Story Core

Today’s classic was originally posted on November 17, 2011. 

A few days ago, I came across some advice that has transformed the way I’m thinking about my current WIP. I found an interview with Robert McKee (who’s famous for his book, webseminars, etc. on screenwriting) where he says this:

Story begins when an event, either by human decision or accident in the universe, radically upsets the balance of forces in the protagonist’s life, arousing in that character the need to restore the balance of life. To do so, that character will conceive of what is known as an “Object of Desire,” that which they feel they need to put life back into balance. They will then go off into their world, into themselves, in the various dimensions of their existence, seeking that Object of Desire, trying to restore the balance of life, and they will struggle against forces of antagonism that will come from their own inner natures as human beings, their relationships with other human beings, their personal and/or social life, and the physical environment itself.

I knew, of course, about the concept of an “inciting incident”–that thing that happens that starts the hero or heroine on their journey, the thing that sets this particular day off from all other days. However, I’d been thinking of it more in terms of the “call to action” that takes place in the classic hero’s quest.  And I knew that my character had to want something–and that there had to be something that prevented her from achieving what she wanted.

What is THE COREof your story_.png

But I find that this idea of balance clarifies my thinking about the core of the story itself: why is the MC’s life out of balance? What triggered this imbalance? (Was it a slow evolution or something that happened suddenly, catastrophically). In short, it’s not enough for the character to want something–she has to want something because it will restore something to her life that she feels that it lacks.

For example, in the lovely children’s book The Higher Power of Lucky, Lucky is continually searching for the “higher power” that she hears people talking about in the various twelve-step recovery programs that she eavesdrops on. Her search is intensified when she begins to fear that her guardian, Brigitte, is going to leave her and go back to France. Once this fear develops, she searches for a way to keep Brigitte in Hard Pan (pop. 43).

Sometimes this imbalance is dramatic: the death of someone in the MC’s life, a divorce, a break-up. Sometimes, though, it can be as simple (and complicated!) as falling in love, realizing something unwanted about yourself, or feeling like an outsider.

So now I’m back to another revision–but one I feel hopeful about, because I feel like I’m finally peeling away some of the issues that are holding the story back. I know what needs to happen (if not how it happens). (Also, McKee reminds me that 90% of what we write is crap–and that’s why we revise.)

What about you? What tricks have you discovered for unearthing the core of your story? And what sustains you as you revise?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available. The sequel, LOST CROW CONSPIRACY, comes out March 27.

Creating Delicious Stories

My husband and I are big fans of The Great British Baking Show—one of the biggest payoffs is seeing the expressions of bliss on the judges’ faces when a baker nails a particularly difficult bake (as Mary Berry might say, the bake was “scrummy”). As writers, we’re looking for this same reaction in readers—we want our stories to be delicious.

There are lots of different elements that go into this, of course, but as I’m knee-deep in revisions at the moment, I’ve been thinking about how this magic happens in revision. Some of it, of course, is making sure that each scene serves the overall purpose of the story (characterization, plot, setting, etc.). But a serviceable cake is just that—serviceable. It’s not necessarily delicious.

I think one key to a delicious book is building in what Susan Dennard calls “cookies”: “those sparks in a story that makes you WANT to write. It’s the romantic tension you love and just can’t wait to reach. It’s the high-action fight you’re itching to write or the awesome sneakiness of your villain. It is basically the reason you wanted to write THIS book at THIS moment.” For Dennard, these are moments that you plan in as you’re plotting your story, as a motivation to keep writing and as a guide to awesome stories. Dennard argues that every scene needs to be a cookie scene, and I think she’s right.

Crafting Delicious Stories.png

But the idea of cookies—something delightful in each scene—isn’t just helpful as you’re drafting, but as you revise. There’s a story that P.G. Wodehouse, comic writer extraordinaire, used to post pages of his novel around the room as he revised, and then he’d mark up each page to make sure that each page had something funny. And while not all of us are comic writers, I think we can all borrow something from this idea.

We need to find the thing that makes our stories delicious to our readers (often it’s the same thing that makes the story sparkle for us)—and then make sure each scene (better yet, each page) has something rewarding for readers. Maybe it’s a particularly sharp bit of dialogue. Maybe it’s a romantic moment, or a humorous one. Maybe it’s a setting that inspires wonder.

