Writer peptalks – Author resources

As you’ll probably know: writing can be hard. Every writing project has different phases, different stages of the process. Some of these stages are harder than others. I myself, like many neurodivergent people, have a hard time finishing things. Others might get stuck in research. And yet others might not know how to get started, but once they start, oh boy, you better watch out! So, yes. Some parts of the writing process may be harder for you than others. And for those moments (however long they might last) when you don’t know what to do anymore, I have the perfect author resource for you: writer peptalks. 

Now, I’m a big fan of (inter) National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I also love its academic equivalent, called Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). Both take place in November, meaning that at the time of writing they’re about 6 months away. And as I like half-anniversaries, I thought now was as good a time as any to tell you about the author pep talks on the NaNoWriMo organization’s website

NaNoWriMo & AcWriMo

For those of you not in the know, let me explain.

Once upon a time (a few years back) someone decided it would be a neat idea if everyone just sat down to take some time for their writing projects. Other people caught on and realized that yes, that really was a neat idea. And so many authors decided to take the month of November to write a complete draft of a 50.000 word novel. Whole communities and industries have emerged around this concept. And many of the communities are actually incredibly motivating and supportive of it’s members’ achievements. (Just check the #NaNoWriMo and you’ll see.)

And then, as is so often the case when something is a success, spin-offs emerged. And the most interesting one for me, as a writing coach who works a lot with academic writers as well as nonfiction and novel writers, was AcWriMo. You see, academics kind of figured that if they kept postponing their writing projects indefinitely, they would not live the kind of life they wanted. So they thought: whatever novelists can do, I can do too. Now, AcWriMo-ers don’t write novels. And they’re often a bit more flexible in the types of goals they set, rather than sticking to the fixed 50.000 words. But yes, they too hook up online, supporting and motivating each other using the #AcWriMo. 

Writer peptalks

With so many people working on their writing projects at the same time, the demand for motivational speeches on writing in this month is at a high. So the NaNoWriMo organization figured: why not ask famous writers to give us writer peptalks?

And the authors did it!

On the NaNoWriMo website, there’s an entire section dedicated to peptalks from famous writers. Some are serious, some are funny and some are surprising. But what they all are is motivational.

And there are some big names on there too! For example, there’s Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, James Patterson (yes, he’s everywhere)… And my two favorite peptalks: by Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket.

Neil Gaiman’s peptalk

Neil Gaiman has won the internet as well as the hearts of geeks everywhere. He’s currently one of the most successful fantasy/scifi writers out there, if you can measure a writer’s success in film and tv show adaptations, income and online followers. (He’s the author of the Sandman comics, American Gods and co-author of Good Omens, in case you’re wondering.)

Anyhow. He was a great person to ask for a peptalk. Especially because he’s extremely candid about his own struggles as a writer. For example, he says in this speech:

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

This made me snicker. Anyway, he doesn’t offer much in the way of a solution. The only thing you can do, he says, is just keep writing. Pick a word, write it down and pick the next one. However depressing this might sound, knowing that the struggles you’re going through are also very familiar to famous authors can be oddly motivating. So if you want to read the rest of his writer peptalk, you can find it here.

Lemony Snicket

In the long list of writer peptalks on the site, it was Lemony Snicket’s that caught my eye first. He’s the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and, as you’d expect, his entire “pep talk” is basically reverse psychology. And I wish I was too smart for this. I wish it didn’t work on me. But honestly? It does.

His first sentences are:

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

And then he continues to give you a long list of reasons why you shouldn’t write a book. Some are ridiculous, some might hit dangerously close to home. But if you are like me, with every (funny, crazy, painful) argument he makes, you will feel a little bit more stubborn. You’ll be a little more driven to keep going and show’em. And then you get to his last lines:

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

Yes, it kind of works, doesn’t it? If it does, you can find his complete peptalk here.

Final thoughts on writer peptalks

The main thing you should take away from this post is this. You are special. But your struggles are part of the writing process. Even the best authors experience them. But that also means that the best authors know what you do and do not need to hear right now. So if you’re struggling, check out the writer peptalks on the NaNoWriMo website. 

And if that doesn’t help, you can always schedule a free video meeting with me. I offer a range of services, from writer coaching to NaNoWriMo and AcWriMo prep. From editing to publishing consultancy. Let’s have a chat and see how I can help you be the best writer you can be!