Well about an hour ago, camp nanowrimo officially ended, at least in my time zone. All I can say is… Damn do I need a nap.
Now that I’ve officially failed my word count goal, it’s only fair I divulge just how poorly camp went for me. Which is actually a lie. I did a ton of writing and the month was great, I just didn’t hit the 85k that I had hoped to. I did hit 60 k however and that was good enough for me!
Funny thing is, I learned a little lesson about myself and my productivity this past week that I never knew before. I am a beast!
I may have only hit 60k. But let me tell you something about how this month went.
Week 1, I wrote 12k. Not amazing, not terrible. So far so good.
Week 2, I wrote about 5k… Embarrassing I know.
Week 3, I wrote 10k… Do you see where this is going yet?
Week 4 (first 5 days) I wrote 3k. Yep. Truth…
Sigh. In 26 days. I wrote 30k.
And in the last 4 days I wrote 30k.
Like I said. I’m a beast.
I’ve never written so much in such a short stretch of time in my life. I don’t know that I ever want to again. But if I ever have to, or if you ever have to, here are some tips.
Caffeine! I can’t even begin to say how relevant this is. I have had about 8-12 bags of tea a day and I should have had more. Stock up!
Short term goals! If you have 25k to do, and you sit down with the intention of doing 25k, you will look at the clock and realize you just spent three hours on youtube. Don’t do it. Instead, set yourself small goals. Say, “Today I’m gonna write 5k.” After your first word war or writing session. Keep track of how many words you have till you reach your goal. Pretty soon, 5k won’t look so huge, and you’ll be saying, “Why don’t I write another 2k or 5k.”
Know where you’re going! Even if you are not a plotter, you need to do this to some extent. Keep a white board or a pad of paper by you when you write and before you sit down for a session look at where you left off (no more than 1/4 of a page back). Think about where you need to go, or what you want to happen next. Take five minutes and write down basic information, dialogue or other details you know you want to include. Like:
Fmc and mmc meet unexpectedly, and their personalities clash
Knowing they have to work together they hash out ground rules for their quest
“Look, I know you think you’re totally awesome, but I’m in charge here and what I say goes.”
I promise I just made all that up and it is not in any way related to any book I am now writing or plan to write. But you get the idea.
Set timers! Whether you plan to have a word war with another writer, or it’s just you and your laptop, you should set goals. Even a five minute timer can get your brain thinking about a scene and before you know it, you’ll be so wrapped up in what you’re writing, you won’t need the timer. Also, if you find that you are paying to much attention to your word count goals and aren’t focusing enough on the story, set page goals instead. Sometimes if it’s crunch time, getting caught up in how many words you should be writing per minute or per half hour can get really tiresome. Take a step back and say, I’ll check my wc when I hit page 37 or 41. That way, you don’t set unrealistic or outrageous goals for yourself.
Find a place/environment that keeps you on task! I find that a lot of different things go into my perfect environment for maximum writing output. When I’m tired, a raging beat in my music can keep me on task because instead of wanting to close my eyes, I bob my head to the music. If I have a serious scene to work on, I listen to movie soundtracks that don’t have singing. delirious or easily distracted? I need silence. Some people also find that being in public helps them keep on task, so think about going to a library or cafe.
Utilize breaks! Breaks are so necessary, they may actually be more important than caffeine. Although, now that I think about, you make the tea or coffee and acquire the snacks during the breaks so… Anyway, if you are taking a break there are a couple of things you should do.
1. Refill the food and drink! If you get ten minutes into a 30 minute word war and your water bottle is empty, you’re gonna be pissed and your characters are going to wind up walking around a bone dry desert for 800 words.
2. Go to the bathroom! Same principle as with food and drink. Except your characters will be day dreaming of waterfalls and gushing rivers. Also Pro Tip! using how bathroom breaks to keep you writing makes your brain suddenly short circuit into direct brain finger coordination. I have never written so clearly and effectively as when I have to pee and I’ve made my goal not going to the bathroom until I finish the scene.
3. Change positions! Move from the couch to your desk, from bed to a chair, even just changing whether your legs are under you or stretched out in front of you can make a world of difference.
4. Rock out man! Blasting your favorite songs and singing along as loudly as possible for ten minutes can really restart your creative juices. Same can be said getting up and dancing around, doing a sun salutation, playing with your pets. Do something that you love that has nothing to do with writing, and in ten minutes you’ll be in a good mood, even if your last scene didn’t go how you’d hoped.
5. Do the math! Count how many words you’ve done today. Count how many you have left to do. Look at how many it would take you to get to an even number, or if you have friends who are also working on a project, see how close or far away your word count is. The thing is that we may look at our first drafts as just a number, but that number can vary a hell of a lot. One word could be A or it could be SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALEDOCIOUS. I don’t even care if that’s spelled right… But seriously. Our mind makes a big deal out of numbers especially when we think about things like, 50k for nanowrimo, or 75k for the average length of an adult novel. These mind games that scare us into avoiding the blank screen for three hours can also help you get back to writing with a new perspective. So do the math.
I know I said finally but really there is one more super important, don’t you ever dare break this rule or you’ll be burned in the middle of town square with a slab of bolognia on your head…
6. A break is only a break if afterward, you go back to writing! It’s all fine and well to say, “Meh, I wrote 800 words, I’ll take a break, and write some more.” But if you don’t get back to your word document for five hours it wasn’t really a break. Instead, if you need/want to do something else, give yourself permission to fully enjoy that other thing and say, “This writing session is over for now. But I will have a second writing session in 6 hours time, after I catch up on the latest episodes of Dr. Who and Game of Thrones. I promise you’ll feel better about the gaps in your productivity if you totally embrace what you’re doing and don’t guilt trip yourself.
So there you go, hopefully, you will never find yourself in the position of having to write 30k in four days or some other ungodly figure, but if you do, you’ve got a game plan now so. Good luck and I wish you all the best on your Camp Nanowrimo word counts!
Goodbye April, hello May!