Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo: How Do You Power Through?

To be sure, there are mixed opinions about the utility of getting words-down-any-words-down and powering through to get something on the page. Personally I feel that getting words-down-any-words-down can be very helpful, as I find it much easier to go back and revise than to try and conjure something for the first time.

But how does one power through? I have never attempted the marathon/race to the moon/mountain climb that is NaNoWriMo, but I'm sure that at some point that brain starts yelping, "No! More! Words!"

How do you quell that feeling and power through to keep going?






119 comments:

swampfox said...

Still revising my third book. No time for Nano. Good luck to everyone else, though

Claudie A. said...

Word wars/word sprints/word orgies, depending on how you call them. This is how I power through most of my "I don't know what to write and I don't want to go on!" moments.

On the bigger scale, I find other Wrimos that have about my speed and do competitions with them. This year I race someone else (two, actually) to the 50k line.

Any amount of sugary goodies and chocolate will help, too.

Judy Black said...

I usually just keep writing. Even if it's writing, 'I can't think of anything to write. I really want to put this novel down and go out with my friends but my character has to get out of this dungeon at some point.' I keep my fingers moving and type whatever comes to my head. When I'm back on track I go back and highlight that part to know to remove it later. Hey it's not editting, I didn't delete the words!
It's a lot like running a marathon, when you hit 'the wall' the only way to get past it is to keep running. Writing's like a muscle it will only get stronger with daily use.

James said...

Writing a novel in a month has its own inertia. The more you write, the more you're able to let go the inner critic, etc. The more you can just...write.

1600 words a day is pretty doable. Sometimes it's like blood from a stone, but in the end there are ALWAYS more words. The trick I fell into was simply figuring what I was interested in writing every day. I merely chose an aspect - what my main character was eating, thinking, wanting to do, or what a room looked like, or what a new character felt like - and would just riff on it.

Which I thought would have created a stilted read, but I went back and reread it this year and was amazed to find: it didn't suck at all. In fact, there were some really great parts in it. True, here and there it was apparent I didn't know what to do on a day, but on the whole...I'd say 80% of it was useable.

The trick with NaNoWriMo is really just writing on faith and then coming back later to edit (like Nathan said.) Honestly, this is how I feel most writing is done.

Forget plans. Just write into the book and discover it page by page by writing wherever you feel the most heat.

Aidan Ryan said...

I don't see NaNoWriMo as a very good idea in the first place. It generally results in sloppy writing, disappointment, and bad hygiene.

By the way, how's that mountain of queries? Getting any smaller? Mine's in there somewhere but I didn't want to pester you with another email...that's probably the last thing you want to see.

Nora Coon said...

I just remind myself that it's a first draft and it doesn't matter if the words I write are absolutely terrible - I'll revise them later (come revision time, I'm usually very angry with myself).

I'm not sure I get tired of writing, really - I love the unfettered creation inspired by NaNoWriMo - but if my brain can't come up with anything good, I just write in minute detail until I've figured out what to do next.

Kristi Helvig said...

A trick that works well for me is to never stop writing at a chapter break. I find it difficult to start writing with a blank page, so whenever I finish a chapter, I write at least a paragraph of the next one to give me direction. It makes the next day's words flow so much easier--and faster. Good luck to all the NaNo'ers. :)

alisonwells said...

I open a second document in which I write down all my pain, fear, gripes, anxieties! as I go along and just leave it there. And I've blogged recently about that STOP feeling being your brain wanting to incubate and simmer ideas, so if you build up a buffer, take time for a day or half day completely to relax, walk, go to a cultural activity, read and refuel and get the synapses firing again.

Graham Bradley said...

Seriously, I just ramble and write things that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot. I make my characters do nonsensical things that defy logic or setting, just to hit the word count. It makes it amusing to go back and read the next day, and then I can usually find where I was going to begin with.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Think in pictures not words!

Haste yee back ;-)

Remus Shepherd said...

This is unorthodox, but it got me through my successful NaNoWriMo run:

Put music on with a driving beat. Put a single song on loop play, if you don't have a good selection of music with pounding backbeats. Then sit at your keyboard and commit to pressing a key on every beat -- while trying to form words, of course.

A 3/4th time song lasting 3 minutes should give you 240 characters or about 50 words. An hour of that is 1k words. Two hours of that and you've met your NaNo quota for the day. But don't stop until your fingers are too tired to keep dancing. :)

Remus Shepherd said...

To clarify: Yes, I have listened to a single dance song on loop play for two hours.

I didn't say this method was good for one's sanity. :)

Mariam Maarouf said...

I'm currently working on the first draft of my second novel, and it would be awesome if I could finish it by the end of the month, but I'm not participating in NaNo.

Sometimes, I get 5,000 words done per day. Other times, I barely get a little bit over 1,000 words per day, and sometimes I'm not even in the mood for writing (even tho I have time). So I'm not the right person for NaNo.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Dialogue.

If I get blocked, the easiest thing to fix that is for me to ignore the action of a given scene and try to figure out what the participating characters would say in it. (Dialogue is the easiest thing for me to write.)

If that doesn't work, I'll try a semi-outline.

Generally, I hate outlining (It sounds crazy, but outlining confuses my brain.) However, if I'm stuck and can't figure out what comes next, then I try and do a skeletal story sketch or outline of some sort.
Then I skip the scene giving me hives and do another.

or

I'll work on something else (which is always dangerous because it fools you into thinking you're making legitimate progress while actually diverting your attention from the wanted goal.

If it gets really bad, I'll stoop to satirizing something else I've read, all the while repeating the mantra: It's not fanfiction; it's satire. It's not fanfiction; it's satire.

:-P

Mira said...

I wish I was doing NaNo. This type of writing to a deadline works really well for me. Especially if I set up a small reward at the end. Sigh.

In the times I do power through - right now, it's for school papers - I just write them and turn the editor off. Just get the words out, worry about everything else later, let go and trust the process.

