Photo of an American Writers Museum pen, American Writers Museum notebook, writer postcard and literary-themed magnet

Inspiration for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, stay motivated!

If you are undertaking the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, we salute you. We’re also here to help. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite quotes about writing and writing tips from our past programs and podcasts to inspire your writing and keep you motivated. As you know, writing isn’t easy, but just remember to keep on pushing through! You can find the quotes below, as well as links to watch the programs in full on our YouTube channel, or listen to condensed versions of them as podcasts.

We also highly recommend you check out our new Inspiration Packets available in our gift shop. Complete with an exclusive AWM pen, one-of-a-kind AWM notebook, and a surprise postcard and surprise magnet, this packet is sure to get your creative juices flowing and jumpstart your novel-writing!

Photo of Gary Paulsen

Start small.

Gary Paulsen, Gone to the Woods

“The story is sacrosanct. Now, whatever you need to tell that story, the way it can be told best, is fair… You can write about a single thing and do a whole book. So when you start these stories, it might be about one little thing. One sentence that a person says or an action they do or a belief.”


Photo of Aarti Shahani

Don’t be afraid to shine.

Aarti Shahani, Here We Are

“We all have inside of us, something that glows. And sometimes you pay attention to it and you lift it up and you shine it and you cultivate it and you find out what to do with it. And sometimes you ignore it because often it’s out of fear.”


Photo of Keah Brown

Have a specific audience in mind.

Keah Brown, The Pretty One

“In writing [The Pretty One], I tricked myself into thinking that only my five friends from college and my mom and sister were going to read it, so I was as honest as possible.”


Photo of Tayari Jones

It’s okay if you don’t know the ending.

Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

“When I write novels I don’t know what’s going to happen. I like to feel breathless and stressed when I write. The same way you read. Like, if I were to figure it out early, just like if someone spoils it you don’t want to keep reading, if I spoiled it for myself I wouldn’t want to keep writing it.”


J. Michael Straczynski presents his new memoir Becoming Superman at the American Writers Museum in Chicago on August 1

Your story has value.

J. Michael Straczynski, Becoming Superman

“Every person in this room, everything you’ve gone through and experienced has created a lens in the middle of your forehead that nobody else has. No one else has that point of view. Which is why those of you who are aspiring writers must must understand that if diamonds have value because they are rare, how much more rare is a point of view?”


Make your characters multidimensional.

Adrianna Cuevas, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

“As an author you want to write characters that you feel you can make real by making them fully-formed, so you want to make them multidimensional…I think it’s really important as a writer that you try to create a whole character and not let one identity just be the one that drives them.”


John Scalzi

Sometimes just thinking is writing.

John Scalzi, The Consuming Fire

“One of the things they like to tell you about writers is that when a writer is looking out a window, they are writing. It’s not always true, sometimes we’re just looking at a squirrel… Yet so much of what is writing is sitting there, just thinking about things.”


Juan Felipe Herrera

Keep going.

Juan Felipe Herrera, Every Day We Get More Illegal

“If you don’t see a stop sign, don’t create one for yourself. Explore. That’s what we are as writers, we’re explorers.”


Photo of Glory Edim

Be open to edits.

Glory Edim, Well-Read Black Girl

“Through the process of editing [Well-Read Black Girl] and watching the people I consider masters do their work, what I’ve learned is no one is above edits. It’s less about the quality of the writing, but just how intensely you are open to critique and changing and being able to develop your voice.”


Uri Shulevitz

Figure out what you want to say first.

Uri Shulevitz, Chance: Escape from the Holocaust

“As I kept on writing I realized that the ‘what’ came before the ‘how’…what I had to say was the most important thing and how to say it was of secondary importance.”


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