Pep Talk from Garth Nix

Hi there, NaNoWriMo writer.

I’m writing this on a Sony notebook perched precariously on my lap, said lap created by me slouching in the red armchair in my living room. Prior to the red armchair slouching I thought about what I was going to write on my walk home from my office (a luxury of my later writing life) and I scribbled down some notes with the first pen that came to hand while I was standing up in the kitchen cooking dinner. Which leads me to my first bit of advice.

1) Don’t get hung up about how, where and with what you write.

Most of my earlier novels I wrote longhand first, only typing up each chapter or sometimes a bunch of chapters when I could get to a computer. Many of my later books I wrote parts of longhand but much more directly on many different computers, in bedrooms and living rooms, park benches, offices, beaches and even on the wall of a crusader castle. The location doesn’t matter, and you don’t need a great computer, or any computer at all, to start with. Many famous novels were written on pieces of paper with pens or even pencils. You can always type it or get it typed later. Don’t let the lack of a computer, or the lack of a desk, or a writing room, or an attic, or a comfortable cafe or time to go somewhere put you off. Writing in bed can be pretty productive, or in the bath (though best to not use a laptop there). Try writing wherever and whenever you can, and see what works.

2) The journey of a book begins with a single chapter.

I never actually sit down in front of a blank screen or a piece of paper and tell myself I have to write a ninety or one hundred thousand word novel. I tell myself I have to write a chapter, which typically will be somewhere between two and five thousand words. That’s a much more achievable task. Then, when I’ve written a chapter, I put it aside for
revision and tell myself I have to write the next one. Eventually, I discover that just by writing a chapter at a time, I’ve written a book.

3) Rereading and revision works best after rest.

I like to let chapters sit for at least a day or two before I go back to re-read and revise them. A little bit of space is helpful in looking at the work with fresh eyes and mind. This can work well for getting a rhythm of writing too, where you spend part of your writing time re-reading and revising a previous chapter and then go on to write new material. The re-reading and revising helps you get back into the ‘world’ of the book and the new writing helps you feel that you’re making forward progress, not just revising the old.

4) Write for the writing, don’t plan on publishing or dwell on success (or the lack of it).

While I think it’s important and useful for writers to learn about publishing and how the book business works, try to forget about all that when you’re actually writing. Worry about agents and publishers and marketing when you actually have a finished novel, if you want to try and get it published. But also remember that being published is not a necessary validation or a path everyone wants to take with their work. Writing—and finishing—a novel is a great thing in itself, whether or not the book is published or becomes widely-read or not.

Finally, I think it’s always best to write the story that is currently strongest inside you, the one that won’t go away, regardless of its genre or marketability. If you are true to your inner vision, believe in the reality of your story and write the book you want, you will bring it to life.

Good luck!

Garth Nix

Read more author pep talks.