As I mentioned in my previous post, I tried to NaNo last year and lasted just a few days. The writing I did was great (in terms of word count) and I enjoyed the structure but it was difficult to sustain. So after a few days, I stopped but vowed to try again.
So, this time around as an official participant of JuNoWriMo, I really wanted to keep up with the word count goals. For the most part, it’s gone well. I took a zero day as I was feeling sick, but tried to get right back on it the next day. That was another lower day, although much of it was spent plotting. But I’m back on track and as of this morning have added over 12,000 total words to my WIP. Overall, that’s a lot of forward motion.
Here are some strategies and tips that have worked for me:
*Do not edit: I have tried to keep my editing brief and just look over the last few paragraphs I worked on the day before, or, in the case of starting a new chapter or scene, reread the last scene with those characters. Great in theory, but in practice it is a time-suck. Several times now, I’ve noticed that I will rewrite something that does not seem to improve it dramatically, and will have spent WAY TOO MUCH time doing so. I’ve even found that I will add a couple of sentences, thinking “Oh, yes. This will sound so much better!” only to notice nearly the same phrases a paragraph away. So, basically, I’m reworking it to sound…the same. Nerp. Waste of time. It also lowers my word count. And for this month, my goals are more words and to move the story along. Get going, don’t dawdle and dither.
*No, really. Don’t even sneak-edit: I also got tripped up thinking I would just read over a scene to “refresh myself” about where I’d left off. This happened after spending a day writing scenes for my B-plot. No. Don’t do it. Fix it later. What I found that works better is to scan my outline, or, in this case, my Scrivener notecards view. That way, I can see the overview of where I was, but not get sucked into the actual text. Even if I change a few words, we’re talking two or three because it’s just on a notecard. It’s brief and it is all I really need to do to get back into it.
*Scan books or blogposts on craft sparingly: I realized that I wanted to refresh myself on some plot points. I picked up Save the Cat, went over chapter 4 again (Let’s Beat it Out), and did some more plotting in the past couple of days. Lurve, lurve this book. The tone was perfect. Casual, direct, and focused. It was not the time to continue with The Writer’s Journey. (FYI: I linked to the 3rd edition, although the one I have is the 2nd.) Also a fabulous resource, but it can intimidate the shit out of me. Fragile writer nerves, after all. I’ll return to that after the draft is done.
Most blogposts I’ve read in the past few days have been helpful. They have normalized the process: from “Ohmigod, I think I used the word ‘change’ six times in a row! Must…let…it…go…for now!”, to “Today, I just kept myself from typing random words. Barely.” And as a special bonus, I’ve made some new acquaintances. Woo!
There are a lot of helpful suggestions out there. My challenge is to be open to learning but to pace myself. Too many tips at once, and I get stuck. *cough. Don’t we all? I have had to remind myself that there’s plenty of time to learn and that those posts aren’t going away. (What don’t I “favorite” on my TL? That’s where I hoard those suggestions, so thanks.)
*Your writing lair can be anywhere: I prefer to write in a certain room, wearing a certain cardigan, eating twizzlers, and after 7am (strictly latte o’clock), I drink lemonade. Now, if all that helped me crank out the words by the thousands, I would organize my life around doing that for my writing time. But I’ve seen that my word count isn’t any different (Gasp! Or is perhaps worse?), when I sink into the mindset of Must Create Perfect Writing Space. No. Just. Stop. So, I’ve been moving around to different spots. I actually got a fair amount of writing done while my toddler was playing London Bridges with my legs. Go figure.
*Word sprints: Let’s just say I highly encourage you to do these. Not only do they teach you to practice writing in small chunks, the WriMo Admin Queens also include helpful suggestions: write about a furry animal, your MC meets someone new, discover a magical tome, cross a bridge. My at-home reaction (and occasional accompanying tweet) tends to be, “What? B’okay! Hey, that was super freaking helpful.” Yeah. Like eerily so. Accept the help. Work with the prompts. They know what they are talking about. 😉
And, above all: Write (nearly) every damn day! Best advice ever. The amazing King Pen-Monkey himself, Chuck Wendig has a 5 day/week slow-and-steady method that seems pretty doable too.
What I have liked the most about Wri-Mo-ing is that I have been able to stay in my story. I don’t have to remind myself of some quirk or motivation because I am actively writing them, not just daydreaming.
Last thought: It’s like your mom told you: quit watching tv and stay off the internet. Except twitter in small bursts. Gotta keep some lil vice.
What are your do’s and don’ts for amping up your word count? Do you have any rituals that help? Have you noticed any that hurt?
Best of luck, wherever you are with your writing! Hold firm on that leash!