Not all of these moments have to be huge ones—not every scene can be that intense, almost-kiss that leaves readers swooning (not unless you want to gradually rob that scene of its impact)—but they do have to be there. Scenes that bore you as a writer are generally scenes that are going to bore your reader.

As I’m revising, I find that this focus—looking for the bits I find delightful and pruning the rest—is helping me to see more clearly which scenes are critical to the story, and which are just structure, a method to get from point A to point B.

Here’s hoping that the final “bake” is as delicious as I envision!

What are some of your favorite revision tricks?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available.

Planning a Book Launch Party

As some of you may know, my first book released last week. As a result, much of my life has centered around that release, including planning and executing two separate launch parties for the book. I’m no expert, but I wanted to share a few things I learned about planning a book launch.

A launch can be a wonderful way to celebrate a huge milestone–you released a book into the world! But planning a launch efficiently can help minimize stress on a doubtlessly busy week. (It’s unlikely that your publisher will plan the launch for you–outside of a few massively anticipated books, most authors, even many lead titles, plan their own).

Choose a Venue

There’s no set expectation on where to hold a launch party–after all, this is a party to celebrate you and your book baby and you can set it up wherever makes you happiest. However, there are a few common kinds of locations. I’ve seen friends have a home reception for their book, inviting friends and family to join them at their house or a friend’s house. More commonly, book launches are held at bookstores or libraries.

Whatever venue you pick, you’ll want to set it up several months in advance, as many locations plan their schedule months in advance. A few things to keep in mind: if you hold a launch at a library, you’ll have to make arrangements for an outside seller to be present to sell your books (or sell your own) and not all libraries can/will accommodate this.

Choose a Date

Some people choose to have their launch the day the book releases. My local bookstore suggested waiting a day, to make sure that the books arrived on time, and I’m glad that I did–launch day was exciting and busy enough (I spent lots of time on social media responding to all the congratulations) and adding another thing–wonderful as it would have been–might have been too much stress.

Other people choose to have their events on a weekend when more friends and family are available. Whatever date you choose, you may want to consult with your venue: one of my launches was at a library that is also in high demand for wedding receptions in the spring and summer, making a weeknight date preferable to a weekend. The library also explained that they have higher attendance at book events during the week.

Choose a format

Just as there’s no set expectation on venue, the format really is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. Some writers choose to do a short presentation on their journey to publication and their inspiration for the story. Some choose to do a reading. Some choose to do an interview-style presentation, where a friend asks them informal questions. (I did something similar at a book signing that first week, and it was so much fun. The book bloggers who hosted the event even posted a recap with video.) If public speaking isn’t your thing, consider having an open house, where people can come during a given time frame to see you and get their book signed. I ended up doing both an open house (first event, bookstore) and a presentation/reading (second event, library).

If you hold your event at a bookstore, make sure to find out their expectations/capacity for your planned launch. My first launch was at a smaller independent bookstore, making an open house format ideal; the space was too small for the typical presentation/reading that many authors do. Also be aware that Barnes & Noble stores, while generally happy to host authors, usually cannot facilitate a reading or presentation because of corporate policies.

My mom made me an 1850s style Victorian gown to wear to my launch. I don’t usually dress like this.

Consider refreshments

Again, refreshments aren’t required, but lots of authors choose to celebrate their book birthday with cake or other treats (liquid or otherwise). The refreshments might follow a book theme or they might simply be something that you like. It’s your party!

However, do talk to your venue beforehand. Many places require that if you serve refreshments, they come from a source with a food handler’s permit. I’d considered bringing refreshments to a signing as well, but the bookstore told me they preferred not to have food in the store.

Consider other activities

Really, the only expectation for a launch is for you to be present and to sign books. Anything outside of that is bonus. In my case, because my first launch was an open house, I wanted visitors to have something to do other than stand in line, so after talking with the bookstore owner, we arranged for a couple of activities: two related to the book (a quiz about magical orders and some temporary tattoos) and one was a photo booth with period props just for fun.

Consider raffle prizes

When I started attending book launches a couple years ago, I started noticing a trend: many authors offered raffle prizes at their launch. I thought it was a lot of fun–I love winning things, even if it almost never happens. There’s a wide variety of what you can give away–books from authors you love, jewelry, items featured in the novel, etc. I gave away a Funko doll, books, jewelry related to the book, and a set of the calligraphy pens I used at the signing.

