Find the focus, energy, and drive

you need to start—and finish—your book
Everyone has dreamed of writing a book, but so many start writing only to stall out due to
writer’s block, mental fatigue, and other challenges. Write-A-Thon helps you overcome those
stumbling blocks and complete your book once and for all. And you don’t have to type away
for years on end. Here’s a plan that’ll help you write your book—in twenty-six days!
Write-A-Thon gives you the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed before,
during, and after your writing race. Solid instruction, positive psychology, and inspiration
from marathon runners will give you the momentum to take each step from here to the
finish line.



Start out well prepared: Learn how to train your attitude, your writing, and your
life—and plan your novel or nonfiction book.
Maintain your pace: Get advice and inspiration to stay motivated and keep writing.
Bask in your accomplishment: Find the best ways to recover and move forward
once the marathon is over and you have a completed manuscript in hand.

Writing a book in twenty-six days may seem impossible—especially if you don’t write full
time—but in Write-A-Thon, Rochelle Melander will teach you the life skills, performance
techniques, and writing tools you need to finish your manuscript in less than a month—
guaranteed!

Get a 26-day countdown poster with energy boosting ideas to fuel your marathon and track
your accomplishments from Day 1 to Day 26 at writersdigest.com/write-a-thon.

US $16.99
W4473

(CAN $22.99)

MELANDER

BONUS ONLINE CONTENT

WRITE-A-THON

WRITING REFERENCE

s
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ROC

ISBN-13: 978-1-59963-391-6
ISBN-10: 1-59963-391-4

35313 65400

W4473cm WriteAThon.indd 1

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MOVE FROM WANNABE
TO WRITER
Training for a marathon is an act of
faith. Actually running the marathon is an
act of courage. With faith and courage, ordinary
humans can accomplish great things!
—Randy Essex

W

hen I was in graduate school, we’d often finish classes with a need to attend
an attitude adjustment hour at the local bar. Consider this section—and
especially this chapter—your attitude adjustment tool.
The biggest difference between the wannabe writer and Molly McAuthor is
attitude. The wannabe writers have a million excuses—“if onlys” and “maybe somedays”—taking up valuable space in their brains. Molly McAuthor has learned to
challenge and overcome her excuses, taking on the attitude that she can and will
write. And she does. Most authors have faced their doubts and excuses and written
anyway. Here’s what they have to say about the most common “if onlys” and “maybe
somedays” uttered by wannabe writers.

INSPIRATION
The wannabe writer says, “If only I was inspired” or “Maybe someday the big idea
will hit me and I will write.” Here’s what Madeleine L’Engle said about waiting
for inspiration: “… lots of people, ages varying from fifteenish to seventyish, talk
to me about the books they could write, if only … The reason they don’t ever get
around to writing the books is usually, in the young, that they have to wait for
inspiration, and you know perfectly well that if an artist of any kind sits around
waiting for inspiration he’ll have a very small body of work. Inspiration usually
comes during work rather than before it.” Jack London said, “You can’t wait for
inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Don’t wait for inspiration. Waiters wait. Writers write.

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PART ONE: TRAINING

TIME
The wannabe writer says, “If only I had more time to write” or “Maybe someday I’ll
retire and have enough time to write my memoir.” We have the time and energy to
do what we choose to do. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Carol Shields wrote her last
novel while sick with stage-four breast cancer. She wrote an hour a day. In fact, when
her children were young, she wrote only two pages a day. She would drop off her five
kids at school, come home and clean up the house, write for the hour before lunch,
and then edit the two pages in the hour before they came home from school or just
before bed. Shields wrote her first novel in longhand while sitting in bed each night.
She’d write two pages fast and then shut off the light. At the end of the year, she had
a novel. Anthony Trollope wrote only three hours a day yet was quite prolific. He
tried to write 250 words every fifteen minutes. He shared his writing life with a job
at the post office. “Too busy” is just another excuse not to write. Procrastinators are
too busy. Writers write.

MATERIALS
The wannabe writer says, “If only I had the right materials” or “Maybe someday, when
I get the ultimate writer’s computer, I’ll get that magnum opus together.” Joanna Trollope has written every one of her novels in pen on a legal pad. Toni Morrison writes
her books in pencil on a legal pad. Gertrude Stein scribbled her poems on odd scraps
of paper. Most of my last book was planned on the back of old envelopes. What more
could you need? If you’re looking for the perfect pen, get a job as a buyer at an office
store. Consumers consume. Writers write—with any little stub of a pencil and scrap
of paper they find!

