Thursday, 3 November 2016

How I wrote 15,000 words in a day for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo has become a bit of a regular thing for me. Each year seems to follow a similar pattern now.

Somewhere around June I say to myself 'I won't do it this year', then the plot bunnies start creeping in and before I know it we're into August and those little guys are breeding like rabbits. There's something about the onset of autumn which puts me in the mood for it and before I know where I am, I'm surfing the forums, planning plot twists and compiling lists of character traits.

During NaNoWriMo the aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel; its focus is on quantity, not quality. You're writing a first draft to get the story out, all the other work comes later. In order to hit your target you need to average 1,667 words per day and that's one of the tricky parts.

I managed to get 15,000 words on Tuesday, the first day of NaNo, so I thought I'd share some tips for how I did it.

Be Prepared!
Just like Scar in The Lion King, you need to be prepared. And that preparation can take many forms. You might want to have detailed character studies, plot points, research background events, or you might be more of a 'pantser' (i.e. you write by the seat of your pants).

You might think that if you're a pantser you can't really prepare, but preparation isn't just about preparing what you're going to write. It's about making time to write, freezing some easy meals so you don't have to cook, cleaning the house before the start of the month so you can let your standards slip a little over the month, and letting your friends and family members know what you're up to so they can prepare too.

My preparation included booking November the 1st off from work. This might be a little bit extreme (especially if, like me, you're getting low on your holiday allowance). I like to start bang on midnight so this allows me to stop up late and not worry about being unable to function the following day. I also stocked up on yummy snacks to help keep me going and motivate me.

Plan to Write
This probably sounds a little bit weird. If you're taking part in NaNo you're obviously planning to write, but I mean you should plan when you're actually going to do your writing.

You might want to get up half an hour earlier to get in some writing time before the kids get up, take a tablet to work with you to get in some words during your break, or have your tea a little later and use that time of day to write.

You should also plan for the time when you won't have as much time to write. You lucky Americans have Thanksgiving to contend with. Others might have birthdays, family get togethers, work trips or other important things to do. So while you might need to aim for 1,667 words per day, there might be days you can't write so you need to write more for others.

Write When You Can
This is where my 15,000 comes in.

I know that I always do best when I start strong. By getting in 15k on Day One I'm able to coast for a week if I need to. It gives you a cushion in case there's a day when you just can't write. And if you can write every day, then that word count is just going to keep on growing.

If there is a day when you finish work early and you'd usually get home then head online to catch up; spend half that time writing. Forego your Saturday lie-in and write some more words. Take advantage of the weekend or a holiday and stay up late writing.

How I got to 15k
Firstly, I started bang on midnight. I'd aimed to write until 2am but I couldn't keep my eyes open (since I'd woken up at 4am that day). Even just getting an hour's writing time in meant I was able to hit my day's target before I went to bed.

I woke up early and hit the keys before breakfast. This is something I could probably do on a workday, but I've not been bothering with it since, maybe I will if my buffer drops too small though.

Since I had Tuesday off work I paced myself. I aimed to write in bursts of fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, giving myself a break in between times so I didn't get burned out or sprain my wrists. In between writing I did laundry, grabbed a bite to eat, messaged Mr Click, hung out with Tara and joined in a NaNo chat.

Speaking of which, the NaNo chat was good fun for keeping me motivated through the day as well. I was ahead of most of people in the room so there was an incentive to make sure that I wasn't overtaken by anyone. I'm pretty competitive so this was a good motivator. Plus people were bouncing ideas off of one another and generally revelling in the NaNo buzz.

Those words all came from one Word Crawl. my little crawl on the NaNo forums has helpfully put together a Harry Potter Word Crawl extravaganza. There's a word crawl for each year of Harry's time at Hogwarts and from the first one I got a little under 15,000 words. I did a couple of activities from Year Two to get me up to a nice round 15k.

The word crawls are my favourite thing for challenging yourself because they give you different activities which help to keep you motivated. It's like a competition with yourself. After each activity or task in the challenge I made myself take a little break, sometimes only five minutes or so but all those minutes added up over the course of the day.

At the time of writing this, I'm steadily making my way through the Year Two Crawl. I'm hoping to finish it tomorrow or Saturday and I'm optimistic that once I do I'll be sitting on the other side of 25k.

Why not share some of your strategies for upping your NaNo word count?


  1. I still think 15,000 words in ONE day is amazing, Click. I only just managed my 30,000 for the WHOLE of July on the Camp NaNoWriMo earlier this year - maybe because I was definitely a "pantser" as well as writing in secret so no-one knew I was doing it. But I think mainly because when it comes to writing a book I found it incredibly hard to actually think up good, exciting sub plot lines and weave those into the main story - so I take my hat off to anyone who is a writer and that you have been doing this for the past few years is rather incredible!! Wishing you all the very best as you proceed through November :)

    1. Thank you.

      I definitely recommend telling people you're doing NaNo (or any other project), it gives you that accountability because people will be curious and so will ask how you're getting on. If you're like me you'll be embarrassed at the prospect of not hitting your target so you have to keep going with it, hehe.

      The exciting sub plots don't always come easy, but they're the sort of thing that can be slotted in with editing. Sometimes the background stuff is easier to squeeze in when you know where everything's going to end up. ;-)


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