NaNoWriMo: Day One-- Ten Tips for Kicking it Off
Andrea King Collier, our first-ever NaNoWriMo correspondent, tells what it’s like to sit butt in chair and stare down that first blank page. DAY 1: Hey, all you SheWriters and SheWriMos! Here we all sit, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, facing the challenge of writing 50,000 words of a novel over the next 30 days. I am thrilled and scared to be sharing my journey in putting butt in chair and grinding out the words and hurling myself toward the finish line with you. I am a little more scared about sharing my excerpts. But then, I haven’t written anything yet. This isn’t the first time I have done NaNoWriMo. I failed miserably last year. I racked up a good number of words (not telling you how many, Nosy). Then the seduction of a big paid assignment, combined with the knowledge that my two kids were going to be expecting Santa to pull up in his sleigh in another month or so, I caved. In fact, I caved so fast, and with such ease, I didn’t even notice that I had stopped writing my great American mishmash of words until December. As Scarlet O’Hara says in Gone With the Wind, “I’ll just think about it tomorrow.” And here we are. Tomorrow. Play Rocky theme now. So right here on SheWrites I am going big, or going home (oh yeah, I am home—in the bed). For the next 30 days, I am going to be putting ample butt in cushy chair, bed, coffee shop, write-in location, and creating a novel from scratch. AND as if I wasn’t the same person who dropped it like it was hot last year, I am adding new and crazy challenges. I am going to be using Scrivener, a Mac-based writing software, instead of my trusty Word. Why? Because someone told me it was good for novel writing. And because I don’t have good sense. Who would use a software that they have not mastered for a 30-day challenge? I thought that I would be able to create a partition between my paid, journalistic work and my creative pursuit by using a writer’s software. We’ll see how that goes. I am also using my Flip camera to do little video updates. Again, something I have to learn and master and not cut off my head in the frame. Yes, all while I am writing at a schedule of about 2,500 to 3,000 words a day on a software program that I don’t know. But I love the notion of multimedia, and if I am going to push myself off the creative cliff, I might as well take all my toys with me. But I promise, you will have fun—even if I go crazy. And, as you know, I am going to be blogging here about my 30 days—the good, the bad, and as you can figure out by now the ugly of me throwing up words on the page until I get to 50,000 or so. Isn’t just doing it hard enough? No. I have to layer on flashing my writer warts to you on a twice-weekly basis. Seriously, what I really have to do is just anchor myself in something that I know—sharing, teaching and telling. When I start going crazy because these characters are doing things and not behaving the way I expect them to, and I start seeing mirages of dulce de leche ice cream everywhere, I am going to need you. Who wants to whine alone? Here’s what I recently did to anchor myself, before, that is, I had all of you: I developed a 10-point strategic plan that would make my journey as fool-proof (did I say that?) as possible. 1. I told my agent, Jane Dystel. The idea of failing in a multimedia sort of way had her shaking her head. But she loves me anyway. And if you famous NY editors start to love me too, she promises to talk to you about me. 2. I did not tell my family. Families are funny about grand pronouncements that are not about them getting shirts picked up, or homemade carrot cake, or you having the ability to listen to them bitch about no cake. 3. I got work assignments done. 4. I made sure that my attire for this was ready to go. You will see it and be horrified. Think poodle pajamas. 5. I tried to get the basic understanding of Scrivener by watching the tutorials. Any tips you want to send me would be appreciated. 6. Flip is ready. Editing software—check. Tripod—yep. 7. I developed a schedule of sorts that includes some of the write-ins, days I will go out of the house to coffee shops, sitting home. I will be doing the bulk my words in the morning when I am most creative. You may read my excerpts and decide that I am not a morning person, or an evening person and turn me on to jobs as a lunch aide. Lunch aides, do not write me until December 1. 8. Programmed TiVo schedule for the month and did my programming, but I am still going to have to take my 5:00 p.m. Oprah break. So what about the writing itself? That is short and sweet. For NaNoWriMo to be valid, there is no pre-writing. 9. No taking an old manuscript to finish it. Something new. I decided what I wanted to write about. I got index cards and started loosely outlining, which is allowed. I have 30 cards for 30 days. 10. I promised myself no editing or critiquing. Just laying it on the page. Today, November 1, I am in the same place as you are. Looking at the blank screen. Asking it what it wants to be when it grows up. Whispering to it, begging it to give me a little help. And that’s all I know. What do you know, SheWriters who write novels and SheWritimos who are also tackling this particular challenge? What’s the scariest thing about the blank page on this first day of pedal-to-the-metal fiction writing? There’s safety in numbers. And I really want to hear! Eds’ Note: Join Andrea in chronicling your NaNoWriMo experience here at She Writes! Use the blog on your profile page and tag your posts SheWriMo. In the future, look for a link to your fellow She Writers posts here at the end of Andrea’s posts and in the “Up Next” box on the homepage too. Andrea King Collier is a full time freelance journalist, based in Lansing, Michigan, who has written for O the Oprah Magazine, More, Ladies Home Journal, Essence, Heart and Soul, Town and Country, and elsewhere. She is also the moderator of our Essay Writing Group here on SheWrites and the author of Still With Me: A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss (Simon and Schuster) and The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health (Warner Wellness). Her work appears in the newly FLX anthology, Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. Andrea's website is

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