If you’re a novelist you’re probably aware that November is Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). You might even, like me, be participating. 30 days, 50,000 words, 1,000,000 cups of caffeinated beverages…we must be crazy!
But even though Nanowrimo is almost at a close, it does raise an important issue for all writers:word count.
For some lucky writers, word count isn’t at all an issue. But for most of us it can be a struggle some days just getting those words on the page. Here is a little toolbox for helping to get that word count up.
First thing, cut out all those distractions. Unplug your modem, for starters. Turn off your phone if you can. Put on some noise cancelling headphones if noise really bothers you. Get everything you need at your desk so you won’t have to jump up after five minutes.
2. A Timer
This is honestly your best friend. Set your timer for ten to fifteen minutes for starters, or more if you’re a pro at this. Promise yourself you will type until that timer rings. No backspace, no arrow keys, no corrections or additions, no stopping.
3. A Notepad
You will inevitably want to stop for something while you’re writing. You might introduce a character who needs a name, want to describe a certain landmark you’ve never seen, or need to know exactly how long it takes someone to walk between point A and point B. Resist the urge to plug your internet back in and surf Wikipedia. This is death to your word count. Jot down your questions on a notepad as quickly as you can and get back to your keyboard.
But what about that place in your writing? That name, description or distance you simply must input before you can move on? Leave it blank. Yes, that’s what I said. Leave it blank. The way I do it is with square brackets. These little babies [ and ] have saved my life on more than one occasion. So when you’re writing your sentence and you come to something you need to research later, just do this: “Main character met [new character] and …” You can run a simple search using CTRL + F later and search for your square brackets, and fill in the blanks as you go.
5. A “Now” Mentality
Too many times as writers we get ahead of ourselves. We tend to want to get everything perfect the first time (At least, I do). Remind yourself that this is a first draft, not the finished copy. What you’re putting on the page isn’t going to be perfect. It’s not supposed to be. So leave the revision stage for the future, and focus only on now. Now is for sheer, unadulterated, imperfect word count. Fixing comes later. Writing comes now.
So keep this toolbox close when you’re working on generating words. Keep writing!
Erin is the author of Otherworld and the soon-to-be-released Across the Deep, winner of the 2014 Free Publishing Contest for Fiction. She has also authored several short stories and novellas. She graduated from Redeemer University College and lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband Kevin and four children.
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