Survival of the Wordsmith

I haven’t written creatively in months. Sure, I’d get bursts of inspiration that would have me reaching for whatever writing device was closest, but that motivation was often short-lived, and soon, I’d go back to finding new ways of avoiding my work yet again.

The thing is, I love writing. There’s nothing more fulfilling than creating, nothing more satisfying than purging the emotions that lie deep within you, nothing more exciting than developing characters and waiting to hear what stories they want to share. But after publishing Gold in the Days of Summer and dividing my time between marketing the book and planning my business (not to mention a day job and adopting a highly energetic puppy), I was burned out. Despite having numerous projects in the works, the last thing I wanted to do was think, nevermind write a single line of dialogue.

Cue every single method of procrastination I could think of, including my personal favorite: binge-watching my favorite TV shows (hello, Netflix).

In the end, a break from creative writing was exactly what I needed. I took the opportunity to redefine what I wanted Brown Beagle Books to be and set that business plan into motion. It got me back to writing again -- even if I was only writing about writing -- and soon, I was reading everything I could get my hands on: books about the craft and building a small business, books researching one of my works in progress, books that were just plain fun.

And now, with the start of November, I’m ready to finish my next book and fall in love with the art of storytelling all over again.


This year, I’m taking advantage of National Novel Writing Month -- an international initiative that challenges participants to write a new, 50,000 word novel during the month of November. To write a novel is an incredible feat in and of itself. To write a novel in 30 days is somewhat Herculean. But with an encouraging community of writers -- and a lot of personal motivation and accountability along the way -- creating a rough first draft in a dedicated amount of time is entirely within reach.

To prevent burn-out and keep the muses inspired, I’ve created a NaNoWriMo survivor’s kit, complete with tips on keeping the focus on the draft -- and away from the many methods of procrastination.

What’s in your writing survival kit?

1. Choose your weapon.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Like the familiar scratch of the pen against the page? Try choosing a notebook or binder with a cover design that reflects the mood of the story you’re writing. Not only does this make it easier to get back into the writing mode each day and pick up from where you left off, but it also gives you a glimpse of the end result: a finished book. Your book.

Prefer the speed of technology? Dedicate a folder on your computer to your project where you can store your ideas as they come to you. Try Scrivener as a tool for organizing characters and items to research later, even if you choose to write your draft in another program.

The emphasis on word count in NaNoWriMo is really a way to get your ideas onto the page without your inner editor filtering out the mess. Too often, that filter is what prevents us from finishing at all. Whether you focus better with the traditional pen and paper or you like the ease and accessibility of your laptop, choosing the best medium for your work can help keep that creative spark burning.

2. Pick Your Place

Virginia Woolf wrote in a shed behind her home. DH Lawrence preferred to sit beneath a tree. JK Rowling penned her books in cafés.

Eventually, one thing becomes true for all writers – location matters. Whether you find your inspiration among the chaos of a crowd or you need quiet and isolation in order to immerse yourself in your fictional world, the place in which you write can have an impact on your writing habits -- and your story.

During NaNoWriMo, your preferred choice of location might be sacrificed in favor of meeting your daily word goal. Maybe you’ll find yourself writing in the middle of a busy cafeteria or dictating into your iPhone in the middle of traffic. Let those times be few and far between. Choose a place you feel the most comfortable so that you can escape this world and get back to the one you want to create.

3. Get Energized

Get that coffee maker ready! Or, if you’re like me and have despised the stuff since your dad tricked you into thinking his iced coffee was chocolate milk, put the tea kettle on the burner. NaNoWriMo is about writing every day until you reach your word count goal of 50,000 or finish your novel. For some, that means getting up before dawn. For others, it means burning that midnight oil. Whenever you choose to write, stay hydrated with a drink that will get your energy up, warm your soul, and keep you going.

4. Reward Yourself

Eying that leftover Halloween candy? Can’t wait to see the latest movie release? There’s something to be said for the link between rewards and motivation. If the satisfaction of upping your word count each day isn’t enough, extrinsic rewards may just be the extra push you need to keep your motivation running high.

Choose small daily rewards like a gold star on a calendar or weekly incentives like a new book or night out to the movies with friends. Keep your eye on the end goal and watch your word count increase over the next 30 days. In the end, you’ll have the best reward yet: your finished first draft.

5. Don’t Forget The Fun!

Writing the draft of a novel in 30 days takes a huge amount of dedication and motivation and can be a source of stress for many writers. Remind yourself of your love of the story and the thrill of discovering new adventures with the characters you’ve created. Let NaNoWriMo help to set your goals and be your guide for word count, but don’t forget to have fun.

And remember: no matter where your novel stands on Day 30, as long as you’re still writing, you’re succeeding.

Let’s rediscover a love of writing together as we dive into our stories and NaNoWriMo! Reach out on the official website or keep an eye out on the blog as I share tips and tricks for getting through the month and write about my progress -- the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.


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