15 Ways to Write More During Nanowrimo

I’m crying. I’ve been crying all morning.

Pronoun is shutting down and I have no idea what I’m going to do. I just launched the Well of Youth and its getting 4 and 5-star reviews. I just put a lot of money into advertising and reviewing to garner its attention. I took down my novella and made it free before, lost all the great reviews that Amazon wouldn’t put back, and got left with a bunch of mediocre ones.

I’ve cried in bed, in my husband’s arms, over blueberry pancakes and in the shower while I pulled myself together. Now, on my 5th coffee, I will still do the post I was going to do today.

Which is to tell you how I do Nanowrimo.

 

I committed to 150k words for the month of November, to write the next novella in the Last Prophecy Series, and to do the next book in the Queen of Spades series. Its been a rough couple of days but I’m on over 10k words and plan to write another 10 if not 20 today by mostly pouring my heart and soul into it.

How?

So first up (& cheating a little here) I posted last year on 5 ways to get through writer’s block;

https://ejdawson.com/2016/06/28/5-tips-for-writers-block-on-your-project/

I can’t recommend deciding on two separate decisions a character has and rolling to see which is more likely, that gets me through so many hard writer’s blocks.

But now I want to impart 2 other lots of tips; 5 ways to work on your book when you can’t physically sit down, and yet another 5 ways to get through writer’s block with your current work in process!

5 Ways to Work on your Book when you can’t sit and Write.

  1. Think about it all the time!

I do mean this. I think about my story when I’m on the road, when I’m in the shower, and when I’m going to sleep. It doesn’t matter if I forget or can’t write it down, I follow the thread and review where I’m currently up to, and then I sort of play out the rest of the chapter or scene in my head. I pretend it’s a movie I’m directing, and when the characters don’t speak or act I have to prompt them. Sometimes it helps me see objectively how a reaction is wrong, or the story isn’t going in the right direction.

The added benefit of this is that you *know* what you are going to be writing when you finally do sit down so it’s not such an issue.

2. Take a notebook!

I can’t believe I have to say this but take a notebook. Not your phone, not a tablet. A book of blank pages. A writing implement. I carry one everywhere with me to pencil in ideas, write down the names of characters or even just a great name when I hear it.

Don’t make excuses not to carry one. You can fit a palm-sized notebook in your pocket, pens are everywhere – and that’s only if you don’t have a backpack or handbag!

I have nearly lost great ideas because I didn’t have a notebook, and when I don’t have one I scrounge for paper and pens. I’ve written an idea on a napkin with the waiter’s pen.

The added benefit of this is that you actually remember it better when you physically write things down. This has been proven, (don’t ask me where I don’t remember) for exams and tests. So if you write your brilliant scene in dot point formation it will actually be easier to remember when you do get to write it down!

3. Talk to Someone who’s Objective

I’ve said this numerous times, but my husband’s ability to predict movies and books never ceases to amaze me. When we were dating he hadn’t seen the Usual Suspects and within the first 15 minutes knew Keyser Soze was the bad guy.

So when I have a plot problem I throw what my plans are at him, usually on drives and when we’re walking the dogs, to see if it’s too predictable. If you are worried about the direction of a story ask a trusted and honest friend.

Not someone who says “Yeah, that’s great!” and doesn’t offer any critical feedback.

Someone who will listen quietly and give good advice. They are rare people to have, but they might surprise you with their insight.

4. Make time to exercise

I suck at this one. But it helps clear the cobwebs in my head, it gets rid of the stress. Even a walk listening to the soundtrack I’m writing to is really helpful. Alone time with your thoughts is as important as writing time. It’s really that simple.

5. Plan your time

I have a good habit of sitting at my computer and just writing all the time. I do it when I’m waiting for games to load, I do it when I’ve got a spare 20mins, I do it during my lunch break at work. There are little ways you can spend five minutes getting through a scene or bit you don’t like, so that when you return you can work on the good bits. Don’t worry about it being a perfect setting, just make sure you have the capacity to write as much as possible wherever and whenever you are.

What I mean by this, is that I go through my day and pre-plan writing time; I have to exercise this morning so I’ll write at lunch. I will get home late today because of a meeting so I’ll write tomorrow morning. Think about when you are going to write, and make sure you do it, even if it is only a few minutes. It helps to know you are allocating time specifically to writing, even if it’s only a little, and sometimes that time can be very productive!

