By Writing Excuses | November 16, 2011 - 5:32 pm - Posted in Uncategorized

Mary Robinette Kowal finished her first published novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, as a NaNoWriMo project, and she’s here to offer some words of encouragement to those of you currently participating in November’s most authorial of pursuits.

You have her permission to write badly. Yes you do.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 at 5:32 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. November 16, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    I should have said that I think of ridiculous quantities of description as doodling for writers. At a certain point, your brain says, “Really? We’re going to describe each petal on that daffodil individually? But there’s PLOT over here.” And you get past the fatigue.

    Even if that doesn’t happen? Totally have permission to write badly when you are drafting.

  2. November 16, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    Thanks! I really appreciate all the advice you guys give, but this one really hit home. Blessings!

    Posted by Raven Marlow
  3. November 16, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    This was really helpful. Thanks!

    Posted by Dan Wyman
  4. November 16, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

    I really appreciate these mini pep-talks. Y’all should head on over to the Office of Letters and Light to let them know you are doing them so they can give you some free publicity.

    Posted by K. Solomon
  5. November 16, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Thank you Mary. I needed this advice TODAY.

    Posted by Tyler Mills
  6. November 16, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

    This is totally what I did last year and it worked like a charm. I got really good at describing the insides of buildings, let me tell you.^o~

    Posted by Brooke
  7. November 17, 2011 @ 1:51 am

    And another ornament for your desk! Print it out right here! Transcript, hot off the bits?

    Posted by Mike Barker
  8. November 17, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    Thank you Mary… thank you thank you thank you (there, six extra words…) I’m so tired and am now finding it difficult to keep it moving. You have saved me. (I’m at 29,200 words as of now)

    Posted by K. V. Hardy
  9. November 17, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

    Great advice, Mary! I actually, really, definitely, desperately, needed to hear this. I’m right at that point in my nano novel right now, and for two days I’ve been gridlocked. But I aim to get back to it, this moment, and start upping my wordcount again. Thanks!

    Posted by Taylee
  10. November 18, 2011 @ 11:00 am

    Good advice. I needed it. The problem with my novel is I didn’t plan anything and now it’s just a sequence of events without any real cohesiveness or structure. The day Nanowrimo started, I remembered that I wanted to do it and I just sat at the keyboard and started writing the first thing that came to me. I wouldn’t recommend that, but, truth be told, I’m learning a ton about writing just be doing it. I’ve never made it to 27,000 words, which is where I’m at now, so it’s been a good experience even though this novel will never be read by anyone but me.

    Posted by Cookie
  11. November 18, 2011 @ 11:03 am

    We did a ‘cast on “trunk novels” a while back. Maybe this novel won’t get read, but it’s possible the best pieces of it will show up in something wonderful you create later — something you couldn’t have created without first writing this.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  12. November 18, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    I absolutely hit the point of fatigue earlier this week. Dialogue, my weakness, refused to flow. I couldn’t make a short conversation to save my life. I absolutely hate “bad” writing when I fall into purple prose mode because it comes so easily and turns pacing into a slog.

    But, the funny thing is, when YOU gave me permission to write like garbage, somehow that made it a bit better. I gave myself a paragraph on a dark tunnel under Edinburgh, of all things, a place littered by dust and forgotten printing machines and crates. In short, it probably reads like a D&D or Oblivion/Skyrim basement.

    Once you get past that point, it’s so much easier to pick up or run away as fast as you can from the tedium into something, into ANYTHING.

    Posted by Amaranth
  13. November 18, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    Hurrah! I’m so glad that helped.

    I actually had to incorporate that today myself and spent a paragraph describing an ice sculpture. I feel better now.

  14. November 30, 2011 @ 7:56 am

    I found this to be really helpful, because it affirmed something that I do — and in a way, gave me permission to do it. For me, excessive, copious amounts of description is like slamming the brakes on, a way for me to avoid having to think about any real big decision on what comes next. It’s a great way to get to 50,000 words, but not actually finish your *story.* :-)

    But you did BOTH for “Shades of Milk and Honey” during Nanowrimo, Mary?

    Posted by Joe Kawano
  15. November 30, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    […] a short, sweet NaNo pep talk from Hugo Award winning Mary Robinette Kowal. Take heart, WriMos. Mary is slaving through NaNo with […]