10 Tips for writers from NaNoWriMo pep talks

writer-tips-coffeeThe NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) crew treated their participants to pep talks from published authors as we worked through the month.  Kudos to NaNo for gathering these writers who gave their time and spurred us on.

I won the challenge, by the way. Fifty thousand words in 30 days. It was a fantastic month of writing.

Here are 10 tips for writers that I gleaned from the wealth of wisdom we received as NaNoWriMo participants — all for you to enjoy and put to use.

1) Write Like the Pros Do

Get into a writing routine. Think it’s hard to write every day during NaNo? Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. Holidays, birthdays, vacations—you name it, we’re writing. The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again. – James Patterson

2) Your Way is the Right Way

Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way. – Catherynne M. Valente

3) Don’t Just Think

Thou shalt not just think about writing. Seriously. That is not writing. The worst unpublished novel of all-time is better than the brilliant idea you have in your head. Why? Because the worst novel ever is written down. That means it’s a book, while your idea is just an idle fancy. – Patrick Rothfuss

4) Inspiration vs. Discipline

That’s what inspiration is. It’s seductive and thrilling, but you can’t depend on it to call you. It doesn’t work that way. The good thing is, inspiration is irrelevant to whether or not you finish your book. The only thing that determines that is your own sense of discipline. – Malinda Lo

5) Block Out the White Noise

In the workshops I give to writers, I talk a lot about blocking out the white noise (email, Facebook, phone calls, prolonged internet searches for information you don’t really need to know to write your first draft, etc.) and putting on blinders so you can really give your focus to your book. This advice is a lesson I personally relearn with every single book I write. – Bella Andre

6) Love Your Lousy Draft

A lousy draft proves nothing. Rough drafts are rough—everybody’s are. Being a writer isn’t like being a musician. You don’t have to get it right every day. The wonderful thing about being a writer is, you only have to get it right once. That’s all anyone will ever see. The only bad draft is the one that doesn’t get finished. – Lev Grossman

7) It Takes Work

Many an aspiring writer is just in love with a glammed-up idea of being an author, but not enthused about the actual work. Well, the only way to learn to write is to write (and to write a lot). Sit down and get started. Even if you just type, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – Ralph Peters

8) Fuel Your Imagination

The world is at your fingertips, literally. Writing fuels your imagination, which makes you want to write more. – Holly McGee

9) Your Story = Life

Life is momentum. Life is stories. Let’s keep our stories going. – Grant Faulkner

10) You Should Try NaNoWriMo

I told myself that it didn’t matter if my first draft was bad. All my books have required major revisions, anyway. And even if NaNoWriMo was a complete waste of time—if I ended up with a chaotic mess—a month isn’t much time to waste. (Not compared to the five years I worked on my first novel before showing it to anyone.) …That 50,000-word pile I made wasn’t a mess at all. It’s some of the bravest writing I’ve ever done…. NaNoWriMo helped me push past so many of my doubts and insecurities and bad habits. – Rainbow Rowell

Those are some of the inspirational thoughts that kept us fired up throughout the NaNoWriMo month. What’s the main takeaway? Keep writing and don’t give up.

You can do it.

And though the challenge is officially over, the fine people at National Novel Writing Month continue to help writers throughout the year. Click here if you want to learn more about the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Write on!

[Image credit: Sterling silver and enamel beverage pot designed by Arthur Pulos, between 1940 and 1960, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute]


7 thoughts on “10 Tips for writers from NaNoWriMo pep talks

  1. Great tips here. I especially love #4 because discipline is what gets the novel written. Too often we get stuck on how good or bad our ideas are, but none of that matters if we’re not willing to keep at it, every day.


  2. All are valuable tips, Darla, but my two favorites are “Don’t Just Think” and “Inspiration vs. Discipline.” Together they remind us that writing takes work, real work, and it starts with us setting the bar.


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