Pep Talk - 2007 - Week 1

So, by my clock, it's currently in the wee hours of New Year's Eve. Those lucky/poor people in Australia and New Zealand (do we have any? Shoutout time!) will be rolling over their clocks in a few hours and putting butt to chair and having to face the dread of that blank screen.

I swear, there is nothing more terrifying when writing than a blank screen (or blank sheet of paper if you're old-school). No matter how many times I do Nano and JanNo and WhateverelseNo, that never goes away. Unless I make myself write a (usually crappy) sentence right off, I end up staring at that blank Notepad screen for like fifteen minutes. So, writing a pep talk post (given that I've been told my inspirational methods utterly suck) plus that blank Notepad screen? Horrible.

But once you've started and there's some text to look at on that screen, it magically becomes easier to organize your thoughts and put fingers to keyboard. I myself am a hugely distractable (ooh shiny!) ADHD flake, so collecting my thoughts enough to type is always difficult, but even I can tell a huge difference between that blank screen I started with and right now.

So here's a few thought from someone pretending she knows what she's talking about to help you get over that blank-screen hump, because just starting is the hardest part. Look at all the people who do Nano and its spinoffs and see how many sign up and never log a single word. Just one word sets you above a good number of people.

So, start with one word. Pick any word. Go to the dictionary and pick out a word you like and then write a few sentences on that word and how it relates (or doesn't) to the story you're going to tell. 90% of the time you're not going to keep that opening line or paragraph anyway, so don't worry about how strong it starts.

(I myself am a fan of starting my various fantasy works with a few paragraphs of prologue and setting info. This is apparently a big no-no in writing, but I find it helps me lay down a few ground rules of the world and a general tone of the story to help organize my thoughts.)

Second thing I'm going to say is, don't stop, especially not on the first day. If you have some writing time between new year parties, then slam down as many words as you can. Hit the day's quota? (1613 words) Go for 2k. Hit that? 2.5k. Get 3.2k? Awesome, now you're covered an extra day's quota if something stupid happens like the power going out in your house or something.

(This randomly happened to me earlier tonight, by the way, and happened to strike just when I was almost done editing a 10k chapter. And of course I hadn't saved. SAVE OFTEN! BACK UP YOUR NOVEL! DON'T BE STUPID LIKE TIA!)

And that's the idea behind the first-day spring, to use all that pent-up December energy and smash a huge chunk out of your goal. It gives you a little leeway as well for those days you just can't make it up to quota, because coming from behind can be a real pain.

On the note of daily goals, I find it immensely helpful to break those down into nice bite-sized chunks. 2k for the day? Break it into two 1k chunks. 1k further becomes 5 200-word bits. 200 words? Even I can pull that down in ten minutes, and that's not so hard to keep doing in 10-minute bursts. (This fine art is also known as the "word war" and can be a great source of kick-in-the-butt inspiration when you're flagging.)

My final note to lay on you before I go back to flipping out about my own novel (and getting Nano edited for Lulu, and working on those winner's certificates I hope you'll all be walking off with--see, you guys have the easy part!) is that 99% of JanNo is about self-discipline. There'll always be other things to take away time (like that dratted "sleeping" thing I keep hearing about) and on the other hand, there's a great amount of people here to support and uplift, but when you get down to it, it has to be *your* butt in the chair, bangin' out words.

You can do it; you can ALL do it. All that stands between you and that winner's page is that nasty little voice in your head making excuses, so tell him to shove off and go play checkers with your inner editor, cause you've got writing to do. :)