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Week 3 Pep Talk: Enforced Breaks and Being Thankful

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This week’s Pep Talk was originally sent to the NH Region Wrimos on 11/19/18. – Yvette/wilabea94

during nano I hosted a work meeting with my co-horts last week and I bowed out of lunch plans so that I could spend that hour break preparing for a big work event that evening. Two of them shook their heads.

“You need to delegate,” one said, while the other chimed in, “Taking a break is a priority.”

I know what they mean – I had delegated and I had taken breaks from working on this event, but since these two co-horts don’t work at my library they weren’t familiar with the daily work flow. It was all about their own perspective. And I knew that on the day of an event, I needed to jump back in to preparations. Sure, I would end up eating something…but at my desk. I know they were trying to help when they offered their advice, but at face value it sounded accusatory.

Addressing any project – something at work, at home or NaNoWriMo itself – is a balance of planning, retreating and participating, and when I’m faced with many options, I usually step back and consider two questions: Where will I be most useful? and What will I regret? Sometimes I don’t make the right choice and yeah, I regret it afterwards.

There are many gauntlets that we need to run during November and it’s just not feasible to delegate some of these things to someone else. We can’t just not feed the kids or not walk the dog. Most of us shouldn’t stay home from work for a month or re-wear the same dirty clothes.  We need to participate in life; that’s the stuff we’re writing about after all. Yes, I try to scale back social commitments and plan to take vacation days at work so I can have extra time for noveling, but it always brings me back to the question of what will I regret not doing? If I check out of too many life things will I end up resenting my novel time and sit staring angrily at a blank page?  And if you study the habits of professional writers they’ve each figured out a balance of writing and attending to other responsibilities.  NaNoWriMo is just a very condensed version of that.

To stave off resentment, I’ve decided to embrace how required stepping back from my novel (for a day or a few hours) is an opportunity to clear my mind. Stepping back is also helpful when our brains get over saturated with a problem, as you can see in this blog post.

This week, many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving. This event can bring its own variety of stress but I want to encourage you that adding NaNoWriMo stress to that mix does not have to be an annual event!  Much of our stress stems from expectations and perspective. I can say “I have to go visit my sister-in-law” or I can say “I choose to go visit my sister-in-law” – and the latter is the true statement, because in all honesty, I’m the one holding the family calendar. I could have suggested to my sister-in-law that we get the families together in December instead of Friday after Thanksgiving. She knows I’m noveling this month and would totally understand. But then I’d miss out on seeing nephews and nieces home from college…and then I find myself facing those two questions: Where will I be most useful? What will I regret? So my plan is to go into the Thanksgiving holidays not with resentment but with gratitude – and I’ll enjoy this break from the beast that is my novel.

One of the goals of NaNoWriMo is to help participants create a regular (daily) writing habit, and if we’ve been keeping up with 1667 words a day, we’re well on our way to meeting that goal. Even for those of us whose daily word count is more wobbly, we’ve been spending more time in the world of our novel so it shouldn’t be so hard to jump back in. I’ve got two notecards taped to my computer monitor during November that help keep me focused on the noveling task at hand. One is a series of questions from Lisa Cron’s Story Genius:

  1. What does my protagonist go into the scene believing?
  2. Why does she believe it?
  3. What is my protagonist’s goal in the scene?
  4. What does my protagonist expect will happen in this scene?

The second card is a logline template from Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (based on the orginal STC on screenwriting by Blake Snyder):

One the verge of a STATIS=DEATH moment, a flawed hero BREAKS INTO 2; but when the MIDPOINT happens, they must learn the THEME STATED before ALL IS LOST.

Let’s try to return to our projects with a fresh perspective and energy after choosing to count our blessings with family and friends. We’re almost there, Wrimos – the end is in sight!

I’ll leave you with this last thought – a video clip of Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods) and Daniel Handler (A Series of Unfortunate Events) talking about advice to writers. It’s short, so watch it quickly and then get back to writing!

It was great to see so many of you last night at the NOWD in Merrimack and I hope everyone met their word goals. I know I made some good headway during the sprints. I think more importantly we made some in real life connections.

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!  See you in Week 4!

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Week 2 Pep Talk: Keep Shoveling!

