Good morning, campers! The sun is shining, the bug juice is flowing, and you’re Day 8 into writing your summer adventure. How’s it going?
If you’re anything like me, not so well. Despite the soothing crackling of the bonfire, despite the plot bunnies scampering from cabin to cabin, despite my main character waiting to do something, I just can’t seem to stay on goal.
Luckily for me (and you), I have the ultimate care package. The best part? They last through November, too.
4 Ways To Get Through Camp NaNoWriMo
Do Not Delete
This is probably the strangest habit to learn, and I still find myself hitting the backspace key when I misspell something, but for the most part my NaNoWriMo novel usually resembles the front page of Reddit: a mess of ideas that ranges from delight to horror.
Some of the things that you might not even realize you’re deleting include:
- Dialogue that is rambling towards nothing
- Whole paragraphs that don’t add to the plot
- A sentence you know you can write better
- Whole scenes
- Whole chapters
In case no one has told you yet, let me reiterate something: NaNoWriMo isn’t about perfection. It’s telling yourself a story. That means writing everything that pops into your head. Don’t like how the dialogue between the MC and her mom ended? Keep it! And then rewrite it, and keep that too. Run-on sentence listing all the character traits of the villain’s cat? Good! The longer the better!
Deleting is for Future You to worry about. (Good luck, that guy!)
Do Not Reread
It’s happened to me dozens of times: the start of a new writing day, I open to the page where I left off, and I remember what I wrote the day before. An emotionally intense dialogue, or a scene where the MC discovers the last plot point, or the exciting reveal of the villain. I scroll up, find the section, and read. Notice the last word of that sentence. Notice how it doesn’t say “write”. That’s my problem; I waste writing time reading my own stuff. And it’s never just reading. Almost always I find something that makes me cringe, makes me delete, makes me rewrite. So let Past Me pass on some advice: Do. Not. Reread.
If it’s not obvious why, think about that marathon runner who’s trying to beat his personal record. They don’t run a mile, stop, and turn around thinking, “Wow, I just ran that!” They keep looking straight ahead, knowing they can stop when they cross that finish line.
This is also my way of warning you that if you reread what you wrote, odds are you’re going not going to like what you read. As the old (re: something I’m just saying is old) adage goes, “If you let a writer read their work, they’ll want to edit. Editing leads to deleting, and deleting leads to a low wordcount.”
Do Not Edit
Don’t delete what you wrote.
Don’t read what you wrote.
There, you know how to not edit. I mean look; if you want to really know how to win NaNoWriMo, it’s by ignoring your Inner Editor (more on that asshole later). Some people can do it no problem and just write, and these people are about as rare and beautiful as unicorns. Unicorns that can shut off all external forces begging them not to write — and can somehow type with hooves.
But for the rest of us normal people, it’s not that easy. I used to be the type of writer to look at every word and try to justify why it should have any place in my story. Can you imagine? Every sentence written, judged, and criticised to death before ever writing the next sentence. How many words do you think I wrote? Not 50,000, that’s for damn sure.
Don’t be me. Don’t be judge and jury with your own writing before it has the chance to breathe. Let it be awful, let it be rambling, let it be riddled with crimes against humanity: as long as you let it be.
Write Out All Numbers
This is a less intense tip than the above, but not any less effective for adding to your writing hacks. Write out all numbers, especially the big ones, no hyphens. Warning: this isn’t correct grammar, obviously. Grammar dictates that any number above ten should be written numerically.
But this is NaNoWriMo, so fuck that.
Deborah was born in 1954.
Deborah Ann Grawunder came into the world in the year nineteen fifty four.
Five words compared to thirteen. And bonus writing hack: bulking up boring sentences with obvious information. I’d argue that an edited version would be somewhere between the two versions of that sentence, but that’s a different post.
I’m not saying this is an honorable way of adding to your wordcount, but there’s something to be said about reducing the stress of getting to 1,667 words. The less anxiety you have, the more you write. And who knows? After building your confidence of writing each day, you may not even need this technique anymore.