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[Repurposing an old post about writing 1,000 words each day. But calibrated for NaNoWriMo inflation.]

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was given a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (And no, it is not to shamelessly rip off The Great Gatsby‘s opening line; that I do all on my own.) The advice was this: During the month of NaNoWriMo, write two thousand words of your work-in-progress each day. No more, no less. Just a cool two grand.

Here’s the why of the advice:

  • Two thousand words is a fair bit, to be sure. But it’s not so much that you can’t see the end of your target when you sit down to begin. It’s not so much that you can get deeply lost. It’s
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You’ve heard this piece of wisdom a thousand times, from your toddler days right up to this present moment: Many baby steps add up to one giant leap. And you know this, know it down deep, where you don’t even really have to think about it anymore because, duh, it’s so obvious.

But it is precisely that quality of obviousness—that sense of this idea being shopworn and past its prime and thus in a way somehow beneath notice—that requires it be brought up now. Writing a book is all about baby steps. About putting one foot in front of the other again and again, tirelessly, ceaselessly, until thirty days from starting, you discover you’ve written an entire novel.

And that’s part of the genius of NaNoWriMo: It forces you to split the gargantuan task of … [more]

(Samuel Auster, 1940s; The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster)

Believing that your voice and story matter can be difficult.

No more so than when you are facing an empty page, a blank screen, a yawning expectation that whatever you compose must justify everything: The time you’ve spent away from loved ones, from work, from sleep; the investment you’re asking readers to make in your world and your characters; the cash you’ve spent on your computer, your fountain pen, your bespoke composition costume, on your Word/Scrivener/Final App/what-have-you program, on classes and how-to books and on and on. To prove that you are not a monster of ego, but that you have something to say that the world may enjoy hearing. (The world may well need to hear what you have to say, but that’s … [more]

T-minus 7 days
T-minus 7 days

“I can’t imagine anyone becoming a writer who wasn’t a voracious reader as an adolescent.”

—Paul Auster, The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. IV

Writers read.

I mean, of course. In order to write well, you need to read well, and in order to read well, you must read. A lot.

“You should read the entire canon of literature that precedes you, back to the Greeks, up to the current issue of The Paris Review,” William Kennedy said in The New York Times back in 1990. But that seems a pretty tall order while dashing out a first draft during a one-month marathon. Maybe we can just agree that you shouldn’t skimp on reading while you’re writing your novel.

Why? Because reading refills the well. It replenishes you. Reading primes your brain with words, sure—but … [more]

T-minus 8 days until you catch lightning in a bottle.

“I write when the spirit moves me. And the spirit moves me every day.”

—William Faulkner

Mason Currey has assembled an invaluable little book called Daily Rituals, and it is required reading for process obsessives. The whole organizing conceit behind it is the one heading this blog post: namely, that ritualized work processes free us up to do our best work. Indeed, this idea is also one of the primary motivations behind NaNoWriMo itself—helping writers develop a habit of creating.

Devising and sticking to a routine is how we demarcate in our brain a sacred space devoted to creating. Set aside a time you will work every day. If possible, set aside a space. Follow such a routine for enough days and weeks, and … [more]

“I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now: Don’t think!”

—Ray Bradbury

The shared pressure cooker of NaNoWriMo accomplishes so many things. First is how it takes this task, drafting a novel—a task that is only and ever done alone, by a single person sitting with her thoughts and a blank page—and transforms it makes it into a group effort. Those thousands of other writers who are also drafting their novel may not be right next to you at your desk; they may not be shouting encouragement as word joins word, sentence joins sentence, and page joins page while you write; they may only be an amorphous sense of camaraderie as you labor over your work. But you know that they are out there, struggling as you struggle, and that … [more]

T-Minus Ten Days

In these final days of October, when NaNoWriMo is still just a vague itch, an aspirational notion, a secret should I?, it can be easy to dismiss your own ambitions. To treat the idea of drafting a novel as a fool’s errand, a lark, a waste of time. A self-indulgence, a self-delusion, a set-up for certain failure. To convince yourself you have nothing to say, that no one wants to read your story, that it is hubris to think that you can be a real writer.

Let me take this weight off your mind: 

You have permission.

This permission is a blank check. Write it for whatever amount you’re going to need to carry you through the month of November. Use this permission to justify whatever it is you need to … [more]

Wishing a happy publication day to Jacqueline West and A STORM OF WISHES, the spellbinding conclusion to her series, THE COLLECTORS.

It’s been only a few weeks since Van uncovered a magical secret—that wishes really can come true, and that a mysterious society called the Collectors protects us from the dire consequences even the smallest wish can have. Van knows only too well how wishing can go awry: his mother is recovering from a broken leg, his friend Pebble has been stolen away by the evil wish collector Mr. Falborg, dozens of dangerous creatures called Wish Eaters have escaped into the world, and Van himself has almost died—twice—all because of wishes.

When Van’s mother is offered a position at the renowned Fox Den Opera, located in the quiet, beautiful forest a few hours north of the [more]

In honor of NaNoWriMo‘s twentieth (!) anniversary, we’ve put together a sort of daily devotional beginning tomorrow and appearing each day right up through the middle of December. It’s our small way of expressing our solidarity with the thousands of writers giving the month of November over to their work.

Expect to find bits of inspiration drawn from our reading; practical advice gleaned from other writers and from our own experience; and ideas about how you might want to approach the monumental feat of drafting a novel in thirty days.

Some of it may be new to you, some of it may be obvious, but our hope is that one or two of our posts might be just the thing you need most should you find yourself written into a corner.

Stay tuned!

Next [more]

Move over, Wonder Woman and Superman–here come Aerospace Engineer and Particle Physicist!

Baby loves to explore the world of science! What’s next for Baby after learning about physics, engineering, computers, and the natural world? Becoming a scientist, of course! In this fun look at scientific careers, parents and children can talk about different science fields and the everyday heroes that work in them. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate text to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. 

To buy, please click here, or visit your local indie bookstore, or online vendors: Amazon, Indie Bound or Barnes + Noble.… [more]