Taken from a combination of these blogs, and my own experience, here’s how I ‘won’ nano in 21 days, which when I looked back at my diary and file history, was actually 13 writing days.
A word of caution about these points: this is what worked for me. I am not you, you are not me. Be wary of any writing advice which says ‘you must do x’ or ‘you must never do y’. Some people hand write all first drafts, others can not, no matter how hard they try, ever plot. This is what worked for me, it may work for you too, it may not. OK, got it? Then I'll begin...
Techniques for writing
- Trying to keep up the momentum with the story is really important. Try as much as you can not to have days when you don’t write.
- Do research after you’ve written the first draft – just put a @ in the manuscript meaning need to research. Part of the story was set in Margate, which I’ve visited, but didn’t’ have a great memory for. Rather than looking up pictures of the town, and re-reading my diary from the visit, which would have wasted a good hour or so, I just put in @ and stayed with the story. It’s quite refreshing actually.
- Permission – give yourself permission to write a first draft which is bilge. This was really hard at first, but once I got back in the writing zone, and the words were flying onto the page, i found the dialogue flowed well, and the characters actually took me in more interesting directions than I’d originally plotted for.
- Also, don’t read what you wrote the day before, just keep going forward. I re-read the last paragraph to ‘get back in’ to the story, but that was it. I also found stopping half way through a sentence helped quickly get me back into the story.
- Write through the blocks. If you’re stuck on scene put XXXX that’s my code for ‘need to come back here and fix something’ write THEY HAVE AN ARGUMENT whatever needs to happen, and move onto the next scene you can write, the next scene you have excitement to write.
- Just vomit your words onto the page. You can’t edit a blank page. Don’t stop for spelling mistakes, repeating the same word twice in a sentence, leave it, stay in the rhythm of the story, listen to the voices of the characters, move on. You can fix it later. As a writer at the RNA London Chapter told me, ‘Tell the story. Tell the story.’
- Get a team – I’ve used the #Nanowrimo on twitter to report my daily word counts, and total, it’s been so encouraging. There are a few other authors I follow on Twitter and their encouragement has been great to keep me forging on.
- Keep a diary/note paper with you at all times, jot down the dialogue you must include, an idea for a plot twist. I used lots of post it notes when I got stuck 1/3 from the end and needed to plot.
- On the first day, I wrote solidly from 8am to 5pm and wrote 16600 words. Yes, that’s right. I kept thinking I was going to reach a wall and get stuck for the next part, but because I’d planned it, and thought about the story and characters for a while before it just flowed.
- Write in blocks of time. I found it most productive if I wrote in two - three one hour word bursts each day I wrote, timing myself for how many words I could write. Each one normally averaged about 2000 words an hour. This is double my previous average rate.
- Some techniques say you should just write the scenes in dialogue with no tags or action, then go back later to add in the setting. I found this really jarred, I see the whole scene in my mind, so it feels unnatural writing just dialogue without the other bits surrounding it. It might work for you, give it a go.
- Interruptions - I had no internet, except for short bursts on Twitter on my phone while I was making tea in the kitchen. No email, no facebook, no Twitter, nothing on Gummidge, my laptop, while I was drafting. I rewarded myself with a burst on Twitter as I made another cup of tea after my 1hr writing sprints, as above.
I’m not sure what sort of state this first draft will be, and I’ll blog about what it’s like editing it, later in 2014 More later...
Did you do Nanowrimo? How was it for you?
Have you tried some of these techniques, and they’ve not worked for you?
Until next time,
Liam Livings xx