I still walk half an hour at least.
If you’ve reached a point where the creativity has dried up, where the fun has evaporated, when you’re bored with your writing or you’re stuck with a plot problem, put on comfortable shoes and the right clothes for the weather, and just walk. Don’t think consciously about your novel at first, and don’t torment your brain with demands. Wait for the dam to burst naturally, which for you may be earlier or later than the twenty-minute mark.
Once it happens, direct your creativity to the book. Don’t waste it on designing the quilt you may make next year, or mentally redecorating your bathroom. A gentle prod in the direction of your story is all your subconscious needs, and the creative thoughts will come gushing.
The rhythmic exercise of walking also eases the tightness in your shoulders and the stiffness in your neck, and at the same time, it burns up calories.
The only time it doesn’t work so well is immediately after a meal, because the digestive process reduces the brain’s activity. However, walking can help with the digestion, so if you plan to write after dinner, consider going for a short walk first.
If the weather is too awful to go out, or if you simply don’t fancy walking, try some other steady rhythmic exercise instead: aerobics with music, spinning, a spell on the climber or the cross-trainer, or low-intensity cardio. Your brain will reward you with refreshed creativity.
Try it and see how it works for you. I’d love to hear about your experiences, and also if you have other techniques to share. Leave a comment, and I’ll reply.
Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors). She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.
Find her at: Rayne Hall’s Dark Fantasy Fiction
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Word documents. Word wars. Word mongering. Wordiness. WORD COUNTS!
If you’ve signed up for JuNoWriMo (and if you’re reading this, which you are, then that is exactly what you’ve done), then you’ve signed up to immerse yourself in words for the entire month of June. Some of you have done this before, either for last year’s JuNoWriMo or for its progenitor, NaNoWriMo. Some of you are doing this for the first time. But whether you’re an oldtimer or a newbie, you know that words are key to succeeding in this month of crazed noveling.
Well, duh. It’s kind of hard to write a novel without using words. I suppose you could try using music notes instead, but you’d probably end up with some kind of post-postmodern, Wagner-derivative opera suffering from an existential crisis, and I don’t think any of us want to hear that. And writing your novel using Morse code might be tedious. So, words it is.
But the thing about words is…they’re tricksy. They flit like pixies across your page or screen, all innocent-like with their serifs and curlicues…and then they just squat there. Brooding. Staring back at you from your work-in-progress and making you care about them. Making you want to change them. Daring you to change them.
If you change one, you’ll want to change others. You won’t be able to help it; editing when you’re not an editor is some kind of weird addiction. Once you start, you can’t stop. AND THE WORDS KNOW THIS, PEOPLE.
One minute, you’re writing merrily along, something about Our Heroine rescuing the doomed prophecy puppies and drinking the magic elixir in the nick of time. Next minute, you start editing, and before you know it, your Plot Point #3 has turned into Carrot Magnetic Demolition Force 7 and there’s really no turning back after that.
What I’m getting at here, y’all, is that while you’re JuNo-ing, you must avoid editing. The words will tempt you to edit. They will lift their lovely faces to the morning sun, open their lovely mouths, and give voice to lovely siren calls of editing bliss. Do not listen to them! “Beware the Editwock, my son! The affixes that bite, the compounds that catch!”
*ahem* Sorry. Slight Carrollian digression there. But you get the point. Editing and JuNo-ing don’t mix. If you let yourself edit, you’ll slow yourself down. 1667 words per day don’t write themselves, y’know. You gotta put in your butt-to-chair time, and if you take that time for editing instead of writing, you’re going to be hard-pressed to slog through the Week Two Blues or have the energy for the Finish Line Sprint.
Your best friend, dear writer, is the admonition emblazoned upon the JuNoWriMo homepage:
Don’t worry about the “mistakes” (better known as “happy little accidents,” right?). Don’t worry about the typos, the synonyms, the passive voice, the dangling participles. After June is over, you can give in to the sweet seduction and edit all you like. But for now, resist. Don’t worry, and just write.
You have a novel to finish. And the great news is, you can finish it and you will finish it. You’re sacrificing sleep to get there. You’re sacrificing time with friends and family. You’re sacrificing the calm that comes from not over-caffeinating 24/7. And yes, you’re sacrificing the luxury of poring over your own every word and tweaking each word to perfection.
But all this sacrifice is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a first draft in your hands — and editing it will be glorious. So just write, hon. That’s your only job this month, and you can do it.
Now stop reading this and get back to it. : )
Courtney Cantrell is the author of epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers, paranormal fantasy series Demons of Saltmarch, and several fantasy and sci-fi short stories. 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 vorpal unicorn morphing powers. Those are real. She has the blog post to prove it.
