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Some Nanowrimo Tips

Updated on November 4, 2009

Norwegian Forest Cat

My novel's protagonists are cats. Picture this cat black rather than white and you have one of them when he grows up. Norwegian Forest Cat ACEO by Robert A. Sloan
My novel's protagonists are cats. Picture this cat black rather than white and you have one of them when he grows up. Norwegian Forest Cat ACEO by Robert A. Sloan

Current count: 40,723 words

My novel, Magic in the Streets, is 4/5ths of the way to the official finish line and winner's certificate for -- and I did this in four days, averaging 10,000 words a day. How did I rack up such enormous numbers, especially when I had a day when I didn't write at all?

I made a strong start on my first day with 23,000 words or so, treating it as if it was the Three Day Novel Contest. But how do I manage to do Three Day Novels in the first place? Isn't that a bit... unreal?

Not when I'm disabled, do not have a job, do not have other commitments to fill my time other than sitting up at the computer doing whatever I'm going to do that hour at the computer.

Nanowrimo Tip #1: Slow and Steady Wins The Challenge.

My average pace while writing this book has been 1,000 to 1,500 words an hour. Respectable, but nothing spectacular. I've been in Word Wars with writers who routinely do over 3,000 words in an hour. Some of them didn't even type as fast as I do -- but they typed with less hesitation, didn't stop to think about the next words, didn't stop for anything and kept their concentration.

You can do huge word counts on a thousand an hour if you put all the hours in on it. You can put in forty or fifty hours of work during a 72 hour three day weekend if you don't do anything but sleep and write -- that still gives you 22 hours of sleeping divided among three days, so that isn't bad at all for staying sane. Bathroom breaks in those days need only take up a cumulative hour or so. Meals can be taken at the computer while you write.

That is the way to slam ahead early. This year Nanowrimo started on a Sunday. But every entrant has a weekend coming up. If your days off aren't on the weekends, there are fewer weekendish distractions on a Wednesday off or a Tuesday. So put in the time when you can. Try to give it an hour a day on workdays and then really slam the hours in during your days off, stay with it scene after scene, chapter after chapter.

Nanowrimo Tip #2: Throw In Anything You Think Of

I mean that. It's much more important to keep going than to worry about whether anything you typed is any good. It will be when the rest of the context appears. Trust me on that. Trust your own unconscious mind. You will understand why that side scene with the crabby waitress matters. 

You can start to think like a paranoid. If you assume everything you already put down is genuinely important to the plot, your paranoid imagination will start handing you reasons why it is. You'll remember "wasting" two thousand words on a crabby waitress mouthing off in a bad mood in a bit of humorous harassment in an early chapter -- and "discover" that she felt crabby and was out of sorts and hostile because someone paid her some money to spy on THOSE customers and report back on them to people she has skin-crawling reasons not to trust.

She feels guilty about taking their money and spying on people she doesn't know. Or she let her heart get the better about her, lied to cover for them and feels guilty about taking the baddies money and cheating them that way. That is the way to think. Get paranoid. Everyone IS out to get your main characters, just think of what motives anyone else in the book has for getting them. Or helping them, allies can crop up out of nowhere too. 

Even obnoxious ones, like the aforementioned waitress.

Nanowrimo Tip #3: Put in Anything You Ever Liked In Novels.

Originality is in the details. When you start combining bits you liked from things you read, not in the specifics but in general -- magical cats, this odd girl I met once in Jackson Square idealized to look the way she wished she did (and with a much worse background than the real one had), New Orleans itself, palmetto bugs, street artist licenses, swamp paintings, art lessons, talent, stories about Andrew Jackson... it starts to look like something that isn't just a remake of The Vampire Lestat with cats in it.

Heck, the vampires don't show up onstage and no one in the story so far is Catholic, so we're definitely not in Anne Rice territory. We're just in the same city doing different magical things and Lestat wouldn't bother eating my protagonists -- eight week old kittens wouldn't even be an appetizer and Leonora's not suicidal any more or cruising any more, she found her own curly headed blond creative guy who's a lot healthier for her.

There are tidbits of everything I've ever read in my life in this novel and most of them so blended with the rest of it you couldn't even find the references. Magic is a very distant cousin to Frodo Baggins, a little guy who got swept up into great events and has to face a grand evil. But he's a cat. He has as much in common with Odysseus as Frodo, he's just freaking clever and he likes to trick and outwit greater opponents. He's closer to Merry and Pippin in outlook, both of them are, bounding young tricksters who don't take it all that seriously and have some grit but are more likely to jump in head first than to worry about things.

Trust your love of stories to steer you to an interesting, original story that's unique to who you are. Originality is in the details. The more influences you have, the less plagiaristic it is. When it's everything you ever experienced or read in your life, it becomes so original no one can even figure out what inspired you.

Nanowrimo Tip #4: Do It Your Way

Don't worry about what readers like. You read and enjoy books or this wouldn't sound like a lot of fun anyway, right? Write the novel you want to read. The genre you enjoy most. The type of story within it that most appeals to you. Create your flavor. You'd be surprised how many readers share your tastes.

If you wrote a Mary Sue, she can be edited. She can be turned into a true hero with a strong healthy dose of editing -- and I will be doing that with my novels this year at the same kind of stick-to-it pace that I'm writing them. 

With this good a start, I'm beginning to be pretty confident that I'll do more than one novel this year.

In fact, I need to write at least two because I got confused and ordered my T-shirt twice. That means I bought two t-shirts. This isn't bad for my wardrobe, black t-shirts are my favorite form of upper garment. It does mean I owe 2009 two novels too. If I also want a cranberry red one, then I have to meet or beat my best and do three novels in 2009.

I did it last year, so maybe I can do this again.

I've made a strong start. It means I've got ten days to get to the end of Magic's story and pick up something else -- maybe the Albertosaurus story, maybe the sabertooth nature novel, maybe something completely different like multiple personalities creating different login identities in a very advanced computer system -- that premise is a good one.

I get these ideas and they kick around for years. I write notes about them and throw away the notes or lose them. I journal about the ideas. Someday I gotta do that novel about the magical cats in New Orleans. Then when it comes November, that gives me some ideas to pick from that have ripened, have been ruminated, have some plot bits already worked out and some ideas where to go with it.

I'm rolling along at a fast pace with a hefty count.

You can do that too if you put in the hours, especially on the weekends. And if you go faster than 1,500 words an hour, you are beating me on speed. A marathon isn't a sprint -- and NaNoWriMo is a marathon. Do something on it every day and your chance of winning is enormously higher.

That and get ahead early, make a huge strong start in case sometihng in life interferes and you lose a day to things like getting sick. I lost Day Three but I'm still on track and sure of getting this book done in ten days.


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    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I notice you have already got your 50,000 this year, I'm impressed :)

    • robertsloan2 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you! I'm having fun with it. Don't know if I'll do more today or not, feeling a bit tired, but if I do or not I know I'll probably hit 50k tomorrow or the next day.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Cool, good luck to you, you're fine, you're off to such a strong start. Looks good from over here!


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