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This week’s Pep Talk was originally sent to the NH Region Wrimos on 11/12/18. – Yvette/wilabea94

shoveling sand into a box haleWelcome to Week 2!

How’s everyone’s novel going?  I’ve seen word counts on the NH Region page that range from 0 to 50K+.  Congratulations!

I’m woefully behind, which to be honest, is pretty typical given my work schedule and additional responsibilities in November. It’s a busy time and life doesn’t stop just because I announced my novel. It’s budget season for my town, we hold an annual fundraiser, I attended a conference on Saturday, went to the movies with my husband; next week, we’re inviting people over for Thanksgiving and then seeing my SIL over T’day weekend, I’m going to hang out with my nephew to give him notes on his WIP while he’s home from college…all of these things are events that I’ve chosen to say YES to because they’re important (ok, TBH I can’t really say No to work things…) and I’m trying to think of event time as downtime away from my NaNoNovel.  I need that too.

If this year’s NaNoWriMo is anything like previous years, I’ll end up strung out on caffeine a couple of late nights and stumble into work with that familiar NaNo-hangover. It’s all part of the experience for me, and TBH, a twisted badge of honor to wear. It’s a mental and physical marathon.

Attempting to write a 50K word first draft in 30 days is not typical, Wrimos, but we all jumped in to work in a structured environment and to build a disciplined writing habit.  Because my life doesn’t stop (and like I said, it usually picks up), this means getting up a little earlier or staying up a little later to write. It means carrying a small notebook around with my outline so I can jot down notes if a story problem I’ve been puzzling over happens to unravel while I’m attending to the rest of my life. For me, it means that the house is a little messier, the yard is still covered in leaves and it means we’re eating off the Christmas dishes because they’re the clean ones in the cupboard. It means when I do have time to sit down at the computer and pick up where I left off, I discipline myself to just use those moments to push forward on my novel – no internet, no Facebook, no checking kids’ schedules.  NaNoSprints on Twitter has been a great external aide because they run timed word sprints. Our Merrimack Kick-off speaker, Rob Greene, advised us to use a visit to the forums and NaNo website as a reward after we’ve hit our daily 1667 word count goal. I can blame work and chores and family gatherings but what  I really have to battle with is procrastination and my own sabotage.

It’s not an easy thing to create something out of nothing, and that Wrimos, is what we are doing. I’ve been working on my outline for the better part of this year and yet, I still sit down to my computer and have to take a deep breath and wonder, what the heck am I doing?

And maybe that’s the truly scary thing about NaNoWriMo.

For me, it always comes back to permission – this terrifying reality that I’ve given myself permission to tap into this powerful part of myself that Creates, the place where I say I’m happiest – that I’m going to look very closely and analyze and think deeply about the ugliest aspects of humanity. Maybe I fear what I’ll find there.

Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel  (and a presenter during NaNoWriMo Prep Week) says that many writers stumble because we’re nice people and have become so fond of our main character that we don’t want to cause them pain. This really has been a stumbling block for me for years.  My husband, who is my #1 fan and cheerleader, did not mince words at the start of the month when he told me that I can string some pretty words together, and have fascinating ideas, but just fizzle out in the middle. Ouch. Tell me something I don’t know.  I just don’t want to hurt anyone.

“So instead of pulling off the gloves, you’re sorely tempted to begin pulling punches. You want to be fair to him. But there’s the thing: we’re not talking about you. We’re talking about life, aka the plot. And life isn’t fair. That’s why we need stories – to figure out how to deal with all those unfair things that happen, so we can have the strength and the wisdom to be fair ourselves. If life doesn’t pummel your protagonist hard, he can’t figure out what’s fair and what isn’t, let alone muster the courage, moxie, heart and smarts to surviving a world that can be so darn unfair. In other words, not only won’t he have anything to teach us, but he won’t be a worthy teacher.” (Cron, p 126)

Whew. Good stuff to think about.

I’ve got to get back to my NaNoNovel, Wrimos, so I’ll leave you with this:

Shannon Hale, New York Times best-selling author of six young adult novels, three books for adults, co-author of the hit graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack with husband Dean Hale, says this of the process:

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

Awesome…or it will be.

So as we move into Week 2, keep shoveling, Wrimos!


