How I’m Surviving Nanowrimo

I’m just over half-way through Nanowrimo, and so far I am loving it! I’ve managed to write almost every day, or have done more on either side of missed days to keep to my target.

This year has felt easier than last year (which I finished but with a slightly stressful last few days), and infinitely easier than the years before that (which I didn’t finish at all). My story has expanded so much that I might not even need to start a new story at the end to make up the required 50,000 words. My original goal was 84,000 (to match my previous first draft) but I’m already up to 88,000 and I still have a few chapters left to write.

Recently, I have discovered a few helpful ideas and tools that I will now share with you on the off chance that they might also be helpful to you.

E.ggtimer – a very simple timer you can use for writing sessions. I find if I set it for 30 minutes, I only need two or three sessions per day to reach my writing target. It helps me focus so that I’m not tempted to go on Facebook or read the news during that time. I rationalise that 30 minutes is short enough so that I won’t feel like I’m missing out on anything else. I’ve found I can get around 900 words done per half hour if I’m really on fire, or as little as 400 if I still get distracted – usually because of an instant message from one of my writing buddies. I try to get as close to 2000 as possible for a day so that it gives me a bit of breathing room on days when I can’t write much or at all.

This tool is also great for encouraging me to keep the writing flow going. I’m kind of racing against myself to try and get to the 800 or 900 word mark, so if I get bogged down trying to think of a new character’s name or wondering if a particular fact is correct, I just put in some placeholder text and change its colour to red so I can come back and fix / check it later.

Trello  – a handy online list maker. This is like having an endless line of flash cards that you can move around as you please. This has been great for putting down crucial plot points that I need to address in the rest of my story. You can then add text boxes within each one to include extra notes or attachments.

Pacemaker – I found this while looking at how to continue logging my writing progress once I finish Nanowrimo. I love the stats page on the Nano website and wondered if there was anything similar I could use for the rest of the year. Pacemaker was the closest thing I could find in my (admittedly, not very thorough) research. It seems to mostly do what I want, and I’ll be using it alongside the Nano stats for the rest of the month to see how it compares.

IMDB – Birth Year Search – This link will show you all the actors born in the year 1992. You can change the year just by putting a different number in the link. I find this helpful when I’m trying to think of actors who I would cast for my characters. It sometimes helps inject a bit of additional realism when you are able to look at a picture of someone to describe features you wouldn’t necessarily think of otherwise.

Sometimes I will also make up a spreadsheet and insert photos of all my characters into it, putting the love interests side by side so I can imagine the chemistry they might have, or the things they might say to each other.

HipChat – this is something I joined with a few writing friends (in fact, it was one of these friends who recommended the egg timer and Trello as well!). This is kind of like Facebook Messenger, except you can add rooms, add different recipients and keep the rooms open or closed depending on the level of security you require. Thanks to the aforementioned writing buddy, we have a very well organised system with a variety of rooms including such topics as ‘Edit & Publish’, ‘Writing Races’ and of course, ‘Off-topic Chat’.

I have tried novel writing software such as Scrivener and Celtx, but have ended up defaulting to Word because I’ve used it for so long. I’ve heard good things about Google Docs too, but for now I’m just going to stick with what is easiest for me.

Lastly, if I ever have writer’s block, I don’t actually stay sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen. Instead, I will wait until I’m driving somewhere or at the gym doing a workout and then let my brain think over the issue I’m currently having. Usually it’s not actually a block, but instead just me wondering how I’m going to deal with an unanticipated situation in the plot. I often figure out the perfect solution with ten minutes, yet if I had tried to do the same thing while at the computer, I wouldn’t have been able to. I think it helps for your brain to have something else to focus on at the same time.

And if you just need a little inspiration, you can always check out The Writer’s Circle page on Facebook, or google quotes from famous authors to see that they have the same thought processes as you!

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