EDUCATION
Wannabe writers say, “If only I had the right education” or “Maybe someday I’ll know
enough to write this book.” Anne Lamott, a best-selling writer, dropped out of college
to write. J.A. Jance writes every one of her best-selling mystery novels not knowing
what will happen next. She writes to find out the answer! Education and knowledge
help, but you don’t need them, to be successful. Students study. Writers write.

TALENT
The wannabe writer says, “If only I had more talent” or “Maybe someday I’ll have the
confidence to try to write.” Novelist Gail Godwin said, “I work continuously within
the shadow of failure. For every novel that makes it to my publisher’s desk, there are at
least five or six that died on the way.” Erica Jong said it this way: “Everyone has talent.

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What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place it leads.” Don’t worry
about having enough talent. Hard work trumps talent. Always.

AGE
The wannabe writer says, “I used to dream of writing a book, but now I’m too old to do
something like that” or “I’m not old enough to write something worthwhile. I need to
wait until I have more life experience.” Best-selling author Billie Letts published her
first novel at age fifty-six, Where the Heart Is. Novelist Harriet Doerr won the National
Book Award at seventy-three for her novel Stones for Ibarra. On the other end of the
age spectrum, author Christopher Paolini began writing his novel Eragon when he
was fifteen. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am every age I have ever been.” Don’t let
your age (or other people’s negative comments about your age) keep you from writing.
Write anyway.

SPACE
Virginia Woolf believed that every woman needed a room of her own. Many wannabe
writers use this as their excuse for not writing, putting off their work until they have
their own space or the perfect desk. Mystery novelist Sheldon Rusch wrote his first
novel at his local Starbucks. A friend of mine recently claimed a small corner of her
basement—cordoned off by bookshelves—as her studio, requiring that her family use
a password to enter. One of my clients takes regular weekends away to write her books.
All of us crave and need space to write. What separates the wannabe from the writer
is the courage to claim it—no matter what.
We all have our private list of “if onlys” and “maybe somedays.” If only I were healthier,
younger, older, more poetic, smarter, better connected, or ready. In the end, the ability to move from being a wannabe to a writer takes one thing: putting your butt in
the chair and words on the paper no matter what excuse or reason or person tries to
prevent you.
Cynthia Ozick calls writing an act of courage. E.B. White called it an act of faith.
It is both. Stop excusing yourself. Start writing.

In your journal, write your own list of “if onlys” and “maybe somedays” for writing.
List every excuse you have used to avoid writing, no matter how inconsequential or
crazy it may sound (“I can’t write because today I planned to trim my nose hair”). Save
this. You will need it for the next chapter’s exercise.

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PART
TWO
THE WRITE-A-THON
I

’ve been a fan of the TV show The Biggest Loser since the series began. On the
show, two trainers work intensely with their obese clients to support them in creating and maintaining an exercise program that works for them. Throughout the

contestants’ duration on the show, the trainers stick to them like a burr on exercise
fleece. Clearly, the method works. In the same way, I’ve seen my coaching clients
make great strides simply because they finally have a goal, a plan, and an account-

ability partner.
A few years ago, one of my clients had a challenging writing assignment. She
needed to write her research-heavy book in less than three months while coaching and parenting. When she got to the last part of the race, she had to cancel her
clients and hole up in a house at the shore to finish. We spoke every single morning
about what she would do. At the end of the day, she e-mailed me about her progress.
I wish I could talk to each one of you every day of your book-writing marathon, too. I
can’t. But I have a good solution. Just after my last book was published, a coaching
client said, “Reading this was like having you in my back pocket for a few weeks.”
This section is designed to give you the benefit of having a writing coach at
your side during the write-a-thon. These short essays will encourage and sustain
you when you feel like giving in or giving up. You don’t have to read them straight
through. Read what you need when you need it. Or, do what I used to do with the
Bible when I was a superstitious ten-year-old: Close your eyes, flip open the book,
and point to a sentence. That just may be wisdom designed specifically for you at
the moment you need it!

