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Friday, November 8, 2013

Author Guest Post: Laura Bickle 'The Month of Writing Dangerously'

The Month of Writing Dangerously
By: Laura Bickle

The blank page is the most intimidating force in the universe to me.

It says nothing, and it's likely to say nothing. I fight against all that white space, trying to fill it, wondering how a ream of blank paper becomes a book. I used to take years to finish a book. I'd pick it up, put it down. I'd ignore it for weeks or months. I'd lose my place, go back, get sucked into editing. I'd wander into internet research, never to return. I had no deadline, nothing external to make me finish.

A friend in my writer's group mentioned National Novel Writing Month. I wrinkled my forehead and asked her: "What's that?"

"It's an online challenge to write fifty thousand words in a month."

"No kidding?" That sounded like a complete impossibility. After all, it took me YEARS to finish a book. How could anyone possibly do fifty thousand words in A MONTH? In a month, with a full-time job and other commitments?

"Sure. You should try it."

"Um. Okay."

I was doubtful. Really skeptical. But I gave it a shot. And I learned more in that crazy month than I did in years of plinking around with the same book.

In the meantime, my real life slipped a bit. Okay, it slipped a lot. My laundry pile got so huge that it devoured one of my cats. Don’t worry – he’s fine. But he made sure to express his displeasure by barfing on my side of the bed. I saw the local pizza delivery guy more than I saw my mother. I lived in pajamas, forgot to get my hair cut, and generally resembled a crazed Wookie. There were civilizations borne of fuzzy green stuff in my refrigerator that came of age, warred with the contents of the produce drawer, developed their own Renaissance periods, and died during the process. I begged off of Thanksgiving that year. My husband retreated to his Man Cave to play video games and let me pace the floors and mumble at the computer by myself. I don’t blame him.

But I learned the most important secrets to writing a novel that contributed to me becoming a published writer:

  • Integrating writing into my daily life. NaNoWriMo requires that one keep a pace of around 1600 words a day. It became easier and easier for me to fold that into my life, to keep the momentum going.
  • Suspending the dreaded inner editor. My inner editor can become quite vicious. NaNoWriMo allows me to hold her at bay for weeks, allowing me to get the skeleton of a story down on the page. 
  • NaNo taught me to finish. Completing a manuscript is the most important thing that a writer can do to further her career. And doing it again. And again.

My 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, DARK ORACLE (under my Alayna Williams pseudonym), was published in June 2010 by Pocket Books. My 2009 NaNoWriMo book, ROGUE ORACLE, was published in March 2011. 

I use the skills I learned in NaNoWriMo in all the novels I write. I've learned to write quickly, to write daily, and to complete a story over and over. At the end of NaNoWriMo, I certainly don't have a complete eighty thousand word manuscript. But I have the skeleton of a book, something that I can build upon. 

And I'm no longer facing the terror of the blank page. I know that it won't be blank for long. Within a few weeks, I'll be on my way to something wonderful. 

This time, though, I’ll clean out the fridge before I start. I swear.
Laura Bickle has worked in criminal justice and library science. When she's not patrolling the stacks, she's dreaming up stories about monsters under the stairs. She’s authored four fantasy novels for adults and two YA novels. Visit her website at She’s also on Facebook and Twitter, usually exclaiming over cute cat pictures.


  1. Fun post Laura, thank you! And yes, clean the fridge ;)

    1. Hee, thanks, Aurian! I will TRY top keep it clean this month - no guarantees. ;-)

  2. Many thanks to the Sheep for hosting me today! :-D

  3. Great post! Love the civilization in the fridge part.... scared to look in mine now in case a parallel history is unfolding. Nanowrimo is a real learning experience. It's not usual for me to produce so many words in a day, yet it keeps showing me that it's possible if I just push myself more (and put a sock in the mouth of my inner editor). My biggest hope is not only to finish Nano this year, but maintain the momentum. PS - thanks for being my buddy this year!

    1. *Hugs*, Dani! I hope that we both finish and maintain the momentum! :-D