Monday, 17 November 2014

NaNo Talk: The Other Side Of The Hill

November is known around the world as National Novel Writing Month, a time of the year when hundreds and thousands of people try to get 50,000 words down on paper in just thirty days. There’s something quite compelling about it and once you’ve taken part once it has a habit of drawing you back in, year after year.

This year while I’m taking part I’m also sharing some of my thoughts on the various stages of the month.

Saturday marked the halfway point of the month. It’s all downhill from here. Hopefully as you’re reading this you’ve cheerfully skipped past the 25,000 word mark and are beginning to get a peak of the 50,000 finishing line in the distance. Can’t you see it yet? Squint, it’s there, honest.

Or perhaps you’re still playing catch up.

One of my favourite ways to get extra words on the page is through Word Wars. Back in the days when I first started doing NaNo I used to swap MSN names with people on the NaNo boards. We’d all congregate and chat, then at a predetermined time the room would fall silent (usually so minutes past the hour). I’d power my way through my story for ten or fifteen minutes, then the MSN box would flash to let me know time was up.

We’d share how many words we’d managed, entertaining NaNoisms, commiserations for the interruption that prevented us from warring for the full ten minutes. I’ve always loved the sense of togetherness during NaNo and Word Wars appeal to both that and my natural competitive nature. These days I don’t have the MSN chat to use. Though there are Word Words schedules on Twitter and Facebook, other chat sites and of course the forums. You can also War against yourself. Set a timer, write until it goes off, then try again and see if you can get more words.

It’s a question of finding what works best for you. For me that’s ten minute sprints with a five minute break in between. Write for ten, browse the internet to recover, write for ten, recover. You get four goes at that during an hour which can be worth 2,000 words once I get going.

There’s always bribery as well.

One trick I used to use was to get my lunch all laid out. You’d have a sandwich (cut into two triangles), a packet of crisps, a yoghurt, maybe some fruit. To eat each bit I had to write so many words. A thousand words for a sandwich triangle, done. Five hundred for the crisps, done. It might take you a couple of hours to eat your lunch but you’d have plenty of words to show for it at the end.

Obviously the lunch trick might not work for you. It doesn’t work for me any more. Instead I resort to different tactics. Five hundred words is worth a trip to read a thread on the NaNo forums, but if I want to post a reply to someone I need to write another five hundred. I’m a cruel taskmaster.

You could always enlist friends or relatives to help with the bribery. You’re not allowed your iPad until you hit your daily target. You’re not allowed a chocolate bar unless you write at least 1,000 words. If you don’t get another 5,000 by Friday you’re the one who has to take the bins out.

Do you have any tricks you’ve found to help you get extra words?

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