Next year! :)

Rose said...

I agree with James, we write it expecting it to be all throw-away, but when we go back, six weeks or six months later, it's fascinating to find how much really doesn't suck. AND wondering where it came from... knowing it is something I must have written in the middle of the night half conscious and trying to meet an artificial, self imposed word count deadline.

One other thing, and this especially for people like me who are constantly "almost finished" with that "other novel".... Nano gives me permission to create again. And that reminds me why I love to write in the first place. It's fun to listen to the new characters tell their story... like having a harmless fling, while not betraying a serious relationship. It's only a month, and by next year, the fling may well be the serious relationship you need the break from.
Your question though was how do you power through... for me the answer is just giving myself permission. The words are all there for the taking.

Tracy said...

Like James said, 1600 words-a-day is pretty doable. It was harder before I became an avid writer...but I tell myself to sit down and knock out my 1600 words when I get home from work before I have the chance to get distracted by anything else. I've also learned that if I'm rocking & rolling on a particular day to keep going, because it will balance out the super tough ones.

Once I get to somewhere around the 30,000-word mark the word count acts as it's own motivation. The "I've already gotten this far, no sense in quitting now" sort of thing.

Oh and Starbucks. Lots and lots of Starbucks.

Jesse said...

To answer Aidan--it's not the what, my friend, it's the how. Yes, you can write a good book in the NaNo atmosphere. And then the rewrites and edits make it a great book.

But most of us use it for the discipline. To get started on that work and keep to the writing. Sometimes it's crap, sometimes it's not. Guess what, NaNo isn't going to change that whether you do it or not.

To Nathan--as someone has already said, I just keep writing. I put words on a page with the theme and plot of the story I'm writing. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. But when I'm actually writing, I don't care about a word count. I just care about what I put on the page. AFTERwards, I check my word count.

But doing NaNo forces me to block my time, set my space, and sit down and do it. That's the hardest part I have, losing the ennui and getting to it. NaNo makes me think about that, makes me get it together and get to it. That's what I love about it.

Lynne said...

I'm with Swampfox. Not Nanoing myself (I just finished my second MS and am halfway thru my 3rd) but I wish all Wrimos (NaNoers?) a great month of inspiration. Because for me that's the key. A writer must be inspired.

For me, it's more that I have trouble stopping. The ideas & words are coming fast and furious all day long as I take care of kiddos. I try not to lose any (ideas, that is) until I can write at night. Then I write until the letters start to swim and my eyes betray me. And that's when I stop. Because coffee at midnight is just wrong, especially knowing I must get up at 6 and start again.

letmewritethat said...

I agree with everyone's suggestions of stimulants. Caffeine and sugar help a great deal! Also helpful when I’m absolutely stuck is a five to fifteen minute walk/shower/cooking/nap break. This allows my brain to process what I just wrote. When I return to my keyboard, I can write again!

Lynne said...

One more thing: If you have an idea, and are inspired, I would guess the key to a successful NanNoWriMo experience is the old Nike slogan: Just Do It. There is no substitute for the hiney in the chair when it's time to knock out the necessary words on the computer.

Good luck to everyone participating. I think anything that encourages writing is a good thing.

Kathryn said...

Last year I reached that point, where I just felt like it was too much. I had my characters break the fourth wall. They started complaining about everything, from the romances to their personal character arcs, and back to how terrible that scene was going. They really tore me apart. Then two of them started making out. It was incredibly random and silly, which my novel definitely wasn't.

As soon as I ended that scene, I realized that I was fired up again and ready to continue.

I suppose if there's anything that you can take away from that, it's that sometimes you should just relax and let go. Stop worrying about everything for a bit (plot, characterization, etc) and just have fun. You can edit it out later, and you can start being serious again in a minute.

A3Writer said...

No matter if it's writing 50k over 30 days, 80k over 3-4 months, writers run up against this idea of No! More! Words! usually in the same places where the novels naturally become kind of tedious and you have to slog through, anyway.

This is my 4th year doing NaNo, and the actual process for me is no different than other times I write. When I get kind of stuck and need to forge ahead, I think of the next scene that I want to write about, and make a big push to get there. Writing that good scene becomes the carrot on the stick/light at the end of the tunnel/cliche of choice to keep me moving when I just want to sit down and stop.

Jules said...

I write press releases every day, so if my characters find themselves in a slump I just lead them to a megaphone where they can spout advertising power statements for a few paragraphs until we're ready to move on.

My word verification was "digaster." A digging disaster? Is that what happened to those Chilean miners?

Nancy said...

I find friendly competition keeps me going. If I'm battling with another Wrimo, suddenly the words come a little easier. I also write to a movie soundtrack that brings to mind the same images I want to convey. Like Josin, I often skip action in favor of dialogue.

After eight years of NaNoWriMo, I write at this pace all year long. It really is a matter of disengaging the critical part of your brain long enough to get the words on the page. I put all my time and care into the editing process.

Anonymous said...

The first time I did NANOWRIMO, I didn't have enough story OR time so I didn't make it, but I learned that early and dropped out.

The second time, I had an idea I was jazzed about, one I could think about ALL the time. AND I had the time. But no idea where the story was going to go. But it was so cool. Every day, I went to the computer and thought: what's going to happen next? It was SO FUN!

The Tom Robbins pep talk that year was *perfect!* The characters developed, the plot thickened.

I got through 86,000 words and went back and spent more months finishing it after the Christmas holidays (while also learning about your blog and relearnng more about craft along the way). The editing was nearly as long as the novel.

Missed the next year, too much still in the above novel to participate.

In the next NANOWRIMO, I worked to progress another novel, wrote another 52,000 words in it. Then had to/needed to put it aside for awhile, let it germinate, and wanted to do something shorter.

So I used the NANOWRIMO technique to write a whole new shorter novel in about a month. (first draft)

But by now I was using plot outlines and workshopping my characters.

