A NaNoWriMo peptalk that stands out in my mind

Hello everyone,

I have been listening to the Author Stories podcast with Hank Garner www.hankgarner.com for a couple of months now. I found this podcast by reading through the recommendations that the Podcasts app on my iPad gives me when I search for writing related podcasts. The last few episodes have given me a great deal of encouragement and a few tips to put in my writing tool box. However, there were two recent interviews that stand out to me the most. Let me explain what I mean in the next few paragraphs.

On June 14, 2018, Hank Garner featured his first interview with Jim Butcher as a “throwback Thursday” episode. After his interview with E. C. Frey, Jim Butcher returned with an update interview on Friday, June 15. The reason these interviews stood out for me, was the fact that they brought to mine a pep talk that Mr. Butcher wrote during the third week of the National Novel Writing Month challenge (NaNoWriMo), in November 2014. Incidentally, this pep talk was written during the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo. The pep talk reads as follows:


“Beware, sweet, innocent, aspiring writer. People aren’t telling you this, and they should be. NaNoWriMo participants are being deceived into thinking that being an author is a good thing. But you don’t know. You don’t know the horrors you might face as a professional, published, full-time author.

I could tell you. I could go on for hours about all the things that threaten my peace of mind. I could for you a tale unfold that would harrow up your carpal tunnels and chill the very marrow of your finger bones: tales of the constant questions, the unending deadlines, the mind-bending task of deciding each and every day which hours you will spend writing.

But never mind all of that. Best not to dwell on the worst. Instead, let us concentrate on what you must do to avoid this horrible fate, and save yourself agonies untold.

First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough: do not sit down at the keyboard and write on a regular basis. This is a trap. You can tell yourself that you’re only doing it to scratch an itch, that you only need to get a few hundred words written and then you can set it aside—but the siren clickclickabulation of the dancing keys will do more than merely produce words on a page. It will condition you to want, nay, to need to do it each and every day.

And if that happens, there is simply no way, in the long run, to avoid the most lamentable and horrible fate of finishing a novel.

Whatever you do, do not seek feedback from readers and other writers. Bad enough that you work in a vacuum, allowing the authoric energies to work their demonic way on your thoughts—if you add to that the feedback of the work’s intended audience, you will only establish the primary mechanism of making your writing more effective for those for whom it is meant.

This is a doubly pernicious practice! Not only does it seduce you to create more material for your audience, but it creates more audience for your material in an infernal feedback loop. I cannot stress to you enough how much you need to avoid this part of the process! Save yourself!

A further horrible mistake I can recognize only in retrospect: do not inform yourself about the publishing industry and the demons who labor therein. Oh, certainly, those people, those editors, may seem to be witty and charming and friendly at writing conventions and on workshop panels, but make no mistake. Their only purpose in life is to draw you into their evil plans, and force you to labor for them while they help you hone your writing craft.

Many aspiring writers are intimidated by editors, and I cannot help but emphasize how much credit you should give to these instincts, placed there for the protection of your sanity and whole mind. If you allow yourself to overcome this natural inclination, it may be too late for you to escape your fate.

Finally, I can only encourage each and every aspiring author out there to quit writing at the first opportunity and never look back. This seemingly harmless activity is anything but, and if you cannot break its hold on you, if you continue to make up one excuse after another to keep typing, if you find yourself promising yourself “just one more novel” and never draw away from it, you will inevitably be drawn into published perdition.

All you need do is quit! Just say no! And you will be saved! But if you continue, and continue, and continue despite all the sane voices trying to sway you, you will be drawn into the maelstrom of madness that is the life of a professional writer.

Dear NaNoWriMo participant, I beg of you, listen to me! You cannot know the horrors you will face! Run! Flee! Turn aside from this dark road!

For if you do not, I fear that one day, you will find yourself writing with other damned souls like me.”


At first, I must say that I couldn’t stand to read this pep talk. It made me ask myself why Butcher would say something like this to someone who is a born writer. However, the more I thought about this pep talk, the more I grow to love it. To be honest with you, it makes perfect sense, because when you tell a writer not to write, it makes him or her want to write all the more.

What pep talks have you read from other authors that you hated at first site, yet grew to love as you honed your craft of writing? Which pep talks stood out for you, above the rest of the encouragement and advice you’ve received from other authors?

Please share your favorite pep talks in the comments and tell me why you either hate them or love them.

Happy writing, and God bless.

Leave a Comment