National Novel Writing Month (or November, as some more sane individuals might call it) got off to a rough start this year - which, I now tell myself, is a Good Thing (TM).
It allowed me to really see where my strengths and weaknesses lie, what tactics work best for me and my writing, and how to kick NaNoWriMo butt!
I've chosen 6 tips and tools that helped me catch up with my wordcount after falling behind. A survival guide for NaNoWriMo...
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Here's how I make NaNoWriMo work for me, the reasons I stick with it year after year, and some tools that help me along the way.
Let go of your inner editor but get rid of the most annoying mistakes, anyway.
This one is just a plain lifesaver. Especially if English is your third or fourth language and grammar more often than not a mystery. I'd discovered Grammarly when writing blog posts but it works just as well when working on my NaNoWriMo script. I usually just copy & paste my scenes into Evernote or a similar online vehicle and get my writing straightened out before copying it back into yWriter.
Digital Tools I Use for Writing:
- Evernote (As a backup and organizer. Helps when switching from laptop to mobile phone to desktop PC)
- Grammarly (As mentioned, to save my writing from certain death.)
- yWriter (A free alternative to Scrivener, simpler and more basic layout - less distracting to me,)
I don't edit during NaNoWriMo (because that's a dark and dangerous path to walk down) but grammar and spelling mistakes drive me nuts when I re-read my writing later on or need to look up a past scene for consistency's sake, so this is the one step of minimal editing I allow myself.
2. Repetitive Music Choices
My ":NaNoWriMo Writing" playlist barely contains a dozen songs.
Listening to the same music for the same task seems to have some sort of Pavlovian effect on me. Also, it keeps me from looking for the perfect soundtrack, a very popular procrastination technique during Novel Writing Month.
3. Trickle Writing Technique
On busy days, every word counts.
The technique that I call trickle writing is really just writing whenever, wherever, no matter how little.
When I spent a NaNoWriMo weekend in Seoul and was caught up in a constant flurry of meeting friends, sleep-overs, family dinners, a whole room at my in-laws home that needed to be renovated, and trying to fit a couple illustrations and downtime with my husband into that mess, too, trickle writing was my salvation!
- I wrote in my notebook on the one-hour plane ride from Jeju to Seoul.
- I wrote on my phone (Evernote or, when no Wifi around, on simple notes...) during hours and hours of metro rides.
- I wrote on my phone in-between turns of an endless kid's monopoly game with my nephews while managing to talk and cheer in Korean at the same time.
- I wrote on my laptop during breakfast.
At the end of each day, I could collect these snippets of writing and they always added up into impressive numbers!
Also, my brain seems to develop more plot ideas when I constantly bombard it with the need to write.
4. Writing Tool Hopping
Don't restrict yourself to just digital writing. Mix things up!
Kind of combined with the trickle writing: Using different utensils for writing. While nothing tops my writing speed at a familiar keyboard, writing on my phone or by hand has its strengths, too.
On the phone, my writing gets more concise and sparse, which works perfectly for scenes I felt were too rambly or going on for too long without getting to a point. I also make quick outlines and notes there.
Writing by hand brings out my inner romantic poet. It's where I write long descriptions of scenery, describe magical worlds in second person (N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy influenced that recent fascination) or write dialogue that leads nowhere. It's perfect for getting an atmosphere just right or finding out what I actually want to convey.
When writing by hand, I use a simple journal by the lovely Korean brand "INDIGO". I have a slim diary from their "Willow Story" stationery line, too, and love the paper quality and cute designs. The notebooks don't have too many pages so it doesn't feel like a waste to start a new one... Pretty Korean stationery always makes me happy!
I also have an old and trusty Moleskine blank art notebook that contains sketches, notes and general ideas I occasionally refer back to during NaNoWriMo.
(Or: Adapt NaNoWriMo to fit with your work/life)
2017 is my fourth consecutive year of NaNoWriMo. I'd first participated in the event just after finding out it existed and have won every year since, writing first drafts for two comic projects.
For 2017's November, I was left with less than half of a script to write, so I decided to not just work on that for all my 50k words. I'd write the same scenes and the same story, just with more words than probably necessary.
But since working on two different comic scripts or stories in general at the same time always leaves me with a huge tonal mess, I decided on switching back and forth between script writing and blog posts.
I've recently started writing for a Korean online site - journal entries about life in Korea as an expat, travel diaries, culture shock moments and so on - and wanted to get ahead of the publishing schedule so that I could focus on the accompanying illustrations once deadlines approach.
And, of course, blogging. I'd fallen off my more consistent and frequent blog post schedule a few months back and wanted to get back on track. If you notice an increase in posts over the next couple months, that's because I've probably pre-written a lot of those during NaNoWriMo.
My blog illustrations and sketches always take a good chunk of time so to be able to just focus on those and already have the blog posts themselves written (if still in need of edits) always helps with my blogging speed!
NaNoWriMo will always be about storytelling for me, and not strictly about just novel writing. So combining a half-finished story with other, minor writing tasks I want to get done strikes the perfect balance for me.
6. Consistency & The Long Game
Don't get caught up in just daily wordcounts or (maybe) sub-par writing - each word builds to something you can build on in the future!
We often get so caught up in our daily life, in routine, pressing work - and suddenly, another month or another year has gone by without us getting to do that one personal thing we'd wanted to.
That's how I feel about graphic novels or stories in general at the moment. Since I've worked on full comic books in the past, I know exactly how much time they take. One page a day is a lofty goal when combined with other obligations, and that was for black and white manga style pages, so my ambition for colored ones will take a lot more time.
Writing and working on scripts in novel form during each NaNoWriMo is my way of at least taking steps forward, consistently.
It, so far, left me with two stories that are now so much more fleshed-out and than they'd be if I hadn't committed to this. As I look back at my first NaNoWriMo effort, I cringe because my writing was as terrible as my plotholes, but by now I've got two scripts that are actually more thought-through and tightly plotted than any of my previously published works.
I don't believe in spontaneous bursts of inspiration as the only way of writing. Consistency and hard work are key.
I'm much happier with my stories after having tossed pretty much every aspect of the initial idea out of the window, re-written and re-planned, added and removed elements... and the yearly Novel Writing Month gave me the time and distance to do just that!
If you (like me) love procrastinating on writing - I've got free coloring pages as well as NaNoWriMo deco stickers available as printables here.
Also, if you're a WriMo, add me here!