Friday Forum: Nano Tricks

It’s Day Six of NaNoWriMo. We’re bearing down on Week Two. Some have already put down their pens or put away their keyboards. This next week sees many people fall by the wayside. Our heroine’s goal today is to help you stay on the NaNo path, dear Reader.

Yes, it’s a challenge, but you knew that going in. You can do this. Have you lagged behind, even missed days altogether? You can make up those words by doing just a little bit more every day. You do not have to make them up completely within a day! That could easily overwhelm. Being overwhelmed is, I’ve found, the most common reason someone drops out of NaNoWriMo. Let’s try to avoid that, shall we?

The highlighter is one of my favorite tools when I’m writing, but particularly when I’m writing quickly. (I’m using the Fast Draft method explained in Plotting.) Let me give you some ideas:

  • Considering deleting a whole section? I know, we’re not supposed to rewrite. It can’t be helped at times. Sometimes there’s an entire section that has to go in a totally different direction for the story to progress, yes? Please, do not waste time actually picking through and deleting that section. Highlight the whole thing in red, then keep going. As @JasonEverMorr put it, you can go back and “mine for nuggets” later. More importantly, you wrote those words. They count toward your total word count!
  • Can’t remember a name of a character from earlier in your story or a description? Stuck on a name altogether? If I can recall the first letter of the name, I put it in with “TK” after. The clever @DebraMarrs teaches that “TK” appears nowhere in the English language. Therefore, you can search it without picking up other words. Can’t remember the first letter or description? I wrote an entire book with a secondary, but busy, character named “TKTK” because I couldn’t recall her name! I highlight all of these in yellow, whether I am using notes like “[check description, hair color]” or “XXX”, and just keep on writing. Just remember: the asterisk is a wildcard, so you will not be able to Search for it (Find or Ctrl-F in Word). Using TK or XXX, something searchable, makes the editing process far easier.
  • Not sure about a section? Don’t delete it and don’t highlight it in the red that marks deletion. Choose another color – I use green – and tell yourself that you’ll take a closer look at it during edits. Maybe you’re worried it lags, there’s no tension, or it’s all just headed for the cutting room floor. Do NOT go back and rework it. Just highlight it, take a deep breath and keep on going. You wrote it. It’s done. Move on.

Okay, enough of my blathering my highlight hints. I actually do have links for you today! Here are a few that may help. Some of them overlap with one another and the information they give, but each contains nuggets of wisdom that may inspire you.

Write to Done has a guest post by Marla Beck titled First Draft Secrets: Five Simple Steps. It’s not written for NaNo, but it has some great information regardless of whether you’re writing a NaNo or standard rough draft. Lots of good reminders in there if you’re already in the know, too. has an article titled How to Write Faster and Reach Word Count Goals written specifically for the NaNoWriMo crowd. There are a couple tips that are repeated from the previous article but don’t skip this if you’re struggling with word count. One of the best suggestions is that you use @DrWicked‘s Write or Die, available free on the web or now (very recently, congratulations to @DrWicked!) as a desktop edition! You’ll be surprised at how much you can produce using WoD.

Having comfort issues? Writer’s Relief Blog posts Healthy Computing, all about how to avoid the most common issues that come up for writers. Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury, learn how to set up your workspace and more here. There’s a lot of self promotion on this page, just scroll down a little bit for the article and you’ll find some choice stuff.

And finally, some comic relief! Check this out and tell me if you don’t find at least something on it amusing: Famous Authors’ NaNoWriMo Tips (as found on twitter). It’s on The Inkwell Bookstore Blog, a terrific one you’ll want to look through. AFTER NaNo’s over.

One last note: I know I’ve said this before, but I encourage you to embrace the spirit of NaNoWriMo. The whole purpose of it is to get you to just write. No matter what your word count is, if you can do that, you’re winning. Practice telling your inner editor off and let the muse within fuel your writing. Write a truly rough draft, ugly and dirty, so that you just get the story out. Only then can you truly edit. As they say, you can’t edit a blank page.


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9 thoughts on “Friday Forum: Nano Tricks

  1. Karen Collum November 6, 2009 at 11:47 am Reply

    Great post with some excellent tips. I will tuck away the TK trick for future reference 🙂 I use a lot of square brackets [insert details here] in NaNo. If you can just let go of ‘rightness’ and write it is surprisingly easy. My catch phrase right now is: Creating a novel is easy. Just write your way to THE END. Editing? Now that’s a different story altogether 🙂


    • Jessica Rosen November 6, 2009 at 5:51 pm Reply

      Thanks for the positive feedback, I really appreciate it. The square brackets are a good choice as they’re an easy search item. I just highlight them as well so I can Page Down quickly, looking for flashes of highlight in the manuscript when I’m revising.

      I love editing now that I actually know how to do it. I wrote an article early on about it with some easy tips once I had the hang of it. I’m so looking forward to beginning the process once this final book of the trilogy is complete in rough.

      Your catch phrase is right on the money. Sounds to me like you’ve got a strong handle on NaNo. Keep up the great work!

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen


  2. Christina November 6, 2009 at 11:59 am Reply

    Thanks for the links and suggestions! (I especially love Inkwell… so funny! Great blog to follow!)

    I need to use the highlighter function of scrivener more effectively. I use it for little changes (word choice, etc.) but not really for thinking about big sections. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    Okay, back to writing! Have a good weekend!


    • Jessica Rosen November 6, 2009 at 5:55 pm Reply

      Hi, Christina, thanks for stopping by. Inkwell is a good blog, I enjoy it, too. The highlight function is so versatile, from a word to a whole chapter if need be. I use it for every rough draft. So glad I did with Book 2! Late in the book, I found the perfect place to put what I’d “deleted” from the prologue (which I got rid of entirely).

      Take care and enjoy the weekend,
      Jessica Rosen


  3. Jamie D. (@Variety Pages) November 6, 2009 at 4:41 pm Reply

    I use yWriter, and it never occurred to me to use the highlighter to mark sections I particularly want to look at closer later. Not sure why – but even when I was using Word, I still never thought to highlight as I was drafting.

    What a great suggestion – thanks! 🙂


    • Jessica Rosen November 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm Reply

      Thanks for visiting, Jamie, glad to see you. I love it when one of the links or suggestions really makes a difference for someone. It’s such a good feeling. Thank you for commenting about the highlighting tip. I love the highlighter, have a whole color code system now!

      Take care and see you soon,
      Jessica Rosen


  4. […] Friday Forum: Nano Tricks Jessica Rosen is back and full of advice for NaNoWriMo. If you are doing NaNoWrimo you can’t miss this post. […]


  5. Marla Beck, The Relaxed Writer November 20, 2009 at 11:42 pm Reply

    Hi Jessica,

    Great post for NaNo writers, one I’ll share with my coaching clients & Tweeps. 🙂

    good luck & write on!


    • Jessica Rosen November 21, 2009 at 12:47 am Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Marla. I appreciate the thoughtful feedback. I enjoyed your article, great information for anyone beginning a rough draft.

      Take care,
      Jessica Rosen


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