Five ways to kick-start NaNoWriMo on its first day

OK, so there you are with the plan you’ve made for your National Novel Writing Month story – all 50,000 words of it. You sit down at the computer. And –


What now? That winking cursor and blank page isn’t going to go away by itself.

NaNoWriMo isn’t really about word count – it’s all about output to time. That’s a basic skill any professional writer must learn – and learn early – if they are to be successful.

Sticking on starting is also normal. It happens to writers a lot. And there are ways around it. Why not try:

  1. Look at the plan. You – er – did write a plan…didn’t you? Is there a place you could start writing other than the first page? Chapter Two for instance.
  2. This technique works at any level. Stuck on the first words? Leave a blank space for the first sentence or two. Start half-way through the first paragraph. Then back-fill, later.
  3. Write the last paragraph of the book, first? This has all sorts of advantages of itself, not least being that you know where you are going.
  4. If you’re still stuck, write something else totally different – a blog post, an email. Anything. Just as a quick draft, maybe for 10 minutes. Then go back to your NaNo book.
  5. If you’re really, really stuck, start anyway. Write anything that sort of expresses what you want as your first sentence. It doesn’t have to be artistic. You can always change it later. Hey – that’s what word processors are for. This is the brute force method, and it’s one journalists sometimes fall back on when deadlines press.

A lot of the problem with getting ‘stuck on starting’ happens because it takes time to get into the mind-set you need to write. Once ideas begin flowing – certainly for me – they tend to keep flowing.

Do these techniques work for you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


10 thoughts on “Five ways to kick-start NaNoWriMo on its first day

    1. Yes it is. Quantity more than quality initially – really, it’s more about blasting words out – but I figure if the foundation’s right then the quality issue can be resolved by re-writing, later at leisure. And the reality is that in ‘the business’, the onus is on commercial writers to push words through anyhow, at the sort of rates NaNo implies (1666 words/day) – or, in fact, a lot faster because ‘first draft’ is always only about half or less of the actual writing time, if you take revisions into account. So NaNo is definitely good practise…. 🙂

  1. Great post and true words. I was more than ready to write when I awoke this morning, but while I fixed breakfast my mind locked on the huge task ahead so I disregarded NaNo and focused on starting a chapter. I had a firm first line, hazy first paragraph bobbing in my head, and an outline at my disposal. Still, after that first paragraph the brain was still not flowing. I turned to the outline and concentrated on placing one sentence after another. It was drudgery. After nearly an hour I had 137 words. I know it was 137 words because I checked my count several times in the mistaken belief it’d magically advance. That was also the point when the dam crumbled and the novel began to flood. It isn’t quite mid afternoon here and I have 2,142 words (it’s break time…strawberries and yogurt).

    1. Sounds excellent – and all the very best for your NaNo effort. It’s a funny thing, every November so far I’ve had contracts that have prevented me diverting time and resource to the fiction projects I’ve got lined up – which I’d do, NaNo or not. But this year, just for once, I say down (last weekend) and blew through about 2000 words of a novel I’ve been wondering about writing for a while. Tomorrow I’ll probably throw the 2000 words out and start again, but it’s got me into the feel of the thing. Whether I’ll now have time to deal with it is another matter – I have another NF contract lined up plus negotiating on a couple of others. We’ll see!

    1. A lot of it, I learned the “hard way” 20 or 30 years ago… 🙂 So I’m very happy to share and hopefully stop anybody else from plunging down the same pitfalls!

  2. For me it usually works best to outline. When I get an idea I write a loose plotline which details a potential story. I usually use the “plot triangle” titles (exposition, rising action etc) as my headers because they’re easier to remember. The plots I create when I first get started change as my characters and story develop, but the outline makes it easier to organize my ideas.

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