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Down to The Quick: Tips For NaNoWriMo Glory From a Writer’s Blooper Reel by Stephanie Spann

Impetuous. Careless. Painful. 

I’ve just clipped my fingernail much too close to the quick and yee-ouch! Every keystroke typed to my manuscript opens an unwanted jar of, ‘never again,’ that sets my teeth on edge.Not to mention, that we’re in the final week of NaNoWriMo and the last thing needed is to lose word count because one finger pulled a hammy, so to speak.Here’s how I intend to finish this challenge off strong and how you can too, sans the owie, because something will come up this week to distract you. Fear not!  

Here’s a Top Five list for wrapping up NaNoWriMo 2019.

A Rebel Character’s Meltdown

After a fair number of hours of research to immerse myself in the sights, sounds and feel of a ninth-century village, dictating, an inevitable parched throat, I sat down at 3 a.m. to finally bring my time-traveling heroine to the scene. I reviewed my major plot points and made it plain, “I know it’s cold, but the hero lives by a northern sea in the winter, so dress warmly. Now, you’ll need to blend in and not affect the timeline.  Oh, and fuchsia hair doesn’t work in the ninth century.”

Her quick reply? “Yeah…I’m not doing any of that. Besides, rom-cons aren’t my thing and fuchsia is. So, hero goes. Hair stays.”

It was the third week of NaNo and the story had stalled out, even though the heroine was somehow supposed to drive the plot forward. True to her word, the plotline sank every time I tried moving my heroine’s character arc into what I thought should work for the scene.

Thankfully, 3 a.m. wisdom sharpens my determination. That’s a nice way of saying that I totally caved and wrote out what was easy: her side of the story. And what do you know?  From the heroine’s point of view, all the dots of the plot connected faster, had better details, emotion and even backstory. 

NaNoWriMo Glory Tip #1: Stay true to your character.

Dictation Drama:

I can’t type until this pain tamps down on this fingernail, possibly in a few days, hopefully before Thanksgiving, which means that I’ll have to switch over to my laptop’s dictation program. It’s not at all fancy, but it gets the job done. 

Then, I did what I said I wouldn’t during this month: I looked back. 

For me, NaNoWriMo is just like what Anna Wintour said in, ‘The September Issue,’ documentary, “Fashion’s not about looking back. It’s about always looking forward.” In my NaNoWriMo case, what has been written should not be seen until revisions in December. So, why did I just re-read yesterday’s entry? I mean, I’m grateful for sure, because how else would I have realized that my dictation app heard me say, “She discovered the hoard beneath icy depths,” and typed out, “She discovered the horde beneath icy depths.” 

Naturally, zombie horde comes to mind. But I’m writing a historical piece from the ninth century. Frustrating? Absolutely, at first, but then, since November has become synonymous with saying, “Yes! Why not?” to every plot twist in the hopes of pantsing / word count accomplishments, I continued typing.  What if while searching for ingots, jewelry and assorted treasure, she discovered zombies instead?

NaNoWriMo Glory Tip #2: Don’t edit yet! Continue adding to your story. Give new ideas a try.

Chitter Chatter

Remember that when dictating, the microphone doesn’t turn off simply because your brain loses focus. For example, just looking through my last paragraph, I found this steady stream of consciousness typed into my manuscript:

Add period. New paragraph.

No, that was a command.  Don’t type the word, “paragraph,” you silly little…

Stop typing.

So help me, I will unplug you right now.

Oh, I don’t have the new battery plugged in? Just the old one that’s halfway drained? Seems risky.

I wonder what the temperature is outside, because I need my winter socks.  The super warm ones.

No, those are too hot.

How to build my own Viking long boat. Search.

Why did that pull up a clip of an octopus dreaming?

How cute! It looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream with eight tentacles.

Recipe for avocado ice cream.


Obviously, I need to utilize better methods to focus. This is where The Pomodoro Technique comes in handy. Write for a set time, say twenty minutes, take a five-minute break to research, review your notes, relax and then dive into another twenty minutes of uninterrupted typing/dictating bliss.

NaNoWriMo Glory Tip #3: Find your rhythm. Type or dictate. Take breaks. Document your word count progress.

Time Chime

After many years of, “knowing thyself,” my most creative writing and plotting hours are scheduled down to the day and week each month. This understanding has been crucial for NaNoWriMo. 

Especially with the holidays, your relatives, your neighbor’s relatives, car alarms, game announcers from a blaring TV, radio songs and airplanes descending at a nearby airport…the noise can drive you to quit. But don’t! 

You can “get away” (find a writing space) or “get a way” to silence the noise around you. If writing in silence is your happy place, you can get noise cancelling headphones, get the good old-fashioned earplugs, or adjust your writing time to whenever you can find no noise.

If this is a holiday week and you don’t want to sacrifice those memory making moments or sleep-inducing tastebud treats, block off enough time to jump in and out of writing-mode. 

Whether you are juggling circadian rhythms, early morning bird calls, or your neighbor’s dog barking / walking schedule, there’s a perfect writing schedule for you. 

NaNoWriMo Glory Tip #4: Embrace a writing schedule that fits your timeline.

Speaking of noise, why did my laptop just beep at me?

Groove and Plot to the Beat 

To help you focus quickly, you can look to your notes or find beat sheets online. As quick reminders between writing breaks, they will prompt your characters toward their next challenge. Take a glance at your maps, terrains, clothing, news clips and listen to the sounds that will bolster your deep POV. They’ll certainly make life easier when you begin editing this work-in-progress. 

Also, some writers find inspiration from music playlists. You can search for ‘Writer Playlist,’ your favorite movie’s original soundtrack, trailer soundtrack or create your own ahead of your next writing session. 

NaNoWriMo Glory Tip #5: Keep tools handy: a beat sheet, music playlist, sound clips, maps and pictures of characters and locations.

All of this to say that sometimes, just sometimes, the unexpected can be a great springboard into finishing your manuscript and NaNoWriMo. Here’s to a great week of writing!

Really, what is that beep-beep sound?

Oh, no. I forgot to put the laptop’s new battery in.

Ow, my finger!

Wait, don’t shut off before I can save-

Enjoy This?

I’m thrilled to teach a class at Savvy that covers the basics of Viking history. So, if you’ve been thinking about writing your own Viking themed novel, here’s a fun place to get started! 

VICARIOUSLY VIKING: Deep POV with Stephanie Spann

See you on Monday!

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Stephanie is wild about Danish, Swedish and French police dramas and sci-fi adventures. Her dream rock concert would be, 'Jem and The Decepticons.' Wh...