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On Inspiration: Making the Most of Week One

Yesterday I talked about some of the pitfalls of chasing inspiration, and the importance of finishing projects. That might seem like a premature topic, less than a week into a month-long marathon, but Week One is the foundation or your noveling month.

That’s why I was thanking Courtney yesterday for her comments on Wednesday. She hit some of the most important notes for applying yesterday’s lecture to your real situation in Week One.

Starting with a Rush

Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, strongly encourages all participants to stockpile words in Week One. Before I’d ever heard that advice from him, I was already saying the same thing. It just makes sense.

We’ve spent two months now getting excited about writing. We’ve spent at least three weeks preparing the story we’re going to work on. We’re flush with the thrill of starting something big. There’s big energy there, and chances are good there’s at least a hint of inspiration to back it up.

Week One is the time to use it. Channel all that energy, all that focused excitement, all the potential of your novel into words.

That’s important to do now, because the excitement will wear off long before the event is over. That’s the nature of the thing.

You’ll spend two and a half weeks working at writing, forcing yourself to put words on paper. And that’s one of the more important effects of NaNoWriMo, but it’ll be a lot easier to do if you take advantage of the initial burst of fun, carefree writing to give yourself a solid starting point.

Using Your Prewriting

Sometimes, though — even in these first few days — inspiration runs out. That’s okay. Courtney referenced it in her update, and I referenced it in mine yesterday. That, too, is part of the process.

And we’ve got an answer to it. Prewriting. There’s a reason we spent October doing all that work, knowing NaNoWriMo was looming. As I promised you back then, the work you did in October makes your November much easier.

I’ll be coming back to this point next week (when I talked about being determined to stick it out), and the week after that (when I talk about persistence in the face of failure), and the week after that (when I talk about writing despite the distractions). Every step of the way, your prewriting should be the first place you turn when the words stop flowing. Every page of it was designed to help with the particular problems of NaNoWriMo.

Finding Motivation (Creative Writing Exercise)

The lovely Kelley, writing at a coffee shopSometimes, though, the problem isn’t knowing your story. Sometimes it’s just finding the motivation to write at all. I certainly understand that. It is hard work, no matter how much you’ve gotten done so far, there’s still an absurd amount left to do.

I found a handy little trick in my first NaNoWriMo. It was just intended to help me keep track of the people I was coaching and give them relevant advice, but I made a spreadsheet with a row for every day of the month, and a column for each of us, and every day we put in our word count.

You can do the same thing by adding friends to your Writing Buddies at the NaNoWriMo website, and watching their progress bars. Then again, as Courtney pointed out, not everyone’s going to feel motivated by a little friendly competition. If it stresses you out or depresses you to see your numbers lower than someone else’s, find some other motivation.

But find your motivation, and find it every day. Learn the habits you need to put words on paper now, while the excitement’s still there, so you can burn through the rest of the month. That’s what Week One is for.

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