Monday, November 7, 2016

All the Words // Part #1

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, and you find yourself struggling to get words down on the page, it helps to remember that you are free to write what you want. You’re writing a contemporary and you start feeling the urge to include a scene with dragons in it? Knock yourself out. You want to write a chapter in the POV of that one neglected potato at the bottom of the fridge? Do it. I dare you. Whatever keeps the words flowing. A lot of the stuff you write like this may end up getting cut during edits. In fact, count on it—give yourself the leeway to write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of immediate perfection. You will be able to polish later, but right now you’re trying to work loose thoughts, and sometimes you have to do that in roundabout ways that also happen to get you more words, even if they feel beyond ridiculous. 

If a tangent interests you, explore it. I’ve gotten at least five new novel ideas this way. When in doubt, include it in your story. And if you hate something you’ve written? Don’t go back and delete it from your total. Just write around it. I add a lot of notes to myself along the lines of: Okay, let’s just pretend the last chapter didn’t happen. So we’re picking up at point XYZ and moving on from there. 

There is no rule that says you have to limit the description you use in this draft. There is no rule that says you have to limit the characters or the plot lines. That’s for when you edit. If you have a ton of elements, and you know there are just too many for a proper novel, include them anyway so you’ll get the chance to explore them in detail. And then let the threads drop along the way if you find you need to. No harm done. When trying to decide what to write, err on the side of more, not less. You're not Hemmingway this November. You're Dickens. 

You are not trying to be masterful. You’re trying to unleash the full power of your creativity. (Okay, that sounded ominous.) 

Sometimes I’ll write a scene three times, back to back, each a look from a different angle, like I’m using a three-point turn to get my car headed in the right direction. Because later, when I edit, I will have three options to choose from, and I will be more equipped to evaluate which version I want to run with. This can also help pinpoint what might be off enough to give me a touch of writer’s block, all without taking the time to slow down and read back through to figure out where I’ve gone off track. 

Get crazy with this. Write fanfiction of your novel. Gender swap a few scenes, or gender swap the whole thing. Change up the main characters for a couple thousand words. Try to imagine and reimagine your story as much as possible, so you know it front, back, and sideways. It'll help you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Explore all the paths. Blaze new ones. Don’t restrict yourself. 

You are literally making this up as you go along, so embrace the flexibility this gives you to map out your story world in your head. There are no limits—don’t act like there are. Go where you will. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some ways you maximize your word count for NaNoWriMo?


  1. Despite not doing NaNoWriMo, I think I should take this advice into account (especially the POV of the neglected potato at the bottom of the fridge). I guess one should just write to their heart's content and ignore the grammatical errors and horrors that plague the screen.

  2. Thanks for the pep talk, Liz! I usually go over with NaNo and if I don't I go back and add description haha.

  3. I love, love this advice! I never think about doing this in my novel? I'll play around on a separate Word doc sometimes, but I kind of like what you're saying. (it speaks to my chaotic soul *cough*) And go for more, not less? YES! It's easier to trim later than to flesh out.