We’re on day 3 of the Great Literary Journey. I’m well ahead of the average wordcount that the NaNo forums tells me I should be at by this stage, so I’m pretty proud of myself. Or I was until I actually read over Vampire Airship*, my budding steampunk dark romance noveil. Then I remembered I had spent the last two and a half days writing thousands of words of worthless junk.
It’s not really my fault- the NaNo website tools make it easy to get caught up in thinking your wordcount is a worthwhile achievement, what with all of the bars and graphs and numbers. I didn’t think there would be a way to fill me with burning anime passion about how many words I’m writing per day but it turns out there is, and that’s to give me what is essentially an XP bar. The only way it could be more insidiously addictive is if golden light burst out of my body every time I passed the 1000 word mark.
I guess before I get back to hypocritically criticizing NaNoWriMo despite taking part in NaNoWriMo I should say something nice about it. I’m having a lot of fun, for whatever that’s worth, and I’ve written way more way faster than I ever have before. None of it is good of course, but I don’t know whether it’s worse than what I would have churned out without doing NaNoWriMo. I actually think it’s improved over the first draft version of the beginning of the same story I have sitting on my hard drive, but I’ve written more stuff since then so maybe I’m just a bit more experienced.
Now to get the knives out.
Speaking of word-counts, I’ve been poking around the “over-achievers” section of the forums and some people are reporting frankly unbelievable numbers- as in writing two novels simultaneously, upwards of 60,000 words in less than 48 hours numbers. At least a few people supposedly achieved 100,000 words or more in the same time frame. You’re specifically banned from expressing disbelief or skepticism at people’s word-counts (gee I wonder why that might be) so I’m going to say here instead that I highly doubt people are writing that fast unless they’re literally just hammering out whatever random words come into their head stream of consciousness style.
There are some other odd features of the forum. One is the super-positive hugbox nature of the place. You can absolutely find real criticism but it seems to be mostly limited to specific threads. Everywhere else it’s a whole lot of “what a fantastic idea!” and “omg you’re so awesome!” and aren’t we all super great authors let’s squeal together in this big echo chamber. That might be the sort of environment conducive to motivating people to write a whole lot of words but it’s not going to make anyone a better writer.
The other thing I noticed was this thread, which made me wonder if a lot of people haven’t fundamentally missed the point in some way. It’s exactly what it sounds like- ways to artificially pad out your word count. Examples (which I swear I am not making up):
I once had my characters sing ‘one hundred bottles of beer’ all the way down and all the way back up again because I needed words for the day, they were on a bus and I didn’t know where the story was going.
I also made all numbers ‘twenty (space) four’
Also, stick in a character who just rambles a lot about nothing and make them part of the plot and thst really boosts your word count, especially if its funny rambles and a character responds to them!
I definitely don’t use contractions at all in my book! I’ll occasionally use a characters full name for those extra two words. I’m also a big fan of having dialogue like this:
“Hey, I have something important to tell you,” said Jane.
“What did you say?” asked Dick.
“I said, ‘Hey, I have something important to tell you,'” she repeated.
One year, I was far behind, it was late in the month and I was desperate.
I went back and rounded up all the comments I had posted on the Forums and cut and pasted them into the beginning of my novel. Then I told myself that this would become the Foreword.
(reply to previous post)
That’s a really interesting idea. I may use that even if I’m not trying to up my word count. Thinking about it now, I would love it if all books came with a few pages of the author’s thought process while he was writing.
When I feel really behind, I will put random spaces in the middle of words.
a great way to boost word count is needless dialouge. Have characters make awkward small talk, especially if the characters are family or friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time. And do NOT summarize anything that is done unless you’re absolutely stuck. Ohh, and no contractions are good too.
- Include a character who only uses sign language and make them interact with a character who doesn’t know it, without an interpreter present
- Add a character who loves to monologue
- Add a character who repeates themselves a lot when nervous, then put them in lots of situations likely to trigger it
- Characters who, like, use “like” as like a comma really like boost your wordcount
One year I had my characters play scrabble. They argued about what was allowed in the rules and what wasn’t. My story that year was set in Hawaii, so one character used a Hawaiian word and another character argued against it. It was good for a few hundred words.
And so on, for 18 pages of forum posts. I tried pointing out that if you do stuff like this your story will be shit, but then people got mad and called me arrogant.
Back to writing, I guess.
*(Also a joke)