We’re half-way through NaNoWriMo, and for many writers, inspiration is lagging, adrenaline has dipped, and you’re beginning to wonder what on Earth you were thinking to attempt this crazy novel-writing thing in the first place. So I thought some of you might be needing a little bit of pep and sidelines cheering, especially those of you participating in the Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge!
This is the pep talk I wrote for last year’s NaNoWriMo. It was sent out during Week Four, but I think a lot of the advice applies to any point of this crazy journey.
. . . . .
Ahoy there, Fellow Novelists,
I hope this pep talk finds you happy, healthy, and in the full swings of writing euphoria.
I suspect that by now many of you have stumbled into pockets of magic during this month-long writing fling. Your characters have said ridiculously unexpected things, your settings have blossomed into life on the page, and you’ve had plot twists come screaming out of the ozone and smack you concussion-style on the forehead. These things tend to happen when you’re putting as much work into a novel as you are. After all, even if you’re not hitting your 1,667 words per day, I’m sure you’re at least thinking a great deal about hitting them, and it’s only fair that the muse rewards that.
But let’s be pessimistic for a moment and consider that maybe you haven’t had a magic-moment for, oh, a few hours, or a few days, or—heaven forbid!—this whole blasted month.
Never fear. Anyone who has ever written “The End” on a manuscript knows that, sometimes, inspiration eludes us. No one looks forward to those lulls in the writing process, but they are natural, and they can be overcome. These are the times when we must proceed on willpower and caffeine and the unflappable confidence that each word we write is one word closer to a finished novel. I can promise that, tough as those times may be, they often lead to some of our most proud and beautiful writing moments.
And lucky for us, there are non-magical tricks to get us past the slumps and back to that happy writing place. Before you, I lay out three common noveling dilemmas and some tips for conquering such foes.
Dilemma #1: If you find yourself realizing that, 35,000 words in, you’ve just about hit the end of this story and are convinced you’ll never make it to 50K…
It sounds like your book needs a hearty injection of The Unexpected. So unexpected that not even you could have seen it coming. The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clichés and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.
Maybe you’re being called toward eye patch-sporting pirates and buried treasure. Maybe you’re dying to write about a hitchhiker with aspirations of being the world’s greatest baseball player. Maybe your dystopic, plague-ridden society is bringing you down and you’d love to send your characters on a romp through a whimsical wonderland.
Make your list, choose what’s calling to you most, and drop it into the next chapter just as if you’d been planning it all along. Watch as your plot and characters scramble to make it work, and the words once more begin to pile up. Dilemma #2: If you’re coming in on that beaming 50,000-word mark and you haven’t even introduced all the main characters yet… Congratulations, it sounds like you might have a series in the works, or at least one crazy-epic novel. I can guarantee, however, that no matter the scope of your book, you will be more motivated to finish, revise, and edit after this month-long writing extravaganza if you’ve reached some kind of closure by midnight on November 30.
There is no rule against skipping some scenes and launching your way right into that massive good-against-evil climax you’ve been anticipating. Secure a few romantic confessions and a happily ever after and you’ve just wrapped up one monster of a storyline.
Then you can breathe deeply and look forward to filling in those plot holes come December.
Dilemma #3: If you’ve been a noveling mad-machine for days on end and are now struggling to keep your eyes open long enough to write “Once upon a time”…
Seriously? Go to bed. Even the most dedicated of us need a power nap now and then.
Awake refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to show that novel who’s boss.
For all other dilemmas, I advise you to keep your head in the clouds and your hands on the keyboard, and to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. But if NaNoWriMo had been around back then, it very well might have been built in thirty.
Best of luck to you all, and I’ll see you at 50K.
“Pep Talk from Marissa Meyer” originally appeared on National Novel Writing Month’s website, nanowrimo.org.
Confession: I HATE choosing contest winners. There are always SO MANY that I love, and I want to reward everyone for their effort and creativity, and I want to hug all of you for participating.
But! Winners must be chosen nonetheless!
First up . . .
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS
I am a sucker for sleek, modern, simple designs, and for that, I was absolutely smitten with these three entries from Jen, Ashlyn, and Bianca. If I had any interest in getting another tattoo, I would probably choose one of these designs.
I am equally a sucker for artists who choose to work in 3-D mediums, and I loved the effort put into Regina’s acrylic insignia and this piece sculpted from clay by Portia. Having worked with clay before, I know that it’s no easy task.
Each honorable mention will receive a Lunar Chronicles swag pack.
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER
Thanks to everyone who voted! The votes have been tallied, and the People’s Choice Winner is . . . .
