We NaNoWriMoers are a little more than halfway through the challenge, but if you are like me in any way, this is about the time I start hitting the wall. The pressure of words is becoming a bit more challenging as you work through the plot you are hastily creating. And the deadline is looming closer and closer with each passing day.
The start of the 30-day challenge is always exciting, and if I daresay, easy as you choose your storyline and begin meeting your characters. But after the first few days the inspiration begins to dry up and the nerves begin setting in. By the halfway point, we wonder if there’s enough time left, and then we dread the story itself: is it even worth all this effort? The answer: YES! Nano is just the challenge to get 50,000 words completed (which is approximately a novel, give or take). But you aren’t supposed to have a finished, polished novel by December 1 sitting on your desk. Having that kind of pressure is daunting, and can cause writers to detach themselves from their project and drop out of the Nano race. Let’s be honest, we aren’t James Patterson.
But never fear, there are some tried and true tricks to keep your word count mounting.
DO NOT SCRAP ANYTHING
As noted before, this piece is not going to be a publishable work by Day 30. Instead, this is a first draft. As writers, you need to keep that in mind as you go along. If you don’t like a scene, leave it be, write something new after it and keep going. The more you go back and delete pieces of the novel the more time you spend recreating scenes, and the less time you spend advancing your plot.
DO NOT EDIT
At least not yet! Editing, while a necessary tool for polished work is not the goal for NaNo. Make editing your December goal, and focus on getting the words down. Do not go back and rewrite sections, instead, write more sections and keep the flow going. Spending time each day going back to re-read entire chapters (heck, even the entire book!) takes precious writing time away from you. In order to meet the deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days, writers have to average at least 1,700 words per day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but as you get into the nitty-gritty of the novel, there’s the chance that some days you might not hit that mark, maybe one day you only hit 300 words, that puts you 1,400 words behind.
SCHEDULE SOME TIME
We all work, cook, have commitments, and need time to unwind. Make sure to set aside a block of time to write. This block of time can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours, whatever your schedule allows. But making yourself sit and write for that set time period can get the juices flowing! Environment is also key. Make sure to select your writing space based on your ability to block out noise. If you can’t stop yourself from looking up at the T.V., getting involved in a conversation, or getting distracted by the pile of laundry that needs folding, make sure you choose a location that is free of those distractions.
These are a fun way to get the word count out in a certain amount of time. And you can get other writers involved in them too! Pick a number of words you want to write and
then give yourself a time limit to get those words written. Or give yourself a time limit and challenge your friends to write as many words as you can. The winner earns a free cup of coffee! Post it to social media, text your writer buddies, or get your friends/family to hold you accountable for these sprints!
Sometimes you place too much pressure on yourself to actually write the number of words you need each day. The pressure builds and it squashes the inspiration. In these cases, get up and get out. Head to a park, a mall, or some other public place and spend time people watching. Give yourself an hour and write about where you are, what you see, what you hear, about the people walking around, the smells…just jot it down, keep your focus off your work in progress until something sparks you. This break allows your mind to wander outside of the confines of your story line.
GET OFF THE COMPUTER
Sometimes working your magic with the basics are the best way to reinvigorate your output. While typing allows you to get more words down in a shorter amount of time, writing by hand allows your mind to work a bit slower. Use this time to develop a new scene or character, or to give yourself a quick chapter outline.
While passion gets you started on the Nano journey, you have to be dedicated to finishing the job. Writing up a short, general outline can help keep you on track. This provides you with the bare bones of the story and you can spend the rest of the writing time filling in the organs!
STOP WRITING WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT IS COMING NEXT
Getting started each day can be a challenge if you aren’t sure what direction your character is going to take later in the story. By ending your writing session at a point in which you know exactly what your character is going to do next, you allow yourself to get started immediately the next time you sit down and begin writing again. Jot down a few notes before you finish writing for the day about what is going to happen in the next chapter and stop writing. When you go back, your notes and your last few paragraphs will be all you need to review before you can jump into the action of your WIP (work in progress).
Choosing a character name can take days, deciding on the correct phrasing to describe the castle gates can be a challenge you spend hours creating, even attempting to vary your descriptive language can take up more time than you’d like. Here’s the key when it comes to Nano: leave it blank. The old adage, “collect the sand, build the castle later,” applies here more than you can imagine. Who cares if you used the word SMILE thirty times in the last twenty pages. That is a problem for you to address when you get to the editing phase. That minor character that only appears once in the story for a few pages doesn’t have a good name? So what, make one up, leave it blank, call him Minor Character 4, and move on. Names can be decided upon at a later date. Not sure how to describe the scar on the hero’s face? Write SCAR, DESCRIPTION, and keep writing the action. This is a first draft, it isn’t supposed to be gold, it’s supposed to be raw. All the boo-boos can be tended at a later date.
DO NOT GIVE UP
Even if you know you aren’t going to hit 50,000 by the end of November, keep writing. Keep pushing yourself to write as much as you can. Then, use that success as a challenge for yourself the following year. You might surprise yourself. You may sit down one day, feel overly inspired, and write 8,000-10,000 words and put yourself back on track to hit your goal. You can do it, you have the skills and the passion – you just need the determination. (And a few good tips to stimulate those creative juices!)
-Corinne (Genre Editor)