(Tip Thursday: Every other Thursday (or so), I’ll post writing/editing tips that I’ve personally found useful.)
It’s time to head back to Camp (NaNoWriMo) for July. In fact, today marks the end of the first week. Here are a few tips for participating writers looking to quickly grow their word counts.
- If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo before, you’ve probably heard of word sprints: choosing a fifteen minute slot (usually using notations such as on the :00 or :30, etc, to account for timezone differences online) and competing with other writers to see who can write the most during that time. However, even if you can’t find sprinting partners, word sprints can still be useful if you play against yourself for the “high score”. Set a timer for fifteen minutes or so and see how many words you can write! Record your current record and try to beat it.
- Similarly, some writers like the Pomodoro Technique: working nonstop in sets of 25 minutes with 5 minute rest breaks in between.
- If you really need an extra push to shut down the inner editor and keep on writing, sites like The Most Dangerous Writing App or Write or Die, which penalize you by deleting words if you hesitate, can be useful.
- While writing, elongate descriptions as much as you can. A few big paragraphs do wonders for the word count. If you’re like me and tend to underwrite the first draft, this can actually end up being beneficial in the long run, too. Remember to focus on all five senses, rather than just sight, and on both the external and internal worlds.
- Unless it’s absolutely vital, don’t get caught up in choosing names or conducting research during the first draft. Just leave [Friend’s Name] or a similar tag in the text if you run into a spot where you’re not sure what to put down and come back to it during the second draft. You can even replace whole scenes with temporary stubs – for example, [Jacob and Julie have an argument about when to leave for the hospital] – if you get stuck on one.
- Even if you’re more of a pantser, try the headlights method of outlining – that is, try planning out content for just the next chapter or so. This gives you an opportunity to focus on the story as separate from the act of writing, which in turn frees up time to focus on simply getting the words down as fast as you can later. After all, writer’s block most commonly comes from two sources – a lack of motivation to write or not knowing what happens next in the plot. Having a plan – even a loose, subject to change, short-term one – helps with both of these obstacles.
- Keep a physical or digital notebook on hand. If you run into a problem, like a plot hole or an inconsistency, write it down rather than worrying about fixing it now. If your word processor has a comment function, it can be useful for the same purpose. You can also simply highlight any sections you know will need editing later, then give yourself permission to put them out of your mind for now. Don’t come back to your comments or notes until the second draft. Keep moving forward.
Are you participating in Camp this month? Feel free to share your progress or any of your own tips in the comments.