SheWriMo: Our NaNoWriMo Correspondent Shares Ten Tips for Tackling Day One
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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  • Vicki T. Lee

    You're very amusing and I can't wait to bear witness to your writing adventures over the next few weeks. :) I am not a formal participant in this challenge (too busy over on filling my head with SEO, backlinks and traffic know-how OH MY!) HOWEVER, travelling to my night job on the bus; writing while the patients are sleep; then back home before I go to sleep, I'm gonna see just how much I can write without editing and re-writing. That in itself is a challenge for me. I'm rooting for you - and all the participants! Happy Writing!!

  • Christina Weigand

    Day 2 NanoWrimo 10:57 am
    Last night I followed my plan and reached 2936 words. That is 936 more words than my goal and that many less words I have to write today if i want to stay on task. Since I have a little extra times today though I think I will seee if I can get at least goal of 2000 and maybe more.

    The characters are coming to life and telling me their stories sometimes almost to fast. The plot is taking shape and holes are starting to fill in. All in all a successful first day. Now onto day 2.

    Keep writing,


    Palace of Three Crosses

    Word Count 2936

  • Jennifer Clement

    One day late but I'm in too!

  • Dedria A. Humphries

    You are a crazy woman.

  • Kristi Holmes Espineira

    Great post! I wasn't going to do NaNo this year (I "won" in 2006 and participated in 2008) but what the hey, I'm in! I'm using for character/plot inspiration. Speaking of which I better at least come up with a rough idea today....

  • Andrea King Collier

    Okay, can I tell you all that it took me a minute to figure this out because all of the 99 names she had tacked on to this, but Carolyn is a really dear friend and my first boss back in 19hmmm humm. Thanks Carolyn Joyce!!!

  • Andrea,
    I do hope that you can inspire me to stick with you the next thirty days.

  • Barbara Fischkin

    I REALLY like the part about not telling your relatives!

  • Barbara Plotkin

    Hi Andrea! This is my fourth year being a Wrimo and I'm more excited about it than ever before. I have a friend helping me from England where my story takes place and I cajoled my sister into joining NaNo so I'm not facing it alone like in years past. And how great that you are doing this blog, now I'm set! Facing the blank page was scary this morning but breaking it up into 1667 words a day definitely helps. Last year I wrote 8,000 words in one shot and could never keep up the pace. I also love Write or Die, it's a great way to get your butt in gear even when you don't think you can write another word. It's a great help knowing I can follow you Andrea so thank you and good luck!!

  • Christina Brandon

    You go ladies!

    I did a NanNo a couple years ago (such a great experience!) but I'm sitting this November out and wishing you all the best!

  • Sharen Ford

    Hello All - This is my first NaNoWriMo. First day went well; managed a couple of hundred words over the daily target. My problem will be maintaining momentum and not skipping a always intrudes. Brava to Andrea for putting herself out there for all of us.

  • Abigail Mansell

    Good luck, great post - I love you already! I won't be joining in as I am 60,000 words into a current project which has so far taken me almost two years - not one month! I will be using you all as motivation to get my writing butt in gear though. And (as if anyone of you will even have the time) I would really appreciate some feedback on my first chapter. You can find it here: Sorry to digress, but you are front page news on She Writes.
    Okay, I am off to crawl in a hole and await crucifixion. I can handle criticism. Honest I can.

  • Andrea, I enjoyed your post, even using it as part of my checklist. I am getting the last of last things out of the way. Finished up laundry and it's time for poetry first. You see, along with attempting NaNoWriMo this year, I'm doing the poem a day chapbook challenge from Poetic Asides.

    Having a schedule is a big help. I'm just hoping that I can stick with it. Not sure if I'll use any special software other than my trusty WordPerfect. Ratty PJs on tap for me. I look forward to reading about your journey through this NaNo writing month.

  • Christina Weigand

    Day 1 NanoWrimo 11:35 a.m.
    Okay Nano started at 12:01 am and here it is almost 12 hours later and I haven’t written anything except emails and facebook messages. What is wrong with this picture? How can I ever meet my goal of at least 2000 words today? Believe it or not I do have a plan. But maybe I’ll tell you a little of what my past week was like, so you can see why I don’t have anything done yet.

