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Entries in Chuck Wendig (7)


Chuck Wendig's NaNoWriMo prep school

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to those in the Kno) is still three weeks away but suddenly everyone's talking about it. I'm getting almost-daily emails from the NaNoWriPeeps themselves, and Chuck Wendig would like you to know that you're going to want to spend these three weeks getting buff in the brain:


If you are not yet putting words down daily, you need to flex them penmonkey muscles, so that, come November, you can pop open your word processor and say, “TWO TICKETS TO THE PEN SHOW,” which will earn you weird looks because:

a) you’re saying this to the cat and b) are pen shows even a real thing?


You need to work out. You need to exercise.

You must practice writing every day.

And build on the quantity of words you put down.

Start with 100.

And add a 100 more words every day until you’re approaching 2000 per day.

Doesn’t matter what you write, though I’d advise you keep it in the “fiction” category — fiction writing is a discipline all its own, I find.

Build that muscle. Gain momentum.

Read the rest here!

Good advice, no? You certainly could start with my weekly prompts for inspiration, including (but not limited to) Week 31.

As for me, I think I will take another Don Quixote tilt at the NaNoWindMill, but (as per my revelation/resolution) I'll be writing (or attempting to write) a novel-length piece of either nonfiction or drama. Drama! 

How about you? I know this is soon, and kinda awkward, but, uh, well... will you be my NaNoWriFriend this year?


One more from Twyla, and also I am not dead

First, from Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, a great trick to keep the writerly momentum churning:

Some people, if only for sanity and the maintenance of a humane routine, give themselves a creative quota. Painters stop when they fill up a measurable section of canvas, playwrights when they draft out a complete scene, writers when they hit one thousand words or the clock chimes 5:00pm. They stop no matter where they are on the canvas or page. I know one writer who gives himself both options: He stops at a set time or when he hits his word quota, whichever comes first. He is religious about this routine. But he connects to the next day with a fixed nighttime routine as well: Just before he falls asleep, he reads the last few sentences he wrote. Without fail, he wakes up the next morning brimming with ideas, setences, whole paragraphs for the next portion of his story. He claims he flies out of bed sometimes so he can get all the words down before they disappear. Apparently, filling up with words and ideas before sleep gives his tired brain some useful work to do as it regroups and refreshes itself overnight. What his conscious brain can't handle, his subconscious can.

I am definitely going to try this. My dreams are a total waste anyway—time to put them to work!

Second, I am not dead. The blog is not dead. I have not abandoned the blog. "Neglect" is probably more accurate. I have, lately, neglected the blog.

The problem is that I have many things I want to work on, and time spent on the blog is time not spent on these other things. I really admire Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig, Dean Wesley Smith, John Scalzi, et al. for their seeming ability to juggle ten projects without dropping one of them. Their blogs never want for attention. Mine is more feast or famine, and I know the infrequency is preventing it from luring eyeballs beyond those of you dedicated few.

I believe in the Unwritten Word and want to see it through. I will definitely see it through—some of these pieces (and even moreso your responses to them) have really surprised me and inspired me to keep going. But I also need to find a way to balance it with other projects that are also starved for attention.

So I will ponder. I will make some adjustments, set a schedule, and then, by God, I will bring the writerly.

Thanks for sticking with me.


"The myth is that the magic is so fickle that something so instrumental as an outline will somehow diminish it"

From Chuck Wendig, some new (at least for me) advice about outlining:


Not comfortable with doing one big hunka-hunka-burning-outline right at the outset? Ta-da, outline as you go. Boom! Solved it. YOU OWE ME MONEY NOW. Ahem. What I’m trying to say is, every week, outline for the week ahead but no further. This keeps you flexible and still makes it feel that you’ve still got some mystery and majesty ahead of you around the corner of every cliff’s edge. Hell, you could even outline only the next day — stop writing today, outline tomorrow’s writing before you begin.



Writers are beholden to many fancy myths. “The Muse! My characters talk to me! I’d just die if I couldn’t write!” The myth of how an outline robs you of your creative juju is one of them. I don’t want to defeat your magic. I don’t want to suggest that writing and storytelling isn’t magic — because hot damn, it really is, sometimes. The myth isn’t about the magic; the myth is that the magic is so fickle that something so instrumental as an outline will somehow diminish it. If after outlining a story you think the thunder has been stolen and you don’t want to write it anymore, that’s a problem with you or your story, not with the loss of its presumed magic. An outline can never detail everything. It’ll never excise the magic of all the things that go into the actual day-to-day writing. If that magic is gone, either your story didn’t have it in the first place, or you’re looking for excuses not to write the fucking thing.

Read the whole thing here!


An expletive-infused adrenaline shot of writerly can-do from Chuck Wendig

I'm taking a quick break from my paid writing to share this with you:

Life’s getting in the way? I’m sorry, that’s how life works. Life is a series of obstructions — it’s speedbumps all the way down. You’re depressed? Get in line. You’re depressed. So’s that woman over there and she wrote 1000 words today, and yesterday, and the day before. You think I don’t deal with depression? Of course I do. We writers are tailor-made for that. I know, I sound unsympathetic — trust me, it’s the opposite. I’m completely sympathetic. I’ve been there. I’m sometimes there still. It doesn’t change the cold, hard fact that all the power lies with you. In your brain. In your hands. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Did you want it to be easy? What fun is easy? Easy is a value of zero. And surely you want more than nothing? Writing makes you pay. In blood and tears and frustration. You do it because you love it. Not because it’s a warm bed at your back but because it’s sharp stones under your feet spurring you forward.