When Fel asked me to write a guest post for JuNoWriMo, I was happy to do it, though, honestly, I was expecting a stadium talk with proper AV equipment. And where are the Ahlgrens bilar marshmallow cars and Puolukkapore lemonade that my contract stipulates must be provided without substitution?
During 2012, I wrote five novels and had three novels published. I’ve started on my third novel for 2013, and my fifth book (Extra Credit Epidemic) will be published in July. The following tips are a few things that work for me.
Break it down
Break down your JuNoWriMo goal into parts. If you want to pull a series of all-nighters, go for it, and revel in your ability to do so. But whatever your schedule, you want to know that you can consistently achieve more, that you can do this over and over, that this doesn’t have to be a once (or twice) a year thing. So manage your project: figure out what your daily and weekly word count should be, then modify it to fit your schedule. Be accountable to yourself.
Also, keep track of your output: when you write, when you do your best writing, your daily word count, and if you timed yourself (like with the Pomodoro Technique).
Blaze through your first draft
Do not think of this as the defining work of your life. This is *a* work — I hope one of many for you, so keep moving forward. If you’re having trouble making a choice in your draft, think about it for a few minutes, then decide on something. Aim for sustained focus and momentum.
If you want to write faster and get more done, sketch out even a minimal outline. Some writers are resistant to any outlining, and that’s fine. It’s a guide, and my outlines are always flexible. I have a lot of wiggle room, and always change things along the way. If you haven’t outlined before, try doing just one sentence for each chapter or scene, or sketching out a few major turning points.
Spend a few minutes visualizing what’s going to happen in the next day’s work. It also helps enormously to stop at a point where you know what to write the next day, so you can get right back into it.
When you reach an obstacle
Here are some ways I deal with obstacles in the writing process.
Talk it out with someone who’s on your side. JuNoWriMo gives you a community of people working toward the same goal at the same time. But this could also be your spouse or your pet iguana.
Write out the basics of what you want to do in the scene, and write down questions for yourself to return to later.
Think about what pisses you off. Condescending idiots? Bad dentists? Horrible neighbors? Put them up as obstacles for your character, and take ’em down on the page.
Have your good character do something bad or your bad character do something good.
Add a third person to the scene.
Do a little research — you may see something that sparks an idea.
I hope you take away something useful from these tips, and that JuNoWriMo proves to be a fun and productive experience for you!
Nina Post is a fiction writer who lives in Seattle. She is the author of Danger in Cat World, Extra Credit Epidemic, The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, The Last Donut Shop of the Apocalypse, and One Ghost Per Serving. For the latest updates, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Goodreads and Twitter.
Here we are coming into the home stretch of Junowrimo. How do you feel about that? I feel great! This month far exceeded my expectations in wordcount and creativity.
At first I thought it was just because I was on a roll. The numbers were climbing and the stories were forming. (I did Juno and CampNano this month!) But as I ended the first week far ahead of goal, I looked at all the numbers. Several of us were riding high on big wordcounts, far about the daily goals.
I thought long and hard about why this was. We’re all busy. Most of us have ‘day jobs’ and kids. There are spouses to tend, houses to clean, food to cook and eat. But yet, here we are nearing the end and the counts are still climbing.
The answer is simple – support.
Almost anytime of day you can hop on Twitter and find a sprint going on. That’s simple motivation. If you happen to find the small window each day one of us isn’t on there, all you have to tweet is “Word war anyone? ” “1hr 1K?” or my favorite “Someone tell me to put away the internet and get my words in!”
These are all followed by the same thing – support and motivation.
Tons of “You can do it!” That’s easy” and “You’re awesome” will follow anyone of these statements at anytime.
We don’t want to be the only one who succeeds. As writers, when one of wins, we all do. There’s room for every single person who puts words on a page to have a success story. We have the greatest community of people!
So Junowrimo-ers… almost to your goal? Divide the words you lack to reach 50,000 and see what you need to write each day to get there. I bet you can find plenty of cheerleaders. There are sprints all week long to help you out too!
Nowhere close to your goal? So what! Make a new one! Can only do 40,000…30,000? Fine! Make it happen.
Want to put up another 10,000 words this week? You can do it!
Want to make your goal higher or really push yourself this week? Tell other people who will ask you how you’re doing? Be accountable to someone who is in your corner.
No matter how many words you have by midnight Saturday night – you’ve already won! Remember, we’re all rooting for every single one of us to make it to 50,000 words. The beauty is that we can all have blue ribbons at the end.
But no matter how many you have, it’s more than you started with and that is a win in my book.