    Last week was a nightmare, probably good fodder for someone’s story line. First my husband and I were involved in a small theater production that premiered and closed this past Sunday. It was called Martyr’s Mansion and we along with three other actors portrayed long dead saints. (appropriated because we attend All Saints Church in Puyallup and today is All Saints day.) Anyway back to my story, Tuesday night dress rehearsal, went okay but took up a little time. Tues/Wed granddaughter wakes up throwing up a couple of times during the night, have to keep her home from school on Wed. Have to miss critique group to stay home with her. Wednesday evening first show for the youth group. All goes well, except that I am so nervous my legs won’t stop shaking and I almost fall on my face. (Maybe not having been on the stage in over 30 years contributed to that.) But we survived and moved onto Thursday. Granddaughter back in school and I put the last sentence on my wip, still need to finish revisions, but it actually does have an ending. The rest of Thursday is a blur with kids activities and just breathing. Shouldn’t have gotten so comfortable, because Friday would be no where near quiet.

    Friday starts out quietly, take the girls to school and sit down to do some writing. 10:30g. 10:30
    English: World English Bible - WEB
    Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

    WP-Bible plugin the phone rings, granddaughter’s school. She fell on the playground and hurt her wrist now she is in the office and won’t stop crying. Hubby calls the dr. can’t get her in till 4:40l 4:40
    English: World English Bible - WEB
    40 When the sun was setting, all those who had any sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.

    WP-Bible plugin. I go to school to pick her up, of course she wants to stay for the Halloween party, but us adults don’t think it is a good idea. So I take her home only to return a few hours later for the party. After that we pick up her aunt, my daughter at school and go home to wait for the dr’s appt. At 3:30 we go to the dr, of course they can’t tell us anything but go get an xray and give us a splint to immobilize her wrist. Long story short on Friday night at 5:30 there aren’t many places open to do xrays so we put it off till Saturday am. Hubby takes grandddaughter for xray and I hit the grocery and costume stores for supplies. We get home about the same time. They have the films but no one has read them, call the dr they can’t read them either and we have to wait till Monday to know what if anything is wrong. (I have concluded that tv is misleading the public on those dr shows when the dr reads the xray and gives out the death sentence, but that is a rant for another day)

    Anyway I cook some risotta for the dinner we are going to that night, take the girls to choir practice, they are singing at Saturday evening mass. Go to mass myself, the family goes to dinner, then we go home to all crash. For Sunday is an early call. Hubby and I have our last two shows Sunday morning and have to get the girls with other responsible adults.

    We finish up the shows around 2, rush home, cut grass, carve a pumpkin and eat a quick dinner so the girls can trick or treat. Then we watch our beloved Steelers lose.

    Monday morning finally. Take Ana to school, take Andi back to the dr and I go to physical therapy. After sitting in the dr.s office waiting for the results which haven’t shown up yet, they finally do show up and it is concluded that it is only a sprain. So take her to school and finally we have a few minutes to get some work done. But don’t get to comfortable, Ana has a prayer service at 2, Al has a dr. appt at 2:45. So now you know why at 12:13 pm I still have no words written.

    But as I previously mentioned; I have a plan. After all of this I finally get to go to my write-in and and spend at least five hours focusing on nothing but the writing and hopefully exceed my goal for the day.

    Life has given me some road blocks this day, but with a little BICHOK later this afternoon I will be able to overcome these road blocks and be well on my way to having the first draft of the second novel in my Twelve Pillars trilogy.

    So you see no matter what life may throw at you in the next month, there is still time to write. It may get a little hairy at times, but with a little determination it can be done, it shall be done, it will be done tomorrow (well maybe not tomorrow, but you get the idea.)

    So everyone raise a chai latte to Nano as we embark on this fabulous journey.

    God Bless,


    Novel: Palace of Three Crosses

    Word Count : 0 (for now, check back in later)

  • Julie Jeffs

    I signed up for Nano at about 10:30 p.m. last night. I'd like to blame my twitter friends for the peer pressure but I actually slept the best I have in weeks after signing up. I had no clue what I was going to write, got down about 500 words before falling asleep. Then today I met with a writing buddy and got to talk out what i thought might be there for a book, now I am jazzed and ready to go. I realize that I often do best when I have deadlines, and have publicly shared my stupidity, insanity plans and goals (yea we'll go with that).

