If you haven’t even touched your novel yet, don’t panic! Welcome to week one.
As an eight-year veteran of this insane writing challenge I can tell you there always comes a moment when I want to give up immediately, and it almost always happens in the first week. The problem lies in the fear of the blank white page.
You know what I’m talking about. You flip to that fresh page in your notebook, or open a crisp new Word document, put fingers to the keyboard poised to begin your noveling adventure, and…nothing. Absolutely no words come out and your mind has gone as blank as your page.
You are not alone.
What is happening is that you haven’t quite gotten away with that perfect murder of your inner editor. It is still around, letting you know that you better have one hell of a perfect first sentence if you are going to write a novel, and that is paralyzing you with fear. Send that inner demon packing, offer it a nice vacation in your subconscious and all the margaritas it can handle, and then tell yourself that whatever your first sentence may be, it doesn’t need to be perfect. To conquer NaNoWriMo you just need to get words on a page.
How to conquer the blank white page:
Put any and all words down that pop into your head, and if you must eliminate some of them do not delete! Highlight, italicize, or
strike through but do not delete. This is a mind-over-matter game and seeing those words on the page, even in a crossed out form is going to help your brain know that you are in it to win it. Even if it is as simple as writing out:
This is the phenomenal opening sentence to my soon to be critically acclaimed debut novel, and I will return to this place later, at another date, when inspiration strikes to mold this sentence to my every whim, and leave an impressive hook for readers just embarking on this reading adventure.
Not only do you have words on a page to visually reinforce that, yes you are capable of writing something, but you also have already knocked out 50 words! Highlight what you want to revisit, ride that momentum and keep typing until story starts flowing.
Don’t be afraid to leave out important details like character names, locations, or dates. These details will come to you later and as long as you leave a placeholder you can go back and fill them in later.
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from the amazingly talented Billeh Nickerson. I was talking to him about the trouble I was having getting through my first draft, because every time I started writing I would go through everything I’d already written. Which was giving me less and less time to move forward. And he was basically like, ‘Move on. Don’t look back yet. Get it done.’ And it’s true. You have to get to the end, first. Then you fix it.”
Our next blog post will delve into finding the optimal writing time to hit your stride, and how to get away with writing at work (eek!).