Monday, 7 November 2016

Nine Ways to Energise Your Writing During NaNoWriMo

Not so long ago I ditched a novel I’d been working on for 18 months. Having got a great agent off the back of the initial few chapters, I was sad to accept the novel was ultimately doomed because - apart from anything else - I’d sunk so much time into it. But I went on to write my new novel in a mere three months and I’m excited to say it’s being published in April.

Here are some things I’ve learnt about writing the first draft of a novel quickly.

1. Set your story in motion early on

Even if biding time for the inciting incident, you still need enough potential conflict to give the story a sense of movement in the first few chapters. The other day someone described using details like ‘trap doors’ and I love this idea of little things being set up that can later lead the story in new directions. Part of this is remembering that every character is interesting and might want things that will cause friction to others.

2. Don't be bogged down by backstory

If backstory is important at that particular point in the novel then great. Otherwise, don’t feel the need to explain everything about who the character is or the situation they’re facing. Rather than have chunks of explanation about their past, try drip feeding the relevant info. This will help get readers turning the pages to find out more.

3. Get into your protagonist's head

If stuck for something to write next, think about what your characters want, what they fear and what is the most challenging situation you could put them in. While you’ll most likely save the biggest confrontation for near the end of the novel, you need to poke and prod your characters along the way so they never get too comfortable.

4. Turn off spell check

I hate those stupid squiggly red lines because no matter how much I try to resist, I have to go back and correct the mistake. Worse still, sometimes it isn’t even a mistake but a spelling that the software doesn’t recognise. I’d recommend turning off spell check until you reach the editing stages.

5. Fill out unknown details later

There’s nothing better than getting into the flow of writing so I avoid letting things trip me up like when I can’t remember a particular detail such as a character’s last name or what year something happened. On these occasions I add a placeholder that I can later fix. (I use ‘NBED’ but it could be any unique combination of characters.)

6. Resist editing

As tempting as it is, frequently re-reading what I’ve written not only slows me down but is likely to make me worry what I’m doing is a complete shambles. I try to head straight to the section I’m working on which is easy with Scrivener. With Word, you could add a note or marking to the document.

7. Set the mood

If you only have a short amount of time to spend writing, it might be useful to have a particular photo, song or quote that quickly puts you in the right headspace for your story. With me, it’s generally a photo on my desktop.

8. Ask what your side characters are doing

This can be especially important for your antagonist who you might even draw up a timeline for. Doing this avoids a sense of you just wheeling them on and off when needed, plus will generate ideas for storylines.

9. Think while you're not writing

There’s no escape! I write questions on my phone and come back to them when walking the dog. Writing them in a separate place helps me to clarify what the ‘holes’ in my story look like and set my subconscious mind working on the problem.

Got any tips on writing a first draft quickly? Please share below!

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