Ready to mow down some words? Read on–this will help you get to the 50K finish line!
1. Start with a plan (yes, even the Pantsers). Really, the more you know about your plot and characters going in, the more it helps. Understanding what motivates your hero and why is the golden thread of your story, so don’t go in blind. There will be plenty of room for pantsing, trust me.
2. If you get stuck on what comes next, skip ahead. Think about the story ahead and the next scene you see clearly in your mind. Maybe it’s two scenes down the road, or two chapters. Either way, put a placeholder into your book like, “Cindy is released from prison on a technicality” and then jump forward to the next scene you know will happen, like Cindy stalking the only witness to the crime. Words flow again, and in the background, you brain can work on the problem. When the answer hits (and it will), you can “fill in” the missing scene.
3. Hate the scene? Change the setting and rewrite it. Many don’t realize it, but setting choice is a pretty big deal. How well the scene works is influenced by how well you utilize your setting, so choosing the right one is important. You can really mess with a character’s emotions, alter the mood, create conflict, and home in on fears, hopes or dreams as you need to, all using the setting. Here’s 4 ways to nail down the best setting choice for each scene. (Psst, if you rewrite the scene, keep the old one as it’s part of your 50K word count!)
4. Always end the session knowing the next line. We can lose momentum between writing sprints–one minute the words are flying, the next, nope. If you are writing a scene and need to quit for the day, try not finishing it…wait and pick it up again in your next session. Or, start the next scene just enough that you see the direction and then stop. This will help you get into the flow faster and keep the paralyzing fear of WHAT COMES NEXT at bay.
5. Triage, Triage, Triage. Getting stuck or stumped may happen. Let’s be real–it probably will happen. But that’s totally okay because all you need to do is visit the NaNoWriMo Triage Center. You can find help for Character Issues, Plot Problems, Conflict Juicing, Story Middle Problems, plus a bunch of brainstorming links.
Joining the frenzy? What are your favorite tips? Share them in the comments!
Now might also be a good time to check out One Stop for Writers. With our FREE TRIAL you can have instant access to 14 description thesauruses (emotions, setting, conflict, weather, symbolism, skills & talents, physical features, colors, positive attributes, character flaws, emotion amplifiers, emotional wounds and others), to keep the words flowing.
And of course there’s also a ton of writing tutorials, lessons, story maps, timeline tools, generators, and other writerly stuff there too.
Becca and I are cheering you all on! 🙂 Go, NaNo Warriors!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Sheila Good says
Although I’m not participating in NaNoWrMo this year, these are great tips. Thanks.
Bonus tip. If you delete content in the story you’re writing, put all the deleted content in a side file so that you can still count it toward your word count.
I’ve always said I’ll never do NaNoWriMo because the pressure would be too much. I think the only way I would do it is as a 100% pantser just for the sake of writing, regardless of quality. BUT, IF I can ever get my novel series plotted out and the characters in good shape, if the timing were right to try to knock out a first draft, I just “may” (a very BIG “MAY”) try it 😉 For sure, you ladies have it all under control!
Carol Baldwin says
I’m not attempting it this year–I want to finish this draft before I think of anything else! But I passed this link along to several young writers in my class who are planning on tackling NaNo this year. Thanks!
Traci Kenworth says
If you get stuck, try writing prompts!! This will be my third attempt those it’s been a lot of years since I’ve took up the challenge.
This is my first year doing NaNo, and I’m really excited about it! The post was super helpful, so thanks!
I am a slow writer (because I’m a perfectionist and every word has to sound exactly right)… my first novel took me about a year to write, and it’s only 60k words, so this November is going to be INTENSE, but I’m excited to see how I do!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Enjoy the process Sherry! Just open yourself to the creative spirit and see where the flow of words takes you. 🙂
Robin E. Mason says
I stumbled onto NaNo two years ago—at the last minute of course—and decided to give it a go! I got 16K written. Not so bad for a pantser!!
I’m at a good place to participate again this year, have just released one and am starting on anew story and series.
And I’ve learned from my totally winging it experience… I’m doing a ton of research going in this time, history, settng, etc, and have the main characters at least mapped out. I know the conflict in each story (kind of crucial) so now I’m free to Pantz-It the rest of the way!
Oh, and next year? I’ll be working on the FOURTH (and finaly) in the series!
so I guess my take-away advice from all that (rabbit trail) is to do as much research as you can—even Pantzers like me can pull that off!!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Yes definitely, knowing as much as we can about our character and the world is really important. I hope you have just a BLAST doing NaNo this year!
Jennifer Jensen says
I’m going to have fun with NaNo this year! I’ve been in edits the last couple years so couldn’t do it, but this time I’m writing my first romance. I have characters, the conflict between them, and the outside conflict, and I’m going to have fun playing around. I write clean romance, though, so I don’t have the NaNo advantage of padding my word count with sex scenes! And I’ll pop into OneStop for added help when I’m stuck.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I am so excited for you. There is just an energy about NaNo that is such a siren song–I am glad you’re able to do it this year. I think it will be double-fun for you because you’re trying something new, too! 🙂 I’ll be cheering you on!
Mary Kate says
My goal with doing NaNo for the first time is to curb my habit of going back and rewriting a scene immediately after finishing it and instead just move on.
But wait–if I DO rewrite something (which knowing me, I will, at least a little) I can keep the first scene as part of my word count?!
I fully do not expect to have a finished draft at the end of NaNo because none of my first drafts have clocked in under 100K words (I’m verbose) but I really, really want to see if I can bang out 50K in 30 days…
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Absolutely keep those words! 🙂 What I did if I decided to redo a scene or make a change of some kind is to keep a second file (a “clip” file) with all the snippets I removed. Then when it came time to upload my word count tot he site, I added all the clip file content in at the end so the count was accurate. Plus, while I always suggest minimal editing while drafting, you never know if some of the snippets you cut might make it into another book, right? Better to keep them. 🙂
Erin J. Steen says
I loved this post and all the great content on your blog. I use tip No. 2 a lot but I will try No. 3 next time I get stuck in my writing.
You build up a great resource for writers. Thanks a lot.
Even though not everything you write about the industry is fully transferable to Germany most of your writing tips work in every language. 😉
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Glad these tips will help, and thank you for the kind words! And thanks for letting me know you’re from Germany and how advice translates to your market. I am from Canada, but I write for the US market. Not everything that works in US publishing is the same in Canada either, but it is very close. 🙂
Happy writing and good luck in NaNoWriMo!