Marathons are grueling, challenging, exhausting and fun. You’ve got 30 days to crank out 50,000 words.
Okay. 50,000 words in 30 days. You’ve done the math, over 1600 words every day. You’re writing fast, feeling the buzz, feeling the worldwide wave – half a million hungry writers, maybe more, pounding those keys.
Tip One: Beat the numbers game by writing Scenes using Timed Writing. Using the scene template, write 3 scenes a day at 33 minutes per scene. In 33 minutes you’ll write from 1000 to 1200 words. Per day, that’s 3000 to 3600 words. At that rate you’ll produce more than 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo 2011.
Tip Two: As you write your three scenes a day, make two lists: (1) a character list and (2) an object list. The character list clues you to subplots and character arcs. In fiction and film, a character Arc has four attributes: Entry, Exit, Fate, and Core Story. The object list locks you into action – holding the pistol with both hands, Martha shot the intruder – blood splashed from his heart – and repeating a key object holds hold the novel together. When you hammer out your 50,000 words, you use the lists to guide your rewrite and by doing it this way, you’ll have time for at least one rewrite.
Tip Three: Get to the end fast. Skip scenes if you need to. Make a note – Rainbow Shirt scene goes here – and gallop to the end. Then you can loop back for your second run. Getting to the end will keep your story from sagging in the middle.
Tip Four: Rewrite the climax. Ingredients: Your protagonist, the one who leads. You antagonist, the one who blocks the way. For each character, you need motive: what are they doing here? What do they want and why? What’s stopping them? And you need an object – one that you unearthed from your boiling brain way back there in Act One. The objects – Hand over the treasure. Not on your life, dude – sharpen the action.
Tip Five: Pace your drama with Key Scenes: Page One and After, Plot Point One, Midpoint, Etc. For a full analysis of Key Scenes, check Rewriting Key Scenes in The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel.
Tip Six: If your NaNo Novel is a mystery, start with the killer – not the sleuth – and then bring the sleuth onstage for the First Encounter, the only Key Scene that is movable. For help in depth, see our handy book, The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery.
Tip Six: Have fun with syntactic explorations to build rhythm and impulse in your writing. To do that, forget proper grammar and go for style. Here’s how: First, write a passel of short sentences. See Spot run. See Jane fall. Second, follow the short sentences with chaining. Fall down Jane and grab Spot by the tail. Tail of the dog pulls Jane through the wet grass. Grass on Jane’s knees and….Third, follow the chaining with the Long Sentence Release: Trapped in the red wagon, Dude watched his sister Jane run after the dog calling Spot come back here and tripping on a rock loops through the air coming to rest at the feet of a grim-faced man with….