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NaNoWriMo Week 1 Pep Talk: Do Not Miss This Deal

10533086_10152606049406083_2500243109115500817_nGreetings NH WriMos!  This week’s Pep Talk is brought to you by NH WriMo Ryan Elizabeth Clark (NaNo handle: momrathsoutgrabe). Those of you who are local to Concord will recognize Ryan from Gibson’s Bookstore. Stop by and say Thanks. – Yvette/wilabea94

Has this ever happened to you? You try to write a novel, but then life gets in the way and you keep putting it off until you just give up?

The solution seems so simple; just write your novel!

The problem is there are too many excuses to not write your novel. You don’t have enough time! You don’t have any ideas! You’ve got a family to take care of! Pets to walk! You work too much! You’re in school! You have too much homework! There’s a new Netflix show to binge! There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to write your novel! It’ll take too long!

What if I told you, for the low, low price of 1,667 words a day, you can write your very own novel in ONE MONTH? That’s right, folks. You can be a NaNoWriMo winner and all you have to do is jot down 1,667 words every day for a month. That’s it! It couldn’t be easier! For just 50,000 words, (only 1,667 a day!) you can be the author of your very own novel!

But wait, there’s more!

Your novel is COMPLETELY CUSTOMIZABLE! You have the ability customize every single word that goes into your story! From beginning to middle to end, plot, characters, and action, you get to decide exactly how your novel is written! All for just 1,667 words a day!

If you get behind on word payments, that’s okay! Just follow our catch-up plan on the side of your stats screen (free with your 50,000-word purchase of a NaNoWriMo novel) to make sure you get your completed novel by the end of the month!

If you order your NaNoWriMo novel now, we’ll also throw in access to the entire NaNoWriMo community FREE! You read that correctly: ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE! All you have to do is sign up and write 1,667 words every day for one month and you’ll receive your very own 50,000 word novel, a stats page to track your progress, as well as all of the goodies that come with!*

Do not miss this deal! No excuses! Write, write, write now!


*Purchase not necessary: is free for use by all, regardless of novel completion

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NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: 6 Days Away – You’ve Got This

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by yours truly and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.25.17

full tank of gas quoteAs I write this we are 6 days away from deadline. I see some of you have already reached – or passed – the goal of 50K, and some have validated their novels and won: to you, CONGRATULATIONS!!

To the rest of us: I’m reminded of that scene in the Blues Brothers movie, when Jake and Elwood are getting ready to deliver the cash raised at the concert to the tax assessor’s office in time to prevent the orphanage closing –  and it goes like this:

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake:  Hit it.

Here’s a link to the clip if you want to see it.

Throughout the movie, we’ve watched Jake and Elwood attempt the impossible: raise cash to save the orphanage. During the middle of the movie, they’ve gotten the band together, played a few gigs, been chased by the Chicago cops, Illinois Nazis, and Carrie Fisher, driven all over the Chicagoland area advertising the concert so they can fill the hall. They stay on task because they keep their goal in mind: They’re on a mission from God.

This movie comes to mind because with 6 days to go, I’m really behind in word count. I’ve needed to spend time puzzling out my story – my middle – and sometimes this was literally writing out outlines and questions and other times it was stepping away from my computer and muddling over it while I raked leaves and cleaned Thanksgiving dishes.  Yes, this might all seem like time lost because I wasn’t sitting staring at my computer screen but it was necessary.  Now I feel like I’ve got that full tank of gas, and it’s just a matter of staying awake at the wheel. I will encounter distractions and obstacles along the way (my own version of Chicago cops and Illinois Nazis) but I need to keep my foot on the pedal and burn that gas.

You’ve got this, WriMos. The writing process is mimicking a novel’s structure: we’re in the “murky middle” or we’re experiencing “fun and games”, the “bad guys are closing in”, we might have even experienced a “set back” or “the dark night of the soul” and we need to keep going to push through Act III to our “resolution” and tie up those “loose ends.”

