It’s the first day of NaNoWriMo, and you’ve got some 1700 words of your novel to write today.
Firstly, kudos if you’re taking part. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and with any luck at all, you’ll write and publish your novel.
NaNoWriMo hacks: easy tricks to survive November
Anytime I’ve got an important writing project, I take half an hour or so to plan the project, and to do a mini SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. So that’s our first hack.
Let’s look at some fun tricks to make NaNoWriMo easier.
1. SWOT it first: an analysis is fun, and often surprising
Grab a notepad, or an index card. Use a card if you’ll be writing in different locations; you can take the card with you.
Print SWOT vertically down the page, leaving some lines between the letters.
Now think about:
- Your strengths, whatever they may be. Maybe you’ve got an amazing outline, and have scheduled each day’s writing carefully.
- Any weaknesses. Are you terrified because it’s your first novel? Maybe you’re writing in a genre new to you.
- Opportunities. Can you think of any opportunities which you might get as a result of doing NaNoWriMo? Perhaps you’ll write a bestseller… 😉
- Threats? You know yourself — maybe you’re worried that you’ll procrastinate, or will get bored…
Here’s why a SWOT helps, even if you just take five minutes to do it very quickly. It gets the benefits and challenges out of your head, and onto the page. Your subconscious mind will begin working on solutions to threats, so that you can overcome them.
2. Do writing sprints with a countdown timer
The first four days of any novel are slow if you’ve done zero preparation — and even if you’ve done lots of preparation. You’re finding your voice for this novel.
However, often the idea that “the first days are slow” can merely be an excuse. When I catch myself getting too relaxed and lazy, I fire up the countdown timer in my phone. Then I write as quickly as I can while the timer ticks down.
Writing sprints of 20 minutes or half an hour are useful — you’ll increase your word count for the day relatively painlessly, particularly if you focus on dialogue. After the 20 minutes, you can go back and fill in the blanks of the scene you’re writing.
3. Create a BIG mind map, and update it daily
I work on several novels and short stories at any one time; my own, and others’. I have a “novel” mind map template, and have these branches from the central idea:
- Story question;
- Time line;
- Open loops.
It’s easy to add to the mind map while you’re writing. For example, I might have these branches off “characters”: attributes; physical appearance; REMEMBER.
I have REMEMBER coming off each of the major branches, because there’s always something which I know I’ll forget, especially anything related to minor characters. In mysteries, there’s always red herrings; I need to remember where I planted them, and how I’ll resolve them.
The “open loops” branch is handy. Anytime you leave readers wondering about something, it’s essential you start closing your open loops at around the 60% done mark of the novel.
4. “Outline” at least two scenes ahead: just one sentence is fine
As I point out in Map It, my book on outlines for writers who hate outlines, I’m not huge on outlines. I like to work things out as I go.
One thing I’ve found however: I notice this in my students who prefer pantsing too… if you don’t write down at least a sentence about the upcoming scenes, you’ll block. Or you’ll head down a useless tangent.
Your brief notes for upcoming scenes kick your creative self into action. Those notes make writing easier.
5. Warm up with timed writing: five minutes each day
Speaking of easier writing.
When you sit down for that day’s writing session, do five minutes of free writing first. Just write as much as you can in five minutes.
It doesn’t matter what you write:
- Ideas for upcoming scenes;
- Character sketches;
This brief warmup clears your mind, and gets you into a writing mindset. Words and ideas will come more easily.
OK — there you have it. I hope these simple hacks help you with NaNoWriMo — and with all your fiction, for that matter. 🙂
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