And now, the word count is no longer hard to imagine. I can write more. (Or, off NANOWRIMO, go at a much more crafterly pace.)

Being part of a HUGE global group of people doing the mad dash novel month is exhilarating and motivating. I can't believe how many good young people are writing novels there as well as seasoned folk. The forums are great. I've made some really great friends all over the world.

It's a blast to do and, overall, it really helps writers learn how to write, how to muscle through and do it like you know what you're doing until you learn how to do it.

But time, having a compelling idea and/or a plot (Bwa-haha) (No, seriously, I LOVE your bootcamp suggestions, Nathan.),a sense of adventure, and a joie de vivre camaraderie and NANOWRIMO is a ride worth taking.

Elizabeth said...

don't believe in waiting for the muse to strike, but I don't believe in using forceps to get the words out, either. Some ideas take more thinking than others do, and thinking is as much a part of writing as writing is.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, but in my experience, sometimes writing out what I think should go in a spot or what I want to go in a spot is just as beneficial as if I'd known enough to write the scene in the first place, because 1) if I don't write it down, I usually forget it, and 2) I can move on to what I do know and get that down before it's gone.

Anonymous said...

Also:
Updating the word count is fun (don't ask me why - I just feel sooo like I'm winning).

Also:
I set myself to write 2,000 words a day. That way, if I miss/ or underwrite a few days, I don't get that "fell behind" flu.

D.G. Hudson said...

And what is the value of powering through for Nano?

One value I can see is you learn to turn off the inner editor and force yourself to get the story arc down.

Like swampfox -- I'm revising my novel and prefer to dedicate my time to that.

Good Luck to all participants - enjoy the exhilerating rush of creating at high speed.

Carin S. said...

Am I the only one who thinks you should put on Berlin's "No More Words" and sing along at the top of your lungs? Seriously, the comparison to a marathon is apt. With marathon training, you only run 4 days a week - do alternate training 2 days, and take 1 day off every week. I think that's a good model for NaNo too.

Iliadfan said...

I agree with Jesse about the discipline. I've been writing stories since I was eight years old, but it wasn't until I discovered nanowrimo that I finally powered through and completed a first draft of a novel-length story. Nano was a wonderful tool to keep me focused.

I started out with a writing schedule (waking up early to write, and then designating hours during the day as well), until I realized I didn't need it - the decision to hit a specific goal by a specific date was enough. Everyone's different, but just the general idea of nanowrimo was a breakthrough for me.

V said...

NaNoWriMo doesn't work for me at all. I've tried it twice.

I do all my writing and early revising in my head. Word count is only achieved by emptying out my brain. In this way, I'm more of a tortoise than a NaNoWriMo hare. (or a marathoner to a sprinter) I schedule my writing time and make myself type a page a day, minimum, six days a week, 50 weeks a year. (I give myself time off for holidays.)

Plus, starting for me is ridiculously easy. I'm halfway through one novel and have three more in the form of a trilogy waiting in my writing queue. (that's not counting all of the other cool story ideas that are sketched out.) All three of the books in the trilogy are in various stages of completion, as well. It's what I was working on when the inspiration for my current work in progress hit.

Being "mugged" by a story concept is an interesting experience. I hadn't planned to write the story I'm working on for another five or six years.

Sierra McConnell said...

The people at NaNo Forums swear by a thing called WriteOrDie. I've never used it, but they say it will start playing baby crying noises or Rick James if you stop typing.

For me, personally, I just love to see the word count bar go up. I'm all about verification. So anything goes. There were so many scenes of bathing and eating in the first few drafts that were written out...

reader said...

Two kinds of writers in the world, the pro NaNoWriMo and the ones that want to hide under the bed at the mere thought.

These comments remind me why I'm the latter -- writing nonsence to up a word count, writing description you know won't stay, writing dialogue that you'll have to rip out later...

It's hard enough for me to edit the crap I meant to write, much less the word-vomit, but I think it's a great idea if you're an expert reviser. Good luck to those plugging along! :)

Debbie said...

I've used many of the "tricks" listed already. Plus, I find I can keep going better if I'm not in a really quiet place. But too many distractions, well, distract me.

I stumbled on the solution the last year I did NaNo--and finished it. I spent a Saturday writing while a Deadliest Catch marathon played in the background. If something gnarly was going on, I'd stop and watch a few minutes, then go back to the writing refreshed. I logged 5,400 words that day.

My writing mantra when there isn't a Deadliest Catch marathon is "Shitty first drafts! Shitty first drafts!" Because Anne Lamott said they were okay.

Kathleen said...

For me, focusing on the storyline rather than the mechanics of grammar, dialogue, etc... in the moment helps. Then I go back with my English Teacher hat on and edit. When I am wrapped up in my story, the words fly around in my head too fast to type them sometimes. NaNoWriMo gives me license to do that and I love it!

S.B. said...

First, I remind myself that it's a draft (of a very short novel) and doesn't have to be amazing. Since I have used NaNoWriMo in the past as an exercise ("Huh, I wonder if I could write comedy?" or the like), that helps me not take it too seriously.
Second, pick an idea that has lots of good conflict. My last NaNo had a very simple premise (man versus parrot versus freeloading flatmate), but the situation was inherently full of comedy fodder, so it kept the words flowing.

Kaye Dacus said...

I either get out my spiral notebook and a favorite pen and write longhand (with lots of doodling and notations in the margins) or I do timed writing blitzes (45 minutes of writing interspersed with 15-30 minute breaks) with a minimum word-count goal, reminding myself it's a first draft and I can fix everything later.

I definitely don't stop to do research or try to find "the perfect word" when I'm feeling the no-more-words block. And I always try to walk away when I'm in the middle of something---even if it's the middle of a sentence. It makes me want to get back to it.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'm new to NaNo, and this is what I want to know. I'll be reading the comments to find out.

I'm guessing that one way to do it would be to jump to another part of the novel that you're more confident about.

Jill said...

