writing marathon

Six Reasons to Participate in National Novel Writing Month

I just released my latest workbook, The 30 Day Novel Success Journal for Romance! To celebrate, here’s an excerpt from this new workbook, which contains prompts that lead you through the process of writing a solid romance with growth arcs for the two main characters–without sacrificing the power of your external story arc.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of writers commit to writing 50,000 words or more in the caffeine- and comfort food-fueled endurance test that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

They sacrifice many of the little comforts that make life easier—television, dinner out with friends, video games, even sleep—so they can hit their daily word count goal.

For 30 days, they become obsessed with one thing: finishing a novel.

Why would anyone put themselves through this kind of ordeal?

Because they want to finish. The more slowly you write, the more likely it is that you’ll get bored with this story or lose momentum and get distracted by another great idea.

Because they know that inspiration strikes more often when you’re writing. Many aspiring writers make the mistake of only writing when they feel inspired. Experienced authors know that the more deeply you’re engaged in a story, the faster the ideas flow. Daily writing sessions keep your subconscious focused on your story so that you’re working on it even when you’re not writing.

Because writing quickly helps you resist the urge to stop and edit. Editing a novel requires a big-picture perspective on your story. But your perspective on the story is limited while you’re writing it, because you don’t know what cool ideas your muse is going to hand you three chapters from now. Any editing you do before the rough draft is complete is liable to be flawed, which means you’re wasting your time and possibly introducing new problems that you’ll have to fix later.

Because they know that you can edit anything but a blank page. Editing can turn a terrible scene into a not-so-bad scene, and a hey-this-has-potential scene into a wow-I-can’t-believe-I-wrote-this scene. But you have to get the story down on paper (or flash drive) before you can start working with it.

Because they know they can do anything for 30 days. An ambitious project like writing a novel requires sacrifices—giving up television, noodling on Facebook, hanging out with friends and other fun activities. It’s much easier to sacrifice your free time for a worthy project when you know that you’re not giving up the fun stuff forever—it’s just 30 days.

Because they love the adrenaline rush of spending a month on the roller coaster of active creation. A writing marathon like NaNoWriMo is a great excuse to let your creativity cut loose, to make a heroic effort and have something tangible to show for it at the end. This 30-day program gives you a doable goal, a motivating deadline, and a clear path to completion.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a lot of resources to help you prepare for National Novel Writing Month.  I know form past experience that the writing marathon goes so much more smoothly if you’re prepared for the long haul!

So…who’s doing NaNoWriMo with me?




This workbook combines elements of three-act structure, the Hero’s Journey, and a romance arc that incorporates character growth to create an extremely flexible story blueprint that you can adapt to the story you want to tell. The blueprint is broken down into 30 steps, so you’ll know exactly where your characters should be in their journey each day. Perfect for NaNoWriMo!

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483859

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/k7ppr3f

Your Voice Isn’t Lost, You’re Just Ignoring It

You hear it at conferences, in forums and on email lists–writers talking about finding their authentic voice.

Some writers find it quickly.  Others may take years to discover it.

Why so long?

Because when we talk about a writer’s voice, we often don’t really define it as clearly as we should.

Your authentic voice is whatever comes out when you write exactly what you want to write, the way you want to write it. 

Without caring what anyone else is going to think when they read it.

Don’t like that stuff that comes out when you write without editing yourself?  It’s not because you’ve “lost your voice.”  It’s because you think you’re supposed to be someone else.

We all have an image of the perfect person we’re supposed to be.  Smart.  Witty.  Lyrical.  Profound.  Or whatever other qualities we’ve been raised to value in other people.

When someone tells you it took them years to find their authentic voice, they’re really saying one of two things:

  • It took them years to get comfortable with who they really are, or
  • It took them years to transform themselves into the person they wanted to be

Probably some of each.

And good for them.  Either endeavor requires sacrifice, self-awareness, and the courage to grapple with one’s inner demons.  I highly recommend demon-wrestling as a way of making yourself (and your life) better. The unexamined life really isn’t worth living.

But let’s call it what it is.  It has nothing to do with looking under the couch cushions and finding a misplaced ability to write like Kurt Vonnegut or Stephen King or <insert your favorite author here>.

When we write from the heart, we are forced to confront who we really are, right now, in this very moment.  And that person isn’t perfect.

So we have a choice.  We can say, “I must not have found my voice, because I don’t sound funny and poignant and philosophical when I write.”

Or we can say, “Hmmm, it looks like I’m a little sarcastic and kind of abrupt and down-to-earth.  What can I do with that?”

The world doesn’t need us to be clones of our favorite authors.  The world needs us to write honestly and share our real selves on the page–even if we’re sharing ourselves through characters living in a completely made up world.  The world needs fresh blood.  New ways of seeing.  New ways of being.

So…how do we get to a place where we’re writing exactly what we want to write, the way we want to write it?

How do we start sharing our true selves with our readers?

We write fast.

We write so fast that we don’t have time to agonize over the phrasing of any particular sentence.

We write so fast that we don’t have time to stop ourselves from blurting out all those truths that have been festering in our hearts for years.

We write like our story is an out-of-control train about to leap the rails and hurtle over a cliff.

One of the best reasons for writing a first draft fast is that the story comes out in your authentic voice.  Sure, there’ll be some things you’ll have to fix later, to make the story publishable.  But you’ll be starting with a story that speaks your truth, in your authentic voice.

“Writing fast is a lot of work,” you point out.  “I get tired.  Discouraged.  Lost.  Sometimes I don’t finish the draft.”

Yeah.  Me too.

If only there was a group of writers who were doing the same thing, in some sort of massive event where everyone comes together to write like maniacs and encourage each other for a whole month.

Oh, wait a minute, there is!  NaNoWriMo’s little sister, JulNoWriMo–July Novel Writing Month–starts a mere five days from now.  It costs…nothing.  The only obstacle between you and a breathless month of passionate noveling is the sign-up form that gets you into the forums.

Well, that and the courage to let your true self come out to play.

P.S. Don’t forget to go to the Downloads page on this blog and get the free Progress Tracker for Writing a Novel in 30 Days.  Keeping track of your word count helps you stay motivated!

The 30 Day Novel Success Journal

Thinking about participating in JulNoWriMo, but don’t have your story figured out yet?  The story blueprint in The 30 Day Novel Success Journal shows you how to figure out what to write each day using a combination of the hero’s journey, three-act structure, and the character growth arc.  Just follow the brainstorming prompts to figure out what happens next!

Available at Amazon: PaperbackKindle