This is a list of all the tips and tricks we've been able to put together to help you in your writing over the national novel writing competition period. This isn't a list of motivational writing tips but rather a list of items which hopefully will help keep you engaged in producing a novel that is of quality.
In our experience, and opinion, one of the biggest issues with the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is that there is an inherent emphasis on quantity and not necessarily quality. This isn't an intentional push, nor is it definitively a natural effect, but there is by way of association with the task a drive towards achievement in numbers - specifically the number of words written to grant yourself the 'novel' status.
Not in the slightest - it's a wonderful thing! All of the above is not to say that this push towards quantity writing comes from the NaNoWriMo itself, because it doesn't - there is a continual stress on the idea that a novel need not be defined by the number of words. Indeed, there are many examples of books which run to only around 15,000 words which can still be classified as Novels and not Novellas. But you're going to have in your own head what the feel of a novel is, and likelihood is that you have it at around the 30,000 word mark.
There's nothing wrong with the idea of NaNoWriMo - as has just been described. What you may need, however, are a few pointers for ensuring that the quality of your writing stays in shape.
For anyone who is used to writing, the process of editing is laborious, often depressing, and wrought with self doubt and panic. You read something you've written and you don't like it? What do you do? Do you start again, and perhaps re-write the whole thing? Just this chapter? Just this paragraph?
Not a single writer that we have ever come across has enjoyed the ongoing process of editing, and yet it is absolutely essential to achieve good quality written work. Don't be fooled into thinking that writing is difficult, when compared to editing it's a true joy.
Some writers live by the adage:
"When you think you've cut as much as you can, cut some more."
Your novel is not the best place to develop ideas and characters because it will be clear to the reader that you didn't understand your story or your characters when you started writing. Suddenly the reader will discover new elements about people, places or back story that previously were unclear or unsaid, but that will suddenly have a bearing upon your novel. This is a highly irritating occurrence in novels, and should always be avoided. There is a trope/cliche known as Lampshade Hanging which exemplifies this problem.
Instead, keep a separate document/diary/notebook on your main characters, locations and plot points. Don't feel that 30 days is too short to plan your novel - it must be well planned if you're to produce anything that is well executed.
This is as much a motivator as a reminder, but you have to ask yourself the question: what are you willing to sacrifice in order to get this novel complete? I'm not talking about missing a few hours of TV - I'm talking about whether you'd rather sacrifice the quality of your work just in order to get a few more thousand words written. No? Does that not sound good? Please, think about what you want your book to be viewed as when you're finished - not on a deadline.
If you're using a computer to write your novel (chances are high!) then the word processor software you're using has a very good in-built spell checker, grammar checker and thesaurus. I don't need to tell you that the flaw behind these tools is the user... I don't need to tell you that because you already know that some perfectly 'valid' documents can still be littered with errors. Be wary!
However, just because these tools can produce false-positive (and the opposite!) doesn't mean that they are not worth looking into. They will save you time, and allow you to focus more heavily on the editing aspect.
But why use a thesaurus? Some people snobbishly (in our opinion) think that by using a thesaurus it gives those with a limited vocabulary a way of pretending to be something they're not - and potentially misusing words and phrases that will be out of context. However, our belief is that a thesaurus gives us the opportunity to ensure the novel remains fresh and avoids the stagnation of repeated words and phrases that can send the reader to sleep, or feel overtly patronised.
This is a difficult one to say, and one that is often hardest to commit to. In our reading and experience of writing, we have come to the conclusion that the best way to say something in your novel is usually the simplest. Whilst it's tempting to fill your story with metaphors, similes and complicated imagery, these are the kinds of writing that are usually best left to those who are exemplary writers - because when they don't work, they stink.
Perhaps you feel this is unfair and that your writing is of a sufficiently high standard to ignore this warning, and if so, that's great. All we would suggest is that you look again at your work - just one more time - and ensure that it really is going to cut the mustard. Imagine yourself five years from now... what would that 'you' say?
It's as true as ever - you must read other works in order to expand your vocabulary, your understanding of writing, and, most critically, your mind.
If you haven't yet got the picture - you have to edit your work. And again. And again.
Once you've finished editing it, edit it again. No - seriously.
Then send it out to friends. Then edit again.