When I'm done writing for the day, I leave myself notes on what should happen next. That way, I'm never stuck when I open up that document again.

Eileen Wiedbrauk said...

Dr. Wicked's Write or Die online.

I'm particularly a fan of the Kamikaze Mode.

http://writeordie.drwicked.com/

K.L. Brady said...

I'm with one writer who says she stops at the end of a paragraph rather than a scene. Sometimes I stop mid paragraph, other times I've stopped mid-sentence, that way I can get back to it the next day and at least get started. That was a very helpful technique.

Write or Die is awesome, I have it installed on my computer. Not only does it play noises, but if you put in on one particular setting, if you pause for too long it will start deleting your words. LOL Talk about motivation. At that point, you start typing anything just to keep it from deleting the little you cranked out. I highly recommend it and it's cheap or free.

hannah said...

I always have trouble about halfway through, and I know I'm not alone in this, so getting the first half down as quickly as possible gets the easy part out of the way. Then I have time to agonize over the second half, to take a day or two off and avoid the thing like the plague. And then the far of losing kicks me into gear.

Nate Wilson said...

You're supposed to power through?

Since I've never played NaNoWriMo by NaNoWriMo's rules, I've never had to worry about that.

My rules:
1. Write as much as you can without sacrificing quality.
2. When November is over, repeat for December. And January. And February. And...

jjdebenedictis said...

When your brain says, "No! More! Words!", interpret that to mean, "More! Research/Outlining! NOW!"

Anonymous said...

OK, so you are rock bottom and need to write a chapter of 2000 words.
So, write down 20 points of progression through that chapter, eg. 1. hero arrives home 2. hero finds poisoned dog 3. hero calls mother-in -law 4. hero sharpens knife - and so on. Then write 100 words on each point - hey presto WORDS! 2000 of them.
It's a cheap trick, and in my case avoids 'writer's block' ie. procrastination and laziness. xxx

Joe G said...

Generally if a project just isn't coming to me, I'm not that interested in it. I can usually sit down and get something out, even if it's not inspired. If I can't write, it's probably related to other things that are going on in my life that are distracting me.

I think there's this perception, though, that we're supposed to write things as quickly as possible and then start revising. I'm the sort of writer who generally takes his time doing something, because you never know how a story is going to evolve (and once it's written, odds are good you're not going to be making massive revisions to the plot). You can fly fast and loose with your writing or you can write slow and steady, carefully. Running out of steam for a little while could just be the natural rhythms of your imagination. You never know what you might come up with during the down time.

It's important though that once you start finding yourself thinking all the time about what's going to happen in the next chapter, you'd better sit down and start writing. It's like exercise. Easy to do once you're in the habit, but boy, that first day, you need to get off the couch, put down the slice of pizza, or, in writer's terms, turn off the TV, stay in for the night...

J. T. Shea said...

Let's see. Cat wheelbarrow iceberg rhinoceros perspicacity bradycardia hello whelk...

No, I don't think this 'get-the-words-down-any-words-down' technique works for me. Not even if I read them backwards.

Lynne, coffee at midnight is plain right for me! And I'm up at 6 am too, but that's because I haven't gone to bed yet. I blame Nathan. I'm on San Francisco time, even though I live in Ireland.

Sierra, that's right! Dump the bathing and eating scenes. Dirty hungry characters are more interesting.

abc said...

Way back I read in an interview with director P.T. Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will be Blood ("are you an angry man?")) where he described his writing process as getting up really early and smoking and drinking coffee. Supposedly in the wee hours your brain is still tapping into your unconscious and therefore producing all kinds of juicy and creative stuff.

Now I'm too lazy to get up earlier than I absolutely have to, but I'm thinking this could be an interesting experiment. I won't condone smoking, but I think coffee is always a good plan. Wine too. I'm feeling a couple glasses of wine are sometimes just the trick. Unless you can't drink because you shouldn't and then of course don't drink wine.

Can you get a prescription for medical marijuana with writer's block as an ailment?

Anonymous said...

no internet
no tv
telephone only for dependents/spousal calls
a lot of woods to walk/think in or a winter beach (won't keep you that long)

wonderer said...

I agree with those who have mentioned word wars and watching the word count bar climb (you can get a nice Excel spreadsheet off the NaNo forums, too, for even more word count tracking goodness).

A3Writer@10:39's suggestion about writing towards the next "carrot" scene is also something I rely on. It works particularly well at NaNo speed because that exciting scene is never more than a few days away.

Depending on the situation and the amount of time left in the month, I might also power through by:
- complaining to / commiserating with other NaNoers
- taking my laptop to a coffee shop full of other NaNoers all typing away madly
- taking a day or two off to brainstorm instead of write
- skipping a bit that's just not coming, and moving on to a scene that will cooperate

For me, writing at NaNo speed doesn't sacrifice quality; instead, as James@10:56 said, it gives the story a narrative momentum and a life of its own. I can't sustain that pace year-round, but it's sure exhilarating while it lasts.

StaceyW said...

I've never done WriMo, but here's a trick that works for me when I get stuck for words while writing: I switch point of view.

My first novel, which I'm currently revising, is written in third person. So when I hit a wall in a scene, I'd open a new document and do a first-person writing exercise to dig a little deeper into my character's head.

I don't know if it'd work as well in reverse, but it might. If you're writing in first person and are firmly embedded in your character's head, it might help to jump outside the character for a while and get a different perspective.

I doubt, though, that anybody writing a novel in 30 short days could benefit from this technique. It's not exactly a time saver.

Marilyn Peake said...

That question frightens me. Seriously, how am I ever going to power through NaNoWriMo? Well, I’m not exactly planning to power through writing an entire novel in one month. I’m finding the NaNoWriMo community to be an incredibly excitable, supportive and enthusiastic one. It makes sense – NaNoWriMo participants are all in the initial falling in love stage with their novels. And their excitement is fantastically contagious! Since NaNoWriMo allows outlines to be written beforehand, I decided to try writing one. I never write outlines, but this time I completed a detailed outline in less than two days.

