Wednesday, October 24

NaNoWriMo: How To Reach Your Daily Wordcount

NaNoWriMo: How To Reach Your Daily Wordcount
Copyright Mikleman, Some rights reserved. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

If you're participating in the collective insanity known as NaNoWriMo (I say that affectionately as one swept up in the madness) here are some tips for reaching your daily wordcount--typically around 2,000 words--each and every day.

Tip #1) Don't Edit

A friend of mine is writing an article on how to get your inner editor to shut the heck up--although she isn't as polite! I eagerly look forward to reading her tips, but getting your inner editor to zip-it while you write your first draft is essential.

Yes. Sure. Coax her out of hibernation when you begin your second draft but, until then, she can't help you. She is about limiting, changing, critiquing your creative output, and that's importgant, but it kills the momentum of a first draft and that's what you're writing during NaNo.

What's that you ask? How do you turn off your inner editor? Good question. I'm really looking forward to reading my friend's article! But what I do is just write and pointedly ignore any construction I think is clunky or could clearly be improved upon.

I remind myself I'm writing a first draft and that I write my first drafts for myself alone--NOT the world--and that I'll clean it up on my 2nd and 3rd pass through.

I think a person needs to write enough that they get to the point where they can trust that will happen (see: How to write every day: Jerry Seinfeld and the chain method).

Tip #2) Multitask

At the Surrey International Writers' Conference Diana Gabaldon, during her keynote speech, shared that she generally got stuck two-thirds of the way down a page. It didn't matter what she was writing--an email, grant proposal, speach, she would always get stuck two-thirds of the way down.

Her solution?

Go on to something else. Stuck on the third page of your novel? No problem! Write something else. Answer an email. Do a blog post. When you're done go back to your novel and try again.

I'm not saying this will work for everyone--I might get caught up in replying to emails and completely forget I was supposed to be writing! But it's certainly a great way to ensure you stay productive. :)

Tip #3) Butt In Chair

Writing is difficult. Many times it's the last thing you want to do.

Jim C. Hines created a great cartoon. The caption reads: The Muse Most Of Us Really Need. The muse is standing behind a writer, holding a gun on him, saying, "Write the %&#@& story!!!". Sometimes a picture really does speak a thousand words. What is the key to writing 2,000 words a day? Put your butt in your chair and write!

Best of luck on your NaNo adventures, and remember to hydrate!

Other articles you might like:
- 12 Writing Tips: How To Be A Writer
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: Mikleman


  1. Tip #4: Know that every reason why you are not writing is simply an excuse for your laziness. As long as your not dead you can write - even with a broken leg lying in hospital (though two broken arms might be difficult).

    I participate in this year's NaNo and haven't even reached 1.000 words. Yeah, crap, I'm a loser in this thing. I had really good reasons - work, not being at home, etc. But deep inside I know that those are simple excuses. So I will butt in my chair today and start writing.

    Thanks for the tipps, they gave me the kick I needed to really start the writing today.

    1. Frauke, there's still time!

      I find that concentrating just on what I have to do today can help me accomplish a lot. No looking backward to what I could have done but didn't. That no longer matters. :)

      Best of luck! :-)

  2. With tip #1, what has worked for me is telling my inner editor that I am "brainstorming" rather than "writing". Since what I'm doing is just "brainstorming", it's okay if the sentence is ugly or if my fantasy heroine starts using modern slang, because brainstorming is for me only. No one else will ever see it.
    I then promise my inner editor that she can fix everything on the next draft, when we convert the "brainstorming" into actual "writing" that is ready to be seen by other people.

  3. After a year flailing around on my first novel--a year in which every time I sat down to write, my brain presented me with a Much Better Idea For A Novel, So Forget This One Already--I've recently discovered the "anti-charity" motivational method. In a nutshell, you set a goal--mine is 7500 words a week *on this specific novel* for six weeks, as a muscle-builder--and every week you don't meet your goal, you donate a previously specified amount to an organization whose work is in massive opposition to the world you want to live in.

    It's important to be very specific--words on *this* novel, doesn't include brainstorming or plotting words, doesn't include research words, and so forth--and to be accountable. If you can't trust yourself not to fudge the results at the end of the week, bring in a "referee" who'll keep you honest. I don't want to advertise for a specific service, but it's perhaps useful to know there is at least one online service that will automate the painful parting of you with your money in the event you fall short of your goal. So far it seems to be working beautifully.

    1. "every time I sat down to write, my brain presented me with a Much Better Idea For A Novel"

      Yes! I have SO been there.

      "every week you don't meet your goal, you donate a previously specified amount to an organization whose work is in massive opposition to the world you want to live in."

      Radical! I like it that the only words that count are the ones on your current work-in-progess. I hope you don't mind if I use that idea!

      Grayson, I'm excited that you've found something that works! Congrats!

      (BTW, for anyone interested, I'm not sure if this is the one Grayson used, but Aherk! can help you blackmail yourself. I wrote an article about it, here:


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