Right now, I'm at a 46,672 words in my nanawrimo manuscript. I expect to clear the 50k mark by midday Monday, leaving Tuesday, the last day of the nano month, to travel to meet Alicia for a week-long work and wine fest.
This has been an interesting adventure, to put it mildly. I was apprehensive because I didn't think I could cram a single extra task into my already overpacked schedule, but I also know that I operate best when I have too much to do. It's like that old saying: If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. Those of us who live this way know how to make things happen, and this month has been a reminder to me that I can always find a way to do more.
So here's how I did it. I don't know that there's anything earth-shattering here, but it's what I did and it's worked so far.
* I used Dr. Wicked Write or Die. This might the second greatest tech invention ever for writers, the first being word processing software. Thanks to this nifty little software, I learned that I can write about 1800 words in an hour when the scene is pre-plotted, and about 1200 words in an hour when it is not. This means that I was able to hit my nano target in usually around an hour a day. Not always possible to block out an entire hour in one swallow, but with careful planning, I was usually able to do it at least 4 days a week.
* I carry small notebooks with me everywhere. I wrote notes and scene roughs when waiting for new tires to be installed, when waiting for my brand new and suddenly flat tire to be repaired, when waiting in the school parking lot for the kid to get sprung, when waiting for the teller at the bank drive-up, and so on. (Usually I knit during those stray moments. My knitting has really suffered this month!) Not all of these scribbled notes went into my nano draft. Some of them were pre-plotting for scenes -- my scenes come faster when I rough them out in advance, so this was important for time management, if not for actual word count.
* I didn't worry about secondaries. All my focus has been on the three main characters and their main conflicts. Some of the secondaries, I sketched out in advance. Of the rest, some bloomed as I typed, like a housekeeper who had been in the shadows of several scenes, but suddenly became real and developed a recognizable voice at around the 30k mark. Or they are acting as placeholders until I can think through the lesser parts, like the hero's many siblings who decorate several scenes but don't really participate in the action -- they're tagged as Sister Two or similar until I can figure out whether to develop or cut them.
* Some of the subplot scenes have been written, but only in those places where the subplot intersects with the main plot. By not getting sidetracked with subplots, I've been able to keep my page count climbing at a steady pace. No distractions. Once I get the entire main plot roughed out on paper, I can see how much room I have for subplot development and go from there. I'm thinking the main plot will settle around the 75-80k mark, leaving plenty of room for some extra subplot scenes. We'll see. I haven't written any of the sex scenes yet, and those can gobble words by the thousands.
* I've used the crap out of twitter for motivation. There are loads of nanoers over there, and they're very upbeat and encouraging. I could always find impromptu sprints when it was time to write, because there was always some other tweep ready to go. (Hey, Lisa! Hey, Leona! *mwah*) I've found better support there than at the nano site itself, but that's in part because the nano site kept crashing or locking in the beginning of the month. But I'm very grateful to all my tweeps, whether nanoing or not, for keeping me amused during the long hours at my desk this month. My other work hasn't mysteriously vanished just because I added nano, and some of these days would have felt endless if I couldn't talk turkey (and lizards and assorted other creatures) with my tweeps in the stray moments between tasks.
* I blocked out several afternoons to meet a local nano friend at a coffee shop. My productivity was lower during those blocks of time, but my enthusiasm was higher. (It must be said -- she reached the 50k mark on November 20. She is a goddess.) I think the trade-off was worth it. There were times I wanted to chuck it all and go back to a more plodding pace, but Amy kept me honest. I'm really grateful for that.
* When I felt stuck, I went back over the draft and "spackled" it. My first drafts tend to be little more than dialogue with a bit of stage blocking and similar action. When I go back over the scenes, my first goal is to check all the action-reaction dynamics, followed by a spot-check of all the emotional signifiers. Then I try to think deeply about the setting and how to leverage it in the context of the scene's emotions and conflicts. Adding these details -- filling in the chinks between the lines of dialogue and blocking -- reminds me of spackling a wall because it makes the scene nice and smooth and pretty. This also adds necessary words and makes the scenes feel more finished.
* And whenever I started to worry that the writing quality is subpar or that the process is flawed, I stepped back and reevaluated. First drafts are always full of suck, so I can't let that stop me. Bad sentences can be fixed as long as the plot, pacing, conflicts, and other bigger elements work. This fast-draft process has been an invaluable tool for seeing the large-scale structure of this book unfold scene by scene. I'm going to keep up the pace until the first draft is done and then rewrite it scene by scene to make it, you know, less crappy. Will I use this process for every book? Dunno. I think the process worked for this book mainly because I've been kicking around the idea for over a year, so it was plenty ripe for the writing. Not sure it would work as smoothly for something less ripe.
So, let's hear it. For those of you doing nano, will you make the goal? What have you learned from the process? What are your best tips, and what pitfalls did you encounter?