Friday, October 15, 2010

Tips for NaNoWriMo

I participated in National Novel Writing Month 2009 and won. As with all winners I have to give my advice on how to win.

Leave the story open ended. 
When you start, don't block your story down to a day, or a week. If you do, suddenly your characters will decide that they all want to go to mexico for a week, or decide to take a nap and miss an important event. Or you will find yourself nearing the end with 30,000 words left. I did this last year and had to add extra characters just to have something else happen in the twenty four hour period. That was after spending hours panicking about what to write to waste words.

That part you think will be really cool? It won't be.
By the time you get to that part the story will have altered it to the point that it won't work out the way you thought it would. Luckily, the part right afterward, which you thought would suck, will end up being pretty awesome.

Write out your problems
Start by writing out your problem and possible solutions to it, even the weird ones that would never work, mostly just to get them out of your system. You may come up with something you never expected, or you combine the odd ones with a more realistic one. (This is actually how I was taught to design sets)

Take a nap
If you can't figure something out, try coming up with a solution while falling asleep. I find doing this gets you to think outside the box. Even when you think you are consciously thinking out of the box you probably aren't, being sleepy you forget the earlier events in your story which allows to to rewrite them (not literally). You also tend to lose those logical boundaries that we work with while awake. Think of it as writing while dreaming.

Break the rules and reread the beginning
Everyone at the Office of Letters and Light says not to read any part of your story until one month after NaNoWriMo is over. The reasoning is that you will read it and decide it sucks and stop writing, or you will try to rewrite it and waste time that could be used adding more words. But you could suddenly remember about a character you had in the beginning that could be used in the current scene or maybe you added an extra character in chapter ten and you realize she could make an appearance in chapter two. Couple lines of added foreshadowing lessen the total amount you need to write.

Keep track of how much you "need" to write each day
This threw me last year. has the progress report tool that will tell you how much you are suppose to write, but it was broken for the first two weeks of November 2009. If this happens again calculate it as ((50,000-WordsWritten)/(31-DayofNovember)). Do this on a regular basis to remind you that just because you had a really good day and wrote twice as much doesn't mean you get to take a break and not write for a day, it means you get to write maybe one hundred fewer words for teh rest of the month. Your goal should be to write at least thirty words beyond what you "have" to write, this way you "have" to write one less word the next day.

Break up your writing
Write in the morning, write in the evening, write during lunch. You might not get much written in the morning, but it will be three sentences that you won't have to write during lunch. It also helps keep the story in your mind during the day. And 500 words during three sessions is a lot easier to think about than 1666.67 words a day

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