For this stunning design, BlindThistle has won a signed ARC of CRESS, a signed UK edition of SCARLET, and a Lunar Chronicles swag pack.
Congrats to our other finalists: Caitlin, Celine23, Spiral-n-Escape, Wilmelyn, and Xenatine. This was probably the closest voting bracket I’ve ever seen in one of these contests. All six finalists received tons of fan love!
Each finalist has won a signed UK edition of SCARLET and a Lunar Chronicles swag pack, including a limited-edition Lunar Chronicles messenger bag!
THE MARISSA’S CHOICE AWARD
And last but never least, the Marissa’s Choice Award is my chance to reward an entry for effort, creativity, and their use of the books as inspiration.
And the award goes to . . .
The more I look at this design, the more I see. From the crescent moons forming a Sauron-like eye, to the bits of foil in the border that look like little pieces of the moon’s surface, to the contrast between the bright palace above and the dark, dingy city below (VERY Lunar-accurate). You can read Annie’s full explanation of the design here.
Well done, Annie!
For her design, Annie has won a signed ARC of CRESS, a signed UK edition of SCARLET, and a Lunar Chronicles swag pack.
Congrats to all the winners! You’ll receive an email within 24 hours to claim your prize.
Thank you again to everyone who entered – if you haven’t gone through the board yet, it’s worth looking at. There are many more breathtaking designs!
News: SCARLET is a nominee in the GoodReads People’s Choice Awards, Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-Fi Category! Cast your votes here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2013
Many of you are taking part in my Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge, and I am so heartened to see all the growing word counts on my Buddy List! Heartened and, honestly, a little intimidated. I won’t tell you how much I’ve written so far, but I will say that many of you are currently ahead of me. (I guess I’d better get my act in gear – bwa ha ha!)
So keep it up, novelists!
In order to help you rack up as many words as possible this month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite NaNoWriMo success tips. Though I don’t use all of these techniques all of the time, I have found them to be highly useful when I do use them.
1. My tactic for turning off the inner editor.
The inner editor—or that voice that urges you to rewrite every paragraph until it is perfect—is your worst enemy when you’re trying to write many words very quickly. Nanowrimo is not about perfection. It’s about getting your initial ideas down on paper so that you have something to revise and edit later. So how do you keep yourself from nitpicking every little thing?
I like to leave bolded notes for myself throughout the first draft whenever I hear the inner editor piping in.
Example: Add setting details here.
Or: Change this cliché to something not-cliché.
Or: Make this not suck.
That way I can keep moving forward with the story without having to lose momentum in getting that section just right. Plus I’ll easily be able to find the spots that need fleshing out later.
2. Make like William Wallace: Freedom!
For those of you who just can’t stay off of Twitter for more than twenty minutes, Freedom is a software program that will disable the internet on your computer for a set amount of time. You choose how long you want to work, start Freedom, and go! (Tip: You may also want to leave your cell phone in another room.)
Download the software at MacFreedom.com. Note: there is a PC version available.
3. Participate in word sprints.
This time of year, there’s almost always someone word sprinting on Twitter. Track them down, or start your own, and go! Word sprints typically run for 20 or 30 minutes, and you’d be amazed at how many words you can write in that short amount of time when you feel the adrenaline rush of competition.
You can also take part in your local Nanowrimo write-ins (check the Nano forums for your local coordinators) or set up a writing date with some friends and challenge each other to see who can write the most words in a short amount of time.
Can’t find anyone to sprint with? A lot of writers swear by Write or Die, which is a web site that essentially lets you word sprint against yourself—with horrible consequences if you fall behind. Give it a shot at WriteorDie.com.
4. Never stop at the end of a chapter.
I’ll admit that I don’t use this tactic all that often, but when I do, I always think, This is brilliant! Why do I not do this all the time? For many writers, the most difficult part of any writing period is simply getting started. Avoid blank-page syndrome by ending each writing session with at least one sentence into the next scene or chapter. It will be easy to write while you’re still high off the momentum from today’s pages, and when you sit down tomorrow you’ll be able to launch write in without trying to figure out how to start.
5. Sit down to write 50 words, not 50,000.
The idea of writing 50,000 words can be incredibly intimidating. To accomplish it in a month works out to 1,667 words a day, which also sounds incredibly intimidating. That is a lot of words, and a lot of people give up quickly because they can’t fathom writing that many words in a single day.
But what if you sat down to write just 50 words? Well, you can probably accomplish that without hardly a thought. In fact, you can write 50 words while you’re pumping gas. Or waiting for bread to toast. Or during a commercial break.
