So, I’ve won NaNoWriMo for the past seven years. Some years I’ve won in two weeks. Other years I’ve scrambled to write 10,000 words on November 30th to make the goal. Some years I liked what I wrote, and sometimes I hated it. But one way or another, I always manage to reach the word goal.
We’re in the last week of NaNoWriMo 2015––and I don’t know about all you crazy NaNo participants out there, but I’m a little behind. If you, like me, need some help catching up, here are a few tips that have helped me win in the past:
Work on an outline.
Notice I didn’t say “you have to outline your entire book!!!!!” because you don’t. If that’s what floats your boat, you can! But personally, I’m a big fan of outlining and writing simultaneously. That is, outline a few chapters, write those chapters, outline some more chapters, write those chapters … lather, rinse, repeat. I’ve found this to be a good way to plan without taking away the fun and spontaneity of writing a first draft.
Seriously, don’t. You know that voice in your head that keeps telling you your writing sucks? Ignore it. Tell it to shut the heck up. First drafts are supposed to suck, so go as crazy with that first draft as you can. You can always fix typos, awkward sentences, and plot holes later.
Skip over what you don’t know.
I try not to skip over too much, but there are definitely many times when I just don’t know where/how to end a chapter. I’m getting bored and stuck and I just want to move on. So, guess what? I move on! If that chapter is holding you up and you’re more excited about the next part, skip to that part and start working. Remember, kids––it’s a first draft. You can fix those awkward holes in the story later on.
Use Write or Die.
Write or Die has saved my butt so many times. It’s gotten me through novels, essays, you name it. It’s a pretty simple website (there’s also a desktop version) where you set a word goal and a time limit. If you stop typing for too long, the screen turns red and it starts making noises at you.
If you prefer positive reinforcement, you can also try Written? Kitten!––a website where your writing is rewarded with cute pictures of kittens.
Do some word wars/sprints.
I enjoy doing word wars year-round, but there are especially a lot of people doing them online during NaNo. The rules are simple: 2 or more people write for the same amount of time, and whoever writes the most wins! And hey, even if you don’t win, you still wrote a bunch of words––woohoo!
There’s an ongoing, 24/7 sprint thread in the NaNoWriMo Facebook group. On Twitter, @NaNoWordSprints runs sprints pretty much all day, every day throughout November. There are also a lot of year-round word war & sprint hashtags on Twitter such as #wordsprint, #1k1hr, and #wordgrab.
If you don’t have Facebook/Twitter (or you’re trying to avoid them during NaNo!), you can always head over to the NaNoWriMo forums, where there is a whole section dedicated to Word Wars, Prompts, and Sprints.
Do a word crawl.
Maybe you don’t like competition and/or you’d like to work a bit at your own pace, but you still want a challenge. In that case, word crawls may work very well for you! Word crawls are a series of mini challenges (i.e. write 250 words, write for 10 minutes, or write 3% of your current word count). They often have some kind of a fun theme, and there are a lot of cool ones on the NaNo forums such as the Extreme Harry Potter Crawl. I hadn’t tried word crawls until this year, but I’ve been having a lot of fun with them and they’re really boosting my word count.
So, thus ends my advice about how to catch up on NaNo. Now I should probably go follow my own advice, because I am about 3,000 words behind schedule right now. 😉
For my fellow NaNos: How are you doing? And do you have any advice for people who are struggling to catch up?
Also, happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hopefully I will have time to write some words before I eat tons of food.