Counting Words: How to Pad your NaNoWriMo Novel to Get to 50,000

By | November 15, 2010

I started laughing uncontrollably at the trolley stop the other day. I was laughing so hard (and probably looking so crazy) that the lady who was sitting near me got up and left. I tried to tone it down, to prevent myself being dragged off in handcuffs to the asylum, but I couldn’t help it.

The reason? I was reading “how to get your word count up when you’re feeling down” in my new book, “No Plot? No Problem!” This book is written by the creator of NaNoWriMo, and is exactly what it is described as: “A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days.”

No Plot? No Problem!

No Plot? No Problem! A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days.

Those of you not quite as nerdy as myself might not understand, but let me explain a little bit and maybe you’ll appreciate the humor in the situation…

Someone commented to me the other day, “I don’t see what’s so hard about writing a book. Why does it take so long?” Anyone who has ever tried to write a book before knows immediately that it is not an easy process. In fact, most people who start writing something never finish it. It’s so easy to get burnt out and frustrated in the middle and give up. (That’s what makes NaNoWriMo such an interesting exercise. You have to finish what you started, and you have a very tight deadline in which to get it done.)

I’m trying not to give up. It’s halfway through NaNoWriMo, and my novel is just over halfway to 50,000 words. To be precise, it is currently at 26,052 words. I try to write 2,000 words every day, but some days are a struggle to get there. By “struggle,” I mean the following (and I am absolutely serious about all of these):

  • Anything is more interesting than sitting down and writing.
    • Dishes? Gotta get them done.
    • Toenails? Have to clip them.
    • Pictures on the wall? Need to straighten them.
    • Hungry? Always need something else to snack on.
    • Nose? Needs to be blown.
    • Teeth? Must be brushed.
    • Hungry? Yes, of course.
    • Email? Haven’t checked it in two minutes. Better do that.
    • Facebook? Obviously better catch up on my friends’ lives.
    • The wall in front of me? Haven’t stared at it enough today.
    • Music? Imperative to find the perfect song.
    • Itchy? Suddenly everything needs to be scratched! Arm, leg, back, head.
    • Cold? Put something warmer on.
    • Hot? Open the window, let in the breeze.
    • Cold? Shut the window.
    • Oh, I forgot to… [fill in the blank.]
  • Attention span = Attention Deficit Disorder. Every twenty seconds or so after starting to write, it becomes vitally important to either check my word count or do one of the items listed above.
  • There are no ideas floating around in my head to add meat to my story. My mind is a complete blank and my characters are stuck in the limbo position I left them in the day before.
  • Although I can type pretty fast (80 or so words per minute), it takes me an hour to come up with 500 words.

This novel is not supposed to be a great work of fiction. It’s a ROUGH DRAFT. The point is not to have a dynamic plot or interesting characters, although that definitely helps. The point is to get words down on paper, and finish a novel.

So this book I’m reading is intended to be a helpful reminder that this is supposed to be a fun process and not to take it so seriously.

The particular section I was laughing at contained both things I have (shamelessly) done, and things I have not thought of, but are awesome ideas for if I get into dire straits. These include:

  • Give one of your characters a stutter. “…it doubles the girth of their dialogue, and it also allows the supporting cast to spend several pages wondering in great, word count bolstering detail about the sudden, mysterious onset of the speech impediment.”
  • Make one of your characters temporarily deaf. “Everything from loud rock concerts to small deposits of earwax can temporarily render your character deaf, necessitating that everything said to him or her be repeated. And repeated. And repeated.”
  • Create a dream sequence. This can go on for as long as you want, and does not have to make sense.
  • Have one of your characters cite something – the longer the citation, the better. (And you do not have to make any of it up! Just copy verbatim from any written work.)
  • Give your character an extended name. Ex: instead of “Jill,” call her “Miss Jillian Mimi the Third, Daughter of Leila, Princess of the Inner Circle.” Make it imperative that she be called by her full title.
  • Take out the hyphens and the apostrophes. Instead of “don’t over-exert,” say “do not over exert.” Two words becomes four!

Dear lady at the trolley station, I’m sorry I was laughing so hysterically. But my book struck a funny chord with me, and it came at just the right time, because I was wondering all day how I was going to get my 2,000 words in, and now I’ve got it! I will take this blog entry, put it into a recurring dream sequence, and then have my character discuss it with someone else. (Maybe not the most compelling story ever, but the point is the word count, and I will get it done!)

P.S. This blog entry is 900 words.

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2 thoughts on “Counting Words: How to Pad your NaNoWriMo Novel to Get to 50,000

  1. Andrea

    maybe one of your new characters (hasn't been introduced yet) spouts random shakespearian *how do you spell that?* phrases. and the others are left to decipher what in the world that could mean.

  2. Jennifer Skoog Photography

    Those are some good suggestions to maximizing the word count, hey?

    It's lovely to finally catch up on your blog, Ev. Sounds like you are experiencing some neat things. Nothing like forcing yourself to grow in a new and completely different place.

    I have next to no cell service, and finally have slowed down driving everywhere. I wish we could just go have coffee and talk. But— there's SKYPE! and we have internet. Let's skype soon!!!! great idea, jen.

    Hugs to you!

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