I’m pretty happy with where this all seems to be going. For NaNoWriMo, I’m planning to write a YA Paranormal novel for which a story idea and outline came to me fairly quickly and easily. I think that writing this novel will keep me much happier as I struggle through rewriting a complicated science fiction novel with time-traveling, political intrigue, and characters from two different periods of time.

I’m hoping to write and edit the YA Paranormal novel in four to five months, although I feel it's entirely possible that I could accomplish that during the one month of NaNoWriMo if the writing flows as quickly as the outline did. I had already estimated that it will take me about four to five months to finish rewriting and editing the science fiction novel. I guess visualizing the completion of two brand new shiny novels will help me power through the writing ... It just won’t all happen in one month. :)

Danielle said...

It is kind of disappointing to me that some people on here and on other Nathan NaNo posts are looking down their noses at NaNo or comment a lofty "Well I just write everyday NaNo or not and that's what real writers do."

Maybe I am being a tad defensive here and I apologize up front for that. I just want to say there are all kinds of writers and the majority of people who do it DO writer outside of NaNo and just use it for a shaking up of their normal routine every year. There are all sorts of reasons.

Some use it just to socialize with friends as an activity and have no intention of publishing anything...AND THAT IS OK! Who cares if it is publishable or not? Some use NaNo because the people around them will take it a little easier if they pursue their dream in a certain time period or they have other priorities and just want to give it a whirl. Quite frankly I am surprised that some here seem to be saying (correct me if I am wrong) that it isn't worth it for a real writer to do it. YMMV

E. A. Provost said...

I never get stuck for words, but the quality can deteriorate. In order to keep the quality level up I've taken the advice of someone in the forums and started snowflaking my second novel. I should be able to hit the ground running Nov. 1st and get the first draft out. I can do 3,000 words in two hours if the story is there.

It also helps me to get out of the house and go somewhere where I can ignore a lot of background activity. That's easier for me to ignore than housework.

CB said...

I read about how several authors did their thing to get their works finished. Although they have different ways, etc., the one thing they all seemed to have in common was/is a window of time they forced themselves to sit and write or revise. I believe Virginia Wolf said 2-3 hrs. at a time. Mr. Dahl said 2 hrs. and that's it, even if it's flowing, he said stop! One of Wolf's ideas impressed me the most. She said no matter what, you must sit in front of your typewriter/computer every single day-religiously BECAUSE you never know when the writing gods will bless you with their touch...WOW OH WOW!
That helped me recently...so many times I just wanted to run, run, run! But I sat, sat, sat. And some days it was amazing and other days not so...
As far as trying to keep it going, I read, research, and revise when I'm not feeling that new chapter or paragraph. I always found revising some part of my story to be the best springboard for new ideas, etc.!!

Jeff S Fischer said...

To play off your drill sergeant, boot camp love, I find the source of the quelling and stomp it into the ground! Then I do some stretching exercises, make sure I haven't hurt myself, hit the kitchen, kiss the girlfriend, and then get back to digging. Maybe there really is something wrong with me, as every one says, but I like it.

1questionaday said...

I team up with my buddies. We try and have "blow out weekends." To catch up, as the week can be challenging for word count. Gives us a great chance to see each other and spend time doing what we love. Gourmet coffee and lots of chocolate work great too:)

Steppe said...

I use something similar to a word cloud in the form of cork note boards and index cards. The elements are there pinned to the board and I have cards that represent the arcs of pacing. Moving the formal plot as characters are brought on stage and engaging in the business of the story can get tedious and slow only because I am avoiding plot holes and logic drop outs. If I do the technical motions of locomotion the rest (improvisation and flavor texturals) seems like gravy improvisation and a fun dreaming trance like experience similar to getting inebriated. The skeletal outlines protect me from driving off the road while drunk and each characters restraints limit exactly how long they will allow me to drive drunk before getting control or jumping out of the car. I guess I'm a real believer in outlines I just use them in a weird way. Leave the word cloud and the story collapse from too many magic bunnies leaping out of the word sorcerers black top hat.
Most off and most importantly I structure my day to begin writing while half asleep right out of bed pacing my coffee intake naturally by jolting myself when its time to type furiously through a tight action scene or slowly prod my characters on stage very thoughtfully sentence by sentence to begin a new rise in the pace arc.

Rachel said...

Since I'm always writing toward a specific climax scene (at least until I get there), here's how I get unstuck: I ask myself what needs to happen next to get my characters to that climax. Often, the answer is, I first have to get them to Scene X.

If I'm still stuck, I ask, how do I get them to Scene X? I might then say, well, in order to get to Scene X, Event A has to happen.

If I need to, I then ask, okay, so how do I get to Event A? I continue on in this way until I've focused myself down to what I need to write next.

It also helps that for me, the word count itself is a huge motivator. I race the clock, and try to write more words in an hour than I did yesterday. The quicker I type, the more momentum I build, and the less time I have to stop and think. It enables me to go with the flow, and let what happens next grow more organically instead of having to stop and figure it out on a line by line basis.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I think my brain hurts even thinking about writing a novel in a month.

I think mainlining some Tim Horton's coffee would be a start, though. Just hook it right into the vein.

mpclemens said...

My NaNoWriMo survival tips:

* Pre-plan. I find it easier to make the word goals when they aren't wasted words. I've got the arc in advance, and know the twists, so November becomes more like a series of related writing exercises than a month-long improvisation.

* Pick regular writing times and move mountains to stick to them. I like first thing in the morning, and lunch hour. Any writing I manage in the evenings or weekends is pure bonus.

* Use a typewriter. No, really. Or at least turn off Twitter, Facebook, email, the web, the forums, YouTube, and all other forms of online distraction.

* Never, ever, ever, ever delete. Nothing. Turn off the spell and grammar checks, too. Progress is moving forward, revision is for December. Banish the backspace key. Don't look back, just keep writing, writing, writing.

