Pep Talk - 2007 - Week 2

So earlier in the week I was frantically looking for the wordcount program I use for JanNo, which wasn't where I had expected it to be (it was in my sheet music folder, of all things!) While in the process of searching, I came across a file labeled "phpbb_db_backup.sql". Not entirely sure what I had backed up, I opened it up to take a look. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find what I'm pretty sure is a backup of last year's JanNo forums. After a bit of searching, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that we had 103 signed up on the boards last year, and 16 50k winners. Now with 350 signed up, with a little luck, inspiration, and self-discipline, we could easily break 50 winners. And that gets me very excited at the thought, even as my mailbox and verifier scream "OH MUSES, WHY DO YOU TORTURE US WITH SO MANY."

And of course, some of you have already gotten off to a stellar start. (In particular there's a 20k thread in Better Than I Expected which fills me with envy and loathing.) People are making their goals, warring and challenging, and it's making me panic just a little because I haven't finished the certs yet.

And then there's the rest of us. That's who this pep talk is for, really: all the people who are behind on their goals (like me) who think they suck (like me) and think they're crazy for even trying this (like that guy in the corner with a pencil up his nose.) In going through the whole suck cycle, I've come up with some ideas to hopefully help get me back on track again....

First off, get all the "I suck"s out of the way. You're thinking them, so go ahead and find someplace to scream them out and get them out of your system. We're working on a deadline here, and there's no time to waste on stuff like that. Yes, your story sucks. Even the parts you like now will probably end up getting hated sooner or later when you go to edit. Write it anyway. Seriously, write it. Those parts you hate now...well, you'll probably still hate them later, but that doesn't mean that they won't be fine with a little spit and polish. Most likely, you will end up both loving and hating most every part of your story. They're like that.

Second, know that you're not alone. Lagging behind does not make you a horrible, horrible JanNo heretic who has to be burned at the book-shaped literary stake (I can't believe I just wrote that. Book-shaped stake, wtf.), nor does realizing that you need to adjust a goal downward. I myself recently had to adjust my daily goal downward, I was lagging so far behind. I hated doing it at first, but once I realized that huge behind burden had been whittled down to a much smaller amount, it made it so much easier. And I guarantee you I'm not going to be the only one lurking about IHMAWTD. Writing's kind of like sadomasochism without the whips and handcuffs; it hurts, but oh it hurts so good.

Third, I mentioned in week 1 that dividing those goals into smaller, bite-sized pieces is a good way to get over that gigantic word goal hurdle (and I've been seeing a few posts in Better Than I Expected to the same effect.) Small rewards for small goals are good, but assuming self-bribery works for you, you should also bribe yourself with larger rewards at landmark levels. A piece of chocolate every 200 words, watching half an hour of the 6 hours of TV shows you tape every week at 1000, a nice meal out at 10k and a shiny new car iPod when you cross the finish line. Mmm, chocolate. (My particular bribe tonight is a set of new books I bought, which I can't read til I finish my daily goal. And my game which has been so utterly distracting is going to be SHELVED until I'm caught up again. Carrots and sticks, man.)

One of the methods I've seen for overcoming that dreaded writer's block monster (which is, indeed, large and cube-shaped) is to skip past the current scene and go to a scene you're looking forward to write. Which is a good idea, but if you're like me, you just can't write out of order. So here's a little strategy I just employed last night: narrative tangents. Send the narration into a random topic and wax poetic on it for a couple of hundred of words to get you going again. (If you're having trouble thinking of a topic, go to Wikipedia, my favorite place, and click the Random Topic link. Voila, randomness in action, AND they provide you with research!)

Yes, you are allowed to do this even if you fully intend on cutting the scene later (I'm still on the fence about mine; the narrator is a little personal and listening to him extolling the virtues of slugs was momentarily amusing.) Okay, so sometimes you'll hit that perfect story where every scene is properly flowing and adds to the plot, but if you're like the rest of us, there are some things that are going to be cut regardless. In our marathon, it's perfectly allowable to hitch a ride on some random train of thought for a few miles. :D

Finally, I'm going to jump back on the topic of my painful, painful decision to tone my daily goal down in just a second. So we've gone through week one, which I see primarily as an exploration period. We learn about the characters, where the plot's going, and so on, but more importantly, we learn about what pace we can reasonably keep up and how well writing can be balanced with real-life committments. If you honestly can't hold yourself to that original goal, then it's okay to tone it down. As one of my friends was pointing out to me when I fretted about my deficit, it wasn't making things any easier with that lurking over my head. It's better to complete a less ambitious goal than to give up (actually, even failing at whatever kind of goal is better than giving up! I want everyone to keep writing til the end of the month, even if the goal ends up being improbable.)

On the other hand, if you find yourself at a comfortable pace, try pushing that limit a bit higher. If the first week has told you that you can easily write that goal you have and finish early, up your goal. Push yourself! Because when you hit that goal above and beyond your initial expectations, it is going to feel so awesome. Trust me on this one. ;)

(As a final final note, if you do want to adjust your official goals for the purposes of validation, yes you can still do it. But I need to know NOW, like within the next 24 hours max. Keep plugging away, everyone!)