Not So Common Sense

Random thoughts on random acts, from the mind of author Gavin Kingsley

NaNoWriMo Day 1: The Blank Page

NaNoWriMo is here again and besides hitting my daily word count goals, I plan to try and document my progress on the pages of this blog. For those of you unfamiliar:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

That’s straight from the website. If you’re interested you can sign up at www.NaNoWriMo.org, create your novel, meet up with others local to you for support, and of course write that great American novel. Even if you don’t think you could write 50k in 30 days, I’d still encourage you to sign up and try. You might surprise yourself.

Now, with the basics covered, on to my personal journey through NaNoWriMo 2015!

The Blank Page, or ‘The Hard Part: Getting Started
This morning I woke up before my 5:30 writing alarm, excited for the first day of a new project. I had already spent some time plotting and outlining (more on that later), so I knew what I needed to get done today and was fairly confident I’d be able to knock out my word count goal for the day. So I opened up a new word document…and stared at a blank page.

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Mind you I’m not usually intimidated by a blank page, that’s what the planning was for. So i jumped right into, creating a title page, formatting the chapter header, removing the title page, changing the chapter header, an basically everything except writing. Now I sat staring at a blank page with the header: Chapter One. I know what I want to write, but that first line still evades me. Next I start reviewing my notes, reorganizing my notes, re-reading character descriptions (plotting this blog post). Again everything except writing that first line.

This is a common problem among new and seasoned writers alike. Every great work of fiction started with a blank page. But it can’t stay that way.

So what do you do now? How do you get started, when you can’t seem to get started?

The problem comes from insisting on starting at the beginning. I have a thing where the first line has to be right or I have a hard time moving forward. What I have to remind myself (and you to reader) is that it’s okay to start in the middle. Whether that’s the middle of the paragraph, the scene or the entire novel. The trick is to write something, get words on the page and then use my favorite note to self ever: “We’ll edit it in post.” That is to say, whatever you write during NaNoWriMo is only a first draft. You can make all the edits and changes, re-write to your heart’s content AFTER (and only after) you’ve finished a first draft.

I promise, once you get that first paragraph (even if it’s in the middle) done, you’ll start to flow like water. Before you know it, you’ll be three pages down and the inspiration may come on how to start the actual ‘start’ of your novel.

(And that’s almost always how it happens to me, I skip ahead and find myself moving backward when I get stuck again down the road.)

So If you find yourself staring at a blank page, just remember it okay to skip around. Start where you can write, then keep on writing.

Now get to work, your blank page awaits you!

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