Today is Double Up Day, which is a major fundraising drive for National Novel Writing Month. Writers aim to produce twice the word count they normally produce, and invite people to donate to the cause. Today they’re offering perks for half the amount they normally offer them for, a special commissioned poster, hourly donation prizes that you’ll be entered into a draw for, and a Grand Prize all expenses paid trip to the Writers’ Digest Annual Conference in New York! So if you’ve ever considered contributing a couple of dollars to this awesome cause, today is the day!
If you started NaNoWriMo with me, you’re now a little less than a week in, and already I’m sure you’ve had your problems (as have I). I have a few suggestions that may help you succeed that I think are more applicable in the early stages than the later ones; though I promise I’ll have some help for those too later on in the month! Ready? Here we go!
Block Out Your Writing Time; Defend it to the Death!
Let people know when you’re going to be writing. Block out a couple of hours that are completely non-negotiable and use them. Don’t let anybody interrupt that for any reason (“No, I can’t see Dr. Strange with you tonight; I’m writing.” Yes, that would be a tragedy and a true sacrifice. I feel your pain. But sacrifices are sometimes necessary for art.)
But Plan Breaks!
You can’t write all day every day. No, you can’t. Eventually your brain will stall if you try that. So plan on taking some scheduled breaks and actually take them. Get out of the house. Go on a date. Go to a movie. Just take a couple of hours at least in the week when you are absolutely not thinking about writing to let your batteries recharge.
Also, nothing is more distracting than pain or hunger. Keep a small store of snacks in the fridge or the cupboard to keep yourself fueled. Your brain can’t function without sugar, remember? Also, take a break every hour or two to do a little light exercise. Nothing serious; do some stretching, or some yoga, or go outside and take a short walk around the apartment building, or take your dog out before he messes up your carpet. Just that little mental disengagement and the physical activity will get blood flowing to your brain again and trust me, your work will be a lot better.
Really, just stop deleting things! It all counts towards your word count and you never know when it might be useful later. If you really can’t stand looking at it, just put a few asterisks before it and banish it to the bottom of your document where you can forget it until December 1st.
Some things are just easier with a friend. If you’re the kind of person who, like me, likes support and encouragement, find some writing buddies! Go to your local write-in, go to the NaNo Forums. Check who might be writing in your genre. Ask your Facebook friends if anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo. Buddies can be good for everything from accountability (how’s that word count doing?), beta reading, editing, bouncing ideas off of, crying on the shoulder of, and more.
Getting sore sitting in the same seat? Move to a different part of the house! Having trouble sitting down? How about lying down? Maybe you can rig up an impromptu standing desk for a while. Or if you’re just desperate for human company but your word count is still lagging, go out to the coffee shop or the library or your local write-in. It’s amazing how effective this can be for jogging the brain into gear.
Take it with You
Have to go to the doctor’s office? Picking up the kids from hockey practice? Why not take it with you? Your phone has all kinds of handy writing apps, including a decent version of Microsoft Word for Android now; you can write while you’re waiting in the car or in the waiting room or even while you’re waiting for the kids to get into position on the ice if you’re watching the game. Take it with you by uploading it to the cloud or just copy and paste what you’ve got back into the original file later. Or, that wonderful old fashioned technology of pen and notebook works wonders too. I wrote about half of my first novel on my Blackberry (I miss my Blackberry) by doing just this, and maybe a third of The Witch’s Eight Paths of Power got written this way. A lot of little bits add up quickly!
Start in the Middle
Having trouble visualizing what’s going to happen next? You don’t have to write in chronological sequence, you know. Why not go to a part that you know is coming that excites you and write that instead? You’ll find it easier, the word count will mount up, and it might make it simpler to visualize where to go from there.
Inspire Yourself with Sound and Music
Play music that sets the stage for you, or put on a movie in the background that you’ve seen before that reminds you of your book’s setting. (I say that you’ve seen before because otherwise, you’ll watch the movie and not write). Sometimes having that extra sense to help create the world can be just the boost you need. I usually make myself a good YouTube mix for whatever I’m writing. If you’re writing epics, search “epic music” or “film scores” in the search function. A whole new world will open up to you. You’re welcome.
Use the NaNo Resources
A lot of the work of the NaNoWriMo people is in trying to help you. They do virtual write-ins on their YouTube channel, Word Sprints on their WordSprints Twitter account, and offer prompts on their regular Twitter account throughout the day. They have forums to discuss plot holes, character names, cover ideas, genre issues, or just socialize if you need a break. Why not check some of those out if you never have before?
Turn Off the Internet
Really; Twitter and Facebook will suck your life out if you let them. Get away from the internet. Especially get away from social media (except if you’re doing the word sprints.) Now; go write!
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