On Thanksgiving morning, I was making chocolate pudding for the trifle and I realized that I wasn’t stressing out about all the things I needed to do before 1 pm.  Maybe it was because I had jotted down a schedule. Maybe it was because I delegated cooking the mashed potatoes and caramelized carrots to others.  Maybe it was because I was focusing more on spending the day with people and not about the perfection of the things I was bringing. Maybe it was because I had done this so many times over 20+ years of cooking for family gatherings that I was just operating in my routine.  I’m not sure. What is most vivid to me is that I wasn’t freaking out and making everyone else miserable.  It struck me because I remembered years ago, I used to bounce around the kitchen trying to do lots of things simultaneously by myself, not asking for help, and then being cranky and resentful because no one was reading my mind and rescuing me.  Yeah, probably after years of doing family gatherings, little by little, I’ve learned how to execute these recipes, how to ask for help, how to pace myself, how to keep my mouth shut, and how to let go of perfection (to be perfectly honest, I did nag my husband about driving reasonably so that our crockpots of stuff wouldn’t tip over in his car. Happy Ending: everything made it to Grandma’s)

My point, WriMos is, you’ve got this. Like Jake and Elwood, keep your goal in mind. What excited you about this story back on November 1? What was that question niggling in the back of your mind or wanting to be scratched? Maybe you wanted to hit 50K…can you modify your word count goal to something you can reach during these last 6 days? Like me, over the weeks (days, months, years) of writing stories you’ve learned what you need to do.  When I described my book to my MIL at Thanksgiving, she said it sounded fascinating – mind you, I wasn’t reading her pages, I was telling her my idea. And that’s the thing I keep needing to go back to – that I really do like this idea and because I think it deserves to see the light of day, I’m actually ok with throwing a very messy first draft down.  I tend to write dialog first and then  I reread what I’ve written and go back to add description. This year, I feel like I’ve finally accepted that this is my working style and I just need to keep encouraging myself to get the ideas out in whatever format so that I’ll be able to have something to work with later. Somehow, in my mind, this acceptance is a similar feeling of calm that I experienced when I was stirring that pot of chocolate pudding – I’d done it so many times, I hadn’t even realized I had developed a method and I didn’t freak out over it. It would take a certain amount of time and I just needed to be attentive to it.

Ok, WriMos enough of my babbling.

Hit it.

I’ll see you on the other side of 50K.


ML: New Hampshire

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NaNoWriMo Week 4 : Guest Pep Talk with Ryan Elizabeth Clark,”I Put the PRO in Procrastination…”

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire author and Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord) staff, Ryan Elizabeth Clark and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.21.17


Ryan Elizabeth Clark (NaNo handle: momewrathsoutgrabe)

Greetings NH WriMos!  Since I’m many thousands of words in the red, and I’ve got to double up my daily wordbcount to reach 50K, I’ve enlisted NH WriMo Ryan Elizabeth Clark (NaNo handle: momrathsoutgrabe) to bring you Week Four’s Pep Talk. Those of you local to Concord will recognize Ryan from Gibson’s Bookstore. Stop by and say Thanks. – Yvette/wilabea94

Has this ever happened to you? You sit down at your computer, you open a word document, you may even have an idea in your head, but the second you put your fingers to the keyboard, your eyes glaze over and you open Facebook instead. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the world of procrastination. 

I like to say that I put the pro in procrastination. I can procrastinate astonishingly well. Tell me I have a deadline, and I suddenly have snacks to eat and shows to watch and Facebook friends to stalk. If you’re like me, you will do almost anything to avoid working on your novel, not because you don’t want to write, but because your brain simply jumps away every time you try. You find excuses not to write. I have to work. I have to make dinner. I have to decorate the house. I have a newborn. I have used each and every one of these excuses this month, and while they may sound valid, they are just my procrastination in disguise! 

I don’t know if there is a cure for procrastination, but I do have some tips that got me through college and several years of NaNoWriMo and will hopefully help me hit my goal this month.

1. Pick a writing space. Find a spot that works for you. Maybe it’s your bedroom, surrounded by cozy blankets and pillows. Maybe it’s your kitchen table with snacks all around you. Maybe it’s somewhere quiet and clean, maybe it’s somewhere chaotic! Everyone is different. Try writing in a few different spots, and pick the one that works the best. It may not be your writing space forever, but if it works for RIGHT NOW, then that’s all we need. You can pick a new writing space tomorrow if you’d like. 

