You must not come lightly to the blank page.
– Stephen King, On Writing
Well, then! We’re into the second week of NaNoWriMo, in which writers everywhere push themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel during November. Whether you’re on track, far ahead, or just trying to catch up, it means a lot that you’re still writing. I wanted to share my writing progress report with you, so you know you’re in good company if you’re struggling.
Blank Page Anxiety Caused Me a Two-Day Delay
Here’s the progress line graph from my NaNoWriMo account:
Yes, really. I lost two whole days before I finally started writing. Even on that day, November 3, I only managed to get out 295 words. But in the wee hours of the morning on November 4, I finally pushed a whopping 2,022 words.
It was hard to get past the blank page. Staring at it, I suddenly felt very unprepared, like I hadn’t done enough planning or research for the novel. I don’t think the fact that I haven’t written seriously in years made it any better. So I spent those two days doing more research on 16th century Spain and Mexico, grabbing more articles and taking notes, and brainstorming for the plot.
Even after that, it was hard to find the best way to start. I was looking up the best opening lines of other books to get inspiration. Now I just have this opening paragraph – for now, anyway:
Cristóbal Miranda was constantly dreaming. Whether he and his daughter, Luisa, were plowing the farms of Huelva, struggling to keep their shack habitable, or selling their excess meat and produce to pay the landlord, Señor Martín, it didn’t matter. Cristóbal always fell to dreaming of being a hero. A hero and then a noble, meaning he’d never have to struggle again or suffer being treated like dirt.
Luisa would never have to struggle in poverty again. She could marry another noble, and her children and children’s children wouldn’t
starve and struggle with the same brutish life.
It’s not great, I know. It sounds melodramatic to me – the whole first page does! And I’m sorry if it did for you, too. But, as I keep telling myself, it’s just my first draft. And this is only a start. I highlighted it in green, so I know to go back and change it when the draft’s finished.
And that’s something you should allow yourself to do, too. Push yourself to write something to do with your story. No matter how badly it comes out, you can always go back and edit. First drafts are just that – drafts that are never meant to be seen, let alone published.
Hesitation and Lack of Focus Caused Me to Fall Behind
Just like when I started, I was anxious about how to proceed next. I just had the first chapter summarizing Cristóbal and Luisa’s daily routine of working in the fields, and their time before and after work. There’s also the first instance of kidnapping in the town. All that came out well enough.
But in the beginning of the second chapter, I just gradually stopped. I didn’t have much of an idea how I should proceed. Trying to force myself to keep going in the chapter only wasted precious time. Instead, I just saved that work and started writing the part when Cristóbal starts going on his adventure across the Atlantic.
But I did this belatedly – you can see the result in the graph. I also keep getting distracted by Twitter, YouTube, etc. Having music, podcasts, or videos on can be good for providing background sound in a quiet environment. But that only works if it’s something you’ve heard or watched many times so you don’t have to pay attention to it.
Everything else you have to read to enjoy – Twitter and other text-based websites/content – block it out for now. I use Firefox and have found and installed the Forest extension. Can’t wait to try it out!
Nonetheless, I’ll Persist
Because I have a plan. Looking back at the line graph, I’m at 5,394 words right now. The “Path to Success” point on that same day (today, November 8) is 13,336 words. That’s a difference of 7,942 words that I’ll need to cover.
That’s a lot to write for one day. But it can be done, or at least close to it. I’m going to push myself to write at least three-quarters of that amount (5,957 words, still manageable.) Then, from this day forward, I’ll catch up and keep the pace up.
I’m about to go to the Starbucks across the street and get started typing, since I need a change in environment. If you’re in a similar place as I am, there’s still plenty of time to catch up. Just don’t worry, keep writing! Make your inner critic hold its tongue until you win NaNoWriMo!
Thanks for reading my progress update, and I hope it motivated you to keep going. If you have any other tips for motivating yourself to write, feel free to share them below!
You can also subscribe under “Get adventure writing tips to your inbox!” to get updates of new blog posts in your email. I plan to give weekly updates on this first draft via email!
Be sure to share this with other writers you know. If you want, add me as a buddy on NaNoWriMo’s site! My username there is kelbybaca.
Thanks for your time!