Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo tips’

Like I explained last week, plot ninjas are meant to give you a way out when you are stuck. They spark your imagination so that you can keep writing. It may end up giving you a scene, a chapter, or a whole sub plot!

Here are a few more:

–One of your characters says “It never happened.”

–Give your character(s) a favorite beverage. Tell the background of why it’s a favorite. (Maybe over a drink at a bar; at a party?)

–The door bell rings. Who is it? What do they want? What bearing does it have on your story?

–Your main character admits something. What?


Use one or more of these words in your story:







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I love participating in NaNoWriMo. We all do or we wouldn’t do it. However, each year it gets harder and harder for me. It’s not just the age. It’s the Mama Factor that seems to get increasingly bigger and bigger.

The Mama Factor? All the things that the mamas have to do to get through the day to write a the 1667 words a day that will get them to goal on November 30. When I first started doing NaNoWriMo, my two oldest kids were out of the house. The youngest was in high school but was home schooled so she was constantly home and we took a lot of day trips and excursions to keep her busy and learning new things. (That was when she developed her love of photography. She’s now a photographer. So those were important days.) It gave me time to write. Yes, it put a damper on my writing time but I got it done. It was possible. I used to wonder about the moms that had little ones at home. How could they write? It would have been a problem for me, although when my kids were little, I lived in a community where I had a lot of support. I’m pretty sure I would have been able to leave the kids for play dates with a number of people so that I could have writing time. It would have been done.

Now, however, my kids are all grown. I live alone. There is no husband to demand my time. Yet, it gets harder and harder every year. Let me tell you about my day on this year’s Day Two. I had to get up and out of the house early to drive Susie (daughter number 2) to the airport where she was flying to Colorado Springs for a business trip. I got to her house and she wasn’t ready. It seems she figured over night that we didn’t have to leave so early so she slept in a bit. I didn’t. I didn’t know about the intentional delay. I finally got her to the airport and then had to drive home to watch the two grandboys so their mom could go do a volunteer shift for Gleaners. I got there and they were still asleep so I waited and eventually came home for about an hour while they woke up and got ready to go do errands. I had to play catch up on a few things so I didn’t get to write my 1667. In fact, I didn’t write a single word for my NaNo project. Then off we went for the day (now a half day) of errands. On our very last stop, I got the kids out of the store while their mom was in line because they were starting to misbehave. I got them to the car and strapped into their car seats. When I was getting myself in, I misjudged the distance and smacked my head on the side of the car roof. I hit so hard that I almost passed out. Instant headache of astronomical proportions. My jaw felt like I had dislocated it. There were stars. There was almost blackness. Eventually, we got home but I had to wait at their house because my daughter was going to use my car for another errand and I was going to stay with the boys. About an hour later, she decided not to go out on that errand and I came home. Headache in tact. Jaw pain diminishing. But I’m pretty sure I have a concussion. I ended up sleeping for the entire time from about 5:30 until 10:30. Now I’m writing this and I’m falling asleep again so there will be no writing tonight. I guess maybe I should start counting my blog posts to my word count. Nah. I don’t think I will go that route.

How does this fit into the Mama Factor? Well, it seems that there are certain mamas who just don’t have the time to write. They have obligations that keep growing as their family grows. As much as they try, there is no time for their needs and wants; only for those of their family. Those moms are the ones that perform a miracle every November when they are able to validate their 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.

No 1667 for me on Day Two. We’ll see if Day Three allows me to write but I will say that while Daughter Number Two is on that business trip, I will be driving to her house to feed her cats. And they have an ant problem so I can’t just fill the dishes and leave. I have to stay while the cats eat and make sure they all eat. This will involve about an hour and a half twice a day, including drive time. I might get a few words written while I wait for los gatos to eat. Might. Might not. Hopefully 1667 will happen tomorrow so I will only have to get caught up by one day over the weekend. If I fall too far behind, I won’t catch up.

So if you know a Mama doing NaNoWriMo, be kind. Offer to help her out or if you can’t help her out, at least don’t be an additional burden to her. Don’t feed the Mama Factor.


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One of the things I learned in my fourth go round at  NaNoWriMo was about plot ninjas and plot bunnies. What are they? Basically, they are a kind of prompt to include someone or something in your writing. It can give you a fresh idea when you are stuck. When you go to the NaNoWriMo kick-off, you get one or two plot bunnies or plot ninjas sealed in an envelope. The idea is that you keep them until you are stuck. Then you open them up and use the idea to keep you writing.

I know most of my readers are not participating in NaNoWriMo but I figured I would include some plot ninjas (my preferred term) here from time to time, just in case someone can use them. So here’s the first edition of plot ninjas.

–A new character enters your story. They are fond of sparkles and bangles.

–Put a hula hoop in your novel.

–Put a backpack in your novel. What is inside of it? Who does it belong to?

–Your main character approaches a closet. What will he/she find in there? Or maybe it is who will she/he find in there?