And that’s the trick—easily one of my favorites for when I’m lagging on my word goals. I know that I am always capable of writing 50 words, so I start there. And inevitably, that turns into 200 words, then 500, and before I know it, my day’s word count is done.
6. Write the scenes that excite you.
We all have different writing processes, and I think it’s important to find what works for you. For the longest time, I considered myself a purely chronological writer. I started with Chapter One and kept right on writing until I reached The End. I was uncomfortable jumping around in a story, because I was worried that things might change, which would lead to more work in revisions later.
Well, the thing with Nano, is that I know there’s going to be a lot of work in revisions, so it gives me permission to write my scenes out of order without worrying how much work I may be adding for myself. If I’m feeling stuck on one part of the story, I’ll jump ahead to some scene that’s been plaguing me, or something that I’m super excited to write. It keeps me from staring at the screen thinking, But I don’t feel like writing an action scene today… when do we get to the kissing part?
Remember: progress is progress!
So there are some of my favorite techniques for getting down the words. If you have a favorite tactic of your own, please share it in the comments!
Happy writing, everyone!
You guys never make these contests easy on me! I am constantly impressed by the effort, creativity, and brilliance that goes into these contest entries, and I am enormously grateful to you all for humoring me with these challenges.
Thank you!!! *squishes everybody who entered*
Each of the sixth finalists will receive a signed UK edition of SCARLET and miscellaneous swag, but only YOU can decide the ultimate People’s Choice Winner to recieve a signed ARC of CRESS! Cast your vote below!
By Caitlin – READ THE EXPLANATION OF THE DESIGN HERE.
By Celine23 – READ THE EXPLANATION OF THE DESIGN HERE.
By Wilmelyn – READ THE EXPLANATION OF THE DESIGN HERE.
By Xenatine – READ THE EXPLANATION OF THE DESIGN HERE.
VOTING HAS ENDED.
Insignia finalists will be posted soon, but today, I’m announcing yet another contest. And depending on how it goes, this might be your last chance to win an ARC of CRESS!
Many of you know that I’ve done NaNoWriMo multiple times in the past, and that I have a tendency to give myself these insane goals that result in my word count tallying more than the recommended 50,000 words—70,000 words is about normal for me, but in 2008, the year I wrote Cinder/Scarlet/Cress, I came in at 150,011 words.
Well, this year I’m feeling the need to be overly ambitious again, and so I thought: Let’s make a game of it!
I am challenging you, Lunartics and Novelists, to write more words than me this November.
If you succeed, you’ll win a prize. You could even win… a signed ARC of CRESS.
I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to host this contest and make it fair, so pay attention!
To Participate in the Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge:
1. Sign up to write your novel at www.nanowrimo.org.
2. Add me to your buddy list: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/aliblade22
3. Write as many words as you possibly can for the next 30 days! Write like crazy! Write like the wind! Write like you have never written before!
4. While you’re at it, keep track of how many words you’re writing using the web site’s tracker.
Note: I will not be publicly tracking my word count throughout the month. I’m going to leave you in the dark, so that you’ll never know if you’re ahead of me or not. I figure this is the best way to keep people honest.
So, while you are in competition with me, you’re also in competition with yourself. What are you capable of? Let’s find out!
5. On November 30, validate whatever you have written using the NaNoWriMo web site, which will give you your official word count. I will also upload my work and receive my official word count.
6. On December 1, I will announce my end word count. If your word count is higher, comment to the post and link to your NaNo profile as “proof.”
- Everyone who submits their NaNo word count and who did, in fact, write more words than me, will win a prize. What that prize is will depend on how many of you there are. (If only five people write more words than me, the prize will probably be really cool. If there are a hundred of you, it will be decidedly less cool, but you’ll still get something.)
- The person who writes the most words will win a signed ARC of Cress—on the condition that they did, in fact, write more words than me.
- If nobody writes more words than me, I will be sad.
– To be entered, you must have me on your NaNo buddy list, you must track your words throughout the month, you must submit your work to the NaNo word counters before the end of the month, and you must comment to my December blog post with your final, official word count.
I know that’s a lot to ask, but it’s the only way that I can make this as fair as possible.
– Open internationally.
– I do not care what you write. Please do not ask me if it’s okay if you write one novel or multiple novels or fanfiction or short stories or poetry. It’s your NaNo, it’s your writing, do what you want. Just rack up those words!
(That said, for heaven’s sake, please don’t use non-NaNo-related words that you just happen to write that month, like every email or tweet or facebook post.)
– Be honest. The nature of this challenge is somewhat based on the honor system. Yes, I am aware that there are ways in which people can cheat, but I am asking that you please don’t. I want this to be fair to everyone, and that can only happen if everyone is honest about what they accomplish, so that the people who really do put in the most effort will be the people who win.
