A little NaNoWriMo update
A week in, and I’m already behind my word count. Quite considerably. Now, this is entirely my own fault. It so happens the beginning of November is also my wedding anniversary, and this year being our tenth (!) we decided to go away for a weekend. I could have taken the time to do more writing while I was there, but I didn’t.
Do I regret the decision? No. Writing is important to me, and NaNoWriMo speaks to my competitive spirit, but it’s only one part of my life and my mental health is not going to improve if I don’t learn to take time for myself away from the crazy self-imposed pressure of my goals.
Does that mean I’ve given up on reaching the 50,000 word target for November? Hell, no. Did I mention a tiny bit of competitiveness? According to the official NaNo website, my daily wordcount to meet the goal has now gone up from 1,667 to 1,972. That’s still do-able. I think.
Word count booster tips
If all you want is to reach that magic 50,000, there’s all sorts of ways to stretch your wordcount. If you want to have something resembling a decent draft at the end of it, giving all your characters three-word names and making lengthy invocations to your fictional gods every time a bit of cursing is required won’t cut it. So here’s my take on how to bridge that wordcount gap:
- Word sprints are your friend. @NaNoWordSprints runs sprints of varying lengths throughout the month on Twitter, or pop over to your regional forums or writers’ group to see if anyone else is looking to boost their word count. Even better, if there’s a local write-in happening near you, you’ll get encouragement, commiseration and a hot beverage of your choice along with your words. Maybe even cake.
- A word sprint variation for the more solo writer: simply set a timer and write. Try to beat your last count, or aim for a 1K30 (1,000 words in thirty minutes – it’s harder than it sounds!). Really want a challenge? Tape over that backspace key, embrace the red squiggles of the spellcheck and try a fifty-headed hydra (500 words in five minutes).
- Struggling to turn off your inner editor? Try typing in white or a pale grey to make it harder to spot a clunky turn of phrase you just have to go back and fix right now. There is a time for editing and polishing. Now is not it.
- Know what you’re writing. Take five or ten minutes before you start a chapter or a scene to work out what’s happening in it. What’s your scene goal? What key things need to happen to move the plot forward? What’s the worst thing that can go wrong and how can you make it happen? Remember: conflict, conflict, conflict. As one of my favourite sources of writing advice, Susan Dennard put it: Everybody hates everybody (I can’t find this article to quote it properly. But all her writing advice is gold and you should visit. After NaNoWriMo.)
- Give yourself permission to detour. Let a pair of characters go off on a rambling conversation. You might cut most of it when you come to edit later, but you might learn something important about them, or find a way to get to that next plot point you’ve been slogging towards. Write a lengthy, wordy description of your next setting, or a character’s outfit, or the history of the city your character is travelling towards. You can slim it down to the most pertinent bits in revisions, but the more you let your imagination have free rein, the more chance you’ll stumble across that next gem.
You’ve probably heard people say the first rule of writing is there are no rules of writing. I’ve paraphrased that. I’m pretty sure it was more elegant when I came across it.
In any case, it’s almost right. There is one rule I think is pretty much iron-clad, no matter your story, your method, which tips you’re trying or which stage of the process you’re at. Not all writing time is spent actually writing – brainstorming, mulling it over, refilling the creative well are all important. But at some point, you do have to show up and start putting words down in your document. It won’t get written without Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Or Pen and Paper, but let’s face it, BICHOPAP isn’t so catchy.
For me, that’s what NaNo is all about – a commitment to show up and write. No matter how far you are behind, if you keep showing up to write, whether you add 1,000 or 100 words to your novel today, you’re moving forward and in the end, you will get there.
So, how’s NaNo going for you? Let me know in the comments and share your wordcount booster tips.