Tessa Conte said...

This is my first try for NaNoWriMo so I have no idea if I can manage it at all... Ask again in December? ; )

J.J. Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.J. Bennett said...

Sorry link was wrong...

I'll tell you after my Death Camp!
http://www.davidfarland.com/writingworkshops/death_camp/

Tabitha said...

Well, I tend to write fast (whether I'm doing nano or not) because I do a huge amount of prep work beforehand. So, I know my characters as well as my best friend, and i do journalling from their perspective to get their voices. I also know where the story is going, so I am able to make good progress in a short amount of time.

Of course, it takes me a month or so of this prep work to get me to the point where I can crank out that first draft. But it's worth it because that draft can actually be revised into something good.

Jaycee Adams said...

I haven't done a NaNoWriMo yet, but I've had stints when I couldn't stop writing. You've just got to have a really good idea that you know how to write down, I guess.

Soooz said...

Last year I went into NaNo never having attempted to write a book before.

It was an amazing, insane and very productive time. I found working to a deadline really works for me, and have set myself challenge deadlines with eveythinng I write ever since.

I was unprepared and had no idea of what I would write, the book and the characters took over and I looked back at it and wondered "Where the hell did that come from?"
The only preparation I am doing this year is clearing the decks on Articles and blogs I am committed to. I have written my ezine articles a month ahead.
So come November 1st I will be head down, bum up and writing.
I also edit as I go ... not a strict line edit, but enough that I don't cringe too much when I begin the next days marathon.

My very best wishes to all the folks entering this year. Have fun with it ... I truly believe that it is a beneficial excercise.
Soooz

Regan Leigh said...

For me, I think it's the opposite. I don't want to stop writing once I get in that manic writing groove. :) I know I'm firmly moving in the groove when I turn down weekend plans with friends so I can spend time with my imaginary friends. ;)

I think it's harder just to put your butt in the chair and force yourself to start.

erica and christy said...

We did a half-marathon last month and my problem with putting words on the page was that they kept leading me to dead ends. So, boring upon copious boring page had to be deleted after a week. So I think the key isn't always the writing - it's the planning/outlining. Which is not my strong suit. (so, no WriMo for me)

One thing that does work is writing dialogue. Yeah, some of it will get cut, but there's some great chemistry I came up with by writing conversations that helped me get out of my jog around the cul-de-sac, never finding the end!
erica

Kristy said...

I saw someone before say "think in pictures not in words," and I really relate to that. I do a lot of staring and thinking and visualizing and picturing. My writing usually starts with an image. Then, I can take off.

B.E.T. said...

I turn off all my electronics (besides the computer), chug a gallon of hot chocolate or iced tea (can't stand coffee and I live in the south), and keep my butt OFF the internet.

So the trick, for me at least, is sheer force of will and lack of distractions. Although there is a program I purchased that's also available online called 'write or die' that's very effective in keeping up word count. How does it work? In short, if I don't type, I lose words and start hearing really loud noises and my screen turns red and an apocalypse ensues on my laptop (damaging to my computer/manuscript? no. stress inducing and motivational? absolutely yes).

Christine said...

As some of the other posters here have said, I try to always leave off in the middle of a scene or a paragraph. It's a lot easier to pick up the flow the next day when I do that.

Also, I have a set time when I try to write every day. Luckily, I work part-time, so I'm usually done with my "chores" by 2 in the afternoon. Between 2 and 5 is my writing time.

I'm not much of a caffeine person, but I have been known to resort to a glass of red wine on occasion...

ddelano said...

I am engaging in NaNoFiMo instead (an attempt to Finish my novel in November!). For me, when I am having a moment where I dread trying to write something for the day, it helps to give myself small goals. I get a cup of tea (and perhaps an Oreo or two), sit down and tell myself I can stop after 300 words, even if they suck. Chances are, after 300 words I find I have a whole lot more to write.

Tricia Conway said...

Some great ideas here, thanks!

I was significantly stuck last year at one point so I put the leash on the dog, left my iPod at home, and went for a walk. I talked through my ideas out loud, then came home and started writing again.

A mental break plus the promise of my own shiny bound draft at the end keep me going. Along with apples, coffee, Chex Mix, and frozen dinners.

Man, I love NaNo.

cheekychook said...

I like to use the combined Nike/Risky Business approach----Just do it/Sometimes you just gotta say WTF.

Which, now that I look at that sentence, probably underscores why I need to go back and remove the frequently occurring word "just".

Debbie Vaughan said...

I have never done NaNo before but plan to approach it as I do any project.
Believe in my story. Believe it needs to be told. That belief makes it happen, makes me excited to get it out of my head. Will I make the word count? I don't know. I can write a chapter a day, time allowing. Unfortunately there are only 24 hours in a day and more that I have to do. I plan to give it my best shot!

Lia Keyes said...

For me, the secret of powering through is to be part of a group of other writers doing NaNoWriMo so my competitive spirit kicks in. There's one on Facebook (which now has group chats, and shared documents for sharing useful links and resources) called NaNoWriMo Warriors at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_111157412281395&ap=1

I also find it helpful not to force myself to write chronologically. If I'm stuck, I jump forward to a scene I want to write, or write a random scene that may or may not end up in the book but helps me think round the obstacle I've encountered.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I failed miserably last year. NaNo is not for me.

Dick Hannah said...

I find that NaNo gives me the chance to get a first draft down. The rest of the year I spend editing and revising. I like it. I try to plan it all out, but also allow a lot of brainstorming to kick in. The real planning comes in the rewrite. This is my fifth NaNo and they get better each year. I'm blogging about my experience at www.puborperish.blogspot.com if you'd like to read more about it.

Joanna said...

Good evening everyone, I don't know about you but I get a lot of inspiration, solace and sometimes feel great empathy when I read writers' quotes. I think the following fits in with the posting today. It's from Gene Fowler...

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Cynthia said...

