I know all of you writers are straight arrows and never cheat. Well, I’m not like that. Like the raccoons I write about, I’m an opportunist who really likes catfish.
But what I do for NaNoWriMo isn’t larcenous cheating, where I upload a Thackeray novel and turn that in as my “completed work” on November 30th. What’s the point? That's no fun.
My problem is wilting too easily from discouragement. You know when you start falling behind on word totals: one day you’re 200 words behind, the next day, 900, then 1,843. Before the week is out you need to write 5,000 words/day to catch up. Then it all completely goes to hell.
Well dammit I don’t do that any more. By hook or by crook I’m here to get the words in. So what I do is open up the definition of “a novel” just a little bit and give myself some wiggle room.
Here are my evil methods for getting the words in:
1) Don’t write chronologically.
Recently I read a good article about Joss Whedon where he recommends getting the fun stuff done first.
“Some people will disagree, but for me if I’ve written a meaty, delightful, wonderful bunch of scenes and now I have to do the hard, connective, dog’s body work of writing, when I finish the dog’s body work, I’ll have a screenplay that I already love. I used to write chronologically when I started, from beginning to end. Eventually I went, That’s absurd; my heart is in this one scene, therefore I must follow it. Obviously, if you know you have a bunch of stuff to do, I have to lay out this, all this dull stuff, and I feel very uncreative but the clock is ticking. Then you do that and you choose to do that. But I always believe in just have as much fun as you can so that when you’re in the part that you hate there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that you’re close to finished.”
(That article I got that quote from is 35 kinds of awesome, though image-heavy, if you want to take a look.)
So forget writing everything in order. Write your favorite scenes first. In fact, if you see a second way a scene could play out, write that way as well. Jump in any old place in the story that interests you. After the month is over, you can start putting all of your jumbled scenes in order and start filling in gaps.
I ended up skipping one day of NaNoWriMo because I took all those crazy disjointed scenes I'd already written and started putting them in chronological order. Now I see some gaps that need filling -- and I want to write some scenes that fill those gaps. Also I discovered I missed a very important scene -- indeed, a whole subplot! -- so I need to write that one too. So now I have some more ideas to play with ... in a non-chronological way, of course. *sneaky eyes*
2) Reward yourself.
Whedon also recommends rewarding yourself for everything you do with little pellets, i.e. chocolate, gummi bears, etc. Actually, scientific study on willpower shows that if you reward yourself with little bits of sugar as you're working, then you’re more liable to get the work done. P.S. Gum is also good.
3) Write character sketches
Sometimes you can't move forward in your novel because you’re not really sure what your main character would do in this scene you're trying to write. So pause while you flesh out this character. But – and this is important – include these words in your daily word count. Because character work is novel work, right? The same goes for brainstorming plot, or toying with scene ideas, or sussing out the scenery. ALL of this goes toward the word totals. Because writing about what your novel needs beats writing “I don’t know what to write oh hell oh hell I need to stop writing and find work as a horticulturist" when you get stuck.
4) Have your novel tag-team with a second novel!
One year I was super productive because I was actually working on TWO novels. One day I’d work on Butterfly Chaos, and the next day I worked on Seraphim Changelings. The word count actually seemed much easier to meet when I had a day's rest between each novel. And I was still doing creative work daily. Everybody wins!
-- “But how on earth do you get the word totals verified at the end of the month if you’re working on all these different documents?” some of you forward-thinking folks are asking.
I have a separate document on my desktop called NaNoWriMo Word Total 2013. Every day, when I have finished and I highlight my day’s work to find out its word count, I will copy it and then paste it into that document. At the end of the month, that’s the document I will use to verify.
See? Crime does pay!