Pep Talk from Hilari Bell

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Hi Writers!

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who divide the world into
two kinds of people, and people who ...

Okay, but there is one "division of two" that writers encounter all the time:
people who want to write a novel someday, and people who've actually
written one. (There's also a third category of people who don't want to write
a novel, but since I'm one of those divide-into-two types, I'm ignoring them
for now.)

It sometimes seems to me that everyone, and his brother, and his dog, has an
idea for a novel. (And most of them would be happy to tell me about it, if I'd
agree to write the story and then split the profit with them.) And maybe
even worse are the people who don't have an idea for a novel, they just think
they might like to write one someday.

If you've joined NaNoWriMo you've already taken the first step toward
moving yourself from category A: wannabe, to category B: real writer. But
to move yourself into that very small group of people who've written a
novel, you have to finish the thing.

And no, writing part of a novel doesn't count. How lame is it to say, "I
started to write a novel once, but I never finished it."

Finishing your novel is tough. (Which is why category 2 is so much smaller
than category 1.) When you're enmeshed in the middle, and you think about
all the pages and scenes you have to spin out to reach the end, it seems to
stretch out forever. Which leads to my best tip for reaching the end of the

Don't look ahead!

Even having published twelve novels, and written a lot more, I still have to
take that first draft one day at a time. I tell myself I'll accomplish today's
writing goal today, and I try not to even think about tomorrow's goal until
tomorrow---much less the next week's!

(The group of people who've actually written a novel in one month is really

I'd also like to add (and I'm not sure the NaNoWriMo people will approve of
this) that it's OK if you don't finish on the dot of November 30th. Even if
you run a week or two--or a month or two--over the end of November, as
long as you get the novel finished you still get to place yourself in category
2. "Why yes, I wrote a novel last fall. It was a lot of work, but..."

But if you keep working on it, sooner or later you will finish. If you keep
your butt glued in that chair, if you just keep cranking out your personal goal
every day, then one day you'll look up and the climax of your novel will be
just a few scenes away. Then you'll be writing the climax. (Which feels a
lot better, because now the end is in sight.) And then you'll find yourself
typing "The End" at the bottom of the last page. You'll feel exhausted, and
thrilled, and delighted that it's over---but kind of lost too. Writing this novel
has become so much a part of you that, even though it will be nice to get
your life back, you're going to miss it.

And whether you go on to write another novel or not, whether you never
write anything besides blogs and email for the rest of your life, you will have
become part of group two: the people who have actually written a novel.


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Hilari Bell is a librarian in Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her family. Her favorite books are fantasy, science fiction, and mystery -- all the ingredients for a great novel! Hilari is also the author of the Farsala Trilogy -- Fall of a Kingdom, Rise of a Hero, and Forging the Sword -- as well as Songs of Power, A Matter of Profit, and The Goblin Wood.