NaNoWriMo Week 3 Pep Talk: The Muddle and A Punch

Handing the blogging reins over to Rob Greene, Chair of the NH Writer’s Project, while I catch up on my word count. Thx, Rob! – Yvette

headshot-1Oh, man … what is it? Week Thirteen or something? My fingertips have calluses. My “e” key fell off, and I had to replace it with an actual Chiclet. I cracked my knee on a dangling participle and sliced my big toe on a really sharp sentence fragment. My plot’s going to pieces so fast people are getting hit by shrapnel!

Deep breath, Rob. Deep breath. You’ve been here before and survived. You’ll probably be here again. Sigh. Find the pep.

Hello, writers. How are you?  The first draft of a novel has has three parts — the beginning, the muddle, and the end — and I, expect many of us are fast approaching the murk. If not, if you’re still in the shallows, keep swimming, It gets deep damned quick.

I’ve not “won” National Novel Writing Month every year I’ve tried. Looking back at my stats, I see I have 3:8 success rate. I’m batting .375, which, in baseball terms, is pretty good. A couple of those times at bat I used to revise work in progress. I wanted to write along with the gang, but I didn’t have the life space for something new. If I cull out those projects, I have a 4:5 success rate, which means I am a flippin’ writing superstar and fully qualified to share advice and spread the pep!

Whew! And I was getting worried I didn’t have anything to say. Let me light my pipe, adjust my glasses, don this tweed jacket, and settle into this worn leather chair before I layeth my wisdom upon thee.

Ah, there we go.  Please excuse these fragment clouds of smoke.

In my youth, I spent a bit of time acquainting myself — and others — with the “sweet science.” Yes, like Papa Hemingway, I spent time in the boxing ring, testing my young, damp manliness against the other lads.

Throwing a good punch is a lot like NaNoWriMo.

Bear with me, please.

Two years ago I achieved a lifetime goal of banging out the first draft of a novel on a typewriter. Clickity-clack. Day after day. Page after page. Early November mornings. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days. But I didn’t stop there. I couldn’t. The story I was writing demanded more words, more pages. I wrote on. Forty thousand more words in the month of December, and I could finally type “the end.”

And now the punching part. When learning to throw a punch, you are encouraged to imagine yourself punching through your target. Don’t picture your sharp blow ending squarely on the rapscallion’s offending chin. Attempting to hit your target, visualizing that neat punch, will result in your fist slowing, your force declining, and a love tap that will amuse your foe and give him or her the time to layeth the smack down upon thee. Instead, imagine your righteous fist coming out of the back of his head. Punch through. The result will be a swift knockout and a victory for all that is good in the world.

Fifty-thousand words is that offending, smug chin. It’s an artificial goal. Punch through it. Stop looking at your work count. Plant your feet, square your shoulders, draw back your mighty fist and write.

— R.W.W. Greene writes short stories, novels, and journalism in various bars and coffee shops in New Hampshire’s Queen City. He currently serves as chair of the New Hampshire Writer’s Project. You can stalk him at and @rwwgreene.  


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NaNoWriMo, Day 11: 8,000 Words in the Red

keep-writingCaveat: This is a political post. I’m also gonna talk about religion.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we usually post our Pep Talks on Sundays, at the top of the week, and this Sunday I’ll have the pleasure of posting a Pep Talk from Rob Greene, Chair of the NH Writer’s Project.  But for many of us it’s been a tough week, and frankly I needed a Pep Talk myself.  So I wrote one.

Election Day, post-election week/8,000 words in the red = 8,000 tears I’ve shed

If you know me, you’ll know I did not vote for Trump. I believe Trump is inexperienced, but worse, a charlatan. Tuesday night, I watched the election returns report his climbing numbers in total disbelief. To be honest, I’ve watched Trump’s entire campaign in disbelief during which I have experienced many nights filled with anxiety, and when I could sleep, it was a poorly spent night of fitful unrest. Wednesday was hard. I was crying. I was disappointed. Pro-Clinton friends were  comforting each other. Pro-Trump friends were rejoicing and I was trying to listen and understand their perspective. One friend posted this on Wednesday –

I will choose love.

This morning I have a heightened awareness of my calling and responsibility as an artist – to tell the stories that help others choose love as well, to tell the stories of those who have no voice, to be a powerful and yet compassionate prophetic voice.

Thank you Lord, for reminding me that the arts, my life’s work and my true joy, matters.

-Catherine Pleis Gaffney

Many who work in the arts are politically left and progressive and are being particularly vocal on social media in the election aftermath. However, logic dictates that there are conservatives and Trump-supporters working in the arts, who, at least on my feeds, have not been as vocal; nevertheless, this call to love needs to be for ALL OF US.

