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NaNoWriMo Week 2 Pep Talk: Foot Holds and Hand Holds

During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.6.17. 

A Business Men Climbing a Pile of PapersTo be honest, I’ve never climbed a rock wall or scaled a mountain. But that’s what it feels like so far this NaNoWriMo.  Prior to November 1, I made less progress outlining my novel than I wanted to, which means that I’ve been trying to maintain a pattern of writing/outlining/writing/researching/outlining to keep up with the daily word count. I’m creating small foot holds and hand holds. I imagine this is what it’s like scaling a mountain: my commitment to my project is maybe my safety harness, and I reach up and forward, chip away at the rock face of the unknown and dig just enough to get a handhold. It’s messy, hard work, but then I pull up and move ahead just a little bit more.

But it’s enough.

The point is to keep moving forward. Sometimes something unknown unravels as I’m writing, sometimes something else will reveal itself in my research and I see these tasks as supporting each other.  And when I’m focused on my project, when I’m feeding my creativity, I notice more connections in the novel periphery that is my real life. I allow myself to follow this glimmering shiny thing and see what else it might shake loose in my story.  The other day a friend was describing a family situation that was pretty serious and I have to admit a tiny part of my brain was thinking, “Is there any way I can work that into my NaNo novel…”  While this might seem rude it was a signal that my writing antennae are up, and since for me, a big part of NaNoWriMo is giving myself permission to feed my creativity in the midst of a very busy life, I took this as a good thing.  That part of me is awake.

Also, I’ve started to babble about my book but that’s typical for Week 2. Week 1 started with a hopeful idea and by now we’re all getting to the middle of the story, which some writers call “Bizzarro world” or the flipside of the world our MC started out in, or the middle muddle. Friends will ask how my book is going and instead of starting at the beginning, I just start talking about that current question that I’m mulling over in my head about bizzaro world.  I’ve started babbling in a notebook and write down a lot of questions so I can spare people in my real life, and I think being able to refer back to written questions has been helpful.

I’ve got this Stephen King quote pinned to the top of my MS:

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”

In Week 1, we’ve met your MC and some other characters; in Week 2, what kind of monsters will they face in their version of bizzaro world?

The remedy for this middle muddle, I think, is to consider what feeling do you want your sarah connor terminatorreader to have after they’ve finished reading your book?  For me, it’s the feeling that’s evoked by an image of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor at the end of Terminator when she’s no longer innocent because she just battled the Terminator and she’s planning for an even bigger battle ahead.  I know my MC goes through *something* to become more…wise? experienced? adult? …to become that image of Sarah Connor…but since I haven’t written that part yet, I remind myself of the image. For some writers, music will do that same – evoking that feeling that you want your novel to produce in your reader, which is why creating playlists can be so helpful.

So hang in there, WriMos!  We can do this and come out on the other side with a bit more knowledge about our story that we had before. Let’s just try to get that idea on paper; think of this as a very messy first draft. The world needs your novel!


NH: Municipal Liaison


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A to Z Blogging Challenge: Q, Quality or Quantity?

neil gaimanEvery November I participate in National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, during which participants challenge themselves to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.  I also serve as the Municipal Liaison for my state (=author wrangler, pep talker and Master of the event calendar).  Some Wrimos are plotters – they’ve spend the other 11 months  of the year plotting an outline of their Nano Novel, while other Wrimos are pantsers – they plunge in at midnight November 1st frantically typing anything that pops out of their fingertips.  Both types of Wrimos start off strong, but because it’s hard to write 1667 words a day if you’re out of the habit,  inevitably, the chatter on the NaNoWriMo forums turns to a discussion about word count, sludge and major manuscript padding.

To be successful during NaNoWriMo, you have to suspend your disbelief, withholding judgement on the quality of the work, while focusing on churning out quantity.  For the plotter or the panster, NaNoWriMo is all about pushing through writer’s block and forcing your characters to make a decision that moves the story forward.  Sure it could be crap, but sometimes writing sludge will get you to the other side of something or unravel a puzzle or spark an idea that you hadn’t considered before.  One of my writing teachers encouraged us to develop a daily writing habit (aargh! there’s that darn journal cropping up again) because it was like turning on the water in a faucet that hadn’t been used in a long while.  Daily writing is like letting the brown water flow until eventually it runs clear.