2. Snacks. Are you a snacker? I’m a snacker. I find that when I’m writing, I need to know that there are snacks nearby. I use them as rewards when I write. You can’t have that cookie until you finish this paragraph. If you’re a snacker, stock up on your favorites and keep them close by. 

3. Background noise. This is a big one for me. I like to imagine myself as the type of writer who goes off into a silent room and lets my inner monologue pour out onto the page, but in reality, I need noise and lots of it. I like to layer sounds. There are several websites and youtube channels out there that offer different types of sounds and background noise. I have several that I open all at once, and the end result is soft music playing over furious typing on an old keyboard in a bustling cafe in the Slytherin Common Room. It’s a lot, and it’s kind of chaotic, but it works for me. Maybe music works for you. Find your soundtrack. In college, Rush was my study music. Sometimes classical works better. I write more quickly when I’m listening to hip-hop. I can’t write at all when I’m listening to Hamilton because I just start singing along. Maybe you’re a silence person. Get some noise canceling headphones and bask in the void whilst you type away. Whatever you need for background noise, find it and use it. 

4. Just write. Even if you’re staring at your novel and you have no idea what your characters are going to do next, and you can’t for the life of you figure out what your plot is, or even if you haven’t even started yet and you’re staring down a blank page with an evil blinking cursor, just write. Write what you’re thinking. Get some words out. Once you start, you’ll get into a groove and your novel will break out of the confusion. Give yourself small goals. Are you stressed by the idea of writing 1,667 words every day? Try breaking it down. Write ten words at a time. Write five sentences. Write a paragraph. Fill a page. You’ll get there. 

Hopefully, these tips can help you at least a little bit. If nothing else, reading this just helped you procrastinate a little bit more. Now, write! 

Ryan Elizabeth Clark / momerathsoutgrabe

Bradford, NH


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NaNoWriMo Halfway Point Pep-Talk

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by New Hampshire author and NH Writer’s Project Board Member Rob Greene and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.17.17. Chat him up on Twitter @rwwgreene. Want to write a novel? Check out NaNoWriMo.

headshot (3)I know what winning feels like, brothers and sisters, and this ain’t it.

Time was I’d have a thick stack of paper under my elbow by now instead of a few pages of type and chicken scratch. Once upon a time, I’d have 28,000 words—more!—by Nov. 17, and I’d be feeling The Flow. The staccato clackity-clack-ding-whir of my Olympia SM9 would be waking the sun every morning.

Those times are not this time. I’m not going to make it.

Come Nov. 30, barring time travel or a close encounter with an event horizon, I’m going to come up well short of 50,000 words.

I could blame the first couple of weeks of November, packed as they were by my wife’s campaign for city office and my four days away from home on a work detail. I could point fingers at all the college recommendations I’ve had to write. Really, though, it’s my fault. I haven’t made the time or expended the effort to find The Flow and shape my story. I let the NaNoWriMonster stomp me real good.

With only a couple of weeks left, I figure I have two options: Quit and chalk it up to experience, or keep writing and see what I end up with.

On the one hand, I’m tired, depressed, and feeling the claws of Imposter Syndrome scratching at the back of my neck. On the other hand, the weekend is nigh, and the Olympia is game to go.

And, hey, my wife will be away at PAX Unplugged until Sunday! (She doesn’t mind me writing—encourages it, actually—but I like spending time with her.) Also, the Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner; I can bang out some pages between helpings. I can even save time in the mornings by eating leftover pie for breakfast!

Even after the sun sets on Thanksgiving weekend, I still have four writing days left … You know, maybe I CAN do it!

I mean probably not, but half a book—hell—a tenth of a book is better than no book. If I get a good (second) start and keep churning through December, I’ll still have a new novel drafted before 2018 begins, and that ain’t bad.

Yeah, I know what winning NaNoWriMo feels like. I’ve done it. I know what losing feels like, too, and a hard-fought loss feels a lot better than quitting. I may go down, friends, but I’m going down typing.

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire writer with an MFA that he likes to exorcise in dive bars and dim coffee shops. His work has seen daylight in Daily Science Fiction, Writers Resist, and The New Republic, among other places. He collects typewriters, keeps bees, and serves in the board of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. 

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