Tag Archives: #nanowrimo

Three Weeks into Nano and I want to die.

I gotta say, The Writing Workshop Notebook by Alan Ziegler is the best craft book I’ve come across. I love the format which is literally notes and the pithy quotes. I read it all in one day and then started it again the next day. I wish they had it on audio.

In particular I loved this quote:

It bites
Terrible Advice for NanoWrimo

I’m gonna hang this poster at my desk, not just because I love the image of a helpless little girl about to be eaten by a monster, or because I have an unhealthy fixation on wolves and witches, but because Little Red Ridinghood ends with her defeating the beast that consumed her. Yes, she had to be saved the first time, but once she learned how to fight wolves, she was able to go on her way safely and merrily.

And that’s how it is with novels.

Most of the writers I’ve worked with have at one time or another been overwhelmed by the bigness of the task. Writing an entire novel, keeping it all organized and coherent seems overwhelming, and many people give up. In my experience, it happens when they are about three-fourths of the way done.

When they’ve been swallowed. By the doubt, or by poor planning, or by existential ennui, or by life. By the fact that the ending seems so far away and unapproachable. Or the beginning looks like such a mess and its impossible to wade through it and find something that will hook an audience and tie to the end and introduce the entire world and all the characters at once.

Every problem gets bigger and bigger and seems harder and harder to solve.

And that’s the time to take that step back, to permit yourself to leave that particular monster alone for a bit. Maybe beat the crap out of a short story. Or a novella. Or a poem, which I’m told are wicked little brutes on their own.

The most important thing is to come back to that fight when it’s fair again. When you’re prepared to tackle the material and wrestle it into submission. When you can look at it with fresh eyes. When being left alone has made the monster a little smaller and more willing to be tamed.

When I first read this, Ziegler’s quote just slapped me silly. I’ve been periodically fighting with and backing off from my thesis novel since I started writing it in 2015. And since I’m the type who feels guilty writing another project, like I’m cheating on my novel, I’ve been frantic every time I’ve taken a break to work on something else. I’ve worried it will make Finding Lost Sound disjointed or that I’ll lose the characters because I’ve left them alone. But when I look back, I think about how renewed I was coming back to Finding Lost Sound. Everything falls a little more into place after each absence. I’m beginning to think I was drowning under the sheer mass of my epic fantasy sci-fi romance and the novellas I’ve been releasing through Evernight were the little sips of air that have let me swim with the thing as long as I have.


Writing Advice 1: Get a Good Community

I am not an extrovert.

At the end of any day where I’ve spent time with people, even if it’s friends or family, I am exhausted.  After a four-hour game DnD session, the next day I usually sit by myself in silence for about the same length of time, often writing. When I worked in an


office, I would regularly get stress headaches not from the work but from teamwork, client calls, and every day meetings. My partner has even observed that some days he just needs to leave me in the house by myself to recover from a social-overload as if I can only

take small doses of people, even the ones I love.

But if you know me, especially if you’ve met me in a writing group, you probably think I’m an extrovert.

While I’d love to say that my passion for the craft has raised me from my pit of self-doubt and anger (my breed of social-anxiety trigger the fight, not the flight response), that’s not true. I’ve spent years learning how to interact in polite company so I could learn more about the craft. I knew I would have to take criticism from publishers, editors.  I wanted to share my writing with other writers in critique groups, and I could not wait for the perfect combination of special waterfall princesses to mollycoddle my quirks and phobias.

So I actively searched out writer’s groups and threw myself in, forced myself to engage, and tried to be pleasant. In some ways, it was anti-Disney, I always felt like I’m not being true to myself. But what I’ve realized since – now that I can walk into a room and not feel like everyone wants to attack me, now that I can smile an interact with a stranger without worrying that I’m going to hurt them – is that I faced some demon in my and changed what was true to myself.

In exchange, I found the amazing reward of writing communities.

I don’t care if you’re starting out or if you’re a published writer, there is nothing as rewarding as sitting around with a group of other writers and talking about the craft. It is electrifying to hear other people who’ve had characters come to life and dictate their adventures.  It’s uplifting to find that other people get stalled and doubt the time and effort they just spend writing that ten thousand words. And when you start to know more yourself, it’s immensely gratifying to encourage someone who needs support, someone who needs only to hear the words ‘yeah, that’s happened to me too’ to find the courage to finish the rest of that story.

I’m writing this now because I was reminded in force of this yesterday when I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in in Philadelphia.  Now I live on the Jersey Shore, but I used to live closer to Philly and I’ve met some of these people before.  Since I was going into the city on other business and I thought I’d go early to participate with this group.

I’ve found my waterfall princesses.

There was around sixteen to twenty writers in the same library basement for about four hours writing or talking about writing depending on whether or not a writing sprint was going on.  It was gratifying, uplifting, electrifying everything you could ask for when you meet with other kindred spirits.

It took me about two hours to join in the conversation.  I did end up making some people nervous and offending other because I forgot to check my crazy.  But the community still accepted me, invited me back, linked with me on twitter, too interest in my craft.

I feel inspired not by the work, but by the need to work. I know that there are others sitting at their laptops or writing by hand on notebooks also doing this crazy thing of writing their stories and it makes me want to be part of them, to have something to share and talk about when I meet some of them.  Maybe not in Philly, maybe in Ocean City, NJ where I’m going to another write-in today.

nanowrimo-logoNaNoWrimo, national novel writing month, is a perfect time to meet other local writers. There is no judgement if you don’t make the word goal of writing a novel in a month.  There is no sharing of the stories if you are nervous about the quality of your stuff or the content.  It’s just other people trying to write together.

So my best writing advice to you, especially in November, is to go out and find a community to support and encourage your writing.

It’s lonely to write, don’t go it alone.



– My third novel will be released soon. Follow me on Twitter or on this blog to learn more.