    Thank you Andrea for stepping u, being so incredibly brave and putting it out there for the rest of us. Your post was helpful, enlightening and just the right amount of humor to help me feel so not alone. The comments here helped as well when I realized i wasn't the only one leaping and hoping for the net to appear.

    Best of luck, we're all here with you.

  • Amy Wallen

    I'm doing NaMeWriMo instead of NaNoWriMo. I'm doing it with a memoir instead of a novel. I already know the story, I just need to dump it from that stained and soggy file box of memories in my brain onto the page. Today I started, and I didn't worry about how I told the story, I just let the bits and pieces fly. It was so freeing. I told a different scene than what I intended when I started, and that was okay. Day One--A success. Still scared about digging around in the the rest of the story, but memory at a time.

    I've always been a naysayer about NaNoWriMo. But this year I am stepping up and admitting my misunderstanding of what it provides. I was a naysayer who never tried it. I love editors and believe in polishing the words and working the scenes and molding the story. NaNoWriMo seemed so counter intuitive to that way. But now here I am admitting that I believe the freedom of not editing, not tweaking, not twisting and worrying about the construct will be extremely helpful in how I write this next book. I've got one published and successful novel and two others in the proverbial drawer. I don't have the problem of getting my butt in the chair, but I am scared to death of opening that file box full of sludge that sits in the back of my brain.

    My attire: softest sweats and warmest sweatshirt with pajama top still on underneath.

    I will now go brush my teeth and take a shower. It's noon. I will come back to my chair and read how everyone else fared. I'm rooting for everyone!

  • Walker Thornton

    I also am cheating a tad by beginning over again with my memoir- slightly fictionalized. it seems like a dream and I've yet to start today. ONly made the final commitment last night at 10 PM. Not even sure what I'll write it on, if I weren't unemployed I'd probably buy a Mac today and Scrivener, but will settle for my PC and maybe Liquid Binder, which I own?
    Can't wait to follow along with everyone's progress.
    I'm going to set my own list of how-to's or how-not-to's for a blog post as well!

  • Valerie Bonham Moon

    Scrivener beta made me say bad words. The text keeps going wonky, and I can't figure out how to write ON the notecards, not just title them. I'm also not feeling intuitive about meshing it all together. Otherwise, I love the concept, and have adopted it with a hundred-million-kajillion open windows on the laptop screen (kind of a Windows version of a dividered-notebook -- love making notebooks). I'm hoping the PC-version has the bugs worked out.

    Words are flowing -- if you consider speaking two words into Dragon and then a long pause before two more words as 'flowing' (I'm trying to save my wrists); the cat is morose from inattention and loudly meowing ; and the dog barfed -- five times. Nobody's died in the book, yet, but I've definitely caught the feeling of how someone could do that (dog barf will do that).

    Thanks for the blogging, Andrea. The poodle pajamas are a great touch.

  • Angelica Jayne Taggart

    Me too - ample butt in chair - two cats ready to be muse -- blank page.
    Yipes -how could I have signed myself up for this!! I have so much work to do ... tho thank God I work mostly from home, have no kids at home or husband to take care of -- I see some late nights in my future as I am committed to doing this!!

  • Whitney Peckman

    I suggest going straight for the chocolate covered coffee beans in favor of actual liquid coffee which has it's own time demands for taking you away from the computer, possible mid-thought, for a wee bit of relief (or is that a bit of wee relief?).

  • Tamara

    The most frighting and challenging part of NaNoWriMo day one is putting the first sentence on the page. After that, it gets much easier!

  • Andrea King Collier

    If you are looking to start your creative corporate attire collection, hit Target. Love Nick and Nora pjs. Also TJ Maxx has a pair of coffee pjs. Love them.

  • Lanita Andrews

    Cheers to you Andrea for being so brave and having a great sense of humor about your own writing, and thank you for your willingness to share with us.

  • Carleen

    I'll be looking forward to these posts! Tried NaNo once for about 3 days. Good luck!

  • TS Boyle

    Baggy, comfy sweats, over-sized hoodies and purple Scottish terriers PJs for me. I've downloaded Scrivener's and viewed the tutorials over the weekend. I'm ready. I'm scared. I'm pumped. Last year was a joke but here I am, budgeting out time for writing as if my life depended on it. No outline, no real direction, just following the edict: "Jump and the net will appear."
    I hope he was right.
    Good luck to everyone. Thank you, Andrea, for your encouraging words and commitment.