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November 18, 2010


Getting to 50,000

Good evening! Exciting news: I located a new coffee-and-sandwiches type place that is independent AND open past four in the afternoon! You wouldn't think this would be a huge issue but it is, around here. I needed a dinner on the go tonight and got a tasty sandwich. (They actually have no vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, but they were happy to just make a sandwich with whatever I wanted on it.) On Friday mornings I usually let myself go to Starbucks as a reward for making it through the week, but I think tomorrow I will try a latte from this new place instead. And maybe see how their bagels are. This IS New Hampshire. I'm not expecting much. (Oh, look, they have a Web site.)

I suppose you want that advice on things like MOTIVATION and REWARDS I promised yesterday, though, huh? Okay. I think the advice tonight all falls under the rough category of "actually getting all 50,000 words in." I mean, I guess yesterday's was sort of about that too, but this is more direct. Or something.

1. Keep track of your word count progress as you go. It's satisfying watching the numbers stack up. There are various ways to do this - anything from just a list of daily word counts in a notebook to complicated Excel "Report Cards." But regardless of what else you use, I do suggest that you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site. They'll make you a pretty bar graph of your daily progress, and also generate some other statistics (more on that later). How often to update your count? Whatever, really. Some prefer to only do it after one writing session. I do it much more frequently so I can obsessively monitor the statistics and be encouraged by the graph.

This year I also have an item within my document in which I'm recording my ending word count each day, just so I have that record in a place other than the NaNo site.

2. Use the NaNo Stats page. (You can find this on the "My NaNoWriMo" section of the NaNo site. Last tab to the right.) It offers the aforementioned shiny bar graph, as well as a bunch of other helpful things. The "today" section is based on a daily goal of 1667 - the minimum average per day you have to do to get to 50,000 in 30 days - and shows you how many words you've written and how many you have left. But I actually find the "total" section more helpful. It shows you how many words you need to get to the day's minimum target, so I find it soothing to keep this at 0 by always staying at least a day ahead. I generally try to write until my word count for the day is higher than my average words per day, which is a fun little mind trick because, of course, the daily average increases as your daily word count increases. And I have been loving the "words per day to finish on time," because watching that drop is really encouraging.

3. If you're having trouble keeping your momentum going, stop in the middle of scenes. Really. It's much easier to start up again the next writing session if it's obvious what the next line should be.

4. Friendly competition can help, but keep it friendly. I will admit that I almost stopped writing when I hit 2000 words this morning (my usual goal), but then I realized that I was only about 500 words behind the person on my Writing Buddies page with the highest word count, so I kept going until I had a higher count than any of my buddies. (It only lasted for about an hour, but it was satisfying.) On the other hand, you'll probably have a friend or two who has a lot of free time or writes really quickly or something, and they'll always be way ahead of you, and it will be tempting to let this make you feel like a failure even if you're not actually behind. RESIST.

5. Make a realistic assessment of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is tricky, because reactions to it can range from "Yay, an extra long weekend I can spend writing!" to "OMG, it's a black hole of traveling and relatives that will suck away all my writing time and possibly my will to live." I have been in both positions. One year, I hosted Thanksgiving instead of traveling, but it was only for four people and three of us were writing, so they didn't expect much. And that meant I could spend Saturday (I think I worked on Friday) writing all day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving was actually the 30th that year. I was behind and wrote ten or twelve thousand words in a marathon while eating leftover Chex mix. Good times. On the other hand, this year I have a fairly busy Thanksgiving week, so I'm planning to get to 50,000 this weekend so I don't even have to worry about it (although I'll try to keep writing each morning, even if only a little). Either way is workable; just think about it ahead of time and plan accordingly.

6. Write out a word count checklist each day. This takes a little time at the beginning of your writing session, but it's definitely worth it, at least for me. There are various ways to do this. A few years ago, I wrote out instructions for the formula I was using at the time. I still really like that system. This year, though, I've been going a little simpler: I write a list of all the even 100s between my current word count and my goal, and add in the number for (my word count + 1667) (the minimum; my goal is 2000), as well as any daily word minimum goals that fall within the range (so 1667, 3334, etc.). Conveniently enough, the notebook I'm using has exactly as many lines as are required for that, so it's all nice and neat. The basic idea here is to give yourself a ton of really teeny goals that you can CROSS OFF as you reach them. The crossing off part is important, and extremely satisfying. This is all basically mind tricks, but I write so much more quickly when I do this.

7. Reward yourself! I actually prefer to call this bribing myself, because it sounds so much more sordid and dramatic. Someone in my writing group tonight said that she hadn't been rewarding herself, and we all gasped in horror and immediately concluded that this was why she felt her novel wasn't going well. You can set rewards at all sorts of milestones, and they can be whatever you want. Food is good for smaller milestones. I don't let myself eat breakfast until I've written 1000 words. A friend tonight said "I get 3 chocolate chips every 100 words," and I'm honestly not sure whether she was joking, but hey, sounds like a plan! Daily rewards can also include walks, showers, breaks to read or watch TV, whatever. I haven't yet gotten to the point this year when I start "allowing" myself to do chores as rewards, but hey, maybe this weekend! (I'm rather behind on dishes.)

Big rewards can also be good, either at the end or at a few big milestones in the middle. This year, I'm not letting myself watch Christmas movies until I hit 50,000, and I ordered a few new ones (well, old favorites that I didn't have on DVD) that will be sitting next to the computer mocking encouraging me all weekend.

So . . . I think that's all my NaNoWriMo advice. At least for now. Off the top of my head. But if you have QUESTIONS or other things you would like me to address, comment away and I will write a follow-up!

Posted by Kat at November 18, 2010 11:20 PM
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