Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conquering the Blank Page

Today is the day! Thousands of Wrimos all over the world are happily typing away as you read this, creating their brand new novel. If you’ve browsed the forums at all, you might be intimidated by the impressive word counts some have already achieved for the day. We will come back to those word counts in a moment. First, let’s focus on you.

Hopefully by now, you have some sort of idea of where your story starts. But as you stare at the blank page that comprises the file that will be your NaNo project, fear hits you. I can’t do this! I can’t write a book! I don’t know what happens after chapter three! 50,000 words?

Take a Deep Breath

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

Your goal is not to finish today. If you don’t know the ending or even the subject of your next chapter, do not panic. Cross those bridges later. If you have a story idea, you must start writing. Remember the elephant analogy? Don’t focus on the big picture. Your goal today is not to worry about how to keep going or how to manage your in-laws’ interest in a burnt turkey while furiously writing out the climax of your story. Today, your goal is to take one bite.

I’m Already Behind!

If sheer number of people who’ve already surpassed their daily quota (or this week’s) is bothering you, step away from the forums. Turn on music (if that helps you concentrate), open your document, and start writing. When you are finished for the day, go back to the forums.

It is not important if you start NaNo at the stroke of midnight on November 1 or not. You may be starting after a long day at work, after cooking supper and cleaning up the kids’ mess, and after putting your three munchkins down for the night. Some people have already turned in by the time you start. That is okay.


What you need to remember today is that you just need to start. If you have to stop before you reach your quota, that is fine. Get something on the page. You have 29 days to catch up. Don’t worry about the big picture. Don’t worry about your word count. Worry about filling that blank page with as much as you can before you have to step away.

Is that blank page mocking you right now? Conquer it by putting something on the page. It could be the title of your story. It could be Chapter 1 or your personal NaNo slogan. It does not matter what you put. Just pen one coherent thought or phrase.

Now that you’ve written something, chances are something else will follow. For me, it’s easy to keep writing once I’ve written at least a sentence or two. The rest of what I need to say will come. All I have to do is conquer the blank page. And when the next page arrives, even if I don’t know the ending, I at least have an idea of what I’ll be covering in that page. The rest of my questions will be answered as I follow one character at a time.

Have Fun!

You will be aggravated, exasperated, and frightened over the turn of events in your story soon enough. Right now, you are starting your journey. It is going to be a very long, crazy month. Please remember why you’re doing this. Yes, you probably want to grow as a writer or try something new. But don’t forget that this is supposed to be fun! Regardless of where you end up in your story by the end of the month, starting a new story is usually a lot of fun.

Go, meet your new characters. You have one month to finish their story. They’re going to take you for a wild ride. It’s going to be scary at some points. But it will also be a lot of fun.

And if you like what you see here, be sure tell your friends!

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