I’ll do this again from time to time during the month.



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The key to success during NaNoWriMo is to turn off all distractions.  This means TV, telephone, internet, gabby friends, etc.  By turn off, I mean to limit them as much as possible if not totally during the time you have allotted for writing.  I know a lot of people need some kind of noise in the background when they write.  That’s fine.  How about you turn on some music while you write?  I would suggest that you turn on something instrumental, otherwise you might be tempted to sing along.  I know I am.   Then that defeats the whole purpose.  One thing I have done in the past is to create a playlist that I can burn on to a CD or play on iTunes or on the Amazon Cloud Player.  My play list consists of some instrumentals from movie soundtracks like the Harry Potter movies, Indiana Jones, Rocky (yes that’s old but so am I), Chocolat, Jurassic Park, etc.  I’ve also included some instrumentals by Frank Zappa, such as Watermelon In Easter Hay, Black Napkins, and Peaches En Regalia.   It works for me.  Find what works for you.

I’ve also found a neat little program that lets you set a writing goal per writing session then as you write, it keeps track of your goal and if you stop typing, the screen will begin to flash to remind you to start typing again.  There is a series of reminders you can set.  You can even set it for kamikaze mode which will wipe out all of your writing for that session if you don’t heed the warnings and start writing again.  Nothing like the threat of losing your writing to keep you writing!   The program is free to use online or you can pay a $10 fee to get the program downloaded to your computer so you can use it even if you are not online.  It’s called Dr. Wicked’s Write Or Die.  I use it every year.

There is also another free program which I just discovered this week but haven’t tried.  It looks promising, though.  It’s called FocusWriter.  This one lives on your computer so you don’t have to be online to use it.

So, as you prepare for NaNoWriMo, remember not to schedule optional stuff during the month.  Which means, don’t plan on throwing a party that is going to take you hours and days to plan during November.  Don’t plan on long two or three hour doctor appointments if you can help it.  Don’t volunteer to do anything that takes you away from writing this month.  Be selfish with your time in November.  You can give your time away all you want come December 1.

Don’t forget to be nice to yourself during November.  Set goals and reward yourself when you reach them.  Maybe set a goal to reach five thousand words by day 3 and treat yourself to a meal out.  Or how about turning off your internet while you write and treating yourself to an hour online when you reach the goal you set?  Or treat yourself to a day off from writing  IF you reach ten thousand words by day 5.  When you reach 25,000 words (the half way point)  maybe you can go out to a movie?  Plan out your writing schedule.  Think of rewards.  Do it.  And don’t be upset if you fall behind.  You can get caught up.  I’ll try to come back and give some “catch up” tips in a few days.

Good luck and happy writing!

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There are also lots of little tricks to “pad” your word count:

~Use a character that has a speech impediment (like a stutter or a lisp) and has to keep clarifying what they are saying or others have to repeat to clarify;

~Use dreams or nightmares to fill in the story or maybe to portray a character’s real feelings about something.

~Don’t use contractions.  Write the words out.  “Don’t”  counts as one word, whereas “do not” counts as two words.  You’d be surprised how many times we use contractions so you could add a couple of hundred words with this alone.

~Instead of using numbers, write the word out.  The number doesn’t count in your word count but if you write it out, it counts.

~Use a character with a long name.  Instead of using Mary, try using Mary Ellen for an additional word with each use.  You could also have a character that insists on using their full name such as Professor Henry Charles Smythe, Senior.  That takes up five words instead of two that you might use if you referred to him as Professor Smythe.

~Instead of numbering chapters, name them with words.  You can also add a description of what happens in the chapter along with the title.  For example:  “Chapter Seven In which Thomas meets Sally while pondering his future.”

~Use lyrics to a song occasionally.  Have a character think, speak or sing the lyrics.  You can do the same with poems.

~Have a character who is a movie or tv buff who goes off on tangents relating the action in the novel to some movie or tv show or comparing a character in the novel with a tv or movie character.  He/she can even quote movies and tv shows often.

~You can use local lore or trivia of some of your locations when you introduce a new location (or when otherwise appropriate).  For example:  Instead of “She walked across campus,” try “As she walked across campus, she thought about all the hundreds of thousands that had walked those steps before her.  Some had become world famous.  Some were in the history books.  She looked around and wondered if John F. Kennedy had seen Hoover Tower from that same location and what he had thought about it.  She smiled to herself as she thought of the amazing opportunities that had opened up to her.”

~Write out the time.  Instead of 3 pm, use “three o’clock in the afternoon”.  When you use the number, it doesn’t count as a word so by writing it out, you’ve used five words instead of zero.

~Use a character that is hard of hearing and has to keep asking others to repeat what they said.

~Give your characters pets.  The pets’ actions will add words.  The character will need to feed them and interact with them so that adds to the word count.  Pets may necessitate visits to the pet store or the vet or the dog park, etc.  All of these will add to your word count as your story moves along.

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