Throwback Thursday #1

Originally from JanNo 2009.

Pep Talk – 2009 – Week 1 from Tiakall


Second off: Why, hello there, January. Uh, wasn’t expecting to see you so soon. Christmas was so short I figured we could cram another week in there or something.

Third off: Welcome to JanNo, the lot of you. Some of you are old hat at this and some are trying it for the first time. You may be feeling anxious, panicked, eager, anticipating, or ready to hurl. (I’m leaning toward the latter, though that could just be lunch…the fruit WAS a little old.) Your goal may be 10k, 20k, 50k, or even 100k or more…whatever your goal, whatever your circumstances, we’re all in with a common goal: write. And while some will make that goal and some will not, all who stick it out til the end will walk away with a common prize: learning something about how you write.

Between JanNo and Nano, I’ve been doing this since 2004, and believe me, it never gets easy. I’m sitting here all “Dude, I just got done with a massive amount in November, and I gotta do it all over AGAIN a month later?” And as past years have shown, even old hat is not immune to the stresses of Real Life and struggling with a novel. But it shouldn’t be easy. If it’s easy, then you just haven’t hit a bad day yet, or you just need to step up your goal some more, because chances are you can write more than that. I want you to struggle. Suffer for your art. Most of us don’t have rabid audiences and news media that will criticize our every move, so we’ve got to make the road bumpy SOMEHOW XD (If you do have rabid audiences and news media that will criticize your every move, you need to be sharing them with the rest of us.)

You are going to have ideas you can’t get into. You’re going to have plot holes you can’t resolve. You are going to have days when you don’t feel like writing. (There are going to be days when it’s REALLY HARD to write a pep talk because your roommate and her friend won’t stop screaming at each other in the background. =_=) The method to reach your goal, and the secret goal written in the fine print of that imaginary novelling contract is to figure out how to work around those issues. You can rework your idea or plow through it anyway, you can ignore that plothole or slap a plot-medpatch on it, you can discipline yourself to write every day or figure out when and how to take a break. What works for you best is the thing you will learn during this hectic journey.

Okay, on to some suggestions.

  • I recommend this every year, but start strong. You never know what’s going to happen halfway down the road, and it’s better to push ahead at your leisure and finish early than have to struggle at the last day of the month. I would never recommend staying with the minimum word count (1613 for the 50k-ers) if you’re not having a godawful writing day. Being ahead of the curve will also ensure that you do have the chance to take a break if you do have one of those godawful writing days.
  • On that, note, if you’re going to a New Year’s party, bring your laptop. Or a notebook. Writing as soon as you’re done with the champagne and confetti will give you an extra opportunity to write in addition to the morning/noon/evening times you may have during the course of the rest of the day.
  • Write or Die. Some love it. Some freak out at Kamikaze. The page explains the psychology that will make you write even on those godawful days, and if you were around at Nano you will know that there are tons of people that swear by this happy-if-a-tad-evil little web application. These are particularly effective as a solo word war when you don’t have anyone around (or even when you do, as a supplement to a word war). You can set your own word goals, so you won’t be penalized for typing slow, just not typing. My personal experience gave me a great push of 4k in 80 minutes (combined with a last-minute panic over a daily goal) where before I average 1k an hour. (Update: They’ve since come out with an offline version as well!)
  • Daily goals. They’re great. Hourly goals also work well if you have some sort of idea how much you can write in an hour. Break the large, intimidating goal into easy chunks with immediate deadlines. Committing yourself to a daily goal every day will help keep you on track.
  • Likewise, be sure to set aside that time to write. It sounds simple, but letting Real Life and other things pile into your schedule will easily make you lose track of that time. Make an effort to wall yourself off for a little while. If you know you write 1k an hour and your daily goal is 2k, then set aside that time, and make it distraction-free. I’ve tried writing while doing other things. Typically, it doesn’t work.
  • Outlines. Some use ’em, some don’t. Reportedly the highly prolific writers on Nano make use of super-detailed outlines. Don’t feel compelled, but if you get stuck easily, it’s a thought. They don’t have to be super-detailed; I made do this November with a brief character map (mostly so I didn’t forget names) and a short phrase or set of words reminding me what plot points were in the first several chapters. Don’t feel constrained by your outline, either; it’s okay to rearrange, add, or completely chop whole chapters.

Finally, remember that it’s up to you to make your goal. If you want to do it, you can do it. It’s really that simple.

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