SCBWI Canada East Blog

November 12, 2018

10:25 AM 2
A guest post
By Sarah Sambles

These words, pasted on the yoga room door, inspired me:

"Success is not final, 
failure is not fatal: 
it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill

This comment sums up my approach to NaNoWriMo this year. 

Truthfully, I've only ever participated in NaNoWriMo once before. That month, two years ago, I didn't finish a novel and I certainly didn't write 50,000 words! However, I did get thousands of words scribbled in a journal that hadn't been there before (and now a ms exists that didn't before!). 

This year, I'm not in a place to write thousands of words a day. I'm editing my current ms - it's my nth attempt this year - and I've been struggling with self-doubt. So, I decided to set myself the lofty challenge of spending a minimum of 15 minutes on my ms every day. 

Yup, you read that right: 15 minutes! Doesn't sound very impressive, I know, but I needed something manageable to get me over this roadblock of foundering confidence. My goal isn't to meet a word count, but to foster creativity and connection with my characters. 

I know I can force myself to spend 15 minutes on my ms, even on a tired or busy day. So, whether my schedule permits it at 9 am or not until 11 pm, I'm going to set a timer for 15 minutes and scrawl ideas, thoughts, dialogue - anything - until that timer pings. No stopping, no checking Twitter, no judging. 

The writing doesn't have to be any good. It's just about getting back into the story. I can do that for 15 minutes, even if I'm uninspired. And I know that, just like going to the gym or putting on my running shoes, once I start I'll probably want to hit reset on the timer when it pings and do another 15 minutes. At least, that's what I'm hoping! 

So, if you're like me and the thought of writing 1,666 words a day is daunting, try the timer and see what happens. I'm going to find the courage to continue.

- Sarah Sambles
SCBWI Canada East

Sarah Sambles is a writer of middle-grade fiction, a blogger, and a communications coach who escapes to a yoga class when writer self-doubt creeps in. Say hi and share with her your strategies against self-doubt at, Twitter: @Sarah Sambles, or her Facebook page:


  1. Great advice to keep your writing practice going and get things done one small step at a time. It's remarkable what you can do in 15 minutes (especially when it stretches to 30...45...60...). :-)

  2. Great advice! Self-doubt can be crippling if you let it.