I go old school when I'm writing a novel, and write out a physical outline of my chapters, so I know where I'm going and how I'm going to get there. lol I know, I'm such a nerd, but when it works, it works!

That said, I use my outlines when I hit a wall. I can see where I'm going, and generally, it pushes me forward. I want to reach the end, so I use the notes on my outline to jog my creative juices.

Ooh, and coffee really, really helps! You'd be amazed at how well you can write when you're all jittery!

marysgate said...

I think NaNo is a great exercise. Too often as writers we get stuck on one scene trying to make it perfect instead of focusing on the whole thing, and remembering that the one scene is just a small part of your novel. NaNo makes sure you remember that your novel is the size it is and you CAN always go back to a scene you hated and alter it later ^^

glasseye said...

If I'm really stuck, I start a page or two back and retype what I've already written. For some reason this tricks my brain into continuing onward, as though I were coasting downhill to get up some speed before the uphill push.

Anonymous said...

For me, the worst is always the middle when I'm sweating bullets to get in my daily word count before the space invaders storm the kitchen demanding food.

If I have a pretty good idea of how I want it to end, I'll write the end first and try to create a map back to the middle.

If I really have no idea where I'm going, I'll type an entire paragraph of obscenities, giggle like an 8th grader, then delete it and get back to work. I find it helps relieve some NaNoPressure.

sirenasilver said...

This is NaNo year 9 for me and I'm ALL about method-writing when I get The Block. It almost always happens midway through week 2 of NaNo.

The first 5 or 6 years, I'd go out and get myself into some trouble (while pretending to be my main character) before coming home to write about it. It could be minor trouble (inciting confrontation on public transportation) or something more involved and stranger-danger-y (like picking someone up at a bar or creeping in dark alleyways).

I think, in general, spending a little time in your character's head (and sometimes out and about as the character) and writing from his or her stream of consciousness is good in that it can get you closer to his/her wants and needs on a day-to-day level. It's not always writing that you keep after November ends, but it's food for the rest of the book.

Others have mentioned this, but now I combine that tactic with Write or Die. It's kind of amazing what the brain (or imagined-brain) can push out under threat of "Mmmbop" or crying babies on full blast.

If all that fails (or if the idea of stranger danger while pretending to be someone else makes you a little uneasy), I sometimes skip ahead to a scene I've been dreaming about or planning. Something later in the book that I'm psyched to write.

T. Anne said...

I find myself throwing a problem or a revelation or some sort of conflict in every scene. I look forward to reeking havoc on my characters every day.

The Red Angel said...

Pandora and granola bars. :P Music can get me through almost anything, it keeps me inspired and motivated. And granola bars help keep me awake and energized. ;)

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

abc said...

Steppe--Love your use as the blob fish for an avatar. I relate to that blob fish somehow. Also, he looks kinda like Ziggy.

treeoflife said...

How to plow through? When you're in the zone, just keep going. You need to pad your word count when you're on, so that you're OK to slip a bit when you're off.

Anonymous said...

Just don't forget to take breaks and exercise to keep the blood flowing & limbs moving. Back pain, eye strain and carpal tunnel are no fun--if not now, years later.

Anonymous said...

You almost got me to do it.

I want to do it.

I tried to register on the NaNoWriMo site, but they won't send password etc.

Maybe next year.

As far as powering through, it is like I am inside another world and the words come naturally.

One Sunday morning, I wrote 9,000 in about 4 hours.

word ver: johachel (interesting)

Anonymous said...

Now I feel stupid.

Got registered with NaNo, but that place is scary when a person hasn't a clue what to do.

I think next year because it may take me a year to learn the ropes.

I think I will see if I can write one off stage.

word ver: inchs (spellcheck?)

One Line said...

I trust long hand practice to get through some of the muck of writing. If I write long enough something profound comes through, then I get back into "production". I'm excited, this is my first NaNoWriMo in 4 years.

Sarahlynn said...

The first year was hard. But once I had more experience writing longer works, 1667 words/day felt like a manageable pace . . . for a month.

I power through - when my brain starts whimpering - by creating a spreadsheet showing the cumulative word count total for each day, which drives home the cost of a day off.

And I use one night during NaNoWriMo to create a simple outline. When I'm exhausted, I use the outline like a writing assignment. "Tonight I need to write 1000 words about X. Tomorrow I will write 2000 words about Y."

This year I'm skipping NaNoWriMo to spend a month intensively editing draft novels and short stories.

kea said...

During my first nanowrimo in 09, I learned that I could do it. A good friend typing away by my side helped tremendously. Writeordie was awesome as well. Now I'm rushing to finish the "final" revision (when to stop...) on that one to start the next. Nanowrimo allows me to spend one whole month devoted to a novel, there's always December for the rest of my life!

Claire Dawn said...

My whole life is a Nano. If I don't get it down now, quick, it may never be done.

Sheila Cull said...

You know why that is Nathan? Because any idea is a good idea because it leads to something new.

Prity said...

Although I have signed up for NaNoWriMo I don't think I would be able to participate. For one - my in-laws are coming in and two I am too de-motivated.
I have tried to write on schedule before and whenever I am unable to write more, I go for caffeine and fresh air. I like to take a walk in the open and reconsider the scene. Once I find a grip I get back to my winword.
Good luck to others though! Cheers!

Becky said...

When I did this a few years ago, I spent the day writing down things I saw at work or in the store and had a scene in my head before I sat down, which usually worked. On those days that it didn't work, I'd think, "What would a reader least expect?" and I wrote that. No outlining, only the daily scenes. I had a critiquer read it, said it was good, but needed conflict...so next time, instead of throwing in only a surprise, maybe it should be a surprise conflict.

RosieC said...

This is my first NaNo, so we have yet to see if I have the discipline and stick-to-it-tiveness to get to the end. On the other hand, I wrote the first draft of my last novel in about 6 weeks, and it contained way over 50K (after revising, it's down to 73K from 110K). So, I'm thinking I might be able to do it. Now, if only I can wait until Monday!