I liked this quote from Neil – but I have yet to find a quote I don’t like from Neil – because he really puts some good perspective on the whole excruciating process, don’t you think?

During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on writing topics while systematically moving through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers.  Join us!


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Friday Fun: Proclaim It!

500 words

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November 27, 2015 · 7:00 am

Happy Thanksgiving, WriMos!

turkey word count

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November 26, 2015 · 7:00 am

NaNoWriMo Week 4 BONUS Pep Talk: Let the YWP Inspire You!

This post originally appeared as a NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talk sent to participants in the NH Region. I will be sharing my NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talks and Pep Talks by Guest Wrimos on this blog throughout November. – Yvette

profile pic (1)Welcome to the final stretch Wrimos!  2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program, which means it’s the perfect time to hear from another Guest Pep Talker, Kathy Pearce aka haleypearc who has been leading the charge with a Young Writer’s Group at Oyster River HS in Durham, NH:

November has been a big month for Oyster River High School. Our girls’ soccer team made it to the state finals, and the boys’ soccer team went all the way—capturing their first state title in more than ten years. Our star female cross-country runner captured the state championship for the third year in a row, and our drama department is staging “Twelve Angry Jurors.” (That’s the politically correct renaming of the famous 1950’s play)

2015 kids in lounge (1)

YWP Writers, ORHS

Meanwhile, in a corner of the library, fifteen students and two teachers are quietly clicking away at keyboards. There’s an old couch and coffee table, a Zen fountain, and a pile of writing books, baby name guides, and road atlases. Once a week, writers and authors stop by to lead activities or share their craft. This is where the magic happens for a different kind of superstar. Chances are, they won’t get a trophy in a display case and they won’t get a standing ovation, but most of them are perfectly happy that way. They are writers, and that is all they need.

This is the second year that our school has sponsored an NaNoWriMo club, and it is one of the most rewarding things we do, here in the library. Their excitement is infectious, which led me to win NaNo for the first time ever last year. These kids have a lot on their plates—academics, extracurricular activities, jobs, college applications, drivers’ ed—and yet they manage to crank out their word counts day after day. Before they are even finished, they speak of sequels or their next novels, while I’ve struggled to get off the ground with a single thread of a plot. I may not be crossing the finish line this year, but it’s fun to live vicariously through them. I’ll consider that a win, even if I don’t get to print out the nifty certificate.

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Writing Prompt Wednesday: No Time for Writer’s Block During NaNoWriMo!

wirting-quotes4A great wealth of advice from Mashable who interviewed several authors and how they overcome writer’s block.


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Week 3 Pep Talk: Showing Up

This post originally appeared as a NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talk sent to participants in the NH Region. I will be sharing my NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talks and Pep Talks by Guest Wrimos on this blog throughout November. – Yvette

A success delayed doesn’t have to mean a success denied – not if you keep working hard and keep showing up and you have a willingness to learn from your mistakes… Success in life comes to those who keep showing up – with the attitude for “showing up.” So often, “showing up, is growing up.” And that becomes the final key to success….And that means showing up thinking like a champion not just when it’s easy to do so – but when it’s particularly challenging. Perseverance is part of “acting like a champion.” Going off the diet-strategy you need to follow to reach your goal – from Friday night till Monday morning – THAT’s your threshold for thinking and acting like a champion? Then you will fail to meet your goal. That is the truth. Champions don’t make excuses; they make champion-like choices – Coach Scott Abel


Welcome to Week 3, Wrimos.  I had this nice tidy pep talk all ready for you, on the topic of “showing up”…and then I checked in to Facebook Friday night and saw the news about Paris.  I know you have too.  Suddenly my nice tidy pep talk didn’t seem appropriate anymore.  Because, I mean…why bother?

