NaNoWriMo pep talk

So today is the last day of NaNoWriMo. Some of you have already crossed the 50k line, some of you are close, and some of you are writing madly while knowing you won’t make that goal. The thing that all of these have in common is that you are writing and that is fantastic.

Today, I’m mostly speaking to the folks who aren’t finished yet and are trying to jam out a whole bunch of words. Yes, you can just write random stuff and bump up your wordcount that way. Here’s a list of strategies to make those words count for more than just a number.

  1. Remember that you are telling a story and you are telling it to yourself first and foremost. We are, all of us, readers. So when you are sitting there staring at the page, don’t think about what you should write next, think about what you would want to read.
  2. Remember what excited you about the story in the first place. Bring it back. You liked the flying monkeys in chapter 2? No reason they can’t make a reappearance here.
  3. Doodling for writers. Write description. Ridiculous descriptions. Describe the woodgrain on the desk sitting in the corner. At some point, your brain will say, “Really? We’re talking woodgrain? I have some plot here. Would you like some plot?” That description isn’t wasted. It tells you about the space that your character is in and you can often cut those words up and put them in other places in your novel
  4. In fact, pick any technique to practice. Dialogue. Setting. Internal monologue… Now doodle for writers with that, until you find your way again.
  5. Figure out what your character wants overall and also in this scene. Now. Systematically deny it to them. They want a glass of water? Fine, break the faucet. They go to call the plumber? Tough luck about the phone coming off the wall like that. Be mean to them.
  6. Brackets are your best friends. If you are on a roll, don’t stop to look things up. Put it in [square brackets] and come back to it.
  7. Bored with a scene? Just jot down what happens next so you can get to the part that you really want to write. Sometimes, you’ll come back later and find you didn’t need the part you skipped.
  8. Set a timer for twenty minutes and tell yourself that your fingers cannot stop moving. Before you hit start, pick a goal for the scene — something specific like “they break out of prison with a mason jar” or “she realizes she loves him.” Now write.
And if you don’t hit 50k by midnight? No big deal. There’s always next month. Sure, NaNoWriMo is in November, but dude– writers write. And you, my friend, you are a writer.
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2 Responses

  1. Grant Gardner

    Love the idea of “Doodles for Writers”.  So going to use that the next time I get stuck.

    I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year but will next year after vanquishing one of the biggest problems I have with getting words on the page (or screen): the dreaded self-edit.

    I was looking last week for techniques to get myself on a new habit of not self-editing when I came across this post by Paul Wolfe http://www.onespoonatatime.com/lifting-the-curse-of-self-editing).  Of the three techniques he suggests, I absolutely LOVE the No-Monitor Method – in brief: print out your outline, place your cursor, turn off the monitor, and write.

    Somehow, this method frees my brain to start coming up with ideas as I write.  It becomes less about telling the perfect story and more about storytelling.  I went from 600 word “days” (several writing sessions in a day) to 600 word “10 minutes” – literal 10 minutes – I set a timer for 10 and started writing; 623 words later the timer stopped; unreal!.  The result is not pretty and has plenty of errors, but it doesn’t matter because it’s on the page and I can always go back after to edit.

  2. Eliza Hirsch

    When I read the first point on this list it felt like my brain opened. I’ve been having some trouble writing the ending, and now I think when I approach it again I’ll have a better direction to go in. It’s age old wisdom, right? Write the book you want to read. I think we forget that sometimes, though.

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