Want to get into the habit of writing thousands of words a day? Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month AKA Nanowrimo? I’ve learned some tricks that might help you reach your goal.
Four years ago, I wrote a draft of my second book in a series, hitting around two thousand words per day during Nanowrimo. I remember the super amazing rush of finishing in twenty-two days. Believe me, November birthday celebrations and hosting Thanksgiving was a great incentive for me to finish early.
I want this feel this way again!
Now, I’m a much faster writer. Not typist. Writer.
17 tricks to writing thousands of words a day:
Write in spurts.
Instead of sitting down and making myself write for a certain length of time, then hitting a wall with ideas, I take a break and do something else. Yesterday, I listened to a movie while working on a puzzle. It’s a beast that has sat on a coffee table for months. Then I took my Bichon, Roxy, for a walk in the snow. When I returned, an idea flashed in my head. I always feel as though it was right there the whole time. I ran to my laptop and wrote another thousand words.
Don’t keep checking your word count.
That can be distracting. Definitely check it when you stop to take a break. Sometimes you’re closer to a big number than you think. A milestone might encourage you to write a little bit more. That’s a good thing!
I’ve always been more of a pantser and write without a strict outline. But after walking in fairytale villages in Scotland, like so many other authors, ideas floated in my head. Upon my return to Boulder, I wrote ten pages of notes so I wouldn’t forget anything.
When I started the book, most of them didn’t work. For one thing, my character was pissed off instead of excited about going on this 50,000-word adventure. It’s one thing to sit and plan out a book and quite another to run scenes and truly understand the motivation and emotional state of your characters. That takes time to develop.
I’ve never written fantasy, so my conscious brain wanted to find a logical explanation for this new world. GAH! I found myself writing fantastical images and then deleting them while saying, out loud, “This is so stupid.”
I took a break and a little voice in my head said, “You’re forcing it. Let the story unfold and happen. Then the fantasy elements won’t be so shocking.” Okay, okay, I said to myself, probably out loud. Then I went back to more of a stream-of-conscious type of writing.
Sit down, open a document, and write.
Last night, my husband, Danny, said, “You can’t force yourself to write, can you?”
“Yes, I totally can.” Back when I wrote flash fiction, it was due on Fridays. I would sit down with a blank page and write the first words that came to mind. Words. Not sentences. If you’re thinking in sentences, it’s not stream-of-conscious writing.
Then I would set it aside for a day and a huge U-turn of a twisted ending would pop into my head. It was magical.
Trust your subconscious
IT KNOWS WHAT IT’S DOING! Many well-known psychologists have written about the collective unconscious and how creative people are able to tap into it. Basically, it’s where many creative ideas come from. Don’t question your crazy new thoughts. Consider them. My subconscious is always right. My conscious thought? Surprisingly, not as often.
Trust that your story will make sense, eventually.
If you don’t force your story, but allow it to expand and grow the way it wants, it will have a logical progression. Let the shitty draft do its thing. Visualize the scenes as they happen.
Write it ALL down.
This is the time to write the backstory, flesh out characters, their idiosyncrasies, play with their voice, and any underlying storylines. It occurred to me that tension would rise if wrote another character’s POV (point of view). Is it in the right place? Who cares? I’ll tackle that in a rewrite of which there will be several hundred.
Talk it out.
Yesterday, I wrote a conversational scene and wanted it to appear realistic so I said it out loud before typing it. My husband was in the other room and kept saying, “What?” Roxy is used to it and doesn’t even bother looking up from her place beside me.
When you’re stuck, move.
Your brain needs blood flow to get the creative groove going. Get up. Stand up. Take a walk. Run errands. Clean. Go to work. Bake. Hike. Go skiing. Breck opens this week so that is a thing. Don’t consciously think about the story problem. Give a new idea a little time to pop into your head. When it does, then run to your computer, make a note on your phone, or on the back of a receipt before you forget.
I read every night before bed. I just finished, Under the Water, a dark thriller by Paula Hawkins and started Aaron Michael Ritchey’s Dandelion Iron, book one of the Juniper Wars. It’s a funny, young adult, dystopian, western, science fiction. A complete departure from my usual read.
Why read when there’s so much writing to be done?
When we read, we’re swept away by words to another place and time where we don’t know what will happen next. The writing process should have the same sort of feeling. It’s great practice for your brain.
Embrace the excitement.
I want to know what happens next!
Even though I’m a pantser, I have a general sense of what the story is about. Very general. The book summary could be written in a paragraph or two. I see this new book as a series with a big cliffhanger at the end. How do I write to these tent pole plot points? I have no idea, but I keep them in mind so I don’t drift too far off the trail. Discovery, exploration, and adventure is the fun in writing a book.
I’m anxious to find out what happens to my characters. I care about them and this strange new world.
My biggest problem is slowing down enough to describe the setting. I’m an action girl and find writing descriptions a tedious exercise. But it adds to the total word count, I keep reminding myself.
Don’t forget the internal and external conflict.
Characters should have an arc of growth or change through the course of a book. As they go through the story, conflict is key. Whether it’s something they struggle with either physically or mentally, it’s all good.
Having a hard time sitting down to write?
Set a timer or tell yourself you will write for twenty minutes. Once you start, I bet you’ll write longer than that. If you write a few times a day with twenty minutes in mind, you might be surprised at your day’s word count.
The emotional state of the characters.
Make sure to give your characters motivation and emotional responses. There’s nothing more boring than 2-dimensional characters. That happened to me when I first started writing seven years ago. Why? Because my main character was me! Mistakes were made.
Unleash the horrible. It’s a lot more fun to read.
When in doubt, let the worst-case scenario happen. I’ve read so many books where terrible things almost happened. THAT IS SO BORING! Let bad things happen to your protagonist. Humiliate them. Let them suffer. How else will they learn from their mistakes and grow?
Can’t think of what to write? Ask questions.
Your answers are the egg in the batter which holds the story together. Okay, so maybe not, but I liked that metaphor. Maybe it’s what makes the dough rise. Mmm, not quite. Anyway, ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen in your story right now? How about your protagonist? What does she want? To go home? To fight the beast? To eat a jelly doughnut? How does her history with the other characters affect her actions? How can you show her strengths? Her weaknesses? You can think of hundreds of questions. Go for it.
I hope this helps you.
Remember, any writing is writing, whether it’s a blog post, a chapter in a book or a journal entry. Grocery lists and text messages don’t count, sorry. The main objective is to form a habit.
Whether you’re participating in Nanowrimo, writing a book, or a blog post, let me know how it’s going. I hope one or two of these tips will help you increase your daily word counts. Whatever your process, we all have to sit down and conjure up sentences to fill the page. Have fun with it.