5 #NaNoWriMo Wordcount Strategies

31 Oct

Here we are, the day before NaNoWriMo. Anyone else have itchy fingers? I want to write, want to outline, but I’m never sure where to start-without-starting.

So here’s my top 5 wordcount-padding strategies.

  1. Avoid hyphenation. Some word processing programs process these as one word instead of two or more. See the “start-without-starting,” above: Microsoft Word counts this as one word, not three. If this were November, and a novel, I’d have just cheated myself out of 2/3 of that wordcount!
  2. Avoid names such as Mike, Jane, Aloicious, Marmaduke. Not just because they are boring (in the case of the first two) and difficult to type (third), and reminiscent of Great Danes (fourth.) Avoid these names because they only add one word to your count. Why use Jane, when you could have Carrie Ann? Why Aloicious when Hunter Dowley is always referred to by both names?

    In addition, you might consider using characters’ titles. Take care, however: The Inestimable Charlene MacCaden, for example, might be ridiculous in the context of her present-day urban setting. In contrast, Mrs. G. Campbell has been known even to her mother as Mrs. G. Campbell ever since her wedding day, in Macon, Georgia, in 1934.

  3. Setting is an opportunity to let the words run wild. If you’ve beaten every bush, intimately describing each leaf, you’re still doing fine. You might not have a novel, but you’ll still have won if you end up with 50,000 words of setting at the end of the month – and I bet you’re better at capturing detail, using metaphor and allegory, and creating a coherent universe than you were in October. True fact: I once spent roughly 2,000 words having two characters cross a lobby. Seriously.

    In editing, much like what can happen with setting, you can pare dialogue down to the words that move the story along. Only in November – and similar zero-draft states – can you allow your characters to discuss any old thing they have on their minds.

  4. If you are a planner, you have an outline or notecards or some other means of milestoning your path through the novel, and each piece of dialogue already has a purpose. Great – but if they are having a hard time getting to the point, use the time – and the words! – to explore their own voices. Let them say it wrong, and then take it back. Let them get confused and start over again. That happens all the time in “real world” conversations, and there’s no reason your characters are any better conversers than you are.
  5. Don’t stop writing. This is a “duh,” but it’s also the real truth of the NaNoWriMo experience. Here are some solutions:
    1. Can’t get a chapter to come to a graceful conclusion? Write “And then the author said, ‘On to the next chapter!'” Start the new chapter.
    2. Boring novel? Nobody expects an earthquake. Nor do they expect a tax audit.
    3. Want to be writing something different? That’s the stuff dream-sequences are made of.
    4. Stuck yourself with a solution that doesn’t work? Write what should have happened in chapter 5, with the heading of, “Here’s what should have happened in chapter 5.”

If you’re noveling this month, whether it’s your first-ever, your once-a-year, or your daily job, I send my best wishes for your savory, juicy, sweet, delicate, precise, and/or savage prose.

Did I neglect to mention long lists of adjectives?


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