 

5 More Ways to Work on your WIP!

  1. Are you listening to the right music?

It came up in a FB post what people listen to, and is it odd to listen to soundtracks while you write? I *cannot* write without a soundtrack, I will actually hunt around for the right soundtrack for my story.

And you don’t have to listen to the LOTR soundtrack to write fantasy. The music should evoke a response from you, and you use that response to write the story you wish to work on. You wouldn’t listen to an upbeat song during a funeral scene, so you need to make sure you’re selective. It also has the added benefit of blocking out other sounds and distractions.

It doesn’t have to be soundtracks either, there are numerous artists out there I suggest you check out for evocative music;

Zack Hemsey; I can’t get enough of this guy, both his singing and instrumental. I am listening to Nomad right now, and I love his songs.

Audiomachine & Two Step from Hell; Both these are great for more fantasy/epic music, but I find there is a great balance of other songs in there too, really wonderful to write too.

Celldweller & Glitch Mob; I’ve been listening to heaps of these guys for my sci-fi romance. They have great action songs, upbeat and full throttle, and they can drop to darker/sadder music too.

2. Where are we?

In the story? Are you describing what everyone is wearing/doing? Are you travelling somewhere? What’s out the window?

Sometimes just a paragraph on what can be seen out the window of a car is far more telling, and sometimes it can lead to intimacy or moments between characters you didn’t see coming; touching hands accidently, a moment of solace. Even bringing the tension higher by sticking the protagonist and love interest in the back seat together when at this particular moment they can’t stand the sight of each other. Or better yet, the protagonist and antagonist.

There are the actions scenes that are great, but what comes between those are dialogue and description. Don’t forget those, and if you start with a description sometimes the dialogue happens on its own.

3. Plan your chapters

Presumably you know roughly how long your story is going to be, whats going to happen in the end. Even if you don’t this is a good way to keep things on track.

I usually know whether my work will have roughly 3k or 5k chapters. I then lay out the story based on the estimated word count I expect. My novellas are 50k words, my fantasy books are 130k, and my sci-fi romances are 100k.

I break it down into chapters, and then I start writing out one line about what happens in each. Sometimes (especially for the bigger books), I’ll leave a few lines. I don’t always stick to this plan, but when I don’t have the motivation to write or am not sure I’m happy with what’s going on, it’s a great reminder of where I’m supposed to go.

The stories tend to have their own lives, and there is a constant question of “Panster/Plotter”. For those of you who don’t know a panster is someone who does next to no planning, and a plotter lays it all out.

It’s been compared to planting a seed and letting to grow, to being an architect and building a house.

I like to think of chapter planning as planting a seed, and putting up the frame work of a house, and then letting the plant grow. You can encourage it to climb in any direction, but sometimes it will head off on a tangent you didn’t see, and that might be a great thing. If not, you can always chop it off and refocus on your framework, it at least keeps you on track!

4. Secondary Characters

Without them the story can be lacking, they give it fibre, believability. So what do they think about what’s going on? Do they agree/disagree with the current status of the book? Maybe the main character doesn’t care what they think but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware. Is it worth telling the reader at this point? Wouldn’t it be better to show them by bringing them up?

It can be a concerned parent or guardian. A bossy sibling. An angry friend. A crying lover.

What is the effect of what you are putting your MC through to everyone else?

Whether it’s dropping out of school or deciding whether the antagonist should die, the decisions your MC makes has an effect, and not just on supporting characters. On the principle of the school, on the general public when they see what happens to those that cross the protagonist.

We give our MC actions to take, that they think are right, but what if someone else thinks they are wrong? Ask yourself this, see if it affects what is happening right now.

5. Leave it alone.

Yeah, OK. This runs in complete contradiction to one of the tips I gave which was to write through it. When I was writing Phantom Presence I was really angry about a lot of things and my normal outlet couldn’t cut it. I had to walk away from the MC because I didn’t have the patience the character possessed to keep writing her story.

Sometimes emotions sneak up on you, and they can influence your writing for the better, making your stories great. Other times they can completely stuff up the attitude of your MC, making them more depressed or angry than they otherwise are.

There is never a perfect time to write, but there are the times when it isn’t happening, and you need to treat your characters and story with the respect they are due, sit back, take a breath.

Venting feelings through writing is a good thing, but sometimes you need to give it a break, maybe watch a movie or something, and then get back into it.

Writing isn’t easy, I don’t need to tell you that. Writing this has been very therapeutic for me in the wake of Pronoun going down. I can admit that now, and keep working on Nanowrimo.

