It's time to write the damn book

Writing is an endurance sport. Humans have evolved to hate and fear uncertainty, and yet that's exactly what we face each day in the blank page.  

Listen: You already know how to do this.

Your bones know how to write. Your heart knows how to write. You are a treasure trove of the greatest riches. 

All you need is a plan for facing the uncertainty, a way to sit with the discomfort of the unknown, and a friendly guide. That would be me!


Writing the first draft of a novel is hard. I should know, because even after getting two (! lol I’m a maniac) writing MFAs, I still had a hard time sitting down and getting the words on the page. I understood rationally that the only way to it was through it, but self-criticism and perfectionism managed to throw me off every time. The only way I could stay the course was by breaking it down into a simple daily goal: 1,000 words a day, every day, no sick days or exceptions, for 90 days. Even so, it was a real leap of faith to stay with it, because a lot of those words were sheer garbaggio. (Trust me.) I had to learn and employ all kinds of tricks to calm my howling anxiety, and I discovered many subtle ways to adjust my perspective so I could keep going. 

A beautiful side effect of this process, and one I could have never anticipated, is that by surrendering to uncertainty in this way, I discovered a story that was so much richer, stranger, and more satisfying than I could have ever planned. My fiction before was kind of head-centric: brainy, ironic, funny, but hard to connect with. I wanted to write something that could reach another person’s feelings. My first draft was messy, bad, boring, overwritten, trite, and cloying … but, right there in the middle were 30 pages of pure gold. Characters who I loved and worried for, a weird and glimmering world, and a story I couldn’t wait to dive into telling. Here’s the wildest thing: I didn’t even remember writing it. I ended up throwing out most of that draft, but it was worth it, because I found the hidden thing that I really needed to write about. It just happened that I had to sort of trick myself to get there.

HERE BE MONSTERS is a collection of those tricks and perspective adjustments, along with pep talks, mini craft lectures, and other tools to help you write the first draft of a novel, distributed in a series of 90 emails, one per day. It’s not a conventional online writing workshop or video-lecture course, because I want you to actually do it every day

Every week, I also host office hours for HBM writers (through a 2-hour Zoom call). You can sign up in advance for one-on-one writing coaching or just drop in to listen in on others' sessions or chat with the other participants.

At the end of the 90-day course, I’ll send you an ebook compilation of every single email, so you’ll have them for convenient future reference. But first, we’ll do it together, day by day by day.

Here Be Monsters: 90 days to write the draft and meet your wild dark

10 Never-Fail Ways to Break a Writing Block



  • If you’ve always wanted to be a writer but you haven’t studied it in school, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you just graduated from a writing program but struggle to keep going without the structure of workshops, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you’ve started and abandoned NaNoWriMo (I don’t know her, hair flip), HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you suspect that there’s a deeper, richer vein of material that you haven’t yet discovered in your work and you are ready to find it, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you want to explore the ways that writing can be a spiritual practice, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you want to write mystery, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, multi-generational family saga, sad girl, Scandi bleakness, I Love Dick-esque mindfuq, literary opulence with absolutely no paragraph breaks and a monograph on mourning doves, a blazing page-turner, a meditation on snow through the eyes of a one-road town in the Urals, autofiction which deliciously subtweets your Instagram-famous ex, the story of how you survived in a world that wanted to keep you quiet and afraid, a heartwarming story where people learn to live with each others’ beautiful strangeness: YES. Yes, yes, yes, yes across the board. HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you want to write a story that surprises you and unfolds in ways you could have never imagined, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
  • If you want to see for yourself how surrendering to the unknown opens up a realm of strange beauty in your writing, or in your world, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.

So HERE BE MONSTERS is for everybody?

Essentially, yes.

Well, one caveat: This process, though tested many times by yours truly, is for writing novels. I haven't yet used it to write anything else. I suspect it would work really well for writing a memoir or book-length collection of narrative prose, but I don't know that for sure.

If you want to write a book of poems, or a screenplay, this method may not deliver you. You will meet your wild dark, however, and that will be of some service to you in practically any creative project. But it's hard to say exactly how that will be so. So please keep that in mind if you're considering this journey!

How are your courses different from other online writing options?

My classes are not workshops, nor are they craft-centered. Both of those needs are extensively addressed in lots of other places. 

My methods are simple and straightforward (basically, writing a daily word count and committing to the practice), but it's harder to execute than it may appear at first. That's because all kinds of resistance and trickery pop up when we go poking around in the murky, uncertain parts of our stories.

My courses dwell somewhere between pep talks, metaphysical chats, and mini essays on the nature of creative practice. 

Also, I swear quite a bit.

Is there any kind of discount for this early launch?

I'm in the process of developing more content for this course, including group Q&A videos! Once that content is added, the course cost will go up a bit to reflect the added value of that extra content.

So for now, this is an introductory price, to show my gratitude for your enthusiasm and patience while I iron out any bugs that may arise. Thanks so much for sharing my excitement!
Sarah Elaine Smith is the author of the novel Marilou Is Everywhere (Riverhead Books 2019) and a collection of poetry, I Live in a Hut (CSU Press, 2012). She has MFAs from the Michener Center for Writers and the Iowa Writers' workshop. She has also taught novel writing at the Interlochen Academy summer institute programs. She spends a lot of thinking about creativity, neuroplasticity, and why it's so hard to create things, even when that's what you love to do.