Hordes of writers near and far are stocking up on coffee and wine and are installing fresh padding on the walls of their writing caves for the month of November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is officially upon us. It’s time for a month of writing intense enough to wear one’s fingers to bloody stumps and the ingestion of enough caffeine to create a violent eye twitch that will linger well into December.
The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.
Every November seems so fresh and new to me that sometimes I forget my veteran status. This will be my ninth year as a participant. Now that I’ve been around the 50,000-word block a few times, I’d like to share some survival tips I’ve accumulated over the years.
- Don’t edit. I’m serious. Don’t even edit the last two sentences you wrote at the end of your previous writing session when you pick up to keep going. Just read them for context and move on. If you don’t let the words pour out of you like pure literary vomit, 50k will elude you like a greased sardine.
- When you stop writing for the day, stop in the middle of a scene. It will make it much easier to pick back up and gain momentum as opposed to trying to start a new chapter the next day.
- Whether you plot everything out in advance or write by the seat of your pants, have at least one thing you know you’re writing toward that happens near the end of the book. Knowing that Character A and Character B are going to have to pull a pterodactyl wishbone for dominance and the fate of the universe while standing in a pool of baby seal tears at the climax of your book will help keep you always writing toward that scene.
- If you ever get stuck, ask yourself what the worst thing is that could happen to your characters. Then do it to them. It’ll keep things moving and drive the plot forward. Never be afraid to make your characters suffer, particularly at the hands of 3,000 axe-wielding space weasels. Getting characters untangled from bad situations is one of the best ways to work your creative muscles and increase wordcount.
- Bank extra words before Thanksgiving if you reside in the USA. Even if you’re on track up until that point, Thanksgiving weekend can decimate your wordcount, especially if you are visiting family or friends. It’s particularly important this year since Thanksgiving falls right at the very end of the month with little time to recover afterward.
- Word war your way out of a wordcount hole (no, that’s not a euphemism). If your wordcount is so far in the latrine that it seems that all hope is lost, gather a few other NaNoWriMo pals or some strangers on the internet and do a word war. Short, intense sprints tend to work the best (between 15 and 30 minutes). You’ll be shocked by how fast your word count will build if you do 2-3 sprints per hour with relaxing breaks in between to giggle manaiacally at cat gifs while chugging your favored form of caffeine.
See you at the finish line!
PS: If you’re in need of some quick and dirty plotting tips, check out Deanna Roy’s post on the Nine Box method of structuring your novel. Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet is also an excellent tool to map out your story.