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PUT YOUR BUTT
IN THE CHAIR
One thousand hours of lap time reading before the
age of five helps your child learn to love to read and learn.
(That’s about half an hour a day!)
—New Futures School, Albuquerque, NM

The way you define yourself as a writer is that
you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t
behave that way you would never do anything.
—John Irving

W

ant to run a marathon? You have to train. You need to put in the time running each week to be able to run the race and avoid injury. In order for babies
to learn how to read, they need to put in the lap time—thirty minutes a day
of lap time reading. It’s no different with writing. If you want to finish your book, you
are going to have to put in the time.
But how do you do it? How do you make sure you can stay in your chair and get the
work done? Scientists call this self-regulation—the ability to discipline yourself, to do
what you promised to do. Over the years, writers have had some pretty creative ways of
avoiding distractions and keeping their butts in their chairs. Here are a few of them:

Victor Hugo had his valet keep his clothes until he finished his writing.

Novelist Liam Callanan wrote one of his books in a Panera Bread café.
The fear of someone stealing his laptop kept his butt in the chair.

Novelist Junot Díaz avoids distractions by listening to orchestra music and
writing in his bathroom, sitting on the edge of his tub.

Novelist John Wray wrote Lowboy, which takes place on a New York City
subway, on trains. He rode throughout the city with his headphones on,
typing away at his laptop. His initial reason? Writing on a train cut out
distractions like e-mail and telephone calls.

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PART TWO: THE WRITE-A-THON

Nicholson Baker wrote his first novel on his daily commute. He dictated
chapters of The Mezzanine into a voice recorder.

Keith Donahue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction, wrote
both novels by hand on his subway commute to and from work.

Best-selling novelist Danielle Steel writes until she gets hold of an idea
that works. Once that happens, she says: “I sit at my typewriter and type
until I ache so badly I can’t get up. After twelve or fourteen hours, you
feel as if your whole body is going to break in half.”

The only way to write a book is to write it. Put your butt in the chair, on the edge of the
bathtub, or on a commuter train and scribble or speak or type until it’s is done.

BUSY IS NOT AN EXCUSE
Many NaNoWriMo winners keep chaotic schedules. Winner Elizabeth
McKinney from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, wrote her novel while
also writing professionally for her full-time job. Winner Nicole Gustasa from California said, “Not only did I finish National Novel Writing
Month last year, but I did it while I was moving, finalizing my divorce,
and working a sixty-hour-a-week job!” Never whine about being too
busy to write. If you want to write, you’ll find time to write.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN
According to research by Ryan Howell of San Francisco State University, when we
exert effort and experience some amount of stress in order to learn something or gain
competency, we tend to feel better at the end of the day and throughout our lives. So
fear not, weary writers! If you leave your writing time with an aching butt or a sore
brain, trust that it is good for you. You’ll feel better at the end of the day and much
better by the end of the twenty-six-day writing marathon.

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GET A CHEERING
SECTION
We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit
on the curb and clap as they go by.
—Will Rogers

W

e write more when we connect with others who are writing productively. As
I mentioned in an earlier chapter, a recent study on friendship and obesity
suggested that having just one overweight friend increases our chances of
being overweight. Other recent studies suggest that happiness is also contagious. It
just makes sense that having one friend who writes like mad increases our chances
of doing the same. The success of NaNoWriMo suggests that writers get more done
when they’re connecting with other writers. Other writers offer valuable support. You
are who you connect with.

GET A CHEERING SECTION
If you’ve ever watched a real marathon, you know that cheering crowds buoy the
spirits of marathon runners. Writers also need people who cheer us as we complete
this wild and crazy write-a-thon. Make a list of everyone who has been a cheerleader
for you in the past. If you can, create a visual representation of them to keep near
you during the writing marathon. Also, create a list of current cheerers who can offer encouragement during the writing marathon. Ask these cheerleaders if they’d be
willing to send cards, food, and encouragement during the write-a-thon. Tell these
friends that you are doing a write-a-thon and, while they’d be bored (and distracting) sitting next to you on the sofa and cheering you on as you write, you could use
some virtual cheering during the month. Ask if they would be willing to send you
a card or an encouraging e-mail in the middle of your marathon (or whenever you
think you will most need encouragement). It will help them (and you) if you can be
specific about what kind of cheering you need. If hot food is what you need, friends
are often willing to do a trade—feed them a few times now in exchange for them
delivering meals during the write-a-thon.

