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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 RWWGreene.com and @rwwgreene.  


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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 www.nanowrimo.org  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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NHWP’s Critique Partner Match Up

nhwp critique partner match upNew Hampshire authors ready to get some feedback from a fellow writer can sign up to be matched with a critique partner through the NH Writer’s Project Critique Partner Match through March 6th.  You must be a current member of NHWP to receive peer editing, critique, and commentary. Once matched, the NHWP encourages pairs to meet regularly (a minimum of four times over the course of the four month cycle) in order to share and give comment on your current projects. For more information and an application form, please visit the NHWP page.

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Celebrate NH Writer’s Week, Nov 8-14

writers week 2015Governor Maggie Hassan has declared November 8 – 14 “New Hampshire Writers’ Week”, a weeklong celebration of the writer’s journey.  The NH Writer’s Project (NHWP)  is hosting a series of events around the state that each represent a step along the journey, from first draft to publishing to marketing a book. Take a quick break from NaNoWriMo and get some inspiration!

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NaNoWriMo Week 2 Pep Talk by Guest Wrimo R.W.W. Greene

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

headshotWeek Two, huh? I’m betting some of you are already behind while others have a nice, healthy “I’m going to take Thanksgiving off and eat pie” cushion.

To the folks with the cushion: Nice job. Keep going. We’ll see you at the finish line. Remember us when you are best-selling and famous.

As for the rest of you, take heart. NaNoWriMo won’t be over for weeks, yet, and, while you are behind and tasting dust now, you have plenty of time to catch up to the alpha dogs.

Try to figure out what’s holding you back. If it’s time — you just can’t find the space in your schedule to sit down until 1,667 words come out — get up a half hour earlier, or try breaking up your writing time into small chunks. Use your smartphone for something useful (a timer), and do your writing in fifteen-minute sprints a few times a day. Time’s up? Stop writing until the next sprint. You’ll be surprised how much you can produce this way.

If it is a matter of willpower, get some, or trick yourself into having some. Try gaming your writing through the Magic Spreadsheet or Write or Die. Make a weekly lunch date with a writing pal, and commit to swapping (and reading) the pages you’ve pounded out. Whoever shows up empty handed pays the tab. Reward yourself with a store-bought latte and a muffin for every six thousand words.

The Internet is a major time suck. (If you are reading this, get off the Internet and write!) Try unplugging your router before you start writing or use a program, such as Q10, that blocks out your screen while you work. Better yet, rent an off-the-grid cabin for the month. If you can’t do that, try writing by hand or use a typewriter. Put your smartphone in the refrigerator or something. You need to commune with the people forming in your head, not the ones sharing poorly researched political memes on Facebook.

If you are behind because you don’t know what to write about, it’s time to stop making excuses. If your own creativity is stalling out, there is a host of books, sites, gadgets, and apps to get you going. Rory’s Story Cubes are a good, low-tech option, or take your main character and give him or her a simple Tarot reading. Even if you don’t believe in the mystical side of such things, using a Tarot deck as a random “future” generator may get the ideas flowing again.

Maybe you’re just a procrastinator. A lot of procrastinators self-sabotage themselves out of fear. They get so intimidated by a project that they put it off and put it off until they are out of time and know they’ll only be able to turn out half-baked work. There’s little risk of failure that way, because they never went all in.  If that’s you, quit it. The pressure is off. Your NaNoNovel is a first draft; it’s supposed to suck. No one, except maybe that small, judgey voice in your head, is expecting brilliance right out of the box. Give yourself permission to be terrible and start writing. You got this.

If you need a little writing break, New Hampshire residents are in luck. This week, as proclaimed by the governor, is the Granite State’s Writers’ Week. In honor of that, thenhwp logo New Hampshire Writers’ Project, a statewide nonprofit for writers and writing, is running “A Writer’s Journey” series of programs at venues all over the state. It starts off 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at White Birch Books in North Conway. There, authors will give micro-talks titled “The One Thing You Need to Do Before you Start Writing.” The next night, 6-8 at the Plymouth-Pease Library, writers will tell you “The One Thing You Need to Finish the First Draft of Your Book.” The schedule runs through the week and ends with a potluck social, 1-4 p.m., at the Writers’ Project’s office on the Southern New Hampshire University Campus in Manchester. Come on down and say hello. NHWP membership is not necessary for participation, but if you make it to each station on the trail, you can join for free.

Best of luck to everyone. Now, I need to get back to my own writing.

R.W.W. Greene is the chair of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He teaches college and high-school English and writes short stories and middle-length novels in a poorly insulated room in Manchester. Greene collects typewriters and keeps a website at www.rwwgreene.com. You can find him on Twitter @rwwgreene.

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