NaNoWriMo: Four Ways to Help You Write More
It's November 30th, the last day to reach your 50,000 word goal, and there you are slumped over your laptop in your leather office chair, against your headboard in bed, at your kitchen table, looking not unlike a zombie, typing your little heart out. Incessantly you pound the keyboard minute after minute, hour after hour, as if your life depends on it. Your wristwatch, which you try to ignore, tick tick ticks away, but at that late hour it sounds more like a gong making it difficult not to give up and smash your laptop into a thousand silvery splinters against the nearest object.
Then, your worst NaNoWriMo fear is realized when you unwillingly twist your wrist to check the time. Those gleaming black hands read 11:59pm. You're 2,500, 5,000, 20,000 words short. Your heart drops to your stomach and your lungs seem to expand, ostensibly clogging your airway. How did this happen? And then upon reflection you realize your mistakes. If only I hadn't had writers block that second week. If only I had been writing instead of watching Friends reruns. If only I had been more motivated.
Well, it's a new November guys; a new NaNoWriMo. Lets start out confident knowing that we will meet our goal and finish the month strong. Here are four ways to help you write more:
1. Listen To Music
Listening to music while I write is the whipped cream on my pumpkin pie. Not only does it add to the fun of imagining my scenes playing out like a movie in my head, but it's useful because it helps me get into the emotional state of my character.
Some writers find that if they listen to a certain genre of music or create “soundtracks” to their novels it helps the flow of their writing because it inspires what comes next. By creating soundtracks, I mean that they throw together a play list that helps them get in a certain frame of mind. J.R.R Tolkien didn't do this, but if he had he probably would have had a soundtrack to make him feel morose when say, writing Boromirs death scene, another to help him feel that fear and intensity he wanted to get across to the readers when writing the scene with Frodo and Aragog. You get the idea.
I went the soundtrack route and usually choose music I can zone out to, something orchestral or electronic. I've found that when I listen to music with lyrics it's a little too distracting, but that's just me. It doesn't really deviate from this unless I need a very specific feeling, like that of being cheated on or elation when killing someone (honestly, I haven't written a character like this, but what a strange play list that would be...).
2. Set A Timer
I hate this one, but hey, all you masochists out there give it a shot! In all seriousness though, this method does work wonders for a lot of writers out there. If you're having a bad case of writers block set your timer to twenty, fifteen, even five minutes and when it starts running, you start writing and you don't stop until the timer stops. And when I mean don't stop, I mean even if you're writing: “I can't think of what to write next. This is the dumbest exercise ever!,” you're still writing and that's all that matters.
This helps you move beyond a point in your story that you feel stuck by forcing you to see what comes next, or perhaps several possible scenarios. It may even inspire an entirely different part of your story!
3. Convert a Friend
When you drag a friend in on a challenge such as NaNoWriMo, you have essentially found yourself a writing therapist. You have someone to unload all your thoughts and troubles on and someone to make the journey with you. Even more importantly, you now have someone to answer to.
No one wants to let a friend down. If you're in this challenge alone and don't reach your goal, oh well right. But if you know someone else will be disappointed from your failure it's much more motivating to just get things done. This kind of support is priceless. You're much more likely to meet your writing goals with someone by your side the whole way through.
Now that you've converted a friend, make sure that you're both communicating often and talking about your progress; hiccups along the way, successes, etc. The support is what matters here. If you can, meet in person. There's just something about being face to face that makes conversation more organic and further ingrains that need to please them by reaching your goals. At least, that's how my experiences have been.
4. Summarize Before You Write
This is basically a way of outlining as you write. If you're an out-liner, definitely have an outline for your story as a whole, but try this as well. It helps you go into more detail before writing scene to scene. It helps to prevent writers block and makes the words flow out from you more freely by focusing you. This is how it works: before you start your writing for the day take a few minutes to write out a summary for the scene you're about to write.
I was a bit skeptical when I heard of this method mostly because I thought that that time spent writing the summary was wasted time I could be using to write more. When I did try it however, I was quite surprised at how much easier it was for me to get through my scene and I did ultimately write more.
This method for writing more also helps your stories stay consistent throughout. You're less likely to write a character acting out of character like say, bad boy Todd running for the hills in the face of danger, if you write out his reaction to something before typing it out.
Kudos to all those who have taken the NaNoWriMo challenge this year! It's a tough one, but we know you can do it with the right motivation and writing tools. We hope that some of these tips help you reach your writing goal and wish you the best of luck. Don't give up! Happy writing!