Tuesday, November 01, 2011

10 Tricks for Writing 50k Words in November

acrylic and gel pen on paper

It's the beginning of nanowrimo and the beginning of AEDM and I am off to a satisfactory start. I have not even started my piece of art for AEDM, but I am planning to do that during Glee tonight. But then I knew I wouldn't have art in time for posting, if I was going to blog today, so I planned ahead and painted a companion piece to the last one, the self portrait with writing hat.

This is it together in my moleskine.   It's about taking charge of my own dreams, knowing what I want and taking action. That's what the hand is about, it's about self determination. This is your hand. It does stuff. What do you want it to do? Do it. Believe in your ability to get it done. 

This is me in my writing hat, getting ready to sit down and win nanowrimo. That's my Work In Progress on the laptop. That's my desk. That's my semi-clean porch out the window. Those are my reading glasses, because at 40 I realize I have trouble focusing on something that is in front of me when I sit for long periods of time. Plus it keeps me from gazing out the window at the now fuzzy world beyond my glasses.

I figured that since this is my sixth year of doing nanowrimo and I have won 5 out of 5 tries, I'd like to write about some of the tricks that I have used to actually hit 50k words (and usually beyond.)

1. Aim for 2000 words a day, not 1667 like it says. 2000 is a nice round number and it gives you a bit of cushion. It also makes you feel good and productive when you are doing better than you need to do on that little graph thingy on your nano page.

2. Remember that November is often a very busy month and you might have external commitments. A birthday coming up? Count that in. (Is it YOUR birthday, ask for time to write, or tools to help you write, or a writing date!) Do you have to cook dinner for 20 on Thanksgiving. Plan around Thanksgiving. Maybe add in a few extra hundred words for each day, knowing you will be out of commission for a couple of days. Is work a busy time? Write notes on your lunch break to keep your head in your novel.

3. Do you have specific days free? Take as many hours as you can and just write write write. Get ahead of yourself.

4. Get a timer. Set it for 15 minutes and start writing. Do not stop writing until the timer dings. Do not stare out the window. Do not puzzle over choosing the right word. Do not anguish over some bad writing or a plot twist you didn't plan. Just keep writing.

5. As for those unplanned scenes and plot twists... if you find they have taken you off course, do not despair and do not delete. Find where the story went awry and hilight the naughty text. You will take it out later in the revision stage after you read it over to see if there's anything salvageable. Now start over again, as if the naughty disagreeable writing didn't happen. Word count is still word count. It's still part of your novelling process, it will simply be removed in the revision process, along with many other words. Don't worry, that's part of the way it works.

6. Back to that timer, when life outside of nano starts to weigh on you, and you know you have to take care of washing dishes or doing homework or spending quality time with someone or calling mom, set that alarm to go off in 15 minutes. Take care of that life business, call your mom, scrub the bathroom, finish that homework, then when it goes off, you can get back to your writing, knowing that you are not so neglectful of your life as you were 15 minutes ago. If you have still more life stuff to get to, set your alarm so that you can write for 15 minutes, and then when that is done, do another 15 minutes of chores. Frankly, life can definitely move forward in small baby steps of 15 minutes. Sometimes the smaller chunk is less stressful.

7. Race yourself. Try to beat yesterday's word count. If you hit your word count, but are only 302 words away from a nice round number grand total, go for that round number. If you get that grand total and then realize that you are only 87 words away from reaching 3k for the day, you stretch for that extra 3k. This self competition technique has actually bolstered my count hugely on a daily basis. I can't bear to "just" miss some nice juicy number, so I push myself. I mean, really 87 words is not much at all, and I usually do far more than that, and then there's another nice number to hit after that.

8. Write during commercials. It sounds crazy, but prime time television is how I wind down, and sometimes, not always, I can manage to get a few hundred to a few thousand words simply by writing in those few minutes. This does depend on my mood and ability to focus for the day. If it isn't working, forget it. Put the novel aside. Get some down time. Go ahead and watch tv or whatever it is that recharges you. You don't have to stress yourself out and work all the time. Give yourself a reward for being on track, or for hitting a daily word count. Or for catching up. Or whatever.

9. Speaking of other things that recharge you, sometimes I like to exercise my other creative muscles. Painting gets my brain going in other ways, but the creativity is still going. What gets you going? Dancing? I can see that recharging the body and the mind. Exercise? If you need it, don't neglect it. It's quite possible that giving your brain a time to go on autopilot while exercising will allow your brain to mull over plot points and character development without interference, anxiety or stress. Take a break from writing. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Meet friends. Just remember that you have to keep your word count going.

10. Keep track of your progress in a visually satisfying way. I have a graph in my notebook that keeps track of my daily word count. For every 100 words, I hilight one square. I have lines for each day marking the various word count goals... the bare minimum 1667, my personal minimum of 2k. 2500 which would make a more hefty 70k word novel, the I-can-relax goal of 3k, which means I don't have to write at all that day if I don't want to, and the happy happy celebration goal of 5k. I only hit that a couple time in a nano, but it's a good feeling. Every time I mark my graph, I feel a sense of accomplishment. This is how far I've come. And because I can see the progress, I do not feel as discouraged, even when I don't always get as far as I want to. And I can also see when I am slipping, and that encourages me to get back to what I know I can do.

These are my word count goals. There is no padding in my stories like I've seen some people do. There are no make believe forced in plot lines just to keep writing. This is just about getting myself to sit down and write, because that, I've found, is the part that is the hardest.


Ciara said...

This is brilliant, thank you! I have hit something of a wall with my book lately, and you are right, it's really just down to getting those words out. Every day. And as for making art, some days I feel like my head will explode with sheer wanting, more time, more time, more time. (I have four children-my time is mostly not my own!)

SUCH a delight to find you blog too! Your pinboards on Pinterest are like looking inside my own head, sometimes, and now to find all these other similarities is just so heartening and inspiring. Thank you!
Ciara x (Milkmoonmama)

Ciara said...

Ps. I am so impressed and amazed and inspired by how much you get done.
I may have to ask to rob your wonky alien idea? :-)

E. Regina said...

Makes me want to do it this year!!


Rowena said...

You should do nanowrimo. It's fun. And there's plenty of time to plan an idea.

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