One week from today is November 1, the start of the NaNoWriMo event, so it is exciting and still a little scary. As I posted to Facebook, I just completed over 50,000 words on my current work-in-progress, “O’Ceagan’s Legacy” in 23 days and I am only two chapters away now from completing it. I am targeting the end of this weekend to try to wrap up the first draft. So I feel pretty good about that. Apart from wanting to get the book completed before I start on the new book on November 1, I wanted to see if I could write at the pace it would take for NaNo. Now I have proven to myself that I can do it. But here’s 10 other things I learned while doing this:
Set aside the time to write in the morning or early afternoon and stick to it. Plan on additional writing in the late afternoon or evening. I even try to write for a short while after I turn off the TV set at night. After a couple of weeks, you’re beginning to get conditioned to this. It is sort of like training for a marathon, but not as physically tiring. You make up for it in mental exhaustion.
Having a plan is really important for me. How do the pantsers do it? I like having an outline and knowing where my story is going and how it is going to get there. Not that I don’t have detours along the route and sometimes we go to an entirely different place than I planned, but that’s all right.
Scrivener has been an amazing tool with the notes and scene planning and I wonder how I managed without it before. Oh, yes, I had those stacks of index cards with scribbled notes that I kept shuffling around. That worked well… not! So easy to adjust the scenes and move them around with this program.
Take breaks while writing. Get up and move around, shake out the tension in your shoulders and put the book out of your mind for a little while. I like to play a video game for about 30 minutes to distract me and let my subconscious work.
Don’t stop to edit. I’ve heard this from many people and it is something I have to work on. I still see the red squiggles under misspelled words and go back to correct them. So you noticed that you used the same word in the second sentence that you used in the first. Let it go. You’ll correct it in the next draft.
Yes, this section really sucks and it feels flat, but once again, the story is the important thing now. The art of the words comes with subsequent drafts.
Holy cow! Is that a plot hole or what? Well, yes, your spaceship just flew through it, but make a note and you’ll fix it on the rewrite. This kind of includes things like this is more technical that I actually know, but research on those troublesome items can also come with the second draft.
Never mind that your main character thinks she suckered you in. You want to hear from your characters, as many as possible, because the mind works in a very strange way and those character viewpoints help you make the whole darn thing work. If you can hear and see them, then your story is coming alive and writing goes much more smoothly.
Stumped with something in the story and nothing is coming to mind to put on the paper? It’s not really writer’s block, not when you know what has to happen. I have two options to get around this.
• One is to write a different scene, either the next one or one in a different part of the story. Often other scenes are clearer in my mind, so skipping to one is a quick way to get the brain going again. It sometimes helps to work out the details for the scene I’m having trouble with.
• This other technique has worked for me for many years. Pick up a pen and paper and write it out in longhand. Because I did technical writing as well as article writing for many years, I tend to engage the logical side of the brain more when I’m on the computer. But I started writing stories as a child and I wrote them out on paper before I typed them with a typewriter. When you have to keep typing the whole book over for edits, you do tend to edit when typing. So, it seems that picking up the pen signals the creative side of my brain that we can relax and let the ideas flow.
Take time to pet the cats and don’t get too upset with them when they decide that you’ve typed enough and the keyboard is in the way of their grooming on your lap. This is really important, especially to the cats. They help you to relax and sometimes that helps bring the story out. Besides if you ignore them, they will simply lie on your keyboard and put all kinds of unwanted cat words into the book… or worse.
These techniques may not work for everyone, but if the last 24 days have been an example for me, then they may be keys to my success next month. I am certainly hoping that’s the case.
Got some other tips for NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments. I need all the help I can get!