To be honest, Wrimos,  I’ve been in a funk about NaNoWriMo 2015.  I know some of you are feeling this way, too.  For me, it’s partly because there are so many demands on my time at work that go beyond 40 hours. If it were just time that might not be so bad, I could stay up later or get up earlier and work on my novel, but since I work with people, inevitably there’s drama, and that’s emotionally exhausting to deal with, which doesn’t leave me much reserve to pull from to feed my creativity.  I didn’t have time to do the kind of prep I wanted to in October, so I’m catching up on my prep now and am trying to figure out what this story is about.  Unfortunately, home isn’t much of a refuge…I can normally ignore plenty of housework during NaNoWriMo, but my son needs driving hours and my husband teaches several nights a week…This weekend, our halfway point, three out of our four kids are sick – the youngest with a fever,  her brother with some stomach bug and our oldest daughter at school texted me that she’s got food poisoning.

And the world outside is absolutely going mad.  Paris. Japan. Syria.  I think attacks on people going to the movies or a music concert or out at dinner are particularly jarring because that could have been any one of us, enjoying the talents of others.  And then the uproar over Starbucks cups??  Was this even the same week?

There are times when life gets so stressful that I want to hide under the covers or in a movie or a book or a video game.  I don’t have the energy or reserves or quiet in my own head to create.  My mind is too full of worry…why do any of this…where does my pathetic, half-baked idea of a story have a chance at anything in a world that’s exploding around my ears?  I’m struggling to hold it together in my own little circle of influence and meanwhile….

I’m going to cut to the chase here, Wrimos, because I’ve been following #NaNoWordSprints today trying to catch up…There is a reason why we should bother.  Many of us in NaNoLand repeat a favorite Batyism (saying of NaNo founder Chris Baty), “The World Needs Your Novel.”  And it’s true Wrimo, it’s never been more true, and here’s why: Resilience.

books escapeBecause human beings are resilient.  I read an article today about people in Paris lining up to donate blood to help the injured.  Each one of us was created with this unexplainable desire to make sense out of chaos.  Maybe it’s hope, maybe it’s reason.  Maybe it’s foolishness.  It’s why so many of us return to the manic schedule of NaNoWriMo and throw a bunch of words on the page to see what will happen.  I believe we are created in the Image of a Creator and that is why we make stuff. (I’ll add a caveat that some people turn this creative drive to create chaos, to destroy…but I’m not going to give that idea any more airtime)  We make stuff, beautiful stuff.  Music, stories, beautiful gardens, delicious food, art.  Amazingly soft knitted scarves.  A simple child’s drawing. We make connections and we make love and we make something out of nothing.  Artists – you and me and every other nutty Wrimo tapping away at a computer tonight –  are chasing after a Life question that we need to unravel, a wrong we need to make right, a memory we need to preserve.  We are building our favorite fantasy worlds.  We are writing horror or romance or sci-fi to push these Big Life Questions to their limits until their boundaries burst and the Answer showers down over us.

The world needs your novel, Wrimo, to help find the Answer to What if? to Why? to Why Not?  I need your novel to curl up with under the blankets when my grubby little life and pressures crowd around too tightly.  I need your novel so I can escape and hide and heal.

And here’s why I’m sprinting today, Wrimo: You need mine.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite stage plays…Our Town by Thornton Wilder.  If you’re not familiar with the play, it takes place in a small town, and a young woman, Emily, dies in childbirth, but is given a chance to revisit her past for one day.  The Stage Manager cautions her to not pick an important day, but a simple day, which will be important enough.  She does, but moving through the day, re-living it, she becomes frustrated as she watched her family and friends around her moving through the routines of the day, taking everything – EVERYTHING – for granted.  Not realizing that their time on earth is limited.  Finally, she begs the Stage Manager to stop it – and return her to the graveyard, where she can be quieted.

“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Dear Wrimo.  “Saints and poets.”  And artists, musicians, dancers, chefs, scientists, peacemakers, lovers…From the dedicated case worker to the guy who fixes my car…let’s continue to create order and beauty from chaos.  Those of us who see beyond the veil…our acts of creativity chase away fear, bring healing and joy and laughter, shine a light on darkness, crack open truth.

Now go write.





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