First NaNo & First Chapters


17/52 - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Image by ξωαŋ ThΦt via Flickr


2 weeks to go and counting….
Drum roll please….

NaNoWriMo 2010 is 2 weeks away: which means you have 2 weeks of sanity left. On Monday, 1st November 2010 you are going to become temporarily schizophrenic. I choose this prognosis deliberately. Read the dictionary meaning of Schizophrenia and decide for yourself if you fit the bill in November…

schizophrenia |ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə; -ˈfrenēə|nouna long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings,withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.• (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.DERIVATIVESschizophrenic |-ˈfrenik| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrɛnɪk| |ˈˈskɪtsəˈfrinɪk| |-ˈfrɛnɪk| adjective & noun ORIGIN early 20th cent.: modern Latin, from Greek skhizein ‘to split’ + phrēn ‘mind.’

Writing is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

~E. L. Doctorow

So in hindsight, do you believe you qualify as retreating from the world into an imagined earth with imagined people who seem to be more real than the ink that created them?

To be a writer is a solitary pursuit…or is it? For the everyman, writing is a solitary pursuit. After all there does not seem any need for anyone else to be present for the writer to write. If you ask a writer though, the answer may be quite contradictory. When you write, you have a blank page in front of you, a clean slate to begin with. There is something very liberating about being faced with a blank page and then putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, and creating a brand new world. As a writer, you have total control…or do you?

The only control a writer has on the story is the first word, the first line and the first chapter. After that, the page becomes a living entity. It starts breathing under your fingertips. Slowly the flesh builds upon the bone and your skeleton is formed. The brain is formed in the first chapter. Then the heart is formed. Slowly blood starts pumping through the arteries, read chapters, and your story gains a personality. At that moment, a face has not formed yet, you have a creation. As the heart starts beating with a stronger beat, emotion starts colouring the pages. Suddenly you are not faced with black words on a white page but you are surrounded by people who are formed by ink and emotion. Slowly you start seeing a face in the story. Your story has a name and a purpose. It is as if you are peering through a misted mirror in a bathroom and slowly the mist dissipates leaving a face staring back at you. Who is the face that stares back at you? Why it’s you! The writer, the creator, the father, the mother, the child, the good, the bad, the comedy, the tragedy….all the simple complexities that make up your imagination and fuel your dreaming. That is who has come out and joined you on this journey of ink and pages.

After that first chapter is written, the story takes control of your imagination. Call it your Muse, call it your inspiration, call it Magic but something inexplicably beautiful happens from the second chapter onwards….Story is created. Story is the thread that weaves all of our histories, our presents and our futures together. Story is the magic carpet ride that allows us to travel though time and space just by opening a book or closing your eyes and listening to the tales of The Story.

So the question again is: Is Writing a solitary pursuit? No writing is a community activity. As writers, we often hear “write what you know”. Our stories are rooted in our memories and our experiences. Our stories are tangible evidence of six senses. Our stories come alive and breathe with what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, what we touch and lastly all that we feel. Stories do not come from the mind. Stories come from the heart of our emotions. Stories come from the resting place of the bird that sings within our soul. Stories come from the truest innocence of the inner child we all are in our dreams.

In just a short while, a mere two weeks, thousands of people will be sitting at their desks to start a story of a 30 days. Some of us are starting off for the first time. Some of us are experienced at this story-marathon. But all of us have a story to tell. Maybe we needed a vehicle like NaNoWriMo to get it out there but to tell a story is the goal and the purpose. The only rules of NaNoWriMo are that you not write your story before the 1st of November nor are you allowed to edit the story while writing. The whole point of this challenge is that you are to switch off from distraction and for at least an hour a day tap into that incredible stream of Story within your soul. Non-writers may insist that you are tapping into a stream of consciousness but I beg to differ: The Story hidden within your soul is one that is unconscious and instinctive. Indeed it is a Stream of Imagining and a Stream of creation.

I have been thinking about first chapters this week. I have realised how important first chapters are. They are the scroll of hieroglyphics found within the walls of the Sphinx. First chapters give your Story and your creations a voice. Suddenly the Story that was hidden with the depths of your soul and glimpsed through the vision of your dreaming is released and a fountain of knowledge is poured out for the reader. Your first chapter has the power to give your reader time travelling abilities. You can take them into different countries, even different universes but all the time you are the navigator.

On the 1st of November you, along with thousands of other writers around this milky way, will write the first word of your first line of your first paragraph of your first chapter…focus on that. Do not focus on 50 000 words or more. Do not focus on plot holes, story arcs or conflicts and resolutions. On the 1st of November 2010, you only need to focus on getting down that first chapter. Then let the Power of The Story take control of your consciousness. Don’t think. Feel. Let the beat of your heart set the rhythm of the words you write. We each have this power to tap into our Dreaming and our Emotions to flesh out The Story.

The true secret of NaNoWriMo is that you already have The Story within you. Just write the first chapter. November will take care of 30 days and The Story will take care of 50 000 words but you must focus on taking care of the first chapter. That is all you need to commit to.

  • The First Word
  • The First Line
  • The First Paragraph
  • The First Chapter

Every journey of 1000 steps may begin with the first step but every Story of 50 000 words begins with one word forming one line forming one paragraph forming one chapter.

So with 2 weeks to go until the Kickoff of NaNoWriMO 2010, make this simple commitment with yourself and thousands of other NaNo participants. Put away the Angst, the frustration, the anxiety, the trepidation. Be still and rest your heart for just a moment. Now commit to writing in the voice of The Story: the first chapter.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning

10 thoughts on “First NaNo & First Chapters

  1. Good stuff.
    I know I can plot and plan ’til the cows come home, but nothing compares to actual writing. You’re right…once that first chapter is down, everything you thought you knew about your story flies out the window.

    Doesn’t mean the plotting and planning wasn’t useful. I feel it’s more like growing a bonsai plant. You know what you want it to look like in the end, but the plant just grows however it wants to.

      1. LOL…You can add me as a NaNo buddy. My user name is: last_lines
        It is my first time so encouraging someone else is good for me as a motivator.

      2. I’ll add you. Mine is stephanniebeman. This is the first year I’m officially doing NaNoMo. My friend got me to try it when I was in High School, but I didn’t have the Internet then.

    1. Thanks again for your comments my friend! Glad you are enjoying the Monday Mental Muscles…watch this space for this week’s muscles later on today.

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