Write a press release

When you have the major details of your launch ironed out, consider sending a press release to your local papers, your alma mater, local arts councils, and other news outlets. This doesn’t have to be long–in my case, it was a brief explanation of the event (when, where, what would be happening) and then a description of me and my book. Some news outlets just picked up the event details, some never responded, but at least one printed the press release in full.

Take care of yourself

One thing I’ve been slow to learn is that our bodies often find it hard to distinguish between good stress and bad stress. Having a book to launch is a wonderful thing, but it can be stressful. I found that making lists and planning as much as I could in advance helped with the launch week stress, but it still takes a toll. Plan downtime if you can.

If you’re an introvert, like me, keep in mind that even though seeing so many friends, family, and readers can be amazing, it’s still a lot of time to spend extroverting and being the center of attention. It may take you a few days to recover. (Or, in my case, your body might respond by getting physically sick).

Mostly, be gentle with yourself. It’s your party–do as much or as little as you want. And don’t forget to ask for help! Neither of my launches could have happened without friends who helped with set-up and various activities.

What questions do you have about book launch parties? What’s been your favorite element of the launch parties you’ve attended?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available.

Overcoming Shame as a Writer

“We can’t let ourselves be seen if we’re terrified by what people might think. Often ‘not being good at vulnerability’ means that we’re damn good at shame”–Brene Brown

Several months ago, a friend gave me a copy of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I started it, loved it, and then got distracted. Only recently did I pick it up again–and was struck by an epiphany:

Much of my struggles with writing stem from an unacknowledged sense of shame.

I posted a few months ago about anxiety,  and the more I read Brown’s work, the more I think that some of this anxiety is also rooted in shame.

According to Brown, shame is rooted in our sense of worthiness. Essentially, shame says, “I messed this up, therefore, I’m a bad person.” Guilt, on the other hand, says, “I messed up, I feel bad about that, but I’m going to do better next time.”

The problem isn’t feeling guilty about some aspect of our writing–we all mess up, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that, apologizing (if necessary) and working hard to do better. The problem, for me and for (I suspect) many other writers, is that we get stuck in the shame spiral. It’s hard to feel inspired to write when not only do we feel like a bad writer, but a bad person as well. Shame happens when “you’ve knowingly or unknowingly attached your self-worth to how your product or art is received. In simple terms, if they love it, you’re worthy; if they don’t, you’re worthless” (Brown).

I raised this idea in a private writing group I’m part of and was both heartened and dismayed by how widespread writing shame can be.


Photo by Anthony Easton, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Here are some of the ways shame affects us as writers:

*Shame makes us reluctant to put ourselves and our words out there–particularly for aspiring writers, who are still in the trenches and learning their craft, shame can say, “who are you to take time and energy away from more deserving writers? Why should your voice matter? Why should anyone waste their time on you?”

*Shame can make it hard for us to own our work. Especially for many women writers I know who struggle to balance families, writing, and outside careers, our sense of unworthiness (as a writer, as a mother, as a worker) can make it hard to carve out time to write because we let ourselves believe we don’t deserve this time, particularly if it “takes away” from other important things in our lives. Or if we fail to write every day, we might also believe we’re somehow not real writers.

*We practice foreboding joy (Brown’s term) through pre-emptive disappointment. When something good happens, we brace for the worst possible outcome so we won’t be disappointed or hurt later.

*We strive for perfectionism, believing that if we can somehow be perfect, we can avoid pain, shame, blame, etc. (but since perfectionism is rooted in how others perceive us, we have no control over that outcome and it doesn’t do anything but make us feel ashamed for failing). As a new writer, I struggle particularly with reviews. It’s hard to separate my product from myself–on good days, bad reviews motivate me to work harder on the next book. But on other days, those  reviews wake the gremlin in my head that says, “you’re a bad writer, a bad person, and you probably shouldn’t even try.”

*Shame tries to convince us we don’t deserve good things. My publisher has done some amazing things to promote my book, and I struggle to feel like I deserve them. I’ve read other books coming out that are just as good–if not better than mine–so how have I earned this? (The truth is, I haven’t, but since it’s not something in my control, it’s also not something I should feel ashamed of.)

