NaNoWriMo Prep: 5 Rules to Boost Word Count

My 2014 NaNoWriMo Graph
My 2014 NaNoWriMo Graph

We’re narrowing in on the last few days before National Novel Writing Month.

We’ve been getting ready – reprioritizing time, deligating as much as we can, clearing out space to allow the giant wonderful mess of November to come in like a bevy of frat boys and take over our houses (and, might I add, it is very likely that by November 30th, our places will smell and look as if that is exactly what just happened).

Some of us are readying out plots and characters, others still aren’t sure. But one thing hangs over all of us – fifty thousand words. In a month.

How the Hell do you write 50,000 words in a month?

Answer: With lowered standards, fingers like the wind, and a lot of tricks.

Because I’ve been at this a while, I’ve compiled a list of my top five ways to boost word count and keep things going. Maybe they can help others. Other ideas will come out during NaNo, in the forums, and from the Bible of NaNoWriMo: No Plot No Problem.

5 NaNoWriMo Rules to Boost Word Count

  1.  Stop using contractions. Never. Not ever. No more don’t and can’t – it is do not and can not from now on. One word becomes two – it’s magic.
  2. Describe like you live in the renaissance. Really, really get into it. All those lessons you learned on brevity and just letting the text do the work? Throw them out the peeling paint framed window, it’s glass old and mesh-bound, propped precariously open with a dusty stack of Encyclopedia Brown hardcovers, bleached and tattered by what must be years of sun and rain doing their unassigned job of keeping a broken window ajar… You get the idea.
  3. There is no editing in NaNoWriMo. I repeat: THERE IS NO EDITING IN NANOWRIMO. It would be better to cry in baseball. Every time that backspace finger gets twitchy, just select that text and paste it at the bottom of the document, then go back up and keep working. You’ll end up with a glorious garbage pile at the bottom of your page (and some of it might turn out to be good).
  4. Think on the page. If your plot is stalled, make one of your characters give a 5-page monologue about how stuck it is and try to figure it out. Make characters argue, go down to your trash pile and crate a “The Story So Far” summary. Whatever you do, keep the writing going in your novel. (Pro tip: Avoid ranting on your blog – words on the blog are words not in your novel.)
  5. Understand that this is not normal writing. If you can’t tell from the previous tips, this isn’t your normal writing where quality is priority. This is word-rich and thought-poor writing. It’s letting your brain go all over the place, making a giant sloppy mess of everything and then some. This is NaNoWriMo. Let that novel do whatever it wants to do.
  • BONUS: Give your characters multiple-word names. James can become Sir James of the Western Brothel from now on. This also adds to dialogue and humor of the novel. Or gravity, if that’s what you’re going for. And when you’re ready to edit? Just find and replace any names that don’t work. HINT: create text shortcuts for character names so you don’t have to type in all those words every time. Instructions for Mac, and for Windows.

If you are a NaNoWriMo veteran, you’re aware of some of the tricks we use in November to help rack up the word count. If this is your first time, then these might be news.

Either way, it pays to start thinking of how we’re going to succeed in the month to come.

And feel free to add your rules/tips/extra two cents below.

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