NaNoWriMo Halftime + Grant Faulkner’s Pep Talks (Shayla Raquel)
For National Novel Writing Month, we decided to have a NaNoWriMo Halftime workshop, wherein we enjoy a few pep talks from Grant Faulkner (executive director of NaNoWriMo), discuss the issues we’re facing with only 15 days left during NaNo, and learn how we can finish strong. Most of the following advice was inspired by Faulkner’s book, Pep Talks.
1. Find What Brings You Energy
Chapter 14 (Pep Talks): Go play! When did we stop becoming little kids who frolicked and squealed and twirled?
“The mind needs to wander. The mind needs to feel unfettered.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Take an afternoon/evening off from writing. Go to a park and swing. Walk a trail. Have a snowball fight. Rediscover that playful energy from childhood and make the world your playground, if only for a moment. How does your mood change? Do you have more energy to write?
Chapter 16 (Pep Talks): Most, if not all, writers have gone through awful experiences. We each have a past. We each have nightmares. But we all need to heal, and writing helps us with that.
“To overcome is to write your story, to believe in it.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Write an email or message to someone and ask how their novel is going. Tell someone how your own accountability buddy has helped you during NaNoWriMo. Encourage other people, and that positive energy will help your own wounds.
Chapter 36 (Pep Talks): Writers crave solitude, but with family, friends, work, community, church, and life itself, it’s not always possible. Things get noisy.
“We need darkness, silence, and solitude to recognize the opaque flickerings of our unconscious.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Go outside at night where the stars are shining bright. Sit alone and take in the silence. Amplify your spirit and mind. Just be alone with your thoughts.
What drives you as a writer?
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell
2. Start Brainstorming
Chapter 15 (Pep Talks): The conflicts we have in our own lives can serve as plot devices for our stories. Write who you are, not just what you know.
“Don’t shortchange your experiences.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Use a traumatic or euphoric experience from your own life and insert your character into it.
Chapter 28 (Pep Talks): How can you inhabit the world of your story? Grant Faulkner couldn’t travel to Thailand for his novel, so he went to Thai restaurants, read Thai books, watched Thai movies, listened to Thai music, etc.
“One of the wonderful side benefits of being a writer is not just the places you get to go in your imagination, but the real places you get to go to explore your story.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Take a story field trip. Where can you “go” to research your setting? How can you take your setting to the next level?
Chapter 32 (Pep Talks): Sometimes we get stuck on the big picture of the story and forget about the subtle nuances of a single idea. Brainstorming a list of ideas—itty-bitty ones, even—can lead to bigger and better stories.
“More ideas are good for any creative endeavor. Each idea, no matter how good or bad, lays the ground for the next idea, and the next after that.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Spend an entire writing session jotting down ideas for your story. It can be as simple as a description, a character detail, or a scene. Explore the possibilities!
3. Tell Self-Doubt to Go Fly a Kite
Imposter syndrome is feeling as if you’re pretending because you don’t feel like a real writer.
“Don’t let imposter syndrome crush your dream before you even give yourself a chance.
Do you have a message to share with the world?
Don’t listen to those who tell you you’ll never be good enough—even if they’re just voices in your head. You’ll guarantee failure if you don’t muster the courage to try.” —Jerry Jenkins
Chapter 21 (Pep Talks): “I’m not good enough.” “I have no idea what I’m doing.” “What if this story is absolute crap?” Imposter syndrome is a real feeling creatives experience, and it’s really good at ruining everything.
“Authors are especially susceptible to imposter syndrome because writing is such a vexing labyrinth of self-doubt.” — Grant Faulkner
Action: Fake it till you make it! Think of areas where faking it has helped you. For example, did you once have to give a speech you weren’t ready for? How did it work out?
Chapter 44 (Pep Talks): Writers are so good at beating themselves up that they completely forget to be grateful for all they’ve accomplished. Sometimes, it’s not even about the accomplishments—it’s about the smaller things like having a desk to write on, having the opportunity to write, or having an idea in the first place.
“Gratitude opens the soul to those everyday epiphanies that enrich us and our stories.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: What are you grateful for as a writer? Make a list of those things when you’re doubting yourself.
4. Get in the Right Mindset
Are you respectful of your writing time?
“Respect your writing time and others will too. Show up and work. Keep writing even when you don’t feel like it.” —Jerry Jenkins
How often do you think about your reader?
“Every writing decision should be run through this filter. Not you-first, not book-first, not editor-first, agent-first, or publisher-first. Certainly not your inner-circle-of critics-first.
Treat readers like you want to be treated and write what you would read. Never let up, never bore.” —Jerry Jenkins
Chapter 19 (Pep Talks): Writers experience envy whether they want to admit or not. We compare our writing goals to those who are advanced and feel insecure in our own writing. “I’ll never write like so-and-so.” “I’ll never get the awards and accolades like so-and-so.”
“One of the worst things you can do to mangle the exquisite beauty of your creative spirit is to compare yourself to another.” — Grant Faulkner
Action: Write out reasons why you envy a certain author and his accomplishments. What do they have that you want as a writer? Be honest. Once you know those things—like an award or an amount of published books—then it’s your job to work hard toward those things on your own merit and not worry about the author who already has them.
Chapter 35 (Pep Talks): Have you ever imagined what it would be like if your book became a New York Times bestseller? And then a screenplay? And then an Oscar-nominated movie?
“Confidence is 10 percent hard work, and 90 percent delusion.” —Tina Fey
Action: Write a short acceptance speech for the writing award of your dreams. Envision what huge success looks like to you. It’s okay to be silly and to have fun!
Chapter 41 (Pep Talks): Writers are artists, but how often do we dabble in other artforms?
“The more we experience other arts—the more we allow them to play together—the more we’ll bring their spirit and textures to our works.” —Grant Faulkner
Action: Think of an artform you really love but never participate in: museums, sculpture, poetry, dancing, jazz, etc. Pursue it and see how it shapes your writing. What is an artform you can try this week?
5. Give Writer’s Block the What-For!
Do you believe in writer’s block? Jerry Jenkins doesn’t.
“If Writer’s Block were real, why would it affect only writers? Imagine calling your boss and saying, ‘I can’t come in today. I have worker’s block.’
You’d be laughed off the phone! And you’d likely be told never to come in again.
No other profession accommodates this malady, so we writers shouldn’t either.” —Jerry Jenkins
What does your writing schedule look like? Do you have a schedule?
“Schedule time to write, show up for that meeting with yourself, and put words onto the page.
It doesn’t matter if those words aren’t very good — they probably won’t be, but that’s OK because you can make them better when you edit them later.
But you can’t edit a blank page, so get your butt into the chair and write!” —Joanna Penn
Chapter 33 (Pep Talks): We all want a cabin in the woods or a villa on the beach where we can write, sip coffee, and brainstorm the day away. But sadly, that isn’t reality.
“It’s more of a boot camp or a marathon—a miniature version of NaNoWriMo timewise, but with equally heady goals.” — Grant Faulkner
Action: Make a plan to spend an entire day writing this month. This is perfect if you need to play NaNo catch-up. Where will you take your mini retreat? [read tips]
Related Reading: Punching Writer’s Block in the Face
Resources + Extra Help:
The Yukon Writers’ Society is an encouraging, supportive group for fiction writers in Yukon, Oklahoma. They meet biweekly on Thursdays to embrace accountability, to learn more about the craft of writing, and to help group members start and finish their books. The Yukon Writers’ Society was founded in 2016 and provides free meetings for its members. Their group anthology, Shivers in the Night, was published in April 2018.