Tuesday, November 11, 2014

20 Writing Tips to Kick Ass at NaNoWriMo

Not to brag or anything, but I've done (and won) NaNoWriMo a few times. I don't usually do lists, but you know what? I'm doing one now.

Don't let the picture deter you.... Let it entice you.

20. Turn off Your Cell Phone
And close all social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, you name it, get rid of it! It helps a lot if you have to type in the website URL, as opposed to just clicking on the tab that's already open. I'm super guilty of not doing this. Right now I have all of the things listed above open. And I keep clicking on them instead of writing! Do yourself a favor.

19. Same Place Same Time
Patterns are important. If you're disciplined enough to sit down at the same time every day and write -- excellent! A lot, if not most, published writers do this. This is not me. I wrote a children's story which I'm working on getting published in organic chemistry. But if you sit at the same place at the same time every day and write your brain will start wanting to do that. Which is the goal. Do it. Ideally during when you are most productive. Unless your most productive hours are needed for something else. That's okay too.

18. Write Every Day
Even if it's only a sentence. That keeps the habit going. If you skip days you lose steam. Which I am very guilty of doing. Oops. It might not be 1,667 words, but just because you know you won't meet that goal for the day does not mean that you shouldn't write at all.

17. Show Don't Tell
This is just good writing. But guess what? Extra bonus. It gives you more words. For example: "She drove to work." "She breathed a sigh of relief when she got to work because, finally, she could get away from the skunk smell that had plagued her on the freeway." Which one sounds better? Neither? You get my point. I'm trying to do a lot of things at once. Bear with me.

16. If You Get an Idea Write (Type) it Down
Yes, it counts towards your word count. Yes, you will forget the idea if you don't write it down that second (unless you have a freakishly good memory).

Is a fun free website that helps keep you on task. I don't usually use it, but it's helped me when I get stuck. It's easy to cheat, but that's not the point. The point is to write.

14. Read the Pep Talks
They're by authors. Authors write. Authors have been in your shoes. They usually (sometimes) know what they're talking about.

13. Stop Checking Your Word Count
Make a goal to check it once every page, half page, or three pages instead of every sentence. It will make the writing A. seem to go faster and B. actually go faster.

12. Chocolate, Coffee, and Peeing
Reward yourself every 100, 250, 500, 1,000 words with chocolate, vodka gummy bears, skittles, whatever you like. It will keep you wanting to write more. Reward yourself! You're doing work. You deserve it. Coffee, because sometimes you get inspired at 2 am and need to pull an all-nighter. And peeing (because you'll need to with all the coffee). Except the opposite of chocolate. If you don't let yourself pee until you hit 15,000 words -- you write those 15,000 words. Note: please make your goals attainable. If you're not peeing until you hit X number of words, be kind. Choose a goal that is less than 1,000 words away. I usually withhold peeing until I A. finish the 1,000 words I'm on or B. finish the page. Please don't make yourself write 5,000 words before you pee.

11. Don't Stress (Too Much)
If you're like me, you probably won't get 1,667 words a day. And that's okay. Right now I'm woefully behind. Am I worried? No! (Okay, I'm a little worried. Actually I'm a lot worried, I'm about 12,000 words behind.) But I've written 10,000 words in a day before. I can really catch up this weekend. And you can too! And if you can't? It's okay. At least you have more story than you would have had otherwise. And that's the important part.

10. No Plot? No Problem!
Like I shared before, I am a pantser. I suck at plot. I mean I really suck. I like characters. Plot is just... not me. So I don't try to plot. I write and when the plot happens it happens. So don't worry if you don't have a plot. One of the NaNos I did I didn't come up with a plot until the last day I wrote. And that's okay. But some people need plot. That strange breed of plotters need their outlines. If you're a plotter, plot! The writing will go easier for you knowing exactly where you're going.

