For anyone not writing regularly, the goal of 50,000 words is daunting. It certainly was for me the first time I took part in NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t trained to write daily, and definitely not 1667 words a day. Even now the thought of writing that many words daily seems like much, but it’s not as bad anymore. It’s manageable when you break up your writing plan in bite sized pieces. That’s what I did this year.
I took my outline with chapters and scenes, numbered them and gave them target word counts. A thousand words for every hundred in my outline (meaning some scenes are barely 800 words while others are over 3000), which made the total word count for The Shadow Court 58,800, over the NaNoWriMo finish line. Perfect for me.
That being said, the word targets aren’t the goals of the scenes. I based them on the word count in the outline, but sometimes more words are needed to make the transition smooth between two scenes, and sometimes fewer words will do to say what needs to be said.
The outline isn’t exact either – I’ve written a few scenes with more details than necessary for an outline, but I didn’t want to lose what was in my mind at the time. For these scenes the ten to one ratio will probably not be applied, while for other more general scenes I’ve used too few words for what is supposed to happen.
I’ve made two things that will help me reach my NaNo-goal: a collection of post-it notes and a spreadsheet (affectionately called “The Menu”).
I’ve learned from my writing sessions that I can easily write 500 words or more in half an hour as long as I know what I have to write. With a detailed outline, I do. I made a collection out of post-it notes, at least one for every scene. The larger scenes – more than a thousand words – I broke up into smaller blocks, ranging from 650 to 875 words. I can write these smaller targets in under an hour. For people with busy schedules these smaller bites can be worked in throughout the day, without losing sight of your story and goal.
I’ve used this method for these three days and it works very well. First I selected a scene that I wanted to write or continue writing. Then I would take a post-it with a target word count and stick it to my laptop screen so it’s always in sight. This was immensely motivating. I feel that writing chunks of around 600 words is much easier than focussing on the daily total. It’s also easier to pass a lower mark, so I always ended up writing more than the target.
My spreadsheet is comparable to the tool on the NaNoWriMo site. You still have to add your word count per day, and it’ll show you how many words you still need to reach your goal and the cumulative.
(I’ll probably add some more features to the sheet and make it even better for the next NaNo event.)
The second tab in the spreadsheet is used to keep track of the word count per scene. Each scene has the target word count, but I already know that most of the actual words counts will be different. I can use this later to analyse my planning and see where I can improve for my next project.
Remember, there is no right way to tackle NaNoWriMo, or writing in general. Find your own way. If you prefer to write your story in a linear way and 1667 doesn’t scare you at all, have at it. This is just one way. Share your tips for tackling your daily word counts below!