AMBER LOVE 08-DEC-2014 This episode and the next one feature my guest JOSH NEFF, a librarian from Kansas City. Both of us participated in NaNoWriMo. Josh has done it before and it was my first time. He’s what’s called a “pantser” – no outlining/planning, writing by flying by the seat of your pants; I’m a plotter – need outlines and to know where the end is. My previous recording was only me solo talking about NaNoWriMo so some of that is repeated; but having Josh engaging in conversation about writing made for a fantastic dialog about how different our processes are. Part Two is where we talked about civil rights, feminism, and activism.

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“I just expected to fail. And that’s part of why it was not stressful for me was that I had no expectations.” Amber

The only time Josh met his NaNoWriMo goal (50,000 words within a month) was while he was bogged down with grad school. Other attempts he stopped from lack of interest in his story or life events that took a toll.


Are you the type that can write every day? Not all professional writers have that routine. The only wrong way to write is to not start or not finish.

Things both of us did: Write the dialog of the characters to move through the paces. You can go back and fill in the details of the setting.

Josh prefers to take a laptop to a coffee shop which also serves as a way to avoid his cat jumping on the keyboard.

Accept that rough drafts are supposed to suck. Whether it takes you four weeks or four years, your first run through of a story is not polished.


What gets you motivated? Netflix marathons, playing video games, reading quotes from other writers or other motivational quotes, following Twitter hashtags for writing. I also spend time on Pinterest looking up things that are soothing: libraries (#shelfporn), writing rooms, cottages, hobbit houses. Weird, perhaps, but charming things have a way of helping my heart rate calm down.

Work towards a reward. I made a silly list of things that could be prizes for hitting milestones, daily word targets, final targets, etc.

Take a look at the visual progress:

  • If you’re using Scrivener – you can see the progress bars for the session and for the whole project.
  • Export to a PDF and see how far your page count has gotten (if you’re in Word, that’s not going to help but in Scrivener you don’t know your page count).
  • Put happy stickers on a calendar for when you’ve had your best writing days. Maybe there’s a pattern you can see.
  • Share your word count/progress with someone. If it’s during NaNoWriMo, that’s easy because there’s a user dashboard where you enter your count daily. Otherwise, see if there’s a friend that will help cheer you on – it doesn’t have to be another writer but be each other’s cheerleaders. If you feel like a burden (which you probably are not and only feel that way inside), post your word counts to Twitter or network of choice. Millions of people post their fitness stats. This is your literary fitness. Be proud if you got 500 words down in a day. If you did 50 seconds of holding plank pose, that’s better than 0 seconds, right?

READ! Most writers will tell you that the way to be motivated to produce good writing is to read good writing. Heck – read bad writing and get excited to make something so much better! Josh shared his list of current reading recommendations:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Hang Wire by Adam Christopher
  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone, Storm and Seige, Ruin and Rising)
  • Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
  • Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray
  • The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black


NaNoWriMo Diary
Writing Milestones & Rewards
Interview with Chuck Wendig
Interview with Duane Swierczynski about Philly Noir
Mystery Writers of America Workshop
Amber’s nonfiction ebook about internet etiquette lessons learned from the porn industry

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