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PART TWO: THE WRITE-A-THON

FIND A WRITING BUDDY
Writing buddies hold each other accountable to writing goals. When you meet with
a potential writing buddy, begin by defining and sharing your writing goals. Then
discuss what you need from the writing buddy relationship. Some people want to be
challenged while others need encouragement. Some writers want a friend to look at
their work. Once you decide your purpose, there are multiple ways to stay connected.
Choose the method that works best for your lifestyle. Some writers eschew social
media and want to hear a friendly voice on the phone at the end of the day, while
other writers don’t like to be bothered with the phone but connect with hundreds of
people on social media sites each day. In addition, some tools will be better suited to
your goal. If you want your writing buddy to review your work, e-mail might be better
than a phone call. On the other hand, if you just want to do a quick check-in, sending a text message might be your preferred method of communication. Here are some
suggestions for connecting with a writing buddy:
TEXT MESSAGE. Exchange text messages as a way of staying accountable to your

writing and to report your daily progress.
E-MAIL. Write a brief e-mail at the end of a daily writing session or the end of a writing week to report your progress and state your next goal. You can also use e-mail to
exchange burning questions, paragraphs, or chapters.
SOCIAL MEDIA. Connect on Facebook or Twitter. On Facebook, you can commit to

posting what you achieved each day for the marathon. Or, you can create a private
group for those who are taking part in the write-a-thon. Either way, ask your buddies
to give you a “like” for your progress. On Twitter, you can create a group using an application like TweetWorks. Or, you can set up a Twitter Chat to connect around your
writing project at a specific time each day or each week.
PHONE CALLS. Hold a weekly mastermind phone call to brainstorm suggestions for

overcoming obstacles and moving forward. Better it by using a video conferencing
tool like Skype.
WRITE-IN. Spend a morning at a coffee shop, an afternoon at a local bookstore, or
a weekend at a hotel and write. Sometimes hearing a friend type away can motivate
you to do the same. In addition, writers can take brainstorming breaks to help each
other overcome writer’s block.

I meet regularly with a mastermind partner and with friends who write. At least once
a month I attend an author reading at a local bookstore, hoping some of their wisdom,
discipline, and good luck will rub off on me. When I speak with other writers about
writing, I get more focused. I write more. They write more. Everyone benefits.

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DROP EVERYTHING
I would love for you to learn how to drop everything
and go create. … dropping everything just as you would
drop your parcels if your child got hurt or you would
drop your clothes for spontaneous sex.
—Eric Maisel

N

o matter where you are in the writing marathon, chances are it has become
easier to drop the writing for life tasks than to drop life commitments for
writing.
You know what I mean. You are busy working on the writing and your friend
invites you out for drinks and although you don’t have your daily quota in, you think,
“Well, social connections are important, and I can get back to this tomorrow.” Or, your
kid gets sick, and you feel almost giddy with the relief that you can drop the project
for a day.
But what if it were the other way around, as Maisel suggested? What if you were
to say to yourself, “Oh, the laundry can wait, I need to write”? What if you left your
steaming dinner on the table or the bed half made because you had an idea for your
book and you dropped everything to write it down? What if you ran to your writing
the way you run to meet your lover?
The benefit of a twenty-six-day marathon is this: It gives you permission to try
tools like this one because it is only for twenty-six days. So try it. For the rest of the
marathon, try dropping everything to write. Don’t let your schedule limit your writing.
Give in to writing at any moment that you feel inspired. One writer I know was so
jazzed by National Novel Writing Month that she finished ten days early. She mastered
the technique of dropping everything to write.
And here’s the beauty of this: When you drop everything to write, you have the
focus and passion of a new lover. You don’t worry about word count or time or what you
are missing outside of this one, true passion. Instead, you write with abandon, knowing
that the world will still be there when you are done.

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PART TWO: THE WRITE-A-THON

MAKE MISTAKES
You can’t create without making messes and
generating chaos and blundering down blind alleys
and crawling back up again—you can’t create
without those efforts which end in disaster, because it’s
the disasters which show you how to get things right.
—Susan Howatch

Ever tried? Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
—Samuel Beckett

M

y daughter just started taking skating lessons at the Pettit National Ice Center. Can you guess what the instructors teach first at this Olympic training
center? They teach the students how to get up.
I love this. We all fall. What separates those who succeed from those who don’t?
Getting up. Those who succeed get up over and over again. The rest sit on the ice
and whine:



“It’s too hard.”
“No one supports me.”
“Why do I keep falling?”
“My butt hurts!”

