Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NaNoWriMo Day 13 - On Speed

As expected, I've gotten very little writing done because I've been travelling. My three day trip last week went into five days because of car trouble. So here I am, at Day 13, with 3400 words.

I've got some catching up to do.

The most I've ever written in a day is 9,000 words, and I've had two day totals of about 15,000, so I know I can still reach the 50,000 goal and save my lovely curly locks from the trimmer.

I've always been able to write fast, and stay focused for long period of time. But I never stopped to ponder why. I certainly don't think I'm more talented, creative, inspired, or dedicated than any of my peers, pro or newbie. But I haven't met many writers who can crank out the words as quickly.

So before I get started on my novel this morning, I thought I'd write a few words about speed, endurance, and staying focused.

1. Sit Your Ass In The Chair

The first step is to actually sit at your desk, your Word Processing program open on your computer. Now be a good dog and STAY, getting up only to eat, hit the john, and attend to any bleeding children.

2. Limit Distractions

The biggest attention temptation for a writer is the Internet. Besides email, chat, and games, there's also the dreaded research, which begins at Google or Wikipedia and then, an hour later, devolves into you reading about something entirely unrelated to your book.

Phone calls, nonessential communication with family members, stretching your legs, or doing anything "to get the muse started" is time that should be spent writing.

3. Write

You shouldn't worry if it's crap. Give yourself permission to write crap. The goal is to get words on the page. Write them, even if they suck. Inspiration is bullshit. Writing is a job. How often does your 9 to 5 job inspire you? Yet you do it anyway. When working, the motivation is the paycheck. With Nanowrimo, the motivation is getting to 50k. Get there, even if you think you're producing garbage. You can always edit in December.

If you are stuck, staring at a blinking cursor and pulling out your hair, here are some tricks:
  • Read what you wrote the day before. That can give you a launching point for getting into the next scene.
  • Spice it up. Usually, being unable to decide what happens next means you don't have enough action or conflict. Give your hero more problems to deal with. I don't care what kind of book you're writing, you can always introduce more characters and plotlines to make things harder for your protagonist. When God gets bored with earth, he sends in a tsunami.
  • Skip around. Much of getting stuck happens when you're pushing for something to happen, but you can't seem to get there. You know what I mean; the big scene that came to you fully-formed, but you haven't gotten to the point in the story yet. Who says you need to write in order? Do the scene you're itching to do--you can connect it to the rest of the book later.
  • Free yourself. Often you get mired down in outlines, plans, details, and expectations, which can bring your story to a dead end with no hope of moving forward. Allow yourself to change your original plans. Narratives often go in places we didn't expect, and may not even like. Roll with it. Change things. Go in different directions, even if that means your book becomes something different.

4. Fight Fear With Action

Fifty thousand words in a month is a scary thing. It's easy to obsess about word count, worry that everything you've written is garbage, and spend so much time questioning your ability to finish that you're wasting valuable writing time. The best way to combat fear is with action. Every time you feel the need to doubt yourself, or check your word count, force yourself to finish the page. The doubts usually go away for a while. When the come back, be aware of them, and finish that page.

In short, less thinking, more writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have 46,600 words to write in 18 days, so I'm getting started...