Friday, November 07, 2008

NaNo Advice: End of Week 1

Good Ways to Boost Your Word Count and Keep Yourself Writing

I've learned a few tricks along the way from my own NaNo experiences (from this year as well as 06) and from other competitors ranging from first timers to old hats. I thought I'd take a little break from writing to share these with you. (btw, this is not me avoiding actual writing. This is me coping with my ADD in a positive way.)

+ Add a lot of defining words. "He said" "She said" may not always be necessary, but put them in there, an extra two words per piece of dialogue are a great way to add to your word count.

Take that a step farther. "She said, sounding offended." or "He told her with unquestionable certainty upon his face." Add as much as you want without sounding too wordy!

Of course, if you don't mind wordy, by all means, get that word count up! If the count is what matters, take a lesson from Dickens & write up a storm! Sentences that take up a full page? No problem!

+ Another great way to add to your word count is to include quotes. You don't have to wrack your brains trying to think of something new to type! Find a quote that works with your story and roll with it! John Green used "Song of Myself" at least fifty times in his NYT Best Seller "Paper Towns" and writers like Cornelia Funke, Ann Brashares, & Jasper Fforde begin every chapter with an applicable quote! There's no shame in borrowing words to raise your count.

Right now my own characters are quoting Shakespeare's famous lines from "As You Like It": "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." The best part? It fits my story perfectly. In fact, it has greatly inspired me and helps convey my theme of acting & masks in high school even more than I could alone!

+ Word wars. Timed, themed word wars with a friend. These work best through some form of instant messenger, and hey, there's one built into Facebook if you wish to use it! I personally stick primarily to MSN, so if you want to war with me through that (I still have friends on my list from NaNo in 2006 I warred with daily), leave a comment here and I can send you my contact info.

This is a great way to boost your count quickly and might give you some new inspiration for how to deal with a section if you choose to use the theme (you need not, you can just continue writing for the wars). If you have teenaged characters like I do, any theme can fit what they're talking about. Just today in the lunch room with my friends we talked about the origins of "saved by the bell" and ended the period by singing "Gaston" from Beauty & the Beast. Nothing is really far out of the realm for us college students, and the same goes for many other age groups so long as you have a good group of friends to chat with! It's okay if your dialogue is ridiculous. Sometimes it even makes the characters more believable.

+ A tip to keep going and keep up with your word counts (though admittedly I am behind because of a late start, but catching up quickly) is to set up a goal/reward system with yourself. This is what has worked best for me this past week. Prior to NaNo's kickoff this year my internet was down for almost a full week. I generally watch my favorite television programs online, so I had missed a few episodes. I would tell myself "Okay Jez, write 1000 words and you can watch Grey's. Then after you write another 1000 words, you can watch Private Practice." I even made the amount of words relate to the amount of time I'd spend not writing when I was enjoying the reward part. 1000 words for 1 hour of television. 500 words for a half hour. Or I'd get to a certain milestone before I could write up a new blog post (such as this one, I just finished chapter 10 & went over 9000 words).

+ If you're going to procrastinate, find a way to make it work to your advantage. I can honestly check Facebook every half hour or so with a clear conscience because my characters spend so much of their lives in the digital world. A fair amount of my novel consists of wall posts, instant messages, and SMS texts. So, by seeing what everyone else is doing on Facebook, I'm really researching how my characters should talk, what kinds of typos they should make, and how they'll spend their time.

When I spent ten minutes reading Michael Wesch's blog post on a look back at his famous YouTube video, A Vision of Students Today, I was gathering a teacher's perspective on how children learn today, and how the school system limits learning. One of Delilah's favorite teachers, her choir director Mrs. Rembrandt, agrees with Wesch and I was able to use his ideas to my advantage, and make them fit the story.

With a little creativity any time-waster can be used in your novel. Maybe your character likes to avoid homework by playing fifty games of Tetris just like you do. Figure it out. Make it work. I could tell you not to procrastinate at all, but that would be stupid and hypocritical for me to do. You are a writer, you are going to procrastinate. It's part of who we are. So instead of avoiding the "meaningless" ways of procrastination, make it work for you!

+ And try a program like Word Counter if you're on a Mac, or an online widget for PCs to keep track of how far you are in your novel. If you see that you are 79% of where you need to be for the day (that's where I am now, I'm behind, remember?) it seems a lot less farther away than if you were to take out the calculator & figure out that you have another 2456 words to go until you're back on track for the month. Plus it's cool to watch it update in Word Counter, it makes me feel more accomplished for those 100 little words I wrote than if I had only barely increased my word count for the day.

+ Most importantly, don't give up. So you're 2456 words behind, so what? That's exactly where I am, and I'm not letting it bother me. There are 23 more days in the month. That's just 107 extra words a day, that's nothing! You can catch up in no time at all! It's only week 1, you've still got time. Don't give up now, just keep going and even if you don't win, you can come close. Then when NaNo09 rolls around, you'll know you can get to 40,000 words and 50,000 won't seem so scary. That's what I'm doing. In 2006 I made it to 25,000 words before my computer crashed. I knew that I could have made it that year, and because I made it at least halfway that year before I was cut off due to technical difficulties, I know that I can make it this year. And I think if you really try, you can too.

I leave you now with two quotes that I hope shall inspire you, or at the very least, you can use them in your novel about someone writing during NaNoWriMo (hey, it happens).

If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages.
Elaine Liner, We Got Naked, Now What, SXSW 2006

Please write again soon. Though my own life is filled with activity, letters encourage momentary escape into others lives and I come back to my own with greater contentment.
Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, 'A Woman of Independent Means'

Other helpful links: Maureen Johnson (accomplished writer of 6 YA books!) tells you how to survive NaNoWriMo. Involves lots of pretty pictures from old movies & witty observations.
Professor Michael Wesch's blog on Revisiting "A Vision of Students Today", which I mentioned above & used in my own novel.
The Quotation Page's Quotes of the Day. You can use these or use this site to search for quotes that pertain to your plot.

(Now, if I could write this whole blog post, a full 1448 words in twenty minutes, surely you can write 50,000 words in a whole month)

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