Once month a year, writers all around the globe set off on National Novel Writing Month, a race to write a fifty thousand word novel during November. Fifty thousand words in thirty days may seem downright impossible, but for years thousands of writers have crossed that finish line on — or even before! — the night of November 30th. Here are some ideas to help you out if you get stuck on your way.
One word count raising tradition of NaNo writers is the word war. Get a friend (or two, or more — word wars can be between as many participants as you’d like) and designate one of you as the time keeper. You can do this in person or over the computer, which is handy for those who don’t know anyone else doing NaNo, and there’s usually a thread on the forums of people looking for word war challengers. Remember to keep some sort of an eye on the time if you’re doing it separately, though! Participants decide on a time, and start when the time keeper says to. Then you write as fast and as much as you can until the time keeper says stop. When the time keeper says stop, everyone stops immediately, whether you’re mid-sentence or even mid-word or not. Everyone shares how much they wrote during the word war, then, reset the clock and do it again!
This can work wonders for when you’re blocked by focusing too much on making every word sound right. Ten to fifteen minutes is the general limit for a word war, but you can make it as long or as short if you want. To make it more interesting and give participants more motivation, you can decide on some sort of reward for the winner of the war.
6000 Word Day
Suggested by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, in his book on the subject, No Plot? No Problem!, the six thousand word day can be a wonderful boost if you’re a little bit behind. Take a day when you don’t have much to do, and after breakfast, sit down at your computer (or typewriter, or notebook) and write for three thirty-minute sessions, with ten-minute breaks between. After lunch, come back and repeat the same process of thirty-minute session; and again that night. By the end of the day, you should have written about six thousand words.
The exact words you’ll get out of this depends on how fast you write and if you get stuck during your sessions, but if you try to make sure you write throughout the entirety of each thirty-minute session, six thousand is a good average to go by. Want to push it higher? Find more two-hour packets of time during the day to sit down and do an extra session or two (perhaps before dinner; if you’re an early riser, fit in two between breakfast and lunch, or if you go to bed late, two after dinner), or extend your sessions to three thirty-minute blocks — just don’t forget the ten-minute breaks to rest your wrists!
Writing out of order
If there’s a later scene that you have entirely mapped out, why wait? Use those scenes to make writing a little easier on days you’re having trouble; save the parts you aren’t sure on for days when writing comes easily. Alternatively, if you usually jump around, try to write the next two or three scenes in a row in order. Change how you write and see if it helps.
Another option is to add on a side-chapter entirely for the words, even if it does nothing to advance the plot. There are plenty of things about your character’s lives that probably aren’t in your novel already, so add them in! Go through a normal day when nothing actually happens to your main character, go back and tell their entire family history (or someone else’s). If you can’t think of anything new to do with your main character, focus on a minor character and tell their life story, or have your cast sit around and tell stories to each other for a night. You can also tack on a prologue or an epilogue, if you don’t have them already, or if you’re really in need, a forward or introduction from the author.
Add a subplot
If you don’t want to add things on to your main plot, liberal use of subplots can add to word count. Pick a minor character without much to do, and give them a tragic family history, a major life goal to achieve, something to avenge, a love interest, a problem to get over, or any other word-consuming issue you can come up with. Then have them sit down and explain every minute detail to the main characters. Don’t forget to wrap up their plot if you’re looking for more words after the climax!
In addition, you can go back and add foreshadowing and mentions of their plot to earlier parts of the novel. Don’t worry about making it flow smoothly; edit it in properly later. For now, just throw in paragraphs related to reactions and comments from that character, or dialogue that was not previously there that the character can react to. Perhaps even your main character can get in on the act, wondering why they’re reacting so oddly.