*Shame asks us to fear success. Because nothing we write will ever be perfect (see perfectionism, above), shame can make us feel like we do not deserve success, which in turn can make us feel like frauds when our books do see success, however modest, and make it hard to reach for further success.

*Jealousy is also a manifestation of shame, I think. Jealousy looks at all the things happening to other writers (paid travel, book trailers, movie rights sold) and whispers, what’s wrong with you and your book that you don’t have these things? When the truth is, a lot of what happens with a particular book is a combination of luck, timing, and the current market. It has nothing to do with the worthiness of your story–or of you.


Goya sketch, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


What can we do about shame?

1.Name it.

One of the most important things we can do to overcome shame is to identify what we’re feeling. Brown says: “If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve essentially cut it off at the knees.” If you’re struggling to write because you’re feeling shame (rather than a more productive guilt)–or even anxiety, jealousy, perfectionism–name it. Putting a name on something helps put yourself outside of the feeling (at least a little) and gives you permission to feel what you’re feeling, and then move on. (Oh, and maybe pick up a copy of Daring Greatly. Brown has some wonderful things to say about developing shame resilience).

For me, recognizing that I was feeling shame has helped me start identifying ways to overcome it.

2. Separate the book from the story

A smart friend of mine pointed out that we have very little control over our books (if an agent picks it up, if a publisher buys it, how the publisher decides to market it, etc.), but we do control the story. For her–and for me–it’s helpful to separate the two and focus on the part you can control. Your worthiness does not hinge on what happens to your book.

3. Turn to your tribe/share your story

Brown argues that shame is a social concept–it’s driven partly by how we think others perceive us–and it needs the empathy of others to heal. I think this also goes back to naming the feeling, but sharing how you are feeling with someone you trust can also help you process what you are feeling. When I shared my own struggles with shame in that private writing group and others opened up with their struggles, I was amazed at how empowering it was to know that I was not alone, and what I thought was my own private (shameful) struggle was actually pretty universal.

I don’t think these strategies are fool-proof–shame is pretty ingrained in our culture. But I think they’re an important start to owning our work and not letting our worth be defined by our art or its reception.

What about you? Do you struggle with shame in writing (only share if you’re comfortable doing so!)? What methods have you found to help you productively overcome feelings of shame?

Tips for Revising with an Edit Letter

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I received the first (of likely many) edit letters for book two in my upcoming trilogy. I responded just as I had with the previous edit letters–by promptly closing down my email browser and not opening the attachment for several days. Something about several pages of densely written text brings out my inner coward.


A few days later, I finally gathered up the courage to read the actual letter. It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared (my fellow debut authors have been sharing horror stories of friends who have had to completely rewrite book two, as has happened to at least one of our contributors). Still, eight pages of single-spaced text, all but one of them detailing what needed to be improved in the story, can be daunting.


My actual edit letter, plus notes

I can’t claim to be an expert in edit letters, but after receiving approximately half a dozen, here are a few things I’ve learned.

1.  Remember that your editor wants you to succeed

Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to agrees that the first response to an edit letter is, “why would you buy my book if so much was wrong with it?” But the truth is, if the editor bought your book, it’s because they saw something they loved so much that they fought for your story. They want the book to be just as successful as you do. (If you’re working with an editor you hired, the same is also true–they want the book to be better!)

2. After you read the edit letter, put it away

No matter how terrified you are of that letter, at some point you have to actually read it. But once you’ve read it, put it aside. Don’t do anything with it for a few days. Really.

Most writers need time for their brain to absorb the criticism and suggestions. If you dive in too quickly, you risk feeling overwhelmed or writing while you’re still defensive. I find that if sit with an idea for a few days, I realize that, as usual, my editor was a genius and this will make the book much better.

3. Reread the manuscript

This might seem to be a no-brainer, but sometimes my tendency is to jump right into revisions without rereading first, and I find this only makes my task more difficult as it’s harder to hold the whole story in my head. But when I reread, I only read. I might make comments or notes on places that need to be fixed, but I resist the urge to revise as I go. I’m looking for a sense of the story as a whole, and I try to approach it with a reader’s eyes.

