Anyone else gearing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? You know, the craziness of attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days?
I’ve been playing with some early scenes in my next manuscript to help me flesh out the story and get to know the characters better, and now I’m trying to hammer out more of the plot details.
Although I consider myself a pantser, I’m working on having the major turning points and motivations figured out before I get too far into a story these days. Otherwise, I end up doing a lot of backtracking. Plus, having an outline–even a bad or spotty one–helps a lot during NaNo when you don’t have time to spend figuring out what comes next.
Unless, of course, you work like that. I can, but it’s not pretty.
It’s now a tradition for me to remind you of the fabulous ways in which Scrivener can make NaNoWriMo easier. Here are some of my tips for using it to your best advantage in November.
The key? Don’t stop writing for anything, especially not to edit or do research.
Time-delay the Idea Fairy
Create a couple of text documents somewhere outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder before you start.
1) A document to jot down concepts that come to you for future scenes. When an idea hits, you can make a note of it and get back to work. I call mine “Ideas”. Clever, yes?
2) A change log to keep track of changes you want to make to existing scenes. Don’t go back and make the revisions, just note them in the log and keep writing as if you already did. In another dazzling display of brilliance, mine is named “Change Log”.
Just Keep Writing
Next time you get stuck trying to figure out the witty dialog in a scene, the ideal name for your fictional corporation, or the mating rituals of the Asian long-horned beetle, create an annotation (Format—>Inline Annotation) or a comment (Format—>Comment) to make a note of it and keep writing.
Later you can go back and use Edit—>Find—>Find By Formatting to search for annotations and comments when you’re ready to work on them. AFTER you hit 50K.
Free yourself from distractions with Full Screen Composition mode. Called Full Screen in Windows and Composition mode on the Mac (to avoid confusion with Mac’s full screen option), this feature blocks out everything but your blank page so you can just write.
Consider adding a custom background color or image to keep you in the right frame of mind.
Add a pair of headphones or earbuds—with or without music—and you’re ready to rock.
Pre-Plot, If You Prefer
If you’re a plotter, consider creating your scene documents beforehand either in the Binder or the Corkboard. If you like to plot using index cards, then select the Draft/Manuscript folder, make sure you’re in Corkboard view (View—>Corkboard if you’re not), then click the circular green Add button on the toolbar to create a new card. Title it, add a brief synopsis of the scene and repeat.
Once you have all of your scene documents created it’s merely a matter of filling them with words starting November 1.
Keep Important Info at Hand
You don’t want to spend your precious writing time searching for a key piece of information. Before November rolls around, import into your project any research documents, images, or references you must have in order to write. Select the desired folder (outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder) and go to File—>Import. For web pages, you might want to use References instead.
Track Your Progress
Your goal is 50,000 words, and Scrivener makes it easy to track your progress with project targets. Go to Project—>Show Project Targets (Mac) or Project–>Project Targets (Windows).
You can set a target for the entire manuscript, as well as one for each writing session. The session target is nice because it lets you track your word count either over the course of a whole day, or in smaller writing “sprints”.
One thing to keep in mind with word count is that the NaNoWriMo site might calculate word count slightly differently than Scrivener. For example, Scrivener counts a hyphenated word as two, while the NaNo counter looks for spaces to identify each new word and only counts hyphenated words as one. So, you might want to shoot a little beyond the 50K finish line just to be on the safe side.
Download the NaNoWriMo Template or Trial Version
Current Scrivener users can download a special NaNoWriMo template that comes loaded with predefined project statistics and compile settings.
For those who are new to Scrivener, Most Wonderful Keith and his crew at Literature & Latte have put together a NaNo version of the Scrivener free trial that gives you extra time to play with the program and includes the template I mentioned above. If you decide you love Scrivener, wait for the NaNoWriMo discount at the end of November before you buy.
Remember the Point
Don’t forget that NaNoWriMo is intended to be fun. It’s supposed to be a challenge that forces you to re-evaluate what you’re capable of. 4000-word writing days? You betcha. Writing for three, four, or eight hours in one day? I know you can do it.
And in the end, even if you don’t reach 50K, you’re still a lot further ahead than you were on November 1st. That makes you a winner no matter what.
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