My Tips for Writing a Lot of Words
News: SCARLET is a nominee in the GoodReads People’s Choice Awards, Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-Fi Category! Cast your votes here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2013
Many of you are taking part in my Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge, and I am so heartened to see all the growing word counts on my Buddy List! Heartened and, honestly, a little intimidated. I won’t tell you how much I’ve written so far, but I will say that many of you are currently ahead of me. (I guess I’d better get my act in gear – bwa ha ha!)
So keep it up, novelists!
In order to help you rack up as many words as possible this month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite NaNoWriMo success tips. Though I don’t use all of these techniques all of the time, I have found them to be highly useful when I do use them.
1. My tactic for turning off the inner editor.
The inner editor—or that voice that urges you to rewrite every paragraph until it is perfect—is your worst enemy when you’re trying to write many words very quickly. Nanowrimo is not about perfection. It’s about getting your initial ideas down on paper so that you have something to revise and edit later. So how do you keep yourself from nitpicking every little thing?
I like to leave bolded notes for myself throughout the first draft whenever I hear the inner editor piping in.
Example: Add setting details here.
Or: Change this cliché to something not-cliché.
Or: Make this not suck.
That way I can keep moving forward with the story without having to lose momentum in getting that section just right. Plus I’ll easily be able to find the spots that need fleshing out later.
2. Make like William Wallace: Freedom!
For those of you who just can’t stay off of Twitter for more than twenty minutes, Freedom is a software program that will disable the internet on your computer for a set amount of time. You choose how long you want to work, start Freedom, and go! (Tip: You may also want to leave your cell phone in another room.)
Download the software at MacFreedom.com. Note: there is a PC version available.
3. Participate in word sprints.
This time of year, there’s almost always someone word sprinting on Twitter. Track them down, or start your own, and go! Word sprints typically run for 20 or 30 minutes, and you’d be amazed at how many words you can write in that short amount of time when you feel the adrenaline rush of competition.
You can also take part in your local Nanowrimo write-ins (check the Nano forums for your local coordinators) or set up a writing date with some friends and challenge each other to see who can write the most words in a short amount of time.
Can’t find anyone to sprint with? A lot of writers swear by Write or Die, which is a web site that essentially lets you word sprint against yourself—with horrible consequences if you fall behind. Give it a shot at WriteorDie.com.
4. Never stop at the end of a chapter.
I’ll admit that I don’t use this tactic all that often, but when I do, I always think, This is brilliant! Why do I not do this all the time? For many writers, the most difficult part of any writing period is simply getting started. Avoid blank-page syndrome by ending each writing session with at least one sentence into the next scene or chapter. It will be easy to write while you’re still high off the momentum from today’s pages, and when you sit down tomorrow you’ll be able to launch write in without trying to figure out how to start.
5. Sit down to write 50 words, not 50,000.
The idea of writing 50,000 words can be incredibly intimidating. To accomplish it in a month works out to 1,667 words a day, which also sounds incredibly intimidating. That is a lot of words, and a lot of people give up quickly because they can’t fathom writing that many words in a single day.
But what if you sat down to write just 50 words? Well, you can probably accomplish that without hardly a thought. In fact, you can write 50 words while you’re pumping gas. Or waiting for bread to toast. Or during a commercial break.
And that’s the trick—easily one of my favorites for when I’m lagging on my word goals. I know that I am always capable of writing 50 words, so I start there. And inevitably, that turns into 200 words, then 500, and before I know it, my day’s word count is done.
6. Write the scenes that excite you.
We all have different writing processes, and I think it’s important to find what works for you. For the longest time, I considered myself a purely chronological writer. I started with Chapter One and kept right on writing until I reached The End. I was uncomfortable jumping around in a story, because I was worried that things might change, which would lead to more work in revisions later.
Well, the thing with Nano, is that I know there’s going to be a lot of work in revisions, so it gives me permission to write my scenes out of order without worrying how much work I may be adding for myself. If I’m feeling stuck on one part of the story, I’ll jump ahead to some scene that’s been plaguing me, or something that I’m super excited to write. It keeps me from staring at the screen thinking, But I don’t feel like writing an action scene today… when do we get to the kissing part?
Remember: progress is progress!
So there are some of my favorite techniques for getting down the words. If you have a favorite tactic of your own, please share it in the comments!
Happy writing, everyone!