– Have fun! This is meant to be a fun challenge for everyone, to help motivate, inspire, and encourage. I know that I’m capable of doing amazing things when I really put my mind to it, and I hope that by the end of the month, many of you will realize that you are too.
Let’s do this, everyone! Happy writing!
Thanks to everyone who voted! All of the cities (and many more!) are on our radar, so if your city didn’t win, stay tuned for future touring news.
The full schedule for the CRESS tour will be posted soon!
These “A Day in the Life” posts are my attempt to answer the frequently asked question: “What does a typical writing day look like?” Because the answer is that there is no typical writing day.
This particular day seemed like a good example of both what a travel day looks like—especially as 17 out of 31 days this October were spent traveling!—and also a day in which I didn’t actually do any writing. Oops, spoiler!
6:00 a.m.: Alarm goes off, and I wake up in a Boston hotel, immediately thinking: This is the day I give my first-ever keynote speech!!
6:15: I grab my speech notes and go over them for the gazillionth time.
7:00: Free coffee is now available in the hotel lobby. I run down to grab a cup, then head back to my room to start getting ready.
8:00: A car picks me up to take me to the Teen Librarian Summit in Worcester, MA. I go over my speech notes again.
9:00: Arrive at the Summit. Meet the coordinators and scarf down a small muffin. I never have much of an appetite before I present, but I also don’t want to pass out halfway through!
9:30: The tech guy and I set up my powerpoint presentation with the projector. Librarians start filing in. They all seem super nice and excited, as librarians tend to be. I calm down a little bit. Now that I’m here, I’m actually starting to feel pretty confident about it.
10:00: The coordinators make a few announcements, and introduce me, and it’s Go Time.
10:15-11:15: First Keynote Speech EVER! My speech includes talk of Star Trek, Harry Potter, and some of my favorite science-inspired YA books. It goes great, and I’m so happy that it’s over.
11:30: I sit in on Robin Brenner’s (of www.noflyingnotights.com) awesome and informative breakout session about teenagers and fandom. I adore Robin Brenner. She is a kindred spirit. And I love that her presentation includes talk of authors who got their start writing fanfic—and I’m included!
12:30: Lunch and a little mingling with the librarians. I get lots of lovely comments on my keynote.
1:15: Another breakout session, this one with Brandy Danner, on dystopian and steampunk fiction. I add some books to my TBR list. Because that’s what I needed…
2:15: Time to sign some books!
3:00: A car picks me up and takes me back to the hotel. I am all relief and joy, and mentally drained. I catch up on Twitter during the ride.
4:00: I’m always tempted to hunker down in my hotel room, but tonight I force myself to go down to the lobby and be with the people. I bring THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater, which I’m reading in preparation for our panel together this Saturday at the Boston Book Festival.
6:30: I take my reading into the hotel restaurant to grab some dinner, and I am the only person there. So much for being with the people.
7:45: I only have fifteen pages left in the book, but ARGH, I need to set it down and get ready for the #NaNoPrep Twitter chat which starts at 8:00. I try not to be bitter.
8:00-9:00: Twitter chat with Gennifer Albin (CREWEL) and the folks at NaNoWriMo. Twitter chats are always hectic and fast-paced and I’m dizzy by the end of it, but I hope people are feeling inspired and capable by the end!
9:00-10:30: I turn on the season finale of Project Runway, and finish reading The Raven Boys during commercial breaks—what a great night. I LOVE the book and can’t wait to pick up Book 2: The Dream Thieves at the festival on Saturday. Plus, my favorite designer wins Project Runway. My favorites NEVER win!
10:30: Still on west coast time, I spend a couple hours answering emails before finally crashing a little after midnight.
Words written: 0, but I still consider this a successful day.
My publicist has been working hard lately to pull together a great line-up of events for the Cress Tour, which will kick off on release day: February 4, 2014! She’s already settled on most of the tour cities, and we’ll be announcing those in the coming months.
But like last year, we wanted you guys to have the chance to give a little input! We’ve pulled together a list of five cities, most of which I’ve never been to, and all of which I would love to visit – and you guys will make the final call on which one makes the cut!
Voting will close on Monday, October 28.
That only gives you one week to round up as many votes for your city as you can, so be sure to spread the word to your friends, family, teachers, librarians, and booksellers!
Good luck! I hope I’ll be seeing you in February.
And remember, if your city isn’t on this list, it doesn’t mean that I’m not coming to your town. The full tour schedule will be announced soon, so stay tuned!