Monday, 9 November 2015

NaNo: Word Wars & Sprints & Crawls! Oh My!

The second week of NaNo is upon us and many people will be finding themselves falling into what is commonly known as The Second Week Slump. It sucks.

This is the time where all the enthusiasm you had for your story in the beginning deserts you; all that carefully constructed planning turns out to only take you to five thousand words, not fifty; your writing schedule goes out the window due to family, friends, work, and your neighbours not understanding the sanctity of NaNo; and you've run out of Halloween goodies and all that's available in the shops now is overpriced Christmas chocolate.

It is not pretty.

You'll not be surprised to learn that many people give up on their NaNo at this point in the month, which is a shame because if you're on target you'll have 15,000 words written by the end of the day. How many people can say they've written that much in just over a week?

All the same, it can be hard to force yourself past this point in the month, especially if the first week has not been kind to you and you've started slipping behind. But I'm here to help. These are some useful ways to bulk up your word count and get you back into your story, because sometimes the only way to get past a block is to keep hammering away at it until it shifts.

Word Wars

These used to be my very favourite way to gain more words, from way back in the days of MSN Messenger. One of the great things about NaNo is the social aspect, and I'm a pretty competitive sort of person; word wars pit you again other NaNoers. These are usually conducted in a chat room, the forums, via Skype or on the social media platform of your choice.

Participants agree on a start time and duration, for example :15 for 10 minutes. As people may be in various different time zones the start time is given as minutes past the house. When I used to host them we would usually chat for five or ten minutes and then war for five or ten, depending on what everyone felt was best. At the agreed number of minutes past, the room would fall silent and we would hammer our keyboards like crazy until we were told to stop. The winner (of the bragging rights) was the one who had achieved the highest word count in that time.

These are good if you have access to the internet and a crazy group of friends or online acquaintances to join in on them with. If your internet access is patchy or non-existent then you might want to try one of these other options.

Word Sprints

These are basically solo word wars with a duration but no start time so you can do them whenever suits you. You'll see a post on the NaNo forums that tells you to sprint for 'x' amount of minutes and then you set a time, get writing until the buzzer sounds and then post your total.

You'll see these cropping up on social media (there's a dedicated NaNoSprints account on Twitter where they run challenges regularly through the month as well as posting prompts). I've seen pictures on Pinterest as well, which you can pin and then do at your leisure whenever you need a bit of a push.

If it's the competitive element that keeps you going then you can challenge yourself to better the other people who have posted their sprint totals. Or you could sprint against yourself. This is particularly useful if you only have short bursts to write during through the day; set your timer, write like crazy, note down your total, lather, rinse, repeat. This is particularly useful if you have time to write on your commute, in your breaks, or if you like competition but don't always have an internet connection.

Word Crawls

These are a recent addition to my NaNo repertoire, I only discovered them at the end of last year and I've been amassing a collection of them ever since to use this year. A word crawl is like a story which gives you instructions to follow in terms of how long to spend writing, or the number of words you are to write before you can move on to the next bit. Some take the format of a straightforward list, whereas others are a little more like a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

There are a whole host of these on the forums which you can work through depending on what you fancy. Many of these are done with a particular theme (such as escaping from Zombies) or linked to a TV series, film or book (as in the popular Hunger Games Crawl and the numerous Harry Potter ones) so you can find something to suit your tastes.

Participants usually post their progress through the challenge in the comments on the original forum post. With many of the longer ones it is difficult to complete the full crawl in one sitting, so you might work through one over the space of a day or two. A single crawl can give you anywhere from 600 to 3,000 words, that can be quite the boost when your word count is flagging.

Have you got any useful techniques for pushing yourself to get more words?

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