4. Make a plan

Once I’ve got a sense of the story, I make a plan for the revisions. This plan may differ from writer to writer, but I find it much easier to deal with the overwhelming feeling of the edits if I know how I’m going to tackle my revisions.

Some writers like to start with the easy fixes–like, a character’s name changing half-way through the draft. This can be a nice way to ease into revisions, since it gives you a feeling of accomplishment.  Here’s how I tackle revisions:

4a. Break up revisions into categories

If the draft was particularly rough or the revisions particularly long, I might need to make more than one revision pass. I find it helpful to divide the revision suggestions into categories: plot, character, setting, etc. and do one pass for each. (More on that here ).

4b. Use a scene-by-scene revision grid

I find it really helpful to map my story out when I revise. For each scene, I include the basics of what’s happening, whose point of view we get (if there’s more than one), what the character’s goal is, the central conflict, the purpose of the scene, and ideas for revision.



This lets me identify which chapters might be lacking in terms of conflict or narrative function. It also helps me see where I can address each of my editor’s comments before I actually tackle the writing. In the margins, I make notes about the changes I need to make in each chapter, and use the notes as I revise.

Yes, it’s a time-consuming process. But figuring out the changes I want to make before I start helps streamline the revision. It also, in cases where I don’t yet know how to fix a problem, gives my subconscious mind something to mull over as I work.

If you’re interested in trying this kind of revision, here’s a copy of the word table: revision-form.

What tricks have you found that help you tackle major revisions?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is coming March 2017 from Knopf/Random House. She’s represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.


Writing Conference Proposals

I spent the weekend just before Thanksgiving in Atlanta, hanging out with a bunch of writers and educators at NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English). I had a wonderful time meeting new and old friends, talking books and writing–and barely managed to cram all my new book acquisitions into my suitcase.

As I talked with other writers there, a common theme started to emerge. A few of the writers were lucky enough to have been sent there by their publisher purely to promote their books. But far more often, those of us who were there because we first pitched a proposal for a class or a panel, and only after the proposal was accepted were the publishers willing to help the authors get to the conference. In other words, if you’re an author who’s interested in teaching at conferences, sometimes you have to put yourself out there first. (NB: This is not a guarantee that the publisher will then help you get to the conference–it’s important to submit knowing that you might be responsible for getting yourself there. Publishing budgets differ, and what one publisher does for one author won’t determine what another publisher–or even the same publisher–will do).

That said, here are a few tips I’ve learned for writing successful proposals. Earlier this year, Melanie Jacobson offered some great tips from the perspective of the committee choosing pitches, with some great examples. What I’m offering here focuses more on the genre of a proposal (something that, not incidentally, I’m currently teaching to freshmen students in a “Writing in the Sciences” course).

Proposals–whether conference pitches, book proposals, or grant proposals–tend to share a couple common rhetorical moves across fields.


1. Establish a need.

Most conferences receive more proposals than they can reasonably accommodate (for example, NCTE accepts about 30% of applications). This means that the first thing you have to do in your proposal or pitch is convince the committee that your topic is timely and necessary. You may have the most insightful presentation in the world on how to describe the underwater movements of ctenophores, but unless you can convince the committee that this is something that would benefit your attendees, you’re going to be out of luck.

Do some research on the conference–does it have a theme? How does your proposed topic relate to the theme? Is there a common problem faced by writers that your pitch addresses?

For instance, the theme for NCTE was “Faces of advocacy.” As my friends and I discussed the kinds of panels we wanted to propose, we tried to consider problems that related to advocacy in writing, particularly young adult fiction, which is what we write. Since many of the conference attendees are teachers, we tried to consider problems facing teachers as well.

Here’s what we came up with:

A growing interest in advocacy work on behalf of minority voices has spurred teachers to ask how they can better craft inclusive environments for their adolescent students. One method for encouraging advocacy and inclusivity is introducing texts that model diverse voices and perspectives. For instance, in “Inclusive Classrooms for LGBTQ students,” Autumn Dodge and Paul Crutcher argue that one of the best ways to create inclusive classrooms is to incorporate LGBTQ texts into the classroom (Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 59.1, Jul. 2015).

