Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Eight Tips for Nanowrimo

As people who read writing blogs are probably aware, Nanowrimo starts this Thursday. (If you’re not aware of Nanowrimo, visit their website , and all will be revealed to you.) As a four-time successful Nano-er, and one-time Script Frenzy-er, I present you with six tips on how to write 50,000 words in a month.

1. Find a writing buddy
These are invaluable. The Nano forums may be there to let you know that other people are suffering with you, but if you have a writing buddy, you can tell them about your novel from the beginning, and when you say, “Archibald is too tall to be a cyborg!” they’ll know not only what you’re talking about, but hopefully how to fix it.

2. Write as much as you can on the first day
Having just started writing a novel, you will probably be super-excited, and overflowing with brilliant ideas. The beginning is usually the easiest part to write, in my opinion, because if you’ve only just started, you can’t even have plot-holes yet. Before the buzz of your super-awesome new novel wears off, get down as many words as you can. That way, when you are feeling sad and unmotivated, or when something comes up that drags you away from novel writing, you’ll already have a stock of extra words to prevent you falling behind.

3. Write every day
I know this isn’t possible for everyone, and a lot of people plan for November so that they will write a few hundred words every weekday, and catch up on the weekend. In that case, this advice should be ‘Follow your schedule’. It’s a lot easier to fit 1667 words into a busy day than it is to fit 12,000 words into a weekend, no matter how much time you may have. 12,000 words is intimidating. 1667 is achievable.

4. Don’t procrastinate
Achieving this is actually impossible, but in this case I only mean it in short bursts. Word Wars are your friend. The Nano website runs them through their forums, or you can find yourself a real-life writing buddy. Set yourself ten minutes, and write like crazy. Not only will this stop you wasting you life on the Nano forums and Facebook, but it will also make you realise how much you can write in ten minutes. If you can do 400 words, 1667 will only take you forty minutes!

5. Find something to motivate you
Hopefully, there is a motivational website out there to suit everyone. If you like looking at cute pictures of cats, visit Written? Kitten!, and you will be gifted with one every time you achieve a word-count goal. If you need to be motivated by something really cruel, go to Write or Die, where your work will disappear if you don’t keep writing. Otherwise, there’s always rewarding yourself with chocolate, or a nice long perusal of the forums.

6. Generate a plot-twist
If all else fails, and you’re staring at your computer screen, and wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea for a novel in the first place, and whether you have enough plot to fill the next 100 words, let alone 50,000 of them, generate a plot twist. After all, it’s Nanowrimo, and the aim is to get words down on paper (or, you know, screen), which you can always fix later. If your plot twist works out – brilliant! if it doesn’t, hopefully it will at least provide some inspiration, and if nothing else, it will add enough words that you  won’t start feeling unmotivated by being behind word-count tomorrow. Seventh Sanctum, TV Tropes and the Nanowrimo adoption forum are excellent for this.

7. Use pointy brackets
Pointy brackets are your friend. If you can’t think of what to name your character, write <name>. If you can’t think of that word you really want, write <that adjective that sounds kind of like ‘alpaca’>. If you can’t think of how on earth you’re going to write your next scene, <that scene I really can’t work out> will save you. This will save you all the time you would have spent staring in panic at the screen, and also the time you would have spent perusing naming websites, dictionaries, and other procrastination stations.

8. Don’t give up
A weekend of solid writing can always save you. There are people – and I don’t know what bizarre kind of people they are, but they are people – who complete Nanowrimo on November 1st. All 50,000 words of it. If they can write 50,000 words in a day. It’s just a matter of sitting down, and writing without doing anything else, until you’ve reached your goal.

I hope this helps people with Nanowrimo. Do you have tips to share?


  1. 50,000 words in one day? Whoa!

    This is my first time at NaNo, so I have no tips. I like your brackets idea. Sometimes I'll bold words/phrases when I know I want to change them. Brackets would make them easy to search/find later though, rather than skimming the document for the bold.

    I'm excited to watch friends' progress too. It'll be fun. Good luck!

    1. The brackets idea works really well, although I find myself doing things like , so you have to be careful how far you take it!
      Nano is lots of fun. I hope you enjoy it, and good luck!

  2. I have a few tips....
    1) Don't be afraid to write out of order. If you get stuck in one place, skip ahead (or skip back - nothing wrong with a good flashback) to a scene where you know what you want to happen. You can go back to the other one when you figure it out. Or after November. Whatever floats your boat.
    2) If your main plot or main character is getting boring, it's okay to abandon them for a subplot or minor character. If you're bored, it's probably because more exciting things are happening somewhere else in your story.