I’m having a weird NaNo year, since I’m working on revisions instead of drafting from scratch. But I did it last year and passed my 50K mark. So for all my online pals pushing through the last week of National Novel Writing Month, my five favorite “Speed It Up” tips for cranking out a craptacular first draft (because all first drafts kinda suck, yes?)
1. PLAY THE ‘ALBATROSS’ CARD. I’m the world’s worst to be speeding along in my manuscript and stumble over a bit of research that needs doing or a factoid I’ve forgotten from an earlier chapter. By the time I’ve stopped to look it up, I’ve either lost my momentum or gotten sidetracked by something shiny on the Internet. What color was Grace’s car back in chapter two? What year did the Andrew Jackson statue get placed in Jackson Square? Don’t stop to look up that info. In its place, type ALBATROSS. Example: Grace scanned the parking lot for her ALBATROSS. After NaNo is over, do a word search for ALBATROSS and spend a couple of hours filling in the blanks.
2. MAKE A FOUR-SENTENCE CHAPTER SKETCH. As you begin a chapter, take time out to make a mini-outline (yeah, I know, pantsers–it won’t kill you). Just write down three or four sentences of what is going to happen in that chapter: “Grace goes to the mall. She misses the last bus. She calls Jack for help even though it sticks in her craw. She chickens out before leaving message and decides to walk home. A car follows her.” THEN write your sentence, knowing where it’s supposed to go. It might take a detour along the way, and that’s okay as long as you end up in the same place.
3. DIG OUT THE KITCHEN TIMER. Shut down Tweet Deck, e-mail, and any other online distraction of choice. Set your egg timer for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes (I usually do 20), and do a sprint. Note your word count when you begin the sprint, and then afterward. Try to “best” your word count each sprint. (Yes, you can check your e-mail before you start another one.) If you’re competitive like me, the drive to improve your own word count will be an incentive. You can also do “word wars” with an online buddy. My crit partner and I often do them, instant messaging before and after to see who “won.” We both win.
4. WRITE IN SCENES. I always have some scenes floating around in my head as I’m writing–it’s what goes in between those scenes that slows me down sometimes. Don’t worry about the transitions. Write the scenes that are already playing in your head, either in separate documents, or in your main manuscript separated by asterisks. You can always shuffle the scenes and fill in the transitions later.
5. MINIMIZE THE PRESSURE. Don’t look at your word counts. No, really. Don’t look at them. Just write fast and hard until November 30, and see where you end up.
Remember, the world will not end if you don’t get 50K by November 30. It really and truly won’t. And no matter how many words you get, it will be more than if you hadn’t tried.
So, are you doing NaNo? How’s it going? Why are you reading blogs instead of writing (but I’m glad you’re here!)?