11/7/09 Pep talk from tiakall

Hey guys!  How’s the wordcount going so far?  Oh, me, I’m currently 2k behind my quota and have less than 10k on one of my stories.  From what I hear, Mattkinsi and jazzyjinx are having it equally rough.  Ah, Nano.  Bringing 150,000 people together for the express purpose of making them miserable.

Philisophical musings aside, it’s the end of week one.  You may be ahead of the daily quota, and if you are, that’s great.  Whatever you’re doing, it’s obviously working, so keep doing it.  If you’re not, well, join the vast majority of Nano.  Even with a great first day push, people may find themselves behind at this point…just in time for the legendary, infamous Week 2.

I’ve had a mixed experiences with Week 2, myself.  Week 2 has been the week that I once made my goal, by keeping writing steadily.  It was also the week that my hard drive decided to completely kaput itself last year.  I spent the entire week typing on a borrowed laptop and public computers.  So however bad Week 2 is for you, just remember that it’s probably not going to be as bad as losing your hard drive. 🙂  Sometimes, I think Week 2 gets a little too much hype.  It seems like a total drag because the initial euphoria has worn off, and you realize that your sprint is actually a marathon.  Instead of setting yourself up for speed, you need to set yourself up for endurance–and this well require discipline, occasional bribes, the support of your peers, the friendly taunting of your friends who you won’t hate for it, the correct mindset and techniques, and of course, mad skills.

Here’s an example of the correct mindset.  Which is easier, 50k in 30 days, or 500 words in ten minutes?  (If you said the first, then you’re probably doing fine and can go back to beating us all with your wordcount.)  This does two things for you: first, it breaks down a big, scary goal into a tiny-bited goal that’s easily obtained.  Most of us can’t imagine exactly how much 50k is.  (I’m referred to the example of The Great Gatsby, but I haven’t read that book since high school, how am I supposed to remember how long it is?)  But most of us CAN imagine 500 words.  (for me, It’s a screenful in Notepad, one page in Word single spaced, and two pages handwritten.)  Second, 500 words in ten minutes makes it much easier to focus.  People in general (particularly all us ADD people out there) find it a lot easier to focus in small bursts, take a break, then focus again.  The part where you actually get to the sitting down and focusing part is the tricky thing.

There are a couple tools you can use to help you get in the zone:

* Write or Die.  Matt mentioned it in his previous email.  I swear by it.  The link is here: http://writeordie.drwicked.com/ .  I personally prefer the Kamikaze mode since it actually makes sure I don’t stop (I can deal with annoying sounds, I have a younger brother.) but as we all know, tia is hardcore and writes in Notepad and stuff, so Kamikaze mode is not required.  There’s a free online version as well as an offline version you can buy.  If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a look, particularly if you’re struggling.  Being *forced* to write out of fear of punishment does amazing things to those phrases and scenes you may waffle on.

* Word wars.  We have an official IRC chatroom mentioned here: http://nanolanta.org/?p=34 .  In the chatroom is a bot which will automatically time wars, as well as send you notices when the wars end.  Even if you’re not the fastest writer (Matt beats me pretty much every time), timing yourself and joining in a short sprint with your peers is another good way to get rid of the waffling.

Week 1 was about getting a good start.  Week 2 is about keeping that good start and keeping the momentum going, and the only way to do that is to get in the habit right now of writing consistently.  This means writing every day.  Yes, even on days you don’t feel like writing.  Yes, even on days where you’re so busy that you feel like you can’t write.  Even the busiest of us will be able to unearth a few minutes inbetween events and bang out a couple hundred words, even if it’s on that spare notepad you keep in your purse/pants pocket.  Even if you don’t make the daily count every day during week two, those few hundred words a day will add up and get you further along than you were before, and more importantly, will keep you writing every day.

We’re all writers, and right now we have committed to the task of writing.  Like soldiers on the field, we keep writing even when the weather’s bad or the writer’s block is trying to bomb us all to kingdom come.  Because we’re writers, and that’s what writers do.

You’re a writer.  Goals of writing are NOT beyond your reach.

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