Anonymous said...

Each scene has to make a promise that is fulfilled in another scene, which leads me write the next scene. When I get stuck in nanowrimo, it's because I wrote a scene that doesn't make a promise that needs to be fulfilled later. For example, if a character wants to buy a car, but the sales person tells them too high a price, then the character must do something: shop somewhere else, come up with a scheme to get money, etc. These are new scenes that I will need to write, which keep the words flowing.

While is hard to have perfect prose during nanowrimo, it is possible to make sure scenes fulfill the requirement of making promises.

midnightblooms said...

By being competitive as hell and not wanting to admit publicly that I failed at something.

I find it very freeing to be able to free write without worrying about editing (though I appease the internal editor by correcting my spelling paragraph by paragraph). Mostly though, you just keep going. Maybe take a 5-minute break--walk around the room, get some water, stretch your muscles--then get right back to writing.

Julie Kingsley said...

I think you power through by attempting the ultimate trick- tunnel vision. That's right, by pretending there isn't a layer of slime on the shower walls and the dishes are stacked in the tub. You just pretend it doesn't exist. You sustain yourselves from the dredges of the fridge and tell the baby to change her own diaper. Easy.

Julie Kingsley said...

I think you power through by attempting the ultimate trick- tunnel vision. That's right, by pretending there isn't a layer of slime on the shower walls and the dishes are stacked in the tub. You just pretend it doesn't exist. You sustain yourselves from the dredges of the fridge and tell the baby to change her own diaper. Easy.

Hart Johnson said...

I've done 2 WriMos (won both). The trick for me is to front-load. I always hit a spot just after midway that it gets MUCH harder, so if I do 2000+ words a day the first 30K or so, then I have the leisure to slow a little. I also let myself write just a sentence to hold the place for any section that isn't coming. A novel isn't 50K ANYWAY, so why not fill in the holes later, rather than finishing with a book not near the end?

Backfence said...

NanoWriMo can be a good challenge to those brain cells. You may start out with nothing, but once those juices start flowing, there's no telling where they might take you! I did it last year. Started with a basic idea that had been nibbling at me for several months, and it actually turned into a very viable novel. After many revisions and edits, I am now sending out queries on it. I'm sure that won't happen every year, but I thinkn Nano is a good exercise for writers in a position to do it. Just have to be willing to let everything else slide for that one month.

Wish I could do it this year but my son's getting married on the Nov. 12th. Too many other demands on my time. Good luck to all you bravehearts out there tho'. Have fun with this.

oldsoul said...

Well, when the severe RSI set in, I just went to the nearest old-peoples shop and bought some arthritis gloves, which immobilised everything other than my finger tips, and carried on :)

Perry said...

I join all kinds of word wars. Competition can help me get few extra words on the page because I don't want to a) lose and b) let the team down.

This year my wars are:

Vancouver BC v Vancouver WA
Vancouver BC v Japan

Internal to the region:
pantsers v plotters
and wordzillas v slayers (we have two team member who have committed to write over 500,000 words.

So I may have been too enthusiastic about competition this year :)

I'm a believer in slapping the first draft out. Once it on the page, or in the document you can make it perfect.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Not sure I will participate this year. I have query jitters. But I sometimes wish I had a problem coming up with words. My problem is that I put too many words down and come up with too many ideas. And then comes the problem of which idea to go with. What would my characters most likely do?

Hmmm....

Good luck to the participants.

Matthew Rush said...

I could never do it, but I have a lot of respect for those who do!

Anonymous said...

This is my first Nano. I write daily but tend to abandon project. My main goal is to kill my inner critic or at least gag her long enough to write 50k. I don’t have any writer friends so I’m hoping Nano will provide some support and a feeling of community. If anyone wants a writing buddy my Nano user name is LuMadrid. Good luck to everyone!

Art Rosch said...

I don't outline much, don't take notes. I write scene by scene, with the pertinent question being, "does this scene move the story forward?".
The next scene is always in my head, sometimes two or three next scenes
compete and I must decide which one comes first. But Powering Through
just rides on the coat tails of the scene I'm writing.

TraciB said...

This is my first year doing NaNo. I'm stuck with the book I'm working on (second in a series), so I decided to write my first Nanovel in a completely different genre to perk up my creativity.

For powering through when I hit a block, I plan to use the same technique that got me through my first novel. When I run out of steam with one character, I find a way to end that chapter, then start the next chapter from a different character's POV. New ideas start to flow and the fingers fly again.

Tumblemoose said...

I wasn't sure how I would until the copy of No Plot No Problem showed up. A MUST READ for any Nano types!

Dorothyanneb said...

Three Words: Write or Die (http://writeordie.drwicked.com) It's a lovely little program you can use online for free or download for $10. You set the word count you want to do, and the time period you want to do it in, and then it makes you slave away by threatening you with ungodly noises if you stop or slow down. Because I am a bad typist (in terms of errors, not speed), this keeps me from worrying excessively about correcting the errors with little red wiggly lines until my thoughts are out. I also like using the Dana by Alphasmart because it has no bells or whistles or internet link.

SarahBoo said...

When I hit a wall in the wordcount, I venture out of my room, find someone who hasn't heard too much about NaNoWriMo before, and explain it to them (along with the words I have and the words I still need that day). Normally their exclamations of horror and disbelief pat my ego enough that I want to go back to the laptop and pull even crazier wordcount stunts.

Marjorie said...

I power through by breaking out the crayons and watercolors. And I post another cartoon. A scholar from England recently called my cartoons "Thurberesque."

That also motivated me. I power through when I receive E-mails from people who laugh at the cartoons.

Laughter fuels me.

ariel said...

My true-to-life stories are often pretty funny, and are about my mom, dad, or sister, so thinking about sharing what I am writing with one of them often helps me write better and faster. The drawback to writing about real events with real people that will actually read it, however, is that I often edit as I go or worry over my edits.

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