My one little NANOWRIMO writing tip (and secret to my success)

Friday, March 25th, 2016 and is filed under Writing


I love all things NANOWRIMO. Let’s just get that out of the way. Each year as November nears, I find myself getting more and more excited by the day, breathlessly awaiting my thirty days of writing solitude. It’s become a running joke with friends and family not to bother with me in November… I’m worthless.

After all, I’ve got scenes to do, people to invent, arguments to settle, worlds to builds. Oh, the things I want to write…

I’ve attempted this 50,000-word in 30 days marathon every year since 2007 and have managed, somehow, someway, to completed it five entire times. As a reward for my efforts, I have four sad little novel wanna-bees lying around waiting for some serious love.****

Now, I don’t think my NANOWRIMO novels are necessarily sad from a concept standpoint; I believe they all have a lot of merit. They’re just unreadable in their current form. Plain and simply unreadable. Atrociously unreadable. Embarrassingly (at least for me) unreadable.

Because, here’s the thing with NANOWRIMO. When you’re under the gun to kick out 50,000 words in thirty days, you just don’t have time to craft. Instead, it’s a mad dash to 1,666 words a day (more if you can really push it) where ideas are flowing fast, the characters are discovering their voices, and the plot…well, let’s just say it’s finding its way through the mire, too.

While this sounds fun and all, doing NANOWRIMO can also be a tremendously painful slog. And it was something I was considering abandoning (no matter how much I loved it) until I finally figured out this secret:

Count every word written… as a word written.

Earth shattering, right?

While you’re probably thinking “duh,” this is not as clear-cut a statement as it sounds. Like most writers, I actually like to write. I love to craft a tasty sentence on my way towards completing a compelling scene. With NANOWRIMO, you just don’t have the time to do so. And it can become an absolute beatdown.

For NANOWRIMO 2014, I changed things up a bit. I thought… why the heck am I ignoring my deep-seated need to obsess over getting stuff right? I’m in the zone for crying out loud!

So what I started to do was writing and rewriting… and sometimes rewriting… entire sentences or paragraphs, one after the other, until I was happy. Especially for dialogue and descriptions. Then I’d copy and paste the unwanted pieces down at the bottom of my document (I use Scrivener) as a sort of scratch pad. Doing this, I was able to get my word counts in while also satisfying my perfectionist side as I worked through the myriad complexities that arise as you’re telling a story. I also discovered that many times, I was able to use pieces of my “scratch” in other parts of the book to build entirely new scenes.

I also found writing this way to be much more fun.

**** Writing this way resulted in the strong bones that became my first completely edited novel, Bound By Fate (A Novel of the Strong, Book 1). UPDATE: Bound By Fate was picked up by Dark Hollows Press in June 2016 and is now available for purchase. Click here to buy a copy if you’re so inclined!

Now that I write pretty much every day, Novembers aren’t so important. But like Pavlov’s dog, I still start to salivate when I hear the tinkling of the NANOWRIMO bell. The mere thought of 30 dedicated days of writing bliss makes me want to fire up the laptop, pour the wine… and go with the flow.