Michaeline: Cheap tricks to increase your NaNo word count

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Write like there’s nobody there.

Fifty-thousand words are a whole lotta words. But if you break it down to 1,667 words a day, it’s not so bad. In the past, I’ve aimed for 2,000 words a day, at least in the beginning, in order to build up a cushion for the crazy day that is sure to come, when the computer simply isn’t opened that day. The beginning is exciting, and this week is the week to write like the wind, and get as many words built up as you can.

That said, this is my third NaNo, and I can tell you that it can be tough, even in the early days, to get past the 1,500 mark. So, let me share with you some of my tried-and-true methods to pump up my word count.

The first trick is to turn off the inner censor. Just put everything floating in your head down on the page – you can fix it later. Can’t find the right word? Put the approximate word or even just a blank set a parenthesis there, and keep writing. Sentence sucks? Tell your censor to shut up until the second draft. Sometimes that’s not enough. I find if I highlight the sentence, it appeases the censor enough that I can keep writing. If it’s a real stinker, use the strike-through feature – but keep those words. You wrote them, and they count. If you can think of a re-wording right away, go ahead and write it. But whatever you do, don’t sit and mull for 15 minutes. Time’s a-wastin’, and you’ve got words to get down on the page.

The second trick is much cheaper. Profanity counts as words. Sometimes, it helps me to take a few dozen words and just curse out my plot, my brain and whichever character is gumming up the works. Or to simply write, “damn, damn, damn . . . .” About the 20th repetition, I start to want a little variety, and sometimes it inspires the characters to do something. It’s all about getting goddamn words on the goddamn page. (See what I did there? LOL!)

Third, meta-comments count. Vague meanderings sometimes chase each other around my brain endlessly, but I find that actually getting those thoughts out on paper is a great way to pin them down, analyze them briefly, and get on with the story. Meta-comments (about the eventual plot, about the character’s inner musings, about the setting or what I want to convey) are a great way to throw the inner censor a bone, and let you get on to the more important work of getting thoughts on paper. All of these words are part of the discovery process, and they should count toward your daily word count.

I’m trying something new to me this NaNo – a mainstream novel about a girl and a transvestite stranded in Narita International Airport. Well, that’s mainstream for me – I don’t plan on adding demons, witches or space rockets at any point. But then again, it’s NaNo. Who knows what will show up during the process?

If you are doing NaNo too, I’d be happy to buddy you – I’m Michaeline Duskova in the Japan section. If you’d like to share your user name in the comments, and maybe a little bit about your story, other readers of this blog can find you more easily.

So pumped for this month! Let’s do it!!

8 thoughts on “Michaeline: Cheap tricks to increase your NaNo word count

  1. Great ideas, Michaeline, especially the swearing, meta-comments, and, my favorite, XXX (rather than blank parens) for the word you just can’t think of. I’ll keep those in mind instead of just staring at the screen!

    The other thing I do (’cause I’m trying to write in the morning before everyone is up) is plan out what I want to write the night before. Earlier, I had been in the habit of writing out an “In this Scene” form I created, which I blogged about here: http://authorjustinecovington.com/2013/08/11/focus-hocus-pocus/. I’ve gotten out of the habit, but I need to get back into it. When I do plan out my scene in advance, I usually fly through writing it.

  2. Love all those ideas, Michaeline, and they’re not just for NaNo. My revision is more of a rewrite – lots of new scenes and lots that are changing so much they might as well be new. I’m going to try all your tricks to keep my momentum high.

    Also – I want to know more about the girl and the transvestite. What kind of story is it? Or – what kind of story is it now, accepting that it could be something completely different by 1 December?

  3. I so want to start something new for this, but can’t in good conscience abandon my current WIP for a month. I’m in NaNo in a sort-kinda way (I’ll keep track of works on my current WIP). Next year I’ll go all in and start a new story from scratch. Now that I understand what this is and how it works, I love the idea.

  4. I’m glad it’s helpful! Justine, I think the idea of using XXX for the word-on-the-tip-of-your-brain is brilliant. Then, if you use that every time, you can use the search function later to make sure you’ve fixed all those spots.

    I think NaNo is something every writer should try once. There’s something freeing about “damn the art, let’s get some words on the page!” And, there’s a lot of support during November. Some people like the competitiveness, some people like seeing their numbers grow on a widget, and some people love the idea of being a part of a greater community whose members are all working on something creative at the same time. But “once” doesn’t have to happen now! I really hope I’m doing this next year, too.

    But, you can definitely “do NaNo” without all the bells and whistles. And, I can see why you wouldn’t want to do it this year, Kat. If you’ve already got words down on the page, then it’s a matter of selecting better words and better ways to say what you are thinking. That’s slow, careful work, and I’m not sure the extra pressure of “1667 words a day!” is really suited to that — there’s also the matter of counting the new words which is a bookkeeping nightmare, and a distraction to the editing process. Jilly, you might consider joining and see if it’s supportive for what you are doing now, but I think you might also be at that more contemplative stage.

    (-: As for what I’m doing on the WIP — I’m not sure I want to poke too hard right now. You know how Jenny talks about Lani’s Discovery process? I think that’s what this is. It’s a character-driven story, and I’m discovering who those characters are, and what is driving them. Angela is a former American assistant English teacher in Japan — she’s trying to get to Canada, where she’ll marry her Canadian boyfriend and start a new life in grad school. (The boyfriend wants to get married so they can take advantage of married students’ housing, he says.) The boyfriend had returned to Canada in April, and popped the question in May (probably when he started budgeting for grad school seriously). The boyfriend also left his dog, a Chihuahua named Mr. Pootles, in Japan for Angela to take back — he wanted to take his mountain bike back, and he didn’t want Angela to get lonely, he said.

    However, Mr. Pootles doesn’t have a health certificate to get into Canada, so Angela must miss her plane and deal with all that stuff, when she meets Michael Greensleeves, a tranvestite comedian from Great Britain. Michael was heading toward a remote (probably formerly British) Asian destination with British-style electrical outlets when typhoons caused flight cancellations and stranded him in Narita International Airport. In this sort of setting, I’ll play Canterbury Tales, and have them exchange stories about life and love and setting goals.

    LOL, yes, I’ve stuffed conflict into a box. I need to see what this story is about before I start applying tools. But, I look upon this story as a real gift — I love Michael very much, and I’ll get to explore some gender issues and politics with him. I will get to explore using conflict more subtly — not just “BATTLE TO SAVE THE WORLD!” conflict, but something more subtle. This isn’t a Heroine and Villains scenario, but a rather straight sort of protagonist/antagonist situation. How will the protagonist own the story? How will the antagonist shape the story? And how will they do it without resorting to magical incantations and calling up demons, ghosts and a former mother-in-law?

    I don’t know if Angela will discover the good and trustworthy about her Canadian boyfriend, and manage to get home, or if she’ll wind up going off to Hong Kong (or where ever) with Michael. Part of the process this month . . . .

    (-: I’m really excited about this. And probably been too long and boring about it. That said, it’s going to be a great month!

  5. Pingback: Michaeline: Are NaNo writers naturally insane? | Eight Ladies Writing

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