Guest post: Denise Jaden

I’ve invited the warm and lovely Denise Jaden to drop by and SPILL HER SECRETS! This woman is a novel-writing phenom. She churns out more words in a week than I do in a month, and she’s especially on fire this month, as part of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. So, get ready to soak in some great fast fiction advice…

How to Stay Motivated Through a Fast Draft
by Denise Jaden

It’s National Novel-Writing Month (, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world are right now attempting to write the first draft of a 50-thousand-word novel in a month. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. But that doesn’t seem to stop me from doing it year after year.

Even though I generally thrive off of lofty goals, that doesn’t mean there aren’t roadblocks along the way, and it seems like each year there are new ones. Staying motivated to write large chunks of words for thirty days in a row, even when you don’t feel any unction of creativity, is not for the feint of heart.

Here are a few things that help me stay motivated, whenever I fast draft, whether during National Novel-Writing Month or at other times of the year:

1. Go in with lots of ideas. Don’t feel like you have to make a formal outline, if that’s not your style, but make sure to do plenty of brainstorming ahead of time about your characters, possible motivations for them, possible obstacles to those motivations, and ideas of settings you might like to bring your characters to. Keep these ideas all in one place, so they’re easy to come back to when you get stuck or are feeling sluggish on a particularly difficult day of writing.

2. Create some visual and audio cues to your ideas. Before or during drafting, spend a half an hour browsing through Google Images, looking for people who look like how you envision your characters, or snapshots of the settings where your story is taking place. Print these out or use a montage for your computer background. Take a few minutes and make a playlist of any songs that remind you of your characters and your story. If music helps you, play this while you’re writing. If not, listen to this soundtrack in the car or at the gym and let the story ideas brew in your mind so the writing will be easier later.

3. Know what’s zapping your energy. Are too many of life’s tasks keeping you busy? Can you spend a day and make some frozen meals to help you through the month? Can you ask for some short-term help with some of your daily responsibilities? Are you hanging out with naysayers, or generally negative people? It’s only one month, so see if you can temporarily fix or detour your energy-zappers whenever possible.

4. Don’t look back. When we’re fast-drafting, we don’t have clear perspective on our work. Looking back will often create self-doubt, which will hinder our motivation for moving forward. Chances are the fast draft you’re writing is better than you think! I love this quote from New York Times Bestselling Author Rainbow Rowell’s recent NaNoWriMo Pep Talk: “Here’s something that really shocked me during my revisions: I kept almost every word I wrote during NaNoWriMo.” Until you complete your goal and step away, it’s impossible to judge the quality of your fast drafts. Why not trust that they could actually be good?

5. Find some cheerleaders. There are some great people on Twitter and Facebook who keep me accountable and cheer me on when I’m writing a fast draft. Put out a tweet or a status update and see if any of your friends would act as your cheering section, or join NaNoWriMo ( and find accountability there. There may be writers who can write books all on their own, without the help of any friends, but if there are, I don’t know of any. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, I believe it takes a whole network of positive, loving, and creative people to bring good books into the world. Don’t try and do this all alone!

Many of these ideas come from my forthcoming book, Fast Fiction (New World Library, 2014), but for more immediate tips, follow me on my blog, where I’m writing two new features, specifically to help fast drafters: Writing Prompt Wednesdays, and Fast Fiction Fridays.

fast fiction

Thanks to Tanya Lloyd Kyi for having me! She’s also stopped by my blog for her own guest post on the subject of getting going when you’re stuck!

Denise Jaden‘s novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon & Schuster), was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007. Her second novel, Never Enough (Simon & Schuster), was started first but took about eight years longer. Her first non-fiction book for writers, Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction, includes a variety of clear guidance and practical exercises to help writers get to the heart of their stories. Her second non-fiction book, Fast Fiction (New World Library) includes tips on constructing a story plan that works, as well as daily inspiration to keep writers writing, regardless of when the mood strikes.
Denise lives just outside Vancouver, Canada, and spends most of her time homeschooling her young son (who is also a fast-drafter of fiction) and dancing with a professional Polynesian dance troupe.

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