In my previous blog post, I shared some basics about NaNoWriMo and some of the benefits of participating. Today, I’m sharing some tips that I’ve found really helpful in years past.
Eleven Steps to Crushing Your NaNoWriMo Word Count
If you have scenes that are extremely vivid in your head, write those first, no matter the order of events. It will help you clear up that space in your brain for new ideas if the old ones have been released.
When you can’t think of what to do next, write some details about your character, the relationships between major and minor characters, or setting descriptions. This may not be used in the final manuscript later on, but immersing yourself in the setting will help jog your brain.
Never hit the backspace. If you wrote a sentence you don’t love, type a new version next to it, or if you’re not sure how you’d reword it, leave it. NEVER edit, smooth over, rephrase, tighten, or delete paragraphs during NaNoWriMo. You’re training yourself to turn off your inner editor and just let your ideas flow.
Buy yourself snacks. Writing 15,00-ish words every day may be viewed as sitting around doing nothing, but using your brain so much is noticeably exhausting. Especially if you add other responsibilities like work, chores, school, or hygiene on top of that. (Some are lucky enough to avoid all of the above. Others, not so much). When you feel yourself flagging, go fix a quick snack. Chocolates are popular because you can unwrap one at a time and reward yourself for completing small milestones. This keeps your energy levels up, provides a little extra motivation, and keeps your morale high.
When you run into a spot where you forgot to name a character, place, pet, or whatever, it’s better to use a searchable placeholder instead of stopping to research. Wait until you’ve reached your word count for the day before getting distracted by blog posts and a long conversation with a Name Rater to see if using ‘Winnie’ would only conjure up an image of a yellow bear for the reader. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest using XXX, since most words don’t have that many X’s. Or use the highlighter tool.
NaNoWriMo occasionally hosts Double Up Days on the weekends to help you catch up or get ahead of the game. I highly recommend participating in these, especially toward the start of the month, because– Thanksgiving. Take advantage of those quiet first couple of weeks in November.
If you’re on Pinterest, start a secret board for your work in progress. During your free time (after you’ve reached your daily word count, please) collect new pins for setting details, characters, quotes that go with the storyline, clothes, creatures, you name it. When you’re stuck and can’t think of anything to write, going back to this mood board can help prompt you.
Create a list of themes that go with the genre of your story (in your NaNoWriMo document, because this counts toward your daily count, people). Then write a paragraph or scene for each one. For my MG adventure story, I use prompts like ‘wild things’, ‘a light in the dark’, ‘horseback’, or ‘eavesdropper’. This works really well for me right away in the morning when my brain hasn’t woken up yet. I’ve seen some websites that have prompt generators, but I enjoy coming up with my own so that they’re specific to the story I’m writing.
Change up your venue. If you have a laptop or tablet, try mixing up your location every couple of hours. These small changes help keep your body from getting stiff from staying in one position all day, and also provides some stimulation for the brain, even if you’re still mainly staring at your computer screen all day. Ambiance is very important for writing.
As important as change is, ritual can be equally vital. My friend has a routine of lighting a candle and getting a pitcher of iced tea before settling in to write every morning. It helps her to get into the zone before the computer goes on and she starts her day. Start a NaNoWriMo ritual and stick to it as much as possible.
Lastly, tell someone you see regularly in person (family, a close friend) that you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Better yet, get them to do it with you! Having that friend encouraging you and keeping you accountable helps a lot, and can keep you sane during the last few weeks.
Remember, NaNoWriMo isn’t about having a shiny, finished novel at the end of the month. It’s about helping us discover our stories. And that usually means a very scattered, ugly first draft that we won’t want to show to anybody. But you never really know what’s waiting for you a few paragraphs away, so wade through the clichés and the bumpy scenes because your ‘aha!’ moment is waiting for you.
And speaking of having a friend participate with you, my NaNo buddy Christa Kinde has also shared some valuable tips and tricks on her blog! Check it out.
Start your writing journey at nanowrimo.org right now!