My Nano project is retelling a Greek myth, so I’ve been reading about Olympian and pre-Olympian pantheism and classic Greek poets and trying to understand that culture through the sieve of my Christianity. To stay true to my beliefs, I need to wrestle with pagan ideas and reinterpret them, while maintaining some integrity of the story and respect of the culture of the time. The piece has already unearthed themes I’ve never written about and since it’s my practice during NaNoWriMo to write fluidly by adding in inspiration from current events (which have been anything from an overheard conversation to a news event), I am also processing my hopes and disappointments about the election and funneling that into the book. With every new project we have an opportunity to grow in our craft, and I encourage you to continue to be a voice and a mirror to our society.

I heard an interview with author Richard Russo on NPR on Wednesday, and he says this, when host Renee Montagne asked about

“the responsibility that…writers have, if any, in this very new era in American life?”

RUSSO: Well, it’s a new era in one way, and in other ways, it’s just the same old world. It hasn’t really changed. And I don’t think that the purpose of literature has changed either. I think we writers do have a responsibility, first to entertain, but second to instruct by bearing witness. If we had a great responsibility before this election, I would say we have, perhaps, an even greater one today.

Russo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter. “Nobody’s Fool,” “Empire Falls” and his latest, “Everybody’s Fool,” explore the world of the white, male, blue-collar demographic that carried Trump to victory.  This is not my demographic. I am a Filipino-American, Protestant, white collared woman. I have never read Russo, but I connect with him as a fellow-author who puzzles over their world.

Yes, I encourage you to begin a peaceful transition, and I encourage you to begin listening to each other and to try to move toward understanding the point of view that is opposite your own. This does not mean we rewrite history by erasing hateful things the president-elect has said and the violence he has incited. I hope my fears are unfounded and I hope I am wrong. I sincerely hope Trump’s campaign has not been a vanity project,  but history  will hold him to the truth as well.

A NaNoWriMo call to arms has always been, “The World Needs Your Novel,” and if we are to come together, we need many voices, and many views, and many compassionate hearts listening to each other and sharing our stories.

Your Novel will bring about that future.

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NaNoWriMo: Week 1 Pep Talk – There Is No Wrong Way to NaNo

nanowrimo2017shirtNovember is National Novel Writing Month, an international phenomenon during which authors (or budding authors) challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel.  Participants can create an account on  and register their novel, friend other writing “buddies” and receive regular writing pep talks from best-selling authors such as Gene Luen Yang, Charlaine Harris, Diana Gabaldon, John Green and many others.  Writing happens off-site, either by typing into a word document or crafting with good old pencil and paper, but participants are encouraged to log their daily word count of 1667 words and join in online forums for support to help them stay on track to reach their word count goal. 

A few years ago my family attended a group event at church.  We’d all gone apple picking together, and then had met up at the church to make as many pies as we had supplies, and the pies were then donated to the local food pantry for Thanksgiving dinners.  I was showing my kids how to do this – peel the apples, slice them this thin, put them in this bowl – when I looked up at my friend working next to me.  She hadn’t peeled her apples, and she was chopping them into large pieces. 

Well that’s wrong, I thought.  To be honest, I might have even said it out loud.  And then I looked down the long table where several of us were working, and saw that – darn it – everyone was making pie differently than I was.  And none of them were wrong.

NaNoWriMo is like that. There’s really no wrong way to do it. Whether you’re a pantser (writing by inspiration or “by the seat of your pants”), a plotter (plotting the entire story before writing one word of novel) or somewhere in between, as long as you’re putting words on paper, you’re adding toward the total 50,000 words of your novel. No editing, no rewriting, no critique partners. Just get that story out and on paper – you can edit and rewrite in December or January (the “What’s Next” months post Nano). NaNoWriMo is a great excuse to give yourself permission to “finally” write that story that’s been percolating while you’ve been busy adulting – attending classes, raising kids or working a 9-5 job. For thirty days, tap into your creative side and just…Play.

Ok, ok – believe me, I’ve heard all the excuses, and mostly, from my own mouth. Or more accurately, my own mind-mouth

–I don’t have time. You do. In fact, you have more time that you think, if you cut out social media and mindless TV

–I don’t have any ideas. You do. Probably a notebook full of random things you’ve jotted down. Or pick a headline from a news story. Or write about that relative.

–I don’t have any support.  Actually you’ve got that, too, if you check out the online forums. Tell your family, roommates and work colleagues that you’re going to try this NaNo thing, and yeah, that might mean fewer nights hanging out, but only for 30 days, at the end of which you’ll have a good chunk of a first draft of a novel. Believe me, you’ll find your tribe, get support and have fun.  I guarantee that you won’t regret it. 

So join us – The world needs your novel!


This post was originally sent as a NaNoWriMo Week 1 Pep Talk to the USA: New Hampshire Region and published on the NH Writers Project Blog on November 1. 


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Friday Fun: Movies


I’ll start: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure!

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October 14, 2016 · 8:17 pm

Friday Fun: Arial View


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September 30, 2016 · 8:24 am

Friday Fun: Write This Story

This is a sign that I saw posted in the ladies’ room of the library where I was having a meeting earlier today. –The ladies’ room, folks. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know that story…

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Writing Prompt Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Stephen King!


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September 21, 2016 · 7:47 am