It’s been three weeks of furious writing if you’re participating in Nanowrimo. Maybe you’ve had a couple of missed days. Maybe you’re a bit behind on the word count. Or perhaps not — perhaps you’ve written buckets of words and have that 50,000-word goal in sight.
Either way, if you live in the United States and celebrate Thanksgiving, this upcoming week is a tricky one. Holidays tend to create chaos; there’s shopping to do, food to prepare, relatives to wrangle… you get the idea. Lots of distractions from writing. Even if you’re not celebrating this week, you’re still easing into the home stretch, that last third of the month where you probably need to crank out something like 16,000 words, or more. Chances are that you’ve plowed through a lot of your ideas already, have thrown what feels like the kitchen sink and a few minor appliances at your protagonist, and you’re starting to feel a little weary.
Here’s the thing: if you’re going for the word count, it’s time to pull out all the stops. If you’re a quantity-over-quality writer at this stage in the game, you officially have permission to go crazy. Acknowledge that much of what you’re writing this week is going to get edited out at a later date, and start padding your manuscript.
What do I mean by padding? I mean exactly what it sounds like, adding details and content that fluff out your word count without doing much to alter the plot. You may have a revelation while you’re doing so, and then you most certainly can go back to writing substantive material, but until lightning strikes, I recommend harmless scribbling.
Go back to the start of your manuscript and read slowly. Each time you introduce a new character, a new setting, a new object, describe it. Describe it more than you already have. Add details. Colors, shapes, fabrics, book titles on bookshelves, warts on noses, condition of clothing, of curtains, of carpeting. Next add dialogue. For each conversation, add one more exchange. You can hone it back down to sparse and intelligent come December, but for now you want characters who are chatty. If you’re really desperate, kick out all your contractions. I’m becomes I am. Wouldn’t becomes would not. Instant extra words.
Is this cheating? Is this ridiculous? Well, some people would say writing a book in a month is ridiculous, and yet here you are. The idea is to keep progressing, to keep moving forward. You’ve already acknowledged — or should have — that whatever you produce this month is merely a first draft, that down-and-dirty version of the novel you aspire to write. If you’re truly committed to finishing 50,000 words by November 30th, and you’re having trouble with what to say next (as opposed to how to say it), just keep adding words. There will be plenty of time to go back over what you’ve written once the month is over, to finesse your work and to add more plot twists. The challenge here is to get to the finish line, not to write a masterpiece in 30 days. The latter is unlikely, but the first is very possible. So, charge ahead, and happy writing!