Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Twenty Bits of Advice from a Pro for the New NaNo'er
(plus links)

1. Unless you're writing about meteorologists, tornado hunters or the inexplicable onset of an ice age, resist the urge to start your novel with a report on the current climate conditions. If we want a forecast, we'll watch The Weather Channel.

(Great Beginnings by Robert J. Sawyer)

2. If the only way you can describe your story is to say, "It's just like The DaVinci Code/Starship Troopers/The Hunt for Red October/Go, Dog, Go/The Flame and the Flower/The Stand/Murder on the Orient Express/Twilight -- only better" you might want to try out another idea.

(Top 4 Ways to Know Your Idea is Novel-Worthy by By Ginny Wiehardt)

3. If safe and convenient to do so, remove all the phones, televisions, stereos, radios, video games and non-writing devices from your writing space or turn them off and unplug them. If not safe or convenient (i.e., you need to be reachable) see if someone else can handle phone duty while you write.

(Tips and Tricks for Distraction-Free Writing by Dustin M. Wax)

4. If you plan a writing session that will last for more than an hour, set a kitchen timer for 60 minutes. When it dings, get up, walk away from the computer, and take a five to ten minute break. When you get back, reset it for sixty minutes.

(Five Tips for Finding Writing Time by Michael Stelzner)

5. You don't need to check your wordcount two hundred times per writing session. It's not going to change that much (unless you type really, really fast.) Check it when you start writing, and again when you finish. Feel free to show off your progress on your blog or web site, though. I love seeing those wordcount widgets.

(NaNoWriMo's official Word Count Widgets page)

6. If possible, skip eating where you write, or writing where you eat. Have snacks and meals on your breaks away from your writing space. The only thing you should be doing in your writing space is writing.

(American Dietetic Association's Healthy Eating in Your Home Office)

7. Refrain from asking friends, family or loved ones to read what you're writing while you're writing it. Wait until December 1st, then drop all 50,000 words on them.

(Critiquing by Marilynn Byerly)

8. If at any time you feel seriously burned out, take a day off and do something physical. Go for a walk. Work out at the gym. Clean the house. Garden. Anything that takes your mind off the story and allows you some breathing room. It's better to lose one day of writing than flame out entirely halfway through.

(How to Avoid Writer Burnout by Misti Sandefur)

9. If you can't think of what to write, or you feel a block of any kind forming, tag that section of the manuscript with a bracketed notation of what you needed to write there (i.e., [Jane tells John about her STD test results here]) and move on to the next scene.

(How To Avoid Writers' Block ~ Give Yourself Permission To Write Badly by Rhonda Leigh Jones)

10. If a good name for your character eludes you, give him/her/it a temporary working name with an unusual spelling, like Xerox or Zorro or Jabba. Then, when you do think of a good name, you can do a "Replace-All" without changing all the other words that contain the same letters as your temporary name.

(Kleimo.com's Random Name Generator)

11. Writing can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. Try to get eight hours sleep a night, minimum, and if you're writing all day, take a one-hour break to rest in the afternoon.

(HowStuffWorks.com's 26 Home Remedies for Insomnia)

12. If you're thirsty, drink chilled water instead of sugary and/or caffeinated beverages. Avoid energy drinks that make you hyper. When I get tired of water, I switch to Crystal Light. Their peach tea is my favorite.

(Crystal Light Citrus Brunch Punch recipe is also delicious)

13. When you finish a scene or a chapter, take a minute to stop, stand up and stretch.

(Stress Reduction Exercises)

14. If your protagonist has the same occupation, physical description, love interests, problems and ambitions as you, you might want to rethink the character.

(Scriptwriting ~ Crafting Your Protagonist by T. Robinson)

15. If your antagonist bears an alarming resemblance to your ex, and is fated to die a slow, lingering and quite horrible death, you might want to rethink your character, and maybe consider making an appointment with a therapist.

(Peter Anspach's classic The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord)

16. Instead of thinking "This will never get published" try "This time I will finish it."

(Positive thinking: Practice this stress management skill from the MayoClinic.com)

17. If possible, take all of the published books out of your immediate writing space, including that wonderful novel by your favorite author that you keep under your desk to pick up and skim whenever you feel blocked. I know, it's hard to give up the wubby book, but when you write, you should be the only author in the room.

(Finding Your Voice by Christopher Meeks)

18. Keep a notepad and pen handy at all times. Put them in your writing space, and carry extras in your car, in your purse or briefcase, on your nightstand and in the bathroom.

(Printable Notebook freeware.)

19. Avoid backreading before you begin writing. If you need a reminder of where you left off, write a short note of where you are on your notepad after you finish writing each day, or print out the last paragraph of what you wrote and leave that beside the computer.

(PBW's Eff the Editing LB&LI workshop)

20. At some point you will probably think it sucks. Every time I sit down to write, I think it sucks. The difference between you and me is, I don't listen to that whiny, impossible-to-satisfy bitch. I kick her out of my head immediately and go to work. I let her come back later, when I'm editing.

(PBW's Writing Triage)

Finally, one more thing: remember that while you're doing this immense, incredibly challenging, perpetually frustrating and often scary thing called writing, you're not alone. (Courage)


  1. Very guilty of 17.

  2. I posted a link to this post on my blog. Thanks for the great advice!

  3. Thanks for the links. You are so generous in helping aspiring writers.

    #18 is something I've been doing for years. I tend to write when I'm lines. Never know when inspiration is going to strike.

    #20 - my internal editor knows when to hightail it out of there for the entire month.

    A couple of things I've learned from Nano.

    ~ Write as many words as possible during the first week. That's when your enthusiasm will be the highest.

    I've had to play catch up one year. Writing about 17,000 words in less than a week was not fun. I think I did between 3K-5K daily over a four day period during the peak time in the retail season.

    ~ For the days I couldn't fully commit to writing, I'd write about 200 words in an hour then go do something else. Over the course of 10 hours, I'd have 2K or more.

    That didn't take out as much from me as did staying planted in front of the computer or in front of my journal for hours at a time. I got done what needed to be done plus got the writing in.

  4. Thanks for all the links! Good stuff, as always, and I wrote myself a list of things to make sure I do. (switch off projects; stop and stretch; take a day off every week...)

  5. These are great tips even if you aren't NaNo'ing but just writing all the time.

  6. Thanks for the hints, and the links. I'm going to post the word count widget on my blog. Wish me luck.

  7. Thanks, Lynn, I needed that.

  8. Great post. Tons of good information for a newbie NaNo writer. I've got my word count widget up and ready to go!!!

  9. Thanks for posting these! :)

  10. Thanks for linking to my article on how to avoid writer burnout. I'm glad you found it helpful enough to link to and I hope the tips help your readers as well.

  11. These are excellent tips, even if you're not doing nano. I've tried a couple of times, but I just can't take the pressure! Ack! LOL!

    Actually, I usually forget by the time November comes around and by the time I DO remember, the month is usually almost over.

    Plus, I've alread got about 15,000 words on my current WIP and I'm not looking to stop right now, thank you!

    I'm going to post these somewhere so that I can remind myself I'm not trying to kill myself with the writing. :)

  12. Great tips - thanks! This is very helpful especially for 1st time NaNo'ers, like me. I'm going to link to these tips on my blog. Thanks!

  13. I found you from Anti-Wife and plan to link this tomorrow. Great advice!

  14. Thanks so much for the hints. Wow, i needed that.

  15. Thanks for all the links even if you're not doing nano.i made a little list myself to do while writing.


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