Fuck it. Shut up! Write. You get your years and you get no more. These are your days. No Muse is going to breathe a hot sigh of inspiration up your hiney-hole. I’m not going to come to your house and crawl inside your skin and bind my bones to yours with the purpose of forcing you to crap out all your big bad story-words. Oh, you have writer’s block? Boo-hoo! Writer’s Block has as much power as you give it — it’s a Weeping Angel, so bind it to the earth with your gaze.

This is creation!

If you liked this, definitely read the whole thing here! I found it both funny and inspiring. PERHAPS YOU WILL TOO.


Chuck Wendig on finding your characters

Yet another great post from author Chuck Wendig, this time about how he gets started on a new book:

...I suss out the characters wants, needs, and fears. What does the character need to keep going? What does the character want — whether consciously or unconsciously? What will drive him as a goal throughout this story? And finally, what does he fear? Obstacles in a character’s path are critical, and some of those obstacles must be bound up with the character’s fears.
Finally, I do a little three-beat character arc for the character. Three words or sentences that are meant to indicate the state of the character across the story — beginning, middle, and end.

Poor cat down on his luck wants to see a change in this country –> elected president, way over his kitty head –> once again a poor cat but now knows the intimate details of the democratic process and oh did I mention he nuked the middle of our own country into oblivion.

The three beats could be fairly succinct — consider the simple mythic arc of Maiden –> Mother — > Crone. Or, as per the vampire in Double Dead, Predator –> Protector –> Penitent. When conceiving of Miriam Black’s arc in Mockingbird my only three notes were: Selfish Vulture –> Pecking Crow –> Reluctant Raptor.

Read the whole thing here!

There's some really useful/inspiring stuff in this post; I'm planning to give it another read soon and adjust my own process (questionable, at best) to include some of his methods. I'm particularly intrigued by his four-act structure and making a list of "tentpole" and "holy shit!" moments that absolutely must happen in your story.


How to be a professional writer

Awesome post from Chuck Wendig about how to make a living being a writer:

And so, I figure, it’s time for some general tips on not just being a writer but, rather, being a professional writer. Further, being a professional writer who can do more than just buy an annual steak dinner with your earnings.

Here we go.

Speed: Learn to write with some zip in your fingers. A thousand words per hour is a good base level and not at all difficult to achieve.


Time: Learning to write well and with some speed means this takes time. Do not expect to be one of those “overnight successes,” a creature as rare as a Bigfoot riding a unicorn on a saddle made of leprechaun leather. A writer’s so-called “overnight success” is just the tip of the iceberg exposed, while the rest of the writer’s time and effort and narrative R&D exist in a massive glacial mountain beneath the darkened waters. Just because the writer appeared on the world’s radar doesn’t mean that poor fucker hasn’t been working his fingers bloody for quite some time.

No, Really, I Mean It: This can be a slow process. It was about a ten year journey to go from “freshly-minted, ruddy-cheeked penmonkey” to “battle-hardened full-timer with stories wound into his bloody beard-tangle.” Be ready to invest the time and effort.

Read the rest here!

Much of this advice is reassuringly similar to Dean Wesley Smith's, right down to the writing speed of 1,000 words per hour. (Though the advice later in the post about self-publishing is wildly different.)

No one in any of my dozens of writing workshops has ever suggested that I try writing quickly, but man oh man has it solved a lot of my problems re: being a procrastinating perfectionist. 


How intricate are the worlds you build?

Some world-building musings from author Chuck Wendig:

I’m always a little… reticent to fall too deep into the world-building rabbit-hole, because oh, what a deep and wonderful hole it is. In both my upcoming YA cornpunk series and in my next Angry Robot novel, The Blue Blazes, by golly, there was worldbuilding to be done. But I also found that the worldbuilding was easy to become tangential and distracting — there comes a point when figuring out the details of the world crosses over from “enhances the richness of the narrative” to “tangles the narrative up in its own shoelaces and makes it fall down and chip a tooth and then everybody laughs at it as it skulks home, weeping into its bloodied hands.”


Really heavy worldbuilding distracts me, I think — once I hit that point in a fantasy novel that we have to describe the pubic grooming habits of halflings or the lyrical history of the lizard people’s addiction to chocolate eclairs I start to tune out. But, when done well, it gives you a deeper sense of place and roots you to the story in a way that the plot itself cannot. (This is true in much the same way that details about a character can bring you closer to that character — at least, until they don’t, until they expel you from them like an exorcism purging a ghost.)

Read the rest here!

I feel the same, which was part of the struggle to get started on Week Eight's eventual story (remember that? you didn't even read it but I'm still writing the series so nyah). I don't lavish too much attention on those details in the books I read, but for some reason I feel like it's my responsibility to include them in books I write.

Why? Because.