NaNoWriMo Day Three

Welcome to hour 72, novelists.

Most of us are going strong. After all, 2,000 might sound like a lot to some people, but for others, a 2K word count is like a really boring journal entry. We’ve got grocery lists that are over 1,000 words, am I right? Right.

Anyway, there are always some who are exceeding the word count goal that most mere mortals deem appropriate to set for themselves. Take Ava Jae, for example. In November of 2013, Ava completed the 50K word challenge in an impressively compact time-frame: only 9 days. If you don’t read Ava’s blog, Writability, you probably should. She’s awesome, she has a book forthcoming in 2016, and she’s just a really genuine and pleasant, dedicated writer. And she’s just kind of adorable, too. So there.

According to Ava’s own account, she was no stranger to writing stamina. She even used this fun little software, Write or Die (which I’ve heard about but haven’t ever tried to use myself) to help her improve her overall endurance and productivity.

After Ava realized that 2,000 words just wasn’t an ambitious enough benchmark to set for herself, she adopted a few other strategies that she was kind enough to share with her compatriots.

Ava says that, in order to avoid the dreaded blahs and blocks that we can sometimes suffer staring blankly at the blinking cursor, she used placeholders. She described it as mad libs (which I thought was darling). If there was a town or a name that she couldn’t quite decide on in under a minute, Ava used a placeholder, such as TOWN. I know this works from experience, because I usually use the same strategy, employing brackets to set off words or quotes that are incomplete.

In addition to using redacted or to-be-named nouns, Ava also summarized rather than dove into the nitty gritty. This, to me, was the most helpful suggestion. I am the queen of getting sidetracked by a tangent, by my own shifty moods, or by a damn leaf swirling past my not-quite-drawn curtains. This strategy of summarizing, of generalizing, rather than trying to pen a masterpiece down in the first draft, is genius.

Ava made notes as she went along (which, as you know from yesterday, I’m constantly doing). This helped her plan for new developments even when she wasn’t really ready to write them out just yet. Staying on track for this over-achiever also meant, at least sometimes, skipping out on other pleasures like recreational reading.

Perhaps the most useful tip that Ava shared, I think, is that she wrote in spurts. If she had a half hour here, or just a half hour there, she was motivated to pen as much as possible and move on. I think that’s great advice. So many of us have full-time responsibilities, and something as simple as writing is a luxury that we just don’t have. Finding those spare moments is, I think, the most important thing. I am always the most creative when I am nowhere near writing utensils. That’s why I’ve learned to bring a way to record and to write everywhere. If you’ve got two 10 minute breaks and a half hour lunch, that’s still time.

Speaking of finding time and creating shortcuts for yourself, I do this kind of goofy thing when I absolutely need to remember something–I text myself. An unread text or an email is sure to find its way to me eventually, and if there’s ever something that I think I can use or that I’m afraid I’ll forget, I text or email the link, the phrase, the screenshot–whatever–to myself.

I’m not always sitting cross-legged on the couch swaddled in a warm afghan with a cup of steaming cocoa when inspiration strikes. In fact, nine times out of ten, I am researching something for my real work, and I don’t have the time to catalog my finds or inspiration effectively. So I use this little app or extension for Chrome, called Pocket, to help me save things that I want to read or bookmark later. It saves webpages for me; once it’s in Pocket, I can read it offline. It’s kind of like a little ADD wallet.

Okay. That’s all I’ve got. Just one heartwarming story about going above and beyond, some little tidbits about keeping your head screwed on and making time to do you, and well wishes as you power on to the halfway point of week one! Now, shoo–don’t you have a novel you should be working on? 😉

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