Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NaNoWriMo Trench Tips

For those of you who are safe at home outside of the literary madness known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, we are in the swing of it here, blasting into the second week.  I am doing NaNo updates daily on my Facebook author page for those who want to follow the frenzy.  

Today is day number nine. By midnight, each NaNo’er will have 15,003 words written in our new novels. I'm over 20,000 because I'm doing a higher word count so that come January, I will have an entire manuscript to rework.  December I will ignore the whole thing, of course. 

NaNo is such a unique experience.  It's sort of like mountain climbing.  You get all your gear ready, you've taken your safety classes and you're in that chimney climb and suddenly you think, "What the hell am I doing here?!?  Who talked me into this?!"  Or maybe, "If I hear On Belay one more time..."  Ha ha!

You find your weaknesses real fast.  Do you hate Pollyanna?  You will slam the delete button when the pep talk emails come in from the Offices of Letter and Light.  Do you despise those who are happy when you're miserable?  You will seethe at every NaNo'er who is above the necessary word count for the day.  Do you have perfectionism issues?  You may have to sit on your hands in order not to edit what you've written.  I've actually modified this by rereading what I've written and adding words in, not deleting any.  This is still editing, folks.  I obviously have a way to go...

You will also find your strengths fast.  You will be inspired by things you've never dreamed of before.  Every walk in the park and/or grocery store will speak to you about your novel.  Every conversation will contain clues for your next dialogue.  Or perhaps, if you're working on a suspense novel, every drive by the seedy part of town will have you glued to the sidewalks looking for material to incorporate.  I learned a few organizational tricks last year that have me sailing through my chapters this year.  And I learned that although I tend to tell a story "backwards" - don't ask me to explain this, you don't want to know - I found a remedy so I can still write freely but fix the order later.

Writing used to be a mandatory course in every high school curriculum because it helps you organize your thoughts so you can articulate well enough to communicate to someone else.  Sadly, it's missing in most these days.

Here's a few tips from the trenches:

1. Try to stay ahead of your word count even if only by 50 words a session.  This will give you a buffer on those days you'd rather do anything else than write.

2.  Don't be afraid to write in a new genre, or from a location and time period you know nothing about.  Do your best from memory and do your research later. 

3.  Keep a NaNo tip sheet for things that help you get through sticky places because next year you will do this all over again.  NaNo is very addicting!

4.  If you hit the doldrums, hit the forums.  You'll find lots of tips and encouragement there.  But I warn you, they can help you procrastinate!

5.  Date your novel.  I like to think our stories choose us.  It's like sitting down with my sweetheart and catching up with him at the end of the day, maybe watching a movie together.  Love it!

If you have a NaNo Trench Tip you’d like to share, please post in the comments. NaNo'ers need all the encouragement we can get as we continue on this amazing novel adventure.

For info about Sophie, my annoying little internal editor, please visit my grog, Teen Word Factory.

Happy NaNo’ing, everyone!

photo credits: morguefile.com


  1. Great tips, especially number 3-- just like everything else, you have to find out what works for you, and every time you do Nano, you'll try new techniques. Some will work, some won't, and it's great to have a list so you remember what did work (I can't remember where I left my car keys an hour ago, much less what writing techniques worked for me a year ago)! So the "cheat sheet" really helps!

    Also, you mention about turning off the internal editor-- that is SO important. In one section of this year's novel, I fell into a scene that was complete melodrama. Normally, I would groan and delete the scene, and backtrack. This time, I went ahead and wrote it (hey, it helps the word count), and it ended up leading me into a GREAT scene that I hadn't even thought of before and that wasn't melodrama. If I had deleted the melodrama, I wouldn't have been led to the great scene. So not editing yourself is VERY important. Save the editing until the novel is done.

  2. Oh Brenda, awesome. I'll remember that when I'm trudging through a scene I don't like. Thanks for sharing!