Tips and Tricks: Increasing The Word Flow
We NaNoWriMoers are a little more than halfway through the challenge, but if you are
like me in any way, this is about the time I start hitting the wall. The pressure of words is
becoming a bit more challenging as you work through the plot you are hastily creating.
And the deadline is looming closer and closer with each passing day.
The start of the 30-day challenge is always exciting, and if I daresay, easy as you
choose your story-line and begin meeting your characters. But after the first few days the
inspiration begins to dry up and the nerves begin setting in. By the halfway point, we
wonder if there’s enough time left, and then we dread the story itself: is it even worth all
this effort? The answer: YES!
Nano is just the challenge to get 50,000 words completed (which is approximately a
novel, give or take). But you aren’t supposed to have a finished, polished novel by
December 1 sitting on your desk. Having that kind of pressure is daunting, and can
cause writers to detach themselves from their project and drop out of the Nano race.
Let’s be honest, we aren’t James Patterson.
But never fear, there are some tried and true tricks to keep your word count mounting.
1. DO NOT SCRAP ANYTHING
As noted before, this piece is not going to be a publishable work by Day 30. Instead, this
is a first draft. As writers, you need to keep that in mind as you go along. If you don’t like
a scene, leave it be, write something new after it and keep going. The more you go back
and delete pieces of the novel the more time you spend recreating scenes, and the less
time you spend advancing your plot.
2. DO NOT EDIT
At least not yet! Editing, while a necessary tool for polished work is not the goal for
NaNo. Make editing your December goal, and focus on getting the words down. Do not
go back and rewrite sections, instead, write more sections and keep the flow going.
Spending time each day going back to re-read entire chapters (heck, even the entire
book!) takes precious writing time away from you. In order to meet the deadline of
50,000 words in 30 days, writers have to average at least 1,700 words per day. That
doesn’t sound like a lot, but as you get into the nitty-gritty of the novel, there’s the
chance that some days you might not hit that mark, maybe one day you only hit 300
words, that puts you 1,400 words behind.
3. SCHEDULE SOME TIME
We all work, cook, have commitments, and need time to unwind. Make sure to set aside
a block of time to write. This block of time can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours,
whatever your schedule allows. But making yourself sit and write for that set time period
can get the juices flowing! Environment is also key. Make sure to select your writing
space based on your ability to block out noise. If you can’t stop yourself from looking up
at the T.V., getting involved in a conversation, or getting distracted by the pile of laundry
that needs folding, make sure you choose a location that is free of those distractions.
4. WRITING SPRINTS
These are a fun way to get the word count out in a certain amount of time. And you can
get other writers involved in them too! Pick a number of words you want to write and
then give yourself a time limit to get those words written. Or give yourself a time limit and
challenge your friends to write as many words as you can. The winner earns a free cup
of coffee! Post it to social media, text your writer buddies, or get your friends/family to
hold you accountable for these sprints!
5. REMOVE YOURSELF
Sometimes you place too much pressure on yourself to actually write the number of
words you need each day. The pressure builds and it squashes the inspiration. In these
cases, get up and get out. Head to a park, a mall, or some other public place and spend
time people watching. Give yourself an hour and write about where you are, what you
see, what you hear, about the people walking around, the smells…just jot it down, keep
your focus off your work in progress until something sparks you. This break allows your
mind to wander outside of the confines of your story line.
6. GET OFF THE COMPUTER
Sometimes working your magic with the basics are the best way to reinvigorate your
output. While typing allows you to get more words down in a shorter amount of time,
writing by hand allows your mind to work a bit slower. Use this time to develop a new
scene or character, or to give yourself a quick chapter outline.
While passion gets you started on the Nano journey, you have to be dedicated to
finishing the job. Writing up a short, general outline can help keep you on track. This
provides you with the bare bones of the story and you can spend the rest of the writing
time filling in the organs!
8. STOP WRITING WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT IS COMING NEXT
Getting started each day can be a challenge if you aren’t sure what direction your
character is going to take later in the story. By ending your writing session at a point in
which you know exactly what your character is going to do next, you allow yourself to get
started immediately the next time you sit down and begin writing again. Jot down a few
notes before you finish writing for the day about what is going to happen in the next
chapter and stop writing. When you go back, your notes and your last few paragraphs
will be all you need to review before you can jump into the action of your WIP (work in
9. LEAVE BLANKS
Choosing a character name can take days, deciding on the correct phrasing to describe
the castle gates can be a challenge you spend hours creating, even attempting to vary
your descriptive language can take up more time than you’d like. Here’s the key when it
comes to Nano: leave it blank. The old adage, “collect the sand, build the castle later,”
applies here more than you an imagine. Who cares if you used the word SMILE thirty
times in the last twenty pages. That is a problem for you to address when you get to the
editing phase. That minor character that only appears once in the story for a few pages
doesn’t have a good name? So what, make one up, leave it blank, call him Minor
Character 4, and move on. Names can be decided upon at a later date. Not sure how to
describe the scar on the hero’s face? Write SCAR, DESCRIPTION, and keep writing the
action. This is a first draft, it isn’t supposed to be gold, it’s supposed to be raw. All the
boo-boos can be tended at a later date.
10. DO NOT GIVE UP
Even if you know you aren’t going to hit 50,000 by the end of November, keep writing.
Keep pushing yourself to write as much as you can. Then, use that success as a
challenge for yourself the following year. You might surprise yourself. You may sit down
one day, feel overly inspired, and write 8,000-10,000 words and put yourself back on
track to hit your goal. You can do it, you have the skills and the passion – you just need
the determination. (And a few good tips to stimulate those creative juices!)
11. EXTRA TIP
There are plenty of places to submit your work to when you’re done! Keep Junto Magazine in mind for your shorter pieces, and Ink Smith Publishing & Native Ink Press for your longer novels!
Corinne has her MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University and her MPS in Publishing from George Washington University. She has been an editor at Ink Smith Publishing and Native Ink Press since 2013. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is editing for Ink Smith Publishing & Junto Magazine and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.