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Pep Talk from Jason Reynolds

Well, you’ve made it to week three, and if you are anything like me, you’re saying one of two things to yourself:

1. I’ve come far enough... to stop.

I mean, seriously, by this point, I could at least tell people I wrote a whole novel. It’d be a lie, but I wouldn’t feel bad about it. At least not too bad. Because it’s basically whole.

If I made a pizza that was six slices instead of eight, and wasn’t a circle, would I say I didn’t make a pizza? Of course not! I’d say I made a pizza! As a matter of fact, I’d say I was thinking about opening my own pizzeria!

Or, 2. I can see the end.

I can actually see it. So now I’m going to teleport there. My characters are tired of character-ing. They’re ready to get to the big finish. So... Deus Ex Machina!

In case you don’t know, Deus Ex Machina means, “Nobody speaks Latin.” I’m (kinda) kidding. It means, “God from the machine.” And when it comes to your novel, the machine is the computer and you are God, or maybe you are the machine, and the computer is... hmm. Anyway, the point is you are ready and willing to cram the next five chapters into the next five sentences.

Don't do either of these.

Instead, do what I do. Cry and eat french fries. After that, get your head back in the game.

Think of this as the third lap in an eight-minute mile (which would suck after all those french fries.) Your muscles and joints are aching. Your lungs are burning. And the discomfort of being out of breath is overwhelming you. But you only have one lap to go and quitting would make the last three laps pointless.

If you can push past this moment and round the bend, your lungs will adjust and expand for you to take in more air. Your muscles will recalibrate to the weariness. And you’ll find your stride stronger than ever as you cross the finish line, where someone will be waiting to give you a cheesy medal. And, that person is... you. You will give yourself a cheesy medal (in the form of french fries) for finishing one of the hardest things a person could ever do — run an eight minute mile, also known as writing a novel in a month.

Yes, you’ll be terribly out of breath (and words and ideas and energy and sanity) but at least you’ll know you have muscles you never knew were there, that can help you do things you never knew you could do.

Like write a friggin’ novel.

On the sideline with a foam finger,


Jason Reynolds is the author of novels including When I Was the Greatest and The Boy In the Black Suit. His book, All American Boys, written with Brendan Kiely is forthcoming.

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