Saturday, May 25, 2013

10 tips to win NaNoWriMo

As JuNoWriMo is starting in 7 days, I though it would be a nice things to make a plan on how to win this tremendous challenge of writing at least 50000 words in a month. The first contest of this type, where you only compete with yourself, is NaNoWriMo and is held every November. I already wrote few posts containing tips, but I want to organize them better in one places and to add some more.

Tip 1: Write as much as possible as soon as possible 
(previous entry on that here)

In the perfect world, you have 31 days to write 50000 words, that's 1613 words a day. But that won't happen. We all have a life. We all have priorities and other things to do than writing. Even with 2 or 3 hours cleared up every day on your schedule to write, there is the research, the blocks, countless things hiding in the corner to just get in your way and make sure that you won't write. So the tip here is to write the most at the beginning. Instead of stopping as soon as you reach your daily 1613 words, keep going. I would advise to chose for yourself a slightly higher daily word goal and to stick to it as much as possible. Mine is generally 2500 words a day which means that every two days I am one day in advance. If I have a problem and can't write for a day I can still easily make it.
The second reason to choose a higher daily word goal is that the beginning of something new can be really exciting so it's really easy to write a lot. At the end you have seen your friends give up, you are maybe feeling alone with that, you want time with your relatives and family, you see that you are getting closer to your word goal but you are no where near the end of the novel which can be discouraging (I need about 80000 to 100000 words to finish mine so NaNo takes me above half way), he end is harder to write than the beginning. If you have more words than needed by the 20th of June, you can do all those things and still happily sit to write even if a little bit less. Save yourself the tears of being late.

Tip 2: Update your word count on the NaNo website every 5 minutes.
(previous entry on that here

This one is about motivation. And what keeps you motivated. Every word counts. Make them count, update your word count. Seeing the big number grow even a little is going to make you feel good. You will have a visual effect of it growing. You can even make up little games. 
1) I write for 5 minutes and see how much I can get, update. Let's beat the previous 5 minutes word count, update.
2) Write 100 words, update. Every one can write 100 words easily, remember that 50000 is only 100 words 500 times. Update.
If you don't update for yourself be nice and update for others, find someone with who you can play catch up and see who reaches the goal first. 

Tip 3: 10 words are better than 1.
(previous entry on that here   
I learned that one at a NaNoWriMo hang out when I was in Belfast for my first NaNoWriMo. Use adjectives, increase your word count by writing more than you want to. What you are writing now is a first draft, it will change when editing, everything will change and you will have plenty of time to find the right words later. Don't try to make it perfect now so that you don't need to edit it because you will need to edit it, there is no secret about it, you will edit it like mad anyway. Stay focus on your purpose, you want 50000 words and a finished draft. Add details. The more I do NaNoWriMo the more I find this advice useful, because the details you add actually help a lot when editing. If you don't really know how to say something adding a lot helps when you are trying to remember what it was all about when editing. Don't be afraid of useless words or ideas, at this point, they are your friends.

Tip 4: Flashbacks add three dimensions to your characters and words to your word count. 
(previous entry on that here
Let's say you are a little bit stuck. Your character is somewhere that you don't know and you don't know what he can do to get out of here and go back to the plot. Give him a break and time to think. Make him remember what happened before. I'm a big fan of flashbacks. In my first novel there is an entire relationship only built on flashbacks in someone's memory. Flashbacks make your characters more real, every body think about the past or project the future, readers relate more to characters they can do that with. Whenever you don't know where to move forward too, project the thought on the page, that will add to your word count. 

Tip 5: Abuse WRITE OR DIE! 
(previous entry on that here
I gave this advice for the past Camp NaNo last month to some people and they hated it because it was eating their precious words. I'm sorry to say but if they had been writing it wouldn't have (I can be really mean like that.) WRITE OR DIE is the replacement for a word war. You can't do a word war if you are alone, and word wars (another made for them is "words sprint") are so efficient to keep you going. I'm on the other side of the planet compared to most of my writing friends when I write they sleep. I use write or die to have my private word wars and it works as long as you keep writing. 

