Week 1 Pep Talk

By Debby J.

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November is here! Are you guys ready to write those novels? The great news is, you are reading this and I doubt you need much pep to get your fingers flying. Week 1 is always the “easiest” week in NaNoWriMo for those who come prepared with at least a plot, or character, or setting, or something. For those who are hyper organized and have outlines and infographics galore, the first week is also pretty straight forward. This year, I need all the pep I can get because I’m coming into this thing with absolutely nothing. I can’t seem to get the microscope of my author’s vision to zoom into the lives of my characters. I’m stuck. I have no clue as to what I’m doing.

Would you believe me if I said this is how every November begins for me? I have a vague sense of “something” happening in some world I created in my mind. I usually start my novels for NaNoWriMo by describing the world in excruciating detail. It’s really painful to read because the minutiae is minutiae. But by starting about a million miles away from the action I can hone in on the important things happening. I see the big picture and slowly the focus comes and I suddenly have a character, a conflict, a scene, a something to work with.

So, if you are like me, then you may have nothing. But if you have even one thing to start writing about, even if it isn’t very good, you have the makings of your novel. To give you a taste of what my NaNo first days are like, here are the beginnings of my past NaNos.

  • 2008: Alison looked at her watch and sighed loudly. This was not the time nor the place. She was already running late for her doctor’s appointment and the bus was running even later.
  • 2009: It was the most baffling thing that came ashore. The sun was setting and the sky was clouded over and there it was. I squinted my eyes, not really believing that something like that was on the shore, but there is was. As I approached it, it became clearer, the features more distinct. I bent over and scooped it up, sand slipping between my fingers. I wiped my hands on my pants and tossed the object from one had to the other, getting a sense of its weight.
  • 2010: I remember everything about the day I left my home. My sister and brother each held a hand as my parents trailed behind us. We were headed to the convent where it seemed I was destined to spend my life. At least when I was seven it seemed like my destiny. Alisa was stoic. Her blue eyes looked straight forward and she almost seemed to tug at me, pulling me along faster then I really wanted to go. Alexander seemed to be a counterweight, dragging his feet as if to keep me from going away. And I just walked. Since the day I was born, I knew that just as Alisa was destined to inherit the family business and Alexander was destined for the military and, essentially politics, so I was destined for religion. It was the way things were done in Kyria.
  • 2011: Margie looked at the man and tried not to laugh. He was wearing a giraffe costume and looked absolutely ridiculous. She had requested a clown, not a giraffe. Or any animal for that matter. She smiled politely at the man and shook her head a little bit, her short brown hair swaying against her neck.
  • 2012: Taylor looked out at the ocean as her father’s ship flew away. He was only home for a few weeks at a time but Taylor loved the time she got to spend with him. He was a merchant by trade but was very well to do. He was one of the few individuals authorized to cross the border between Leylandia and Technologia. While considered a citizen of Technologia, he carried the precious steam technology through the sky and over to their rival nation. The two countries were as different as children from different parents. Technologia was a sprawling country that had mountains surrounding three sides and long coast that gave them port access. In the center of the country were forests. The country was not afflicted with deserts or tundra. The rich land lead Technologia to develop into a nation that was very technological. Their primary export was the steam technology that had come from all of the resources.
  • 2013: The black, pearlescent sand clung to her milky, pale skin. She flexed her fingers and toes and looked at the world around her. It was vastly different yet very familiar and similar to the world she came from. Lush green trees rose high up in the distance and even farther beyond were hillocks and mountains. The sky above was navy blue with spots that glimmered in the distance. Two giant orbs floated in the sky – one seemed to sit right on the horizon, a blue disc that reflected light. The other was smaller and high in the sky. It also did not seem to emit any light of its own. It was reddish in color and seemed to be pockmarked where the blue orb was smooth. 

Not exactly the most riveting beginnings to any story but it got me off on the right foot. Of those 6 excerpts, 3 ended up being complete (albeit terrible) manuscripts. No matter where you start, no matter how week 1 seems to be going, remember, it could be worse.

When I originally planned on writing this pep talk, I had a different sort of excerpt I wanted to share. My daughter loves to pull things off of shelves and has taken to make a mess of my journals. I joked with my husband that he could learn a lot about me by reading my angsty, pre-teen entries. He grabbed one and started reading it out loud. We had a few good laughs, but then he read something that resonated with me. So, I leave you with one last excerpt that will hopefully resonate with you. This entry was likely written in early 2002.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was write. Write a book that was so controversial it would be banned. I want to write my generations “great American novel.” The whole story, well the beginning, plays itself in my head over and over again but every time I try to write it, language, or my lack of mastery over it, gets in the way.

Everyday that goes by and another word remains unwritten I get farther and farther from completion. What I do with my life and time is my decision but how to make the right decision is a hard choice.

The only thing I can hope for is the day I will see my novel published and hopefully I will see it dedicated to the world.”

Even as a 17 year old girl, I knew the struggle. But, with enough effort and perseverance we can all make it through week 1 and 2 and 3 and 4. We can make it through November and edit our novels. We can see our words in print and dedicate our words to the world. The novel that the 17 year old me dreamed of writing is still a dream. The beginning still plays itself over and over in my head. I still feel like I lack mastery over the story to finish it. But, that doesn’t mean other stories have to be left by the wayside. Three stories have been written and it really is because of the WORK I do every November. The story you write may not be the story you dreamed of writing, but it is a story in you nonetheless and deserves to be completed.

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