Pep Talk from Jim Butcher

Beware, sweet, innocent, aspiring writer. People aren’t telling you this, and they should be. NaNoWriMo participants are being deceived into thinking that being an author is a good thing. But you don’t know. You don’t know the horrors you might face as a professional, published, full-time author.

I could tell you. I could go on for hours about all the things that threaten my peace of mind. I could for you a tale unfold that would harrow up your carpal tunnels and chill the very marrow of your finger bones: tales of the constant questions, the unending deadlines, the mind-bending task of deciding each and every day which hours you will spend writing.

But never mind all of that. Best not to dwell on the worst. Instead, let us concentrate on what you must do to avoid this horrible fate, and save yourself agonies untold.

First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough: do not sit down at the keyboard and write on a regular basis. This is a trap. You can tell yourself that you’re only doing it to scratch an itch, that you only need to get a few hundred words written and then you can set it aside—but the siren clickclickabulation of the dancing keys will do more than merely produce words on a page. It will condition you to want, nay, to need to do it each and every day.

And if that happens, there is simply no way, in the long run, to avoid the most lamentable and horrible fate of finishing a novel.

Whatever you do, do not seek feedback from readers and other writers. Bad enough that you work in a vacuum, allowing the authoric energies to work their demonic way on your thoughts—if you add to that the feedback of the work’s intended audience, you will only establish the primary mechanism of making your writing more effective for those for whom it is meant.

This is a doubly pernicious practice! Not only does it seduce you to create more material for your audience, but it creates more audience for your material in an infernal feedback loop. I cannot stress to you enough how much you need to avoid this part of the process! Save yourself!

A further horrible mistake I can recognize only in retrospect: do not inform yourself about the publishing industry and the demons who labor therein. Oh, certainly, those people, those editors, may seem to be witty and charming and friendly at writing conventions and on workshop panels, but make no mistake. Their only purpose in life is to draw you into their evil plans, and force you to labor for them while they help you hone your writing craft.

Many aspiring writers are intimidated by editors, and I cannot help but emphasize how much credit you should give to these instincts, placed there for the protection of your sanity and whole mind. If you allow yourself to overcome this natural inclination, it may be too late for you to escape your fate.

Finally, I can only encourage each and every aspiring author out there to quit writing at the first opportunity and never look back. This seemingly harmless activity is anything but, and if you cannot break its hold on you, if you continue to make up one excuse after another to keep typing, if you find yourself promising yourself “just one more novel” and never draw away from it, you will inevitably be drawn into published perdition.

All you need do is quit! Just say no! And you will be saved! But if you continue, and continue, and continue despite all the sane voices trying to sway you, you will be drawn into the maelstrom of madness that is the life of a professional writer.

Dear NaNoWriMo participant, I beg of you, listen to me! You cannot know the horrors you will face! Run! Flee! Turn aside from this dark road!

For if you do not, I fear that one day, you will find yourself writing with other damned souls like me.

Read more author pep talks.