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Pep Talk from Michelle Good

photo of Michelle Good

Dear Writer,

You’ve decided to do it, so don’t look back. Who knows, maybe the idea that inspired you toward NaNoWriMo is that rare great thought; that stroke of genius that rings with originality; a new perspective on an age-old theme. Your urge to write for this challenge tells you there is a story you feel compelled to tell. That compulsion is what drives the best novelists, past and present. Who knows, maybe your dedication to this piece will generate a winning work that takes on a life of its own.

If you’re feeling stuck, give some thought to participating in the NaNoWriMo prep course. The course helps you consider the factors that make for a strong story idea and some keys to constructing complex characters. It will give you something meaningful to refer to and consider about the construction of either a detailed plot or an outline for your work. Importantly there is a module on world building, which of course is so critical in terms of creating the milieu that will be the backdrop for your story and your characters. The course also provides supportive information with respect to managing your life and your time in a manner that will support an intensive writing experience.

When I was writing Five Little Indians, there came a point where it became clear that I had to cut the first five chapters. The content was still necessary, but the beginning of that draft was in fact not the beginning of my story. It took me almost a year (what with other distractions and such) to reintegrate all of that information into the story in a way that was consistent with time lines, the nature of my characters and the trajectory of each of my character’s stories. Was it daunting? Oh, indeed. Was it the right thing to do? Most certainly. Was I happy about it? Not until it was done and I could see it was definitely worth the effort to revise the work in that way.

I also found that so much of my writing experience was actually spent thinking. I would be critical of myself, wondering if this was really just procrastination. I’ve decided it is not. I believe that the stories we want to tell drive us, in a sense, to write them the way they want to be written. Those ideas, in the best experience, take on a life of their own, will possess you and, if you are fortunate, you will become the scribe to your idea. That is, the idea will lead you as opposed to you struggling to articulate the idea.

I don’t think writing is ever straightforward. But, when you find yourself having to push harder, work harder, and think harder than you thought would be required when you first sat down to write, do not be discouraged. The more you polish, the more it shines.

Importantly, remember, you have a story that wants telling. So, believe in it, believe in your ability to tell it and don’t ever give up.

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Michelle Good is of Cree ancestry, a descendent of the Battle River Cree and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. She has worked with indigenous organizations since she was a teenager and at forty decided to approach that work in a different way obtaining her law degree from UBC at 43. Her first novel, Five Little Indians, won the HarperCollins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize. 

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