Pep Talk from Christopher Paolini

photo of Christopher Paolini

Dear NaNoWriMo Participants,

No doubt you are currently hard at work on your novel for this year's contest. As someone who once wrote 200,000 words in three and a half months, I know exactly what you're going through.

So. Here's my advice based on over 10 years of working to deadlines.

First, writing your book is going to be difficult. Know this. Accept this. Embrace this. It may be fun as well, but make no mistake, what you're attempting is a major undertaking.

Second, pace yourself. Because it's going to be difficult, you don't want to burn out. Save the late nights and early mornings for the last week, week-and-a-half of your effort. You may be writing at a quick jog, but don't break out into an all-out, fear-driven, there's-a-bear-behind-me pace until it's absolutely necessary. Conserve your creative strength. You're going to need it. (On a related note: avoid making big decisions not related to your writing. A person can only make so many good decisions over the course of the day, and you want them to go into your novel.)

Third, if you haven't already, think about where your story is going next. If you're going to be flying headlong through the pages, it's good to have a road map. That said, don't be afraid to deviate from your plan if a good idea strikes you during the process.

Fourth, if you're stuck, go for a 15-minute walk. If you don't feel like going, that means you've been sitting at the computer/typewriter/paper for too long. Get up and get the blood flowing. It'll make all the difference.

Fifth, don't worry about punctuation, spelling, or formatting. Those are easy to fix. Instead, worry about pacing, characters, and setting. Get those right, and no one will care that you put a comma in the wrong place.

Sixth, a casual tone (like this letter) is quicker and easier than formal. Nevertheless, use whatever voice best suits your story.

Seventh, tea is a big help. Black or green tea in the morning—Lapsang Souchong is a favorite of mine—cinnamon in the afternoon. Why cinnamon? For some reason, it helps keep my mind sharp. Don't have black or green tea later in the day unless you're in your last big push, then you can have a second in the afternoon, when you start to flag.

Eighth, try to relax when you can. Watch a movie, have dinner with your family, blow up enemies on an Xbox 360 or PS3. Just don't think about the book.

Ninth, choose the number of words you want to write every day, then try to reach that goal. Be determined! But don't get discouraged if you get less on a certain day. You will get less on some days. However, you'll also get far more on other days.

And tenth… don't give up! You can do this! It may not seem like it day to day, but as long as you keep putting words on the page, you will get to the end of this. And who knows? People may actually like what you've written. And that's the best reward of all.

Fellow authors, I salute you. Luck in battle.

– Christopher Paolini

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Christopher Paolini is the author of Eragon and its three sequels. He wrote the first draft of Eragon when he was 15, and self-published its first edition. Books in the series have now sold over 25 million copies worldwide.