There’s a long history of advocacy in fiction: from nineteenth-century writers like George Elliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, to twenty-first century novelists like Ta-Nehisi Coates. But for adolescent readers, one of the most accessible forms of advocacy may be in young adult novels. As Clare Bradford et. al argue, “adolescent fiction is pivotally preoccupied with the formation of subjectivity—that is, the development of notions of selfhood” (Bradford, Clare, Kerry Mallan, John Stephens, and Robyn McCallum. New World Orders in Contemporary Children’s Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.) These notions of selfhood are particularly critical for under-represented characters, whose subjectivity is often shaped in restrictive and harmful ways by dominant ideologies around them.

Teachers looking for novels initiate discussions of advocacy often turn to contemporary fiction, which is more “realistic” and often issues-driven. But some students are resistant to this kind of direct approach, suspecting it to be agenda-driven.

Notice a clear problem: teachers want to advocate for minority voices in their classroom by reading those texts, but some students might resist stories that they feel are agenda-driven.

2. Fill that Need

Once you’ve explained why the need exists for your topic, you have to make it clear how your proposal answers that need.

For instance, in the NCTE proposal, we went on to say that YA genre fiction (particularly speculative fiction, like sci-fi and fantasy) provides a useful alternative, often presenting compelling depictions of minority voices, but at a distance in time or space that allows students a “safe space” to explore advocacy issues without feeling singled out. Then we explained how our panel would illustrate the benefits of using genre fiction in the classroom.

This second part of the proposal needs to be specific–the conference committee needs to know that you’ve got a clear plan for addressing the problem or question you identify.

For example, here’s another proposal that was recently accepted for the LDStorymakers conference in the spring:

Editors and agents often report that, even above a killer concept, style and voice are what really capture their attention. But style and voice can be such nebulous concepts—how can you deepen a writing style when you’re not really sure what yours is? In this class, I argue that one way to increase style (and voice) in a manuscript is to pay more attention to classical rhetorical devices. I will introduce writers to 15-20 common rhetorical figures and, using literary and rhetorical examples, illustrate how the figure can be used to highlight emotional moments in the story. For instance, a common way to build to an emotional punchline is to use a mix of parallelism, tricolon, and climax, where three parallel sentences (or phrases) build to an increasingly emotional finish. Following the introduction to the devices, we will practice incorporating these devices in our own writing.

Notice that in addition to establishing a problem, the proposal offers a clear plan to address the problem (using rhetorical devices as a way to add style).

I can’t say that these two moves are fool-proof–I’ve certainly had my share of rejections using them. But I find that the odds of getting a proposal accepted go up considerably if I make sure it’s clear why the topic is necessary or useful, and how I plan to address the problem I raise.

What tips have you found useful in crafting conference proposals?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is forthcoming March 2017 from Knopf/Random House. She’s represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

On failing NaNoWriMo (or a different kind of pep talk)

It’s early days yet in November, and my social media feeds are peppered with enthusiastic updates of word counts and NaNoWriMo goals.

As a writer who is motivated by a little healthy competition and deadlines, I love NaNoWriMo–it’s exhilarating to watch your word count climb each day, eventually meeting (possibly outpacing) the charted graph on the official NaNoWriMo website.

But this year I haven’t said much about NaNoWriMo or my particular goals. That’s because this year, on day three of NaNo, I have a whopping 350 words.

There’s still a small part of me that holds out the (probably naive) hope that I’ll eventually catch up to my hoped-for word count. More realistically, though, I’ll spend the month chasing and not quite catching those 50k words.

But I’m not discouraged about this–and if you’re watching other people’s word counts climb while yours stay static, or don’t climb as high as you’d like, you shouldn’t be either.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve struggled to find any time to write. Those 350 words felt like a small miracle for me–and even if I end the month logging only a few thousand words, that’s more words than I’ve managed in October.


I’m not, by any means, encouraging you to give up already. Far from it. The month is early still and there’s lots of time to cross that NaNo finish line triumphant.

But writing is hard on good days. Harder still if we constantly compare our own style and pace to other writers. If we do NaNo, it should be for the fun of it–for connecting with other writers, for writing more than we would have without it. We don’t need one more thing to flagellate ourselves with or make ourselves feel bad about our writing.

So whether you write 50 words or 50k, push yourself to write a little more than you might have otherwise, and let yourself enjoy the process.

What do you hope to achieve from NaNoWriMo?



Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is forthcoming March 2017 from Knopf/Random House. She’s represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.