9. Take Care of Yourself
I know. A little ironic coming from me. But it is important. Self-care is important. Do it. Even if it means dropping out. Whhat? You can't say that on a tips for NaNoWriMo post! The hell I can. The year I didn't win, I dropped out because self-care was and is more important than finishing NaNo. And I don't regret it. Your story ends. November ends. Your life does not. You can finish or not. But you have to live on. And live with yourself and what you've done with yourself during November. Take care of yourself. Please.

8. Don't Edit
And I mean this in two ways. Don't go back and edit (see tip four). And, don't edit at all. I don't personally do this because red lines bother me (I know I can turn them off) and because I just don't, but YOU can! Don't even worry about spelling! Don't even read what you write! Make the percentage in Word 30% or less and write. That way you can't go back and edit each sentence. Or change the font to a size four and write that way. That way you couldn't go back and edit if you tried. Or, by accident anyways. Obviously, if you tried hard enough you could edit, but don't!

7. Cheat!
I read No Plot? No Problem! too long ago to remember much. But I remember a few dirty tricks for getting your word count up. Desperate for more words? Use other things you've written this month (if you wrote it this month you don't have to feel guilty) and incorporate it in somehow. For example my senior year of high school my character read bits of someone's thesis -- my thesis. I had her advise a younger character on her thesis so I could add in chunks of other things I'd written that month. Other tips? Don't use contractions. Use characters' full names each time you mention them. And swear. What? Swear? If you have a character who swears a lot that's extra words. And. It's character development. So what? Your character likes to swear. Maybe have a different character who is offended by swearing. Then, after each swear that character can be annoyed which is -- you guessed it -- more words. Or, bonus cheating method, have a character that is hard of hearing and repeat stuff. Yes, it's cheating. But, it's also character development. So it counts. Some of these don't sound like they would help much, but every word counts. And you're writing it, and it's part of your story. So. It. Counts.

6. Get to Know Your Characters
I may be biased because I love characters (I even wrote a 50 page thesis on characters), but this is an important step. If you don't know what a character is going to do in a certain situation how can you write it? I suggest several steps to better characters *opens thesis*. First, I would find a character questionnaire online and fill it out. Even if you have to make up the stuff as you go. Then, I would write a character sketch, which is a few paragraphs on the character. These two steps are important to get to know your character better and to know how s/he will act in the future. It's also good to reflect back on if you forget something about your character. I would also "take your character out for coffee." Talk to your character. It's fun. Adds to your word count. And, helps you have a better story. (I would love to talk more about characters, but since I might be writing a book on this I have to be vague. Or, anyways, according to my thesis board I should turn my thesis into a book. Who knows if it'll happen or not.)

5. Shitty First Drafts
My high school creative writing teacher told us this again and again. Even J.K. Rowling said there was only one scene she didn't do a serious rewrite of. It's okay if you don't think what you're writing is any good. Just keep going!

4. Don't Go Back
When you write a novel in a month unless you are amazing (and sometimes even then), it's going to be crap. Never ever go back and read what you wrote (that's what December's for!). I know what you're thinking - what if I only add stuff? Some people add stuff while editing, it's true, but it's not worth the risk of deleting something bad. Say you thought of a really great scene to add into a certain part. Unless it's within the last page, don't go back! Simply write the scene where you are and bold, italicize, whatever, to let yourself know that that scene belongs somewhere else. Even though it'll probably be obvious. Then, December 1st, you can go through and move all your marked passages. Hell, you might decide you want to keep the passage there and flashback to it.

3. Rules Smules
If it doesn't work for you -- don't do it! Like I've said, I don't even do everything on this list and they're my suggestions. Do what works for you. Even if it doesn't work for bigs.

2. Write
Yeah, it sounds lame. But writing is important.

1. Procrastination
What??? you ask? Procrastination is your number one tip? Yup. Without a doubt. In fact, I'm procrastinating right now! Hoow? you ask?
Well, procrastinating clears your head. Noveling can get frustrating at times. Taking a break can help. Also, distance really does makes you fonder. You forget how much you hate writing and yearn to go back.

So, those are my tips for NaNoWriMo. Do you have any more to add? How's your story going?
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