So Day 1 of NaNoWriMo is going well and I now have nearly 4000 words down. It’s a little less than I would like but the day is not yet over, and I’m trying to make sure that, bad prose and all, at least I have a story that’s fairly consistent. Even so my eyes have gone a little square and I’m sure this post will have a gazillion errors I’ve missed.
But with many of you attempting NaNoWriMo this November, either trying for the first time, trying to score your first “win”, or a veteran of multiple WriMos, I thought I’d take a quick break and come up with a list of some tips to help you get your 50,000 words written.
1) You Can Cheat
By that I don’t mean lying about your word count or pasting the word ‘wibble’ 50,000 times. But if you want to use the time to write 10 short stories, or edit an old novel or aim for a target other than 50,000 words, it’s all allowed. The idea is to use the time productively. For one month, to make writing your priority and show you that yes, you can do it. What it is you do is entirely up to you.
2) Start Big
30 days of writing is hard. Not impossible, but hard. There are going to be days when you write more than you thought you were capable of, and days when the words come like treacle. For this reason, use the start of NaNo to get ahead of yourself. 1,667 words is your minimum, never get to 1,667 and just stop. That said, you don’t get days off for good behaviour just because you are ahead of target.
But there are going to be days when real life screws everything up and you don’t get your 1,667 words done. And as soon as that happens you’ll feel like you are constantly running to catch up.
So build up a head of steam, not so you can relax, but so that if “real life happens” you’re not going to find yourself chasing your tail for a month.
3) Be Gloriously Shit
I think the last sentence I wrote used the word ‘sleep’ three times. I did my usual trick of leaving out important description (although I did cheat and go back and add in a paragraph – it all adds to the word total, right?). I usually need to write the first chapter of a novel a gazillion times until I get it right.
Don’t worry about it. Those things get fixed when you come to revise it.
What’s important is letting your mind free, allowing things to develop inbetween the cracks of your ideas. With my 2009 WriMo novel, a secondary character suddenly appeared who was not in my original outline. Already in one of my 2011 novels I’ve created a plant called a “Thicklethorn” that’s made me smile. It’s that abandonment that’s the compost to let those ideas grow. Some might be absolutely shit, some might ultimately not fit that story but some will just take root in your crappy prose and take your story in new and exciting ways you never expected.
4) Plan ahead
For my 2009 novel, I broke down the plot into 30 chapters and then targeted myself to write a chapter a day. It worked well as each morning I knew what hurdles I needed my story to jump. For 2011, one of my novels I have no idea what happens beyond the third chapter, and I think the chapters will be too long to be able to do one a day. But still, I spend the day thinking a little way ahead. Like a mist shrouded road I can see a little way ahead, and use the day to finalise what I need to write tomorrow. I might not ultimately know where this road is leading but I’ve got no time for writer’s block during NaNo.
5) Enjoy The Freedom
You don’t have to write a major literary work and as I said, it doesn’t have to be good, so use this time to let your imagination run wild. There’s very little in life that you have complete control over, but this is one of those things. You get to decide who lives, who dies, who returns as the undead. It’s your world and your characters and you can do whatever you like. Enjoy your freedom.
6) Procrastinate Wisely
You need to take breaks as you write, but all too often a 10 minute break on Facebook can lead to losing half the day. To avoid that, try and make your procrastination breaks into something productive. For example, planning the following day’s writing or going out to a WriMo meet. I’m working on two novels at the moment so my plan is to swap them when I feel like a major bout of procrastination is coming on. That or writing a blog post!