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Pep Talk from Justine Larbalestier

Dear Wrimos,

You are about to undertake a mighty adventure. You are going to write a novel! How cool is that? Very.

I recently saw a teen on Twitter bemoaning the lack of support they were getting from their parents. "A novel in a month?" their parents said. "Don't be ridonkulous! That's not going to happen. Why don't you keep your expectations low and aim to write three chapters? That way you won't be disappointed.”

Boo, to that teen's parents.

Look, sure, not all Wrimos write a novel in a month. So what? Part of what you're doing is learning what you're capable of. Are you a fast writer or slow? Can you write for six hours at a time or only one?

You may not write a whole novel but why not go in expecting that you will? Heck, why not start this brand new novel expecting that you're going to write a work of genius? A bestseller? A book that wins a Pulitzer?

I used to be embarrassed by my grandiose dreams for all my books. I do mean all. I hoped that my first book, a scholarly tome that was once my PhD thesis, would be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. You know, after it had already sold eleventy billion copies. In reality, it sold a few thousand copies (over many years) and was not adapted into any other medium. I was not crushed. I'd already moved on to the next set of dreams for the next book.

Like that teen, I have been told many times that it's best to temper expectations so I won't be disappointed. Instead, my hopes have gotten more outlandish. I'm pretty sure my next novel is going to cure cancer. You heard it here first.

I know those parents are trying to protect that teen but what they're doing instead is trying to stop them from dreaming big and aiming high.

Guess what? Being disappointed isn't the end of the world. It's life. Why should we keep our expectations low in order to avoid disappointment? Our disappointments shape who we are and help make us more resilient. If you're never disappointed then what have you learnt? Not much.

Dreaming huge makes me happy but more importantly: it fuels my writing.

I dreamed about being a published novelist and making a living as a novelist for decades. When you daydream about something it can be a rehearsal. Your dreams can keep you going through all the rejections, they can give you strength to keep writing even when the world shows no signs of wanting your precious words. Eventually, those dreams of mine came true.

Daydreaming is how many writers become writers. We sit around making up vainglorious stories that somehow take on a life of their own. Before long we find ourselves turning daydreams into structured stories with plots. Next thing you know we're writing them down. It's why so many hard-working writers spend as much time staring out the window with a glazed expression as they do typing.

Dreaming and imagining is how we learn to build worlds, characters, stories. Never be afraid to dream... It's magical.

So is writing your first novel. Go forth, Wrimos; dream big, write much, and when November is over be glad that you've taken these first strides, no matter how big or small your word count.

I believe in you and your dreams!

Justine Larbalestier is an author whose novels include Razorhurst, Team Human, and Liar.

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