Tip 6: Think about what you are going to write during your "dead" moment. 
(previous entry on that here)
Contrarily to common beliefs, you don't need a computer, a notebook, a quiet room to be working on your novel. You can be working on your novel 24 hours a day. (Including when you sleep, yes, yes!) 
There are hundreds of moments when you are actually waiting for things (dead moments) and even moments when you are performing tasks that don't require your full attention and brain functions. 
I like to work under the shower. I was recently ask: "How can you write under the shower?" well it's very easy indeed. I think. I know where my characters are at and I'm creating what is happening next, then when I finally come back to the computer I just have to type. Thinking and typing at the same time can be slow. If you already did the thinking at least partially typing becomes a lot more efficient. It also give you the inertia to keep going. The easier the beginning of your writing session the longer you will keep at it.

Tip 7: Never stop at the end of a paragraph/chapter/section.
(previous entry on that here) 
Yes it totally makes sense to stop when you finish something, but at the same time it doesn't help you start again. So you finished your paragraph and you are happy. You just go to bed leaving your train of thoughts go away from the novel and when you open your document the next morning and start to write you don't know where to start because there is nothing before, nothing to give you a clue. When I wrote a linear novel, from point A to point B without really leaving the character, it might not happen much but when I was working on Demon World with three different stories going on simultaneously and alternating with each other, this tip became really handy. I always started to write the introduction of the next part before going to do something else. When in rare cases I didn't I had a lot of troubles knowing what to do next. The thing is that while you are in the writing process, you still have coherent ideas, if you stop the coherence might get lost.  

Tip 8: Don't edit. (But if you are to edit...)  
Don't edit. You can argue all you want, just cutting out large pieces of work in a moment of everything-I-write-is-bad-and-I-can't-stand-it-it-has-to-go crap is not going to help you toward your goal, which let me remind you in case you forgot with all my rambling advices, is to get your word count to 50000 words and call yourself a winner. But I know it's hard to avoid rewriting stuff, just rewrite the paragraph and add it to the entire thing, don't remove the previous work, those words were also written they count, no matter how bad they feel, they are still words and they are still yours and they are going to help you toward your goal even if you have to throw them away later. Don't go into a word killing hunt, keep them while they help you. 

Tip 9: Stop beating yourself up for being late and setting unreachable new daily word counts. 
So you had some little problems for the entire week but now it's over so you are going to write 5000 words a day. Now the end is near and you are going to stop being a very bad writer and you are going to sit at the computer and type until your fingers start bleeding on the keyboard. You need to stop being so bad and lazy and to write. And... let me tell you, this is not going to happen. 
Don't try making yourself a better person because that is not going to happen, it didn't happen during the previous NaNos and it won't happen during this one either. 
There is a large problem called the planing fallacy which basically says that people tend to overestimate what they can accomplish and result in taking more time than expected to do it. 
So here are some ideas to avoid becoming a victim of the planning fallacy. 
1) Remember the past. No matter how hard you tried you couldn't get to your daily word count. Reduce it. Remember, 10 words is better than 1 and 1 word is always better than 0. Create a new daily word goal that you can reach. If you reach it once, then twice, you are allowed to increase it again. Learn to know yourself and to know what you can accomplish for real, not in a dream or perfect state because those don't exist. 
2) Forget the past. You are late, too bad, no point whining about it, it won't help. Just forget about it, start the new day as a new start and write something, anything. 

Tip 10: Reward yourself for little wins. 
In general if you tell yourself that you'll get something when you reach this or that it keeps you going. Of course the last word that you are going to write is important, it makes you win. But you couldn't have win with only that word. You also needed the 49999 words which came before, every single one of them. This is better explained here on AJATT. He gives you a lot of examples. 
Reward yourself for small achievement. It will keep you happy and if that's not already enough, it will keep you writing.

Tip 11: Decide!
This is probably the most important tip because even if you don't follow any of the above it will make you a winner. You have to decide that you are going to win this no matter what. I believe that winning it is before anything else a decision.

I hope you found this helpful. Please share your winning plans with me and help create more tips to help more and more people be a NaNoWriMo winner. We need those books.  

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post and some awesome tips. And you are right about all of it.