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NaNo particles

As of November 10th, I have written 16,748 words for NaNoWriMo. After a frenzied couple of days of being behind, I’m back on track. Here are a few of the tricks that are helping me move forward and keep my internal editor napping soundly.

An outline. I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent about six weeks playing around with the story and characters before I finally had a decent vision of my major plot points and some of the necessary scenes in between. This has been an absolute lifesaver when I finish a scene and think, “Now what?” I check the outline and get back on track.

A change log. This isn’t for tracking revisions I’ve done, this is for tracking revisions I need to make. For small items that I want to come back to, I’ll either annotate the section (using Scrivener’s annotation feature), or mark it with a ZZZ (for which I have a saved search in, yes, Scrivener), and find it later when I’m in edit mode.

That’s what the change log isn’t. It is a document where I make notes of things that I need to fix in earlier scenes so that they match what I’m writing now. For example, halfway through the book, I decide that a reporter needs to be at the funeral in part one of the book for my current scene in part two to make sense. In the past, I would have gone back and fixed all the relevant scenes before moving forward.

Now, I note it in the change log and keep writing. Two big advantages here. One, I don’t lose my momentum with the current scene. Two, if I change my mind again later, I have just saved myself a lot of unnecessary time.

A tea timer. I’m trying to write in one hour chunks without interruption. Then at the end of each hour, I can take a (quick!) break to read email, play on Twitter, or read a blog. Or, you know, eat, work out, talk to my kids. This way I get a reward for my hard work, but don’t get sucked into the Internet vortex for hours on end. For this, I like the Tea Timer widget on the Mac because it travels with my laptop.

Understanding family and friends. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where to find them, but I’m lucky enough to have my own set. The Engineer may not understand my love of writing and my addiction to books, but he respects it, and puts up with dirty bathrooms and dog hair on the floor. Or he cleans it himself! 😉 See, there’s that practical romance thing again…

So, those are my not-so-secret weapons to pounding out the words during NaNoWriMo, or any other month of the year. What are yours?

Tell your friends!


  1. KM Fawcett



    Good for you on the word count! I’m not doing NaNo. Right now I’m at the point where I need to go back through all my notes (I’ve been using the comments feature in word) and start making my corrections/ doing the research that would have taken away from getting the words down during the initial draft. Sorry for the run on sentence.

    • Reply

      I was at the same place last year, so this is my first year trying NaNo. It’s definitely a challenge, but I needed it this time. Good luck with your revisions.

  2. Reply

    I thought this post was going to be about Mork & Mindy. Na-No Na-No
    Imagine my extreme disappointment. Day ruined.

  3. Curtis


    The cool thing about the quantity of blitz writing is that it effects everything and anything else we write.

    In the blitz of NaNo we dig a deeper well. It opens up an expanse within us that tends to connect what appears to be “fragments” into a complete seamless piece.

    What you named “particles” actually has an internal line of direction or unstated but every present thread that connects the particles. That makes it one piece and whole.

    This piece could have been written in the same identical way and sounded like you wrote it off the top of your head. It doesn’t. It has the sound of someone with something to say. I think the NaNo exercise has benefits beyond a pile of words.

    Gwen, that is a complement. The insight just got the best of me. 🙂

    • Reply

      Wow, Curtis. Thanks. As always, you’re a deep thinker. 😉 I do think there is a lot of value in both forcing the quantity (up to a point) and keeping the editor at bay. Both free us to write from the subconscious. I’m trying to save the editor for revisions. That’s when she’ll shine.

      • Curtis


        By the way, I remember someone calling BS on all things in print relative to writing except one book. Rather than react to that I chalked it up as excitement and went to Amazon to check out the recommended volume. “Story” by Robert McKee.

        Apparently,he doesn’t draw the same conclusion relative to books concerning what he calls the “art of story.” He includes no less than sixteen on his short list of those he found helpful. The first on the list was Aristotle’s Poetics.

        Dr. McKee’s work is not a weekend read. It, to include the index, is nothing short of 466 pages. To hint at it’s depth, It’s author holds a Ph.D. in cinema arts and is a former Fulbright scholar. His material is easily the bible on the subject. To say that his students have done well in Hollywood is an understatement.

        This brother travels in deep waters and in a hurry. By page 4 he has already thrown the word “archetypal” at the reader. That word from this sentence. ” The archetypal story unearths a universal human experience, then wraps itself inside a unique, culture-specific expression.” I knew when I read those words I would find Joseph Campbell’s ” The Hero with a Thousand Faces” on his list. Since the list was not in Amazon’s review I bought the book to find out. Campbell’s book was number six.

        More of McKee’s title. ” Substance, Structure, Style…” I promise,
        in those 466 pages it is all there.

        P.S. Gwen, thank you for indulging me. 🙂

  4. Reply

    I have a reward system in place. And that helps a lot. I use the microwave timer and keep a notebook for ideas about changes I need to make in the future.

    Great post. Keep on trucking!

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