Tips from Nanowrimo veteran CaptainQuirk

raccoonHello, fellow WriMos.
I’m a five-time NaNoWriMo winner (plus one Camp NaNo). Here’s my advice for crossing that 50,000 word finish line.

1. Socialize
Writing can be lonely. The fun of NaNo is that you’re embarking on your quest in tandem with a bunch of other people who love writing just as much as you do. Go to events. Make friends. Share your tales of joy and woe. Having fun with other writers really does make it a lot easier when you sit down alone to write.

2. Set The Tone In Your Writing Environment
It can help you get into “writing mode” if you set up your writing space according to whatever makes you feel creative. For example, you can post sticky notes with inspirational quotes on the wall by your desk. You can also set the scene for your story by incorporating elements of that story world into your environment. For example, if you’re writing about dragons, change your computer wallpaper to a picture of a dragon.

It’s not just visuals, either. You can convince all your senses it’s time to write. I drink hot chocolate with cinnamon in it only when I’m writing, and in doing so, I’ve set up a response that “triggers” creativity. If you want to, wear a hat or a bandana or fingerless gloves that put you in the state of mind for writing. Not gonna lie – I’ve been working on a superhero novel, and I wear goggles on my head while I’m writing.

Sound is another important key. Not only will good background music block out distracting noise, it can help you get into your story world. Go to YouTube and look up background music that suits the setting or emotional tone of your story. Personally, I find instrumentals are better than music with lyrics. In addition to music, there’s also fireplace sounds, cricket sounds,,, and

3. Know Thyself, and Know Thine Writing Habits When Thou Art Distracted
Some people can go to writing events and actually write. Some people go there just to socialize. Know which kind you are and plan accordingly.

4. Participate In Word Wars
You know those mini-contests where people see how much they can write in 10 minutes? Do those. A lot. It’s amazing how fast words add up.

5. Don’t Worry About NaNo Tropes And Dares
You may be encouraged to include certain things in your novel. Long-standing NaNo tropes include: trebuchets, the Travelling Shovel of Death, Mr. Ian Woon, (and, if you’ve spent any time in Toronto NaNo’s chat room, you can count Deathbot in there as well).

There are also dares, which can be as vague as “your main character receives a mysterious letter” or as oddly specific as “an army of radioactive penguins rollerblades across New York City.”

In my personal experience, these are not too helpful. Hey, if they help you break out of a scene where you’re stuck, then great. However, if you already have a clear idea of what you want to write, or if that wacky stuff doesn’t fit your story world, don’t try to twist your story out of shape in order to incorporate dares. A story with too much “randomness” can get boring and alienating. Stay true to your vision, and only use dares if you’re stuck or if you’re writing short stories that can bend without breaking.

Note: this is just my personal opinion. If you like dares, that’s great too.

6. Introduce New People, Stuff, and Places
When someone or something new comes up in your novel, it needs description. That adds more words, and it’s fun to write. Also, imagining new stuff can inspire you about what should happen next. If nothing else, your characters reacting to the new person, place, or thing will give you yet more words.

7. Let Your Characters Argue
For one thing, this adds more words. For another, it’s a deeper exploration of each character’s personality and how they handle conflict, which can make for better characterization and a deeper understanding of their motivations.

8. When You Can’t Write, Daydream
Let’s say you’re stuck on the bus and you don’t have your writing stuff with you. Use that time to daydream about your story world. Put new scenes together and look forward to writing them. That way, when you have the opportunity to write again, you have a new mini-goal of getting to that special scene.

9. Have Your Whole Novel Be Something That You Need To Say
There is nothing more motivating than a chance to speak your mind. If there’s an issue that matters a lot to you, write your novel about it. I’m not saying it has to be boring and serious, if fantasy or comedy are more your “thing,” but incorporate that passion into your fictional world. No matter what time period, planet, or universe your story takes place in, the characters are going to act human. If there’s something you have to say about the way people interact, or how they see themselves, or how they see each other, you can put that in your novel. If nothing else, let that be your motivation to finish, so that someone can one day read it and hear your message.

It doesn’t have to be a sweeping global issue, mind you. Something as simple as kindness, respect, or refraining from judgement is something you can explore with your characters. It doesn’t have to be the “moral” of your story, but it can occur. It doesn’t have to be anchored to the everyday, either. In fact, setting this in a fantasy or science-fiction world can make it a lot more interesting. In any case, if you have a message to send to the world or a question you want to explore, your novel is a perfect way to do so.

10. Write Or Die
This thing is so very helpful. You pick an amount of time, a goal for how many words you hope to write in that time, and you start writing. If you stop, it plays annoying music at you to force you to write again.

Tamara Hecht is a writer, illustrator, filmmaker, and story enthusiast.  Her favourite holiday is Halloween.  “Welcome toMonsterville is her first published book. Check out her website or purchase your copy today!