Week three comes to a close today. That means we have 9 days left of NaNoWriMo. It may sound like it’s getting down to the wire, but that’s still so much time! And this year, that includes 2 full weekends! Of course, it also includes Thanksgiving (for Americans) and possibly a busy holiday weekend. For some Wrimos, this is an exciting time. It’s the home stretch! You’re past the week 2 slump, and the week 3 blahs. Now you’re ready to really push it to the end! For some, it has just been a long, hard slog through the month, and you’re so behind, you don’t see how you could catch up.
I am writing this post, because my entire month of NaNo blog posts have been completely centered on myself. I went into this month with this blog being solely a place for me to share progress I made on my writing project, in order to try to keep myself motivated. Thus, that is how I continued for this month. However, I have done very well this month, and thought that I would try to reach out to other Wrimos. Whether you’re struggling or not, whether you’re finished or just starting (yes, it’s not too late to begin even now), whether your goal is 50k, 200k, or just to survive the month, maybe I can help in some small way.
1. I had always thought that “do not edit” was such a given during NaNo that everyone understood and followed it. I’ve learned this month that that is not the case. When the NaNo rules say you do not edit, they mean it! That means if you wrote a whole scene only to decide you needed to go a different route, don’t delete it! Mark it somehow to remember to delete it later, or even put it at the end of your file so it’s not in the way. Whatever you do, don’t delete it. But more than that, it can mean you don’t even correct small mistakes as you go. Take the following paragraph for example:
“The militia members warned Lex and Leahna to be careful, and to contact them if she showed up, or if they had any way of knowing what she] where they could possibly find her. Then they went back to their respective bases and Lex and Leahna returned to their homes. Lex considered suggesting to Leahna that they continue to stick together when they were both free, even if they weren’t training. That way they could help each other stay safe if Rusalki attacked agian. BUt he said nothing, because he didn’t think she would agree with him and he didn’t want to upset her more.”
This shows what I do when I decide mid-sentence, mid-scene, or mid-whatever to change directions and don’t want to delete what I had. Some people use strikethrough, and that works too. I prefer the bracket, because I don’t have to go for the mouse and highlight the offensive part. I can keep my hands on the keyboard, hit the bracket button, and go right on typing. Then I can search later to make sure I get them all. But the above paragraph also has what I was referring to, in regards to not fixing small mistakes. Misspelled words, accidental capitals (or lack thereof) or whatever other things we usually quickly backspace and delete. Fixing those doesn’t lose you words, but it does lose you time. The time it takes to go back and fix, but also the lost flow of writing. It can be very difficult to train yourself not to fix these things, and I often will still do it out of habit, but as much as I can, I just ignore it and keep going.
2. Don’t take time thinking of names. For characters, towns, organizations, whatever. If you have not already planned for a name ahead of time, and a name does not readily present itself to you while writing, just stick in a placeholder and move on. I will often given characters names like Bill or Steve (and this is a fantasy world, mind you) just so I can keep going. Or for a town, I’ll write “VILLAGE NAME” to keep moving (yes, every time that village name comes up). The same idea applies to time elements. If you can’t remember for sure how long ago two characters met when they’re reminiscing later, don’t go back and look it up. Not yet. Make a note to go back, or do something like, “Do you remember when we first saw each other SO MANY MONTHS ago?” It’ll stick out when you’re editing and you’ll be sure to fix it later.
3. Writing in small blocks of super-focused time with some resting time in between can work wonders. Not everyone works this way, but I know a lot of people swear by this method. So if you haven’t tried it, you should! You can use a site like Write or Die, and set the timer for any amount of time (I’d suggest 10-20 for your first time). Just be sure to copy and paste your words to your actual document afterwards. Or you can simply set a timer and write like normal. The “break” in between can be a few minutes to give yourself a breathing moment and figure out where you’re going for the next stretch, or longer to get up and walk around, get a snack, or of course do other activities (like work or sleep) before coming back to write later.
For an extra boost, word wars are wonderful motivators. That basically just means you and someone(s) else agree on a start and stop time, and write as much (of your own story) as you can for that time, then compare numbers afterwards. The competition can be a great way to force yourself to just write without thinking too much about it. Or on a similar note, go to https://twitter.com/NaNoWordSprints and wait for whoever is running the feed at the time to start a new sprint. There is some downtime now and then, but most of the day, they have sprints of various times going on back to back to back.
4. Find helpful ways to procrastinate (is there such a thing?). My favorite example is the NaNoMusical. Created by WETangent in 2012, it is a brilliant 6-part video series with themes and situations familiar to any Wrimo. The music is catchy and fun, and…well, you should watch it. Watch the first episode, and if you enjoy it, use the rest of the episodes as rewards for a certain amount of words written. Which could also be a tip! Find ways to reward yourself for milestones. A half hour of television for every 2000 words. Or something appropriate to your own hobbies, your own pace, and your own needs to stay on track or get caught up.
5. Don’t give up. That is probably the most important thing I can tell you. Whether you’re writing for fun, a creative outlet, to relieve stress, or to have a finished project to do more with, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful event and can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t have to be stressful, but I know it can be to some. The stakes aren’t exactly high, and losing is not the end of the world. You shouldn’t dread your writing time, or worry about how badly your writing is going. If you find your story is going a completely different route than you’d expect, just follow it and see what happens. Maybe a side character is becoming more interesting to you. Give them all the time they need. Your main story will still be there later. If your words are lagging so badly, you don’t see how you could get back on track, make a new track! Set a personal goal of less words, or plan to keep going after November (though frankly, that is easier said than done). Come back in April or July for Camp NaNoWriMo. Just don’t quit.
I have done NaNoWriMo five non-consecutive years. Each year I learn something new, whether about myself as a writer, about how to make the most out of NaNo, or about the art of writing in general. Hopefully this year, I can help someone else learn something new too.