One thing I’ve noticed is this: No matter the medium, creating is hard work. It might
look easy for writers to birth an epic novel in the movies, but in reality, it’s bloody difficult. Like a real birth, the process of birthing a book can be chaotic and unpredictable
business. We get stuck and discouraged. We make mistakes and leave behind messes.
We fear failure. In the face of these experiences, we may be tempted to give up.
In Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk he said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong,
you’ll never come up with anything original.” We need to make mistakes because
the mistakes point us to the better path. Most creative artists know it is the mistakes
that teach us the most. Whether you are creating a book or the perfect room, the

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disasters deliver the greatest lessons and eventually propel you to success. As a professional writer, I’ve never made a mistake that has not produced more fruit than my
successes—in the long run. In a sense, knowing that mistakes happen and have a
purpose can help us jump head first into the creative process without worry. We have
nothing to lose.
Mistakes happen. If you’re lucky, mistakes will also lead you to something better. Sticky notes exist because Spencer Silver created a weak glue for 3M instead of
the supersticky glue he had tried to make. Four years later, another scientist, Arthur
Fry, thought the superweak glue, applied to a small piece of paper, just might work
to help him mark his place in his hymnal. Chocolate chip cookies exist because
Ruth Wakefield ran out of baker’s chocolate. She broke up some sweet chocolate into
small pieces, stirred it into her cookie batter, and hoped the cookies would turn out.
They did. But they weren’t the chocolate cookies she had hoped for. Instead she had
invented chocolate chip cookies. And what about you? What will your mistakes lead
to? It’s time to find out.
When you get to a point in your book where you feel stuck and frustrated, get
connected to your mistakes. Figure out what’s not working and look at those things
thoughtfully. Use your journal to reflect on these prompts:



What does this disaster, mistake, or mess teach me?
If I were to coach a friend about this situation, I would say …
If I could try something wild and off the wall, not caring about the result,
I would ...
If this mistake had a purpose, it would be …
This mistake would work if I …

With any luck, you’ll leave this exercise with more ideas about how to keep writing. If
not, go out and do something else badly: Play a song on the piano, paint a pot, or whip
up a batch of cookies. It doesn’t matter if you succeed. Making a mess of things might
just give you an idea of how to go back and fix the mess in your book! And remember
this: No matter how or how many times you fail, get up and try again. Like the old
proverb says, “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.”

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Find the focus, energy, and drive
you need to start—and finish—your book
Everyone has dreamed of writing a book, but so many start writing only to stall out due to
writer’s block, mental fatigue, and other challenges. Write-A-Thon helps you overcome those
stumbling blocks and complete your book once and for all. And you don’t have to type away
for years on end. Here’s a plan that’ll help you write your book—in twenty-six days!
Write-A-Thon gives you the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed before,
during, and after your writing race. Solid instruction, positive psychology, and inspiration
from marathon runners will give you the momentum to take each step from here to the
finish line.



Start out well prepared: Learn how to train your attitude, your writing, and your
life—and plan your novel or nonfiction book.
Maintain your pace: Get advice and inspiration to stay motivated and keep writing.
Bask in your accomplishment: Find the best ways to recover and move forward
once the marathon is over and you have a completed manuscript in hand.

Writing a book in twenty-six days may seem impossible—especially if you don’t write full
time—but in Write-A-Thon, Rochelle Melander will teach you the life skills, performance
techniques, and writing tools you need to finish your manuscript in less than a month—
guaranteed!

Get a 26-day countdown poster with energy boosting ideas to fuel your marathon and track
your accomplishments from Day 1 to Day 26 at writersdigest.com/write-a-thon.

US $16.99
W4473

(CAN $22.99)

MELANDER

BONUS ONLINE CONTENT

WRITE-A-THON

WRITING REFERENCE

s
y
a
6d

2
n
i
k
)
o
o
b
t it

r
ou
ER
u
b
D
o
a
N
y
l
A
l
L
e
e
E
t
t
EM
L
Wri live to
L
HE
(and

ROC

ISBN-13: 978-1-59963-391-6
ISBN-10: 1-59963-391-4

35313 65400

W4473cm WriteAThon.indd 1

8

9

01
02
03
04
FnL1
JUYrVyBQdWJsaWNhdGlvbnMsIEluYyAo
SW9sYSBkaXZpc2lvbikPR3JlZ29yeSBL
cnVlZ2VyAE3DzaYEMTAuNAI4MAExBkVB
Ti0xMw05NzgxNTk5NjMzOTE2AA==
04 0124

0

01
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04
FnL1
LUEMMDM1MzEzNjU0MDA49A==
SW9sYSBkaXZpc2lvbikPR3JlZ29yeSBL
JUYrVyBQdWJsaWNhdGlvbnMsIEluYyAo
cnVlZ2VyAE3DxRgCMTMDMTAwATEFVVBD
04 0120

UPC

EAN

51699

781599 633916

8/11/11 10:07:10 AM

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