Even though I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, I know a lot of people are, so here’s some tips to help you out, based on my experiences successfully completing NaNo. Everyone has a different process, and different constraints on the time they have to write, so take whatever you think will work for you and leave the rest. Good luck to all the WriMos out there! 🙂
1. Shoot for 2 K per day. You need to forget about that 1667 per day number. That’s what you need to have averaged over 30 days. As a daily goal, it’s less helpful and can potentially screw you up.
2. Write in the morning, if at all possible. As soon as possible. That way if some unforeseen disaster strikes that totally messes up your day, your schedule, and your mind, then you’ve still got your words –or at least some of your words — done. A bad day doesn’t have to equal a bad writing day.
3. Don’t check your word count until you’ve finished your daily writing. Write as much as possible in a single sitting. Check word count. If it’s over 2 K, you’re done for the day. If it’s under 2K, take a break and then sit down and write more. The break can be short or long. This is another reason I advise writing in the morning as soon as possible; if you don’t hit your word count goal, or the writing isn’t going well, then you can take another crack at it later in the day or evening.
4. Don’t take too long on a scene that you know is just not working. This is a first rough draft. Get down the essentials of the scene and move on to the next scene. You can go back and fill in more later, and rewrite it later.
5. You don’t have to write every scene. You can drop a comment that you need to put a certain scene or p.o.v. there and just go on to the next scene.
6. You don’t have to write scenes in order. If you’re holding the whole climax of the book in your head, go ahead and write it. Sometimes it can help to write key later scenes which you’ve already worked out in your mind; then the earlier scenes can naturally work toward those key scenes. I would warn, however, that if you truly write almost every scene in a random order that you could end up with a lot of great scenes that don’t hold together or have narrative flow, which will make rewriting as tough as writing. Try to string some scenes together. Though it’s generally advised not to revise during NaNoWriMo (because revision so often equals cutting and you need the word count), go ahead and put scenes in order as much as possible as you go if you’re writing them in a more or less random fashion as the mood strikes you. This will help keep the story straight in your head and help prevent you from straying too much. Also, it will show you the gaps in the narration that need to be filled and so act as writing prompts for days when you don’t know what you’re going to write.
7. If revision means filling out things you sketched over too lightly, filling in gaps in the narration, adding another p.o.v. or swapping around a scene or two, or anything that is likely to add words, but not cut them, then do it. If you see a horrible sentence that’s three times as long as it should be, highlight it and maybe rewrite it in a comment (which isn’t counted in your word count). Ditto for paragraphs. You can mark things you wrote on bad days for cutting or revision, but unless you’re adding something, such as description or information that needed to be in there, don’t do anything that hurts your word count. You can revise, but be smart about it and don’t do too much. Revision takes up writing time and the number of words you add may not be sufficient to justify it. I don’t know about you, but for me writing goes much faster than revision. For example: if revision nets you 100 more words in a hour and writing a new scene nets you 800-1000 words in an hour, and you’ve only got an hour or an hour and a half when you can sit down and write without distractions and interruptions, then using some of that time to revise is unwise, no matter how awful you think that early chapter is. You can always revise later. This isn’t supposed to be anything like a polished draft. It’s supposed to be rough and fast.
Everyone has a different process. Every life is different. What works for me may not work for you because of the way your creative process works, or because of your work schedule and life. Some of these hints should help most WriMos. Implement what you think is useful, leave the rest.