When I’m Breathing

‘So…. How many novels have you actually written?’ A work colleague asks.

‘Three of the novellas for my series, they’re pretty short, about 45k words. The novels though, are about 130k words, and I’ve done a couple of them as well. Plus I have two others about the 50k marks, they’re longer ones, and another book series I’m starting that’s at the 30k mark.’ Running the numbers of my current projects through my head tells me it’s still not enough.

He actually sits on those numbers for a moment before responding. ‘Wow. I can’t imagine sitting down to write fifty thousand words. Let alone 140!’

‘Yeah, it’s a lot, I’m pretty pleased with it.’ I’m not. It doesn’t seem like much at all, and there is still so much to do that isn’t about writing.

‘I don’t even know how you find the time to do that.’

And for a moment I don’t know how to respond.

Its unfathomable.

I can’t describe the ease it takes to find my place in a story, stick on the head phones and punch word after word hour after hour, forgetting the total as the story wraps itself around my thoughts. There is the greatest freedom feeling the wind on your face the sway under your feet as your imagination takes you further than the stars, to new worlds where the infinite is tangible. Dipping your hands into the waters of creativity and drinking deep, slacking a thirst you never knew you had.

Stirrings of ideas grow and flourish inside, and they come pouring out, a fountain of unstoppable colours, thoughts, and feelings, and unable to contain the flow you decant it down in words. It takes time but you pull them all together, string them like glass beads on the thinnest of strands until you make something whole. Something beautiful.

Telling someone what you have done, and the frequent congratulations that devolves into uncaring incomprehension. Their inability to see what you have created doesn’t matter so much, you just need to get better with your expression and design.

I think about them all the time, all of the stories, as I’m walking to the shops, talking to my pets, doing the laundry, working in the real world. They are my constant companions, the voices in the dark, they are my bravery, and telling them my deepest desire.

Reminding myself that this is just the beginning and there is still so much to come, as I bite my tongue against the mockery for spending so much time on something that isn’t real, as though vindication of my work’s value must come from someone who’s never read a book.

Those people add flaws to characters I have yet to create, and the first impressions of them only hint at what they will become in spite of those failings. Some I recognise in myself even as I describe completely different people, who hide themselves in the shadow of my stories. In other cases they are as clear as the glass windows of my car as I drive home, working out how they will face this chapter’s challenge.

I’m the antagonist wishing to leave the dinner table so I can plot my protagonist’s demise, knowing as soon as I sit down after a long day’s work I will have to slice open my soul and cut the pieces of emotion out I need to articulate this arc of my character’s journey. To put aside what I feel, from warmth and love to sink into despair and hopelessness of my character’s suffering. Or on darker days, to pull myself from this ravine of desperation and find the light of joy, giving it to the pages of my passion.

As I turn up the music and sink myself into the turmoil of indecision and uncertainty they face, I, as their creator, have no time to dither on such emotions, though they hover about me, as though a plague. I go to bed, tasting their sadness and unspoken words, unstoppable sorrow eating a hole in me my husband has no idea how to stop.

Maybe tomorrow we can watch a movie instead, except where am I supposed to find the time when I get up and continue the façade that I am here and a functioning member of society who’s perfectly normal. And I watch it go by from the inside grieving over the time I am not punching ideas into my phone’s reminder, writing down plot twists during my lunch break, pulling over by the side of the road when traffic is awful and crying while trying to remember an escaping facet of the narrative.

I’ve forgotten I needed to be somewhere this weekend, so I can’t edit that piece. I don’t have the funds to upgrade the website because I need to pay the credit card bill used for advertising. Somewhere in all this I need to find the headspace for myself, to take my estranged spouse out, to play some computer games with him. And then I berate myself that I shouldn’t have spent so much time on that when I forget the passing hours. Or avoid the guilt by stating I’m letting off steam, there has to be a moment I can let go. But if there is then I should use it to read for a while, except I feel disconnected as I critique the writing, or worse, suffer through anxiety I am not as good as this writer. Why am I trying?

The dread that I am as awful as that two star review I received, and I’m burning myself up on a fruitless endeavour, even when it’s the only thing that makes the harshness of life bearable. The stories surround me and some days I don’t know if they are strangling me or holding me together. When the loving words of my husband can’t crack through the shell of self doubt, even as he is screaming them at me, with the quietest of whispers, that one day I will make it.

‘I write a lot in my spare time.’ I answer my work colleague.

My spare time is when I’m breathing.

 

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