NaNoWriMo – Pep Talks

NaNoWriMo Logo

(Note: This is the fourth of a five-part series about NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program.  Click the following links to read Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5 of the series.)

This week several of our NaNoWriMo authors’ stories continued to flow along easily, word after word. The students are writing as though they are excited to see what is going to happen next. But there were several kids who were a little slumped over in their chairs. Fingers were perched on the keys of their AlphaSmarts, but they weren’t moving. Pencils were tapped and chewed on, but they weren’t being used for writing. And it makes perfect sense that right here, in the middle of it all, most writers, even bestsellers, hit a wall.

I asked several of the older kids what they were feeling. Many admitted they were worried they wouldn’t finish. Finding time to write is really hard, they said. They weren’t sure they liked their stories anymore or they were stuck because they’d hit a boring spot in their story.

As for word count and “finishing,” WigMo and I have made it clear to our students that there is absolutely no shame in not meeting the word count goal the students set at the beginning of the month. NaNoWriMo is all about writing a fast draft, a method that works for many writers. But it isn’t the only way to write a book. Writing slowly and editing as you go is another great method. What’s most important is that our writers continue to work on their novels even after the so-called deadline at the end of November. I was happy to hear that all of our students said they plan to keep writing.

But to get them through the next weeks, they need some big encouragement. The NaNoWriMo website has pep talks for writers and these encouraging words from your favorite authors can be accessed year round. While I was stuck in a writing rut this summer, I went to the NaNo site for help. I found a great pep talk by Neil Gaiman, an award winning author and two of his middle-grade novels include The Graveyard Book and Coraline. A paragraph from his pep talk that I posted on my wall in big letters says:

“You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”  (You can find the entire pep talk here:

After sharing Neal Gaiman’s words of wisdom, I asked the students to take five minutes to write a short pep talk to themselves. With their permission, here are some of the pep talks they wrote:

“A good story needs commitment. You can’t write a big story just because you want to. You need to actually work on it. And I believe that if you are committed to writing, you will succeed in writing.” Sunny, Grade 5

“For me, it really helps to read. I get great ideas. I write and write and write then, if I get stuck, I read. When I get another idea I write it down. That gives me another idea, which leads to another idea. I start to write, then I can’t stop! Later, if I get stuck, I read, I get an idea and so on.” Cassidy, Grade 5

“Write whatever you want. Don’t give up until you get to the finish line. Writing is like a reward, not a punishment. Once you get done with a book, you’ll feel fantastic. It feels fantastic even writing it.”  Aislinn, Grade 5

“Just keep writing. Never give up. Don’t say to yourself, ‘My story isn’t good enough. I give up.’ Your story is always good, whatever you think. When you write you say to yourself, ‘Nearly there, nearly done.’ When you are done you will think, ‘I didn’t give up. I never stopped writing, and I completed my goal. Now I feel much better.'”  Jenna, Grade 5

“I get support from my family. My babysitter read what I have so far of my story aloud to my younger brother and he really liked it.”Isha, Grade 5

So, to all the writers out there, you are not alone. Writing a book is a tough job but you are doing it! I hope other writers will find inspiration in these words of wisdom. We would love to hear your strategy for keeping the words in motion.

Jennifer Duddy Gill
  1. Here’s one more pep talk from a fifth grader who wishes to be known only as Jello —

    Writing is just like drawing, but there are limits. I doesn’t matter how much you write, but if you write a longer story, it can become a book. A short story can still be famous, too.
    Writing a famous story/book can be a real honor because many people will read it. But even if it doesn’t make it to the wall of fame or something, you will still be proud of yourself. Writing can bring you to new places. Writing can express your feelings, and it’s a ticket to the unreal world in your mind.

  2. I agree with all of you – the children are wise and an inner child with all that wisdom is exactly what I need too!

    Rebecca, I’m so glad you’re enjoying your retirement. I can see why you’re having so much fun since you’re spending time writing for kids.

  3. Teaching writing was the best part of my 14 years in the MG classroom. I miss that so much. I don’t miss all of the other stuff, though. I’m enjoying my retirement and writing MG and YA books for those kidlets to read.

  4. Maybe instead of an inner editor I need an inner child! Great pep talks.

  5. What wise young writers out there!

  6. They’re such wise children! Thanks for sharing!