Pep Talk Week 1: Getting Started with a Bang

Author pic bwIt’s week one,  and our collective adrenaline is probably enough to light a small city right now.
Welcome to JuNoWriMo Week 1!
I’m sure we’ve all started our novels with at least two thousand words at the kick-off party after weeks and weeks of careful plotting and pre-writing, with pages of notes and plot points hung carefully by our computers.


Or maybe not.

For those of you who’ve done that, congrats! Way to go! Keep it up :-)

If you’re like me though, you’ve got maybe a decent word count from the past few days and a handful of notes scribbled down somewhere.

Then what’s in the picture you ask?

Oh, that.  Well, that’s the timeline and plot sheets from my LAST novel, you know the one that’s almost done.

I confess that while I have the general idea of where this novel is going, I don’t have it concretely sketched out.  At all.  I didn’t the last time either.

I’ve used this quote from George R.R. Martin before, but it fits so well, I’m using it again here:

There are many different kinds of writers, I like to use the analogy of architects and gardeners. There are some writers who are architects, and they plan everything, they blueprint everything, and they know before the drive the first nail into the first board what the house is going to look like and where all the closets are going to be, where the plumbing is going to run, and everything is figured out on the blueprints before they actually begin any work whatsoever. And then there are gardeners who dig a little hole and drop a seed in and water it with their blood and see what comes up, and sort of shape it. They sort of know what seed they’ve planted – whether it’s an oak or an elm, or a horror story or a science fiction story, but they don’t how big it’s going to be, or what shape it’s going to take. I am much more a gardener than an architect.

I too am a gardener.  Or some people call it pantsing.

Whatever, it’s how I write.

So if you’ve headed into this month and are sitting down with hardly anything to go on, or  whether you’re a planner and an architect who was foiled by life and you’re not where you wanted to be when you started this month, it’s okay.  Trust yourself and trust your characters.  Follow them through the story and write what you see.

And if you planned it all out and have every detail ready to write, that’s awesome! You’ll have way less editing to do than I will, and next month, I’ll envy you.  But don’t forget it’s okay to follow interesting ideas that come up, even if they throw off your plot and cause gaping holes.  That’s what second drafts are there for.

Will you keep it all? Of course not. Will it be good. Probably not.  But it will be written! And that’s all that really matters for a first draft anyway.

Whenever you write, it’s helpful to follow the advice Natalie Goldberg gives in Writing Down the Bones. She’s talking about each writing session, but the pace of writing fifty thousand words in one month can basically count as one, super-long, writing session.

  1. Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.
  2. Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it).
  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page).
  4. Lose control.
  5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.
  6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has a lot of energy.) —Writing Down the Bones, pp. 10-11.

Now some practical things:

  • With the aforementioned adrenaline rush going, now’s the time to bank some extra word count because sometime during week two, you’re going to need it!  So aim for a few hundred extra words a day.  I like to get about 3 days ahead in the first week if I can, that way when my novel starts talking back (more on this next week) and I need to run away for a day, I’m not stressed about my word count.
  • Drink lots of water and eat healthy snacks.  Save the sugary ones for special occasions like, oh, every 5 or 10 thousand words.  If your blood sugar is out of whack, your brain will be too, and you won’t feel as good.
  • Get up and move! Dance, stretch, take yoga breaks, run around your house.  Pay attention to how you’re sitting and try to do some of your work standing up.  This is a lot of typing time we’re about to log and you don’t want your body to hate you at the end of the month.

And, finally, a word on your inner editor, you know that little voice in your head that tries to fix everything you do, or say you could have done it better? Yeah, that one.  It’s time to send him/her on a vacation.  Somewhere they don’t have phones or internet and there’s no return boat for a month.  You can’t edit and write at the same time, especially not a novel in a month.  So just write like you’re on a typewriter and you can’t go back and delete.  That’s what second drafts are for.

So go on! Pack your inner editor’s bags and send them off on a well-deserved vacation.  And you get to party while they’re gone.

Welcome to one of the most rewarding and exhausting, exhilarating and frustrating, fulfilling and tedious things you’ll ever do.

It’s gonna be quite a ride!

6 thoughts on “Pep Talk Week 1: Getting Started with a Bang

  1. The Real Stew Black

    I can honestly say the gardeners sound more organised than me. I didn’t hear about junowrimo summer camp until the last day in May and decided to take part on June 1. I had absolutely no idea what seed I’d planted. Sit down everyday without a clue where it’s going to take me. Slowly as the characters interact and I leave unanswered questions for myself the thing comes together. I probably hatch a bit of a plan around the 40 000 word mark and (hopefully) tie it all together. But I can’t say for sure.
    The fun for me is not knowing what is going to happen, what the genre is and who will live or die. Can’t imagine sitting down to write something that’s already written.

    1. Profile photo of A.E. Howard (Anna)

      yes, I think that if anything I wish I had built my world a little more thoroughly before starting because I’m doing extra editing to make sure that I’ve got continuity everywhere now, but on the other hand, it was exciting to find out how everything worked along with the characters 😉

  2. Profile photo of McKenzie Barham

    THANK YOU FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT. I’m a gardener but I haven’t planted a new garden in a long time and i feel a little lost. This made me feel much better. :)

    1. Profile photo of A.E. Howard (Anna)

      awesome! Glad I can help. It’s so important for us writers to band together and support each other so that we can ride the criticism from both without and within

  3. Profile photo of Mary Lasher

    Thank you! I’m going upstairs now and packing a bag for that inner critic and tossing him out the front door!


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