The Internet abounds with writing advice, and especially every year right before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) beings on November 1. I have my own advice for mastering time and using the pantser or plotter methods to plan your novel, but I’ve also compiled a short list of great tips to use for any writing project, not just NaNoWriMo.
1. Feed the Subconscious, Fuel the Muse
“We must fill our creative well before we write, or we have nothing to draw from….Too many writers fail to finish NaNo because they haven’t fueled up properly….Often a lot of the subplots or cool twists and turns come from all the stuff we fed the muse ahead of time….My recommendation before writing ANY book is total immersion…fluff and filler [can be] avoided if the writer [has] more research to draw from…The more facts, images, and stories (even news stories) we have in our head, the richer the work and the easier to give our writing texture.” ~ Kristen Lamb
2. Star in Your Story
“Even when you plan your hero down to the fingernails, the persona, the effect of the backstory and the general nature and energy of the character doesn’t fully emerge until you bring him/her alive in your pages. Unless the hero is you. If you allow yourself to star in your NaNoWriMo story…you’ll find yourself knowing more about your hero than you ever will otherwise. Literally put yourself into the skin of your hero and vicariously experience — and then translate into words — the journey you’ve created.” ~ Larry Brooks, Storyfix
3. Don’t Worry About Chronology
“Write the scene or chapter you really want to write today. Who says you have to write the darn thing in order? Nobody. That’s who.” ~ Christina Katz, The Prosperous Writer
4. Use a Timer
“Your inner procrastinator may try to convince you otherwise, but there are only so many hours in November. Spend your time wisely by using a timer (we like e.ggtimer.com). Set it for thirty minutes and see how many words you can write. Take a five-minute break. Then, set it for another thirty minutes and see if you can beat your word count from last time.” ~ Joe Bunting, The Write Practice
5. Don’t Forget to Fall in Love…with Your Story
“One way to move toward [falling in love with your story]…is to build this project around an idea — a concept, a character, a theme, or something that happened to you or you wish would happen to you — that’s worth a few pints of your blood and sweat…[an idea] big enough, exciting enough, to be the one thing that drives you toward doing this right. An idea you can’t get out of your head. An idea that you’d read if someone else wrote about it. Make your NaNoWriMo novel about that. Nothing less. Don’t settle. Honor the craft, honor your time, honor your dream…It’s like a relationship…they’re hard at times, and when it is, only if the other person is worth it will you proceed forward productively, and with a chance at bliss. Love your story….That’s the only way it will ever love you back.” ~ Larry Brooks, Storyfix
6. Know Your Protagonist
“The protagonist’s internal misbelief must already exist before the plot kicks into action. Every protagonist must enter already wanting something very badly, and with an inner issue — fear, fatal flaw, wound, misbelief — that keeps her from getting it. You must know these before you start to write because they define what the story will be about….The protagonist’s worldview is the lens through which she’ll see, experience, and evaluate everything that happens, beginning on the very first page. So if you don’t know what her worldview is going [into the story] — and, as important, what specific events created it — how will you know how she’ll react to anything? Or what things mean to her? Or what your plot must force her to realize?” ~ Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed
7. Take a Break and Share the Confusion
“You’ll be amazed at how many story problems and dead ends you can overcome simply by telling your story, in sequence, to someone who can keep quiet enough to allow you to encounter your own roadblock.” ~ Larry Brooks, Storyfix
8. Enjoy the Writing Ride
“Whatever you are writing, whether you ‘win’ or not, you are learning things about your creative capacities and they are worth their weight in gold. Walk away with a clearer understanding of what makes your creativity hum, and you will definitely win.” ~ Christina Katz, The Prosperous Writer
9. Have Word Count Boosters Handy
NaNoWriMo is all about word count, making sure you get that 50K first draft finished. But even if you’re working on a “normal” project, you might find yourself stuck at some point. Try giving some of the following ideas a go — even if you’re not focused on word count.
“Writer’s block is something writers handle all the time, but when you’re on a deadline, you can’t really afford to lose any time staring at a screen. Having some word count boosters handy can be a really great way to add a few hundred words and/or get your creative juices flowing. This can be as simple as adding a new character or having your main character realize it was all a dream. Or it can be as complicated as adding a plot twist or a new point of view (maybe from your antagonist or your supporting character’s point of view — the choice is up to you!). Remember you can always go back and edit or cut these things out once NaNoWriMo’s over. You don’t have to keep everything you write.” ~ The Magic Violinist, The Write Practice
10. Write Your Own 10 Commandments
I was looking through the NaNoWriMo forums and came across “Your 10 Commandments for NaNo” in NaNo Tips & Strategies/Reaching 50,000! The idea is to write down the “things that you promise to do or not do during the month of November. You can [write] them in the ‘Thou Shalt Not’ language, or in normal English.” Your own ten commandments can be easily adapted to any writing project. Here’s the first thread in the forum, from Olafsta:
- Thou Shalt Not win until Thou writes [50,000] words.
- Thou Shalt write every day within Thy month of November.
- Thou Shalt not let thy grades decrease during Thy NaNo.
- Thou Shalt value writing over sleep during thy Weekends.
- Thou Shalt not visit thy NaNoWriMo Forums at all during thy November unless thou is fully caught up on thy word count. Thy only exception is for thou word wars/sprints.
- Thou shalt not give up until thy November is over.
- Thou shalt not become a rebel.
- After every half hour of writing, thou must do 25 pushups and 25 situps before continuing to write.
- Thou shalt show at least some attention to thy family/friends.
- Thou shalt not visit any other forums during thy November aside from thy NaNoWriMo Forums.
- If Thou decides to not follow one of these commandments, thou shall do 50 pushups and 50 situps whilst wearing only thy undergarments. It must be done within thy 24 hours of the breaking. If done late and/or clothed, it must be doubled. If thy breaks the commandments twice within any 72 hour period, thy shall also skip lunch on the school day immediately following the most recent breaking. If lunch is eaten on that school day, thy must then skip lunch for two school days in a row as soon as is possible.
What tips can you add to the list? What are your 10 Commandments for Writing?