NaNo Tips and Tricks

It’s Day Seven 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 used the Fast Draft method explained in Plotting in 2009.) 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.

The previous is an article I wrote for NaNo 2009. Lazy? Perhaps. Behind on NaNo? You betcha. Regardless, I felt the timing for the article was appropriate. I hope you enjoy it.


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2 thoughts on “NaNo Tips and Tricks

  1. Johanna Harness November 7, 2010 at 9:13 am Reply

    Great tips, Jess! You know I always want to edit, so the highlighting gives me wonderful options. Thank you. 🙂


    • Jessica Rosen November 8, 2010 at 5:45 am Reply

      Terrific, Johanna – so glad when it works out that way. The highlighting is an easy and quick way to color code notes to ourselves. The inner editor is appeased and we can go forth and write.

      Take care,


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