Nanowrimo wordcount boosters – Generate more words for your Nano novel!

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Get the words flowing with these Nanowrimo wordcount boosters
Get the words flowing with these Nanowrimo wordcount boosters

This quick post is to give some ideas for wordcount boosters for Nanowrimo-which will, I hope, make it into in your finished novel as worldbuilding  or character reveal scenes. I have used each of these and found they are generally good for an extra 1000 words or so. These seven ideas should give you at least an extra 7000 words for your Nano-novel and are especially useful for those writing in the fantasy genre, although they can be applied to any story. Good luck!

  1. Engage in a drinking game. Describe the game, its rules, the forfeits and how each character participates.  This is good for sneaking in some clumsy how-the-world-works information, in the fantasy genre.
  2. Discover a children’s book. If it contains a fairy tale or the creation myth for your fantasy world, so much the better. Have your characters comment on it scornfully or nostalgically, and at length. If you’re really desperate for words, have them read out a handy myth which feeds into your plot.
  3. Check a calendar. This allows you to confirm the name and sequence of days of the week, months and seasons. It can also show any significant festival dates where, later on, your hero finds himself in peril, or able to demonstrate his secret powers in front of a captive audience.
  4. Visit a pub or tavern. Give it a name, a history, an distinctive appearance, and a location. Street corner or market square? Alley, halfway up some steps, or in the middle of a habitable bridge? What do your characters eat or drink and what pub characters do they meet? You can stretch this one out for ages.
  5. Visit a school. There is rich word count boosting to be found in exploring the education system, showing how girls and boys (or other creatures) are prepared for the wider world. When you include playground games, punishments, exams or mealtimes, this could be a great way to expose more information about your world and/or your characters’ backstory.
  6. Have dinner. Charles Dickens spent a lot of time describing the food prepared and eaten by his characters – it gives great texture for his imaginary world, and takes up a lot of words. What regular meals do people of your world eat throughout the day? Are certain things forbidden, or forbidden to certain groups – women, children, certain faiths or races-? Is eating communal, or something to be done in shame, alone? Mealtime scenes also make great foreplay scenes, with all the dinner juices running down chins and being licked from sticky fingers. Just saying.
  7. Go dancing. What are the popular dances in your world and what kind of music are they set to? Is dancing a courtship ritual, a social affirmation, or a way to confirm some other life stage? Who is allowed to dance, who is forbidden? Are there certain moves which are banned from polite society, like Elvis and his hip gyrations? Why is that? Has your main character experienced great dancing and terrible dancing? Even at surface level, a dancing scene is a great opportunity to describe in word-count-boosting detail what everyone is wearing and who dances with who and why.

If you have some favourite ways to boost wordcount during Nanowrimo, please share them in the comments!



My main Nanowrimo page of resources

Charles Dickens- Great Expectations has some fantastic eating scenes. So does Nicholas Nickelby.

Visit a pub with Seventh Sanctum’s Tavern Name Generator

For sexy words over your mealtimes, try Stacia Kane’s book



Nanowrimo blog Day 1 – Use November how you want

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National Novel Writing Month AKA Nanowrimo
It’s good to know I’ll be writing 1660 words a day, every day, for a month. Nanowrimo is awesome.

Well, National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) started today and even though I am not officially joining in, I’m still going to increase my daily word count to 1600 or so. I usually aim for 1100, and have been consistent on that for about a month, so this is not a huge leap.

I’m working on my current WIP, breaking the supposed rules, but hey, it’s my Nanowrimo, I can do what I like.

Day one, then, and I’m at a tricky part of the book where a lot of things need to be worked out or I’ll end up writing myself into a corner (like last time).

I also have the aim to write the big climax this week, the giant stuff, the stuff which the cover has been promising the reader all along. Too often I think that I am very good at build up, and then go, Yeah, so they fought the Scary Enemy, done, now let’s carry on with witty banter and a hint of book two.

Not good enough. If you don’t deliver on the thing you’ve been building up to (true love, demon on demon battle scene, the storm which wipes clean the polluted earth…) then why would the reader bother?

So this week I’m all about the endings and climaxes of this book. Yes, endings, in Week One, because there are various things happening and they all need some kind of resolution, even if it involves setting up a new problem for next time.

It’s half past nine in the morning of 1st November and I’ve quickly dashed off 979 incoherent words. Not bad.* Next is a creepy underground scene. Go!

(I’m not going to blog every day. Or I might. But if I do it will be brief. And end with a Lesson Learned or Thing to Try. Like this:

  1. Use Nanowrimo however you want. It’s a productivity tool. I’ve ‘won’ it lots of times and it helped me, especially with confidence, but now I need more than that, I need to become a Finisher. So I’m using it to complete my WIP. You should use this month however you want. Nobody’s judging.

*And if I like I can even include these words as part of my daily tally. Taps nose and winks. Why not?

National Novel Writing Month



30 Nanowrimo strategies – write a novel in a month

Reading Time: 4 minutes
30 strategies for Nanowrimo
Is it a lamb? Is it a banana? Yes! Its Superlambanana, the iconic Liverpool sculpture created in 1998 by Taro Chiezo.  I give you 30 strategies – go and  create something entirely new with your Nanowrimo novel this year.

Here are 30 strategies which I use to write a novel in 30 days. It can be used for Nanowrimo, or whenever you just want to get that first draft done.

  1. Divvy up the action. It’s 1660 words a day but life will intrude. Count on your calendar how many days you have which contain the requisite 2 hours. Mark those as writing days. For the others, put a target of, say, 400w. Check it adds up to 50,000.
  2. More apportioning. I always spend far too long scene-setting at the start of the book, then find myself 40,000 words in, on chapter 3 of 20. The last 5000 words of The Dark Line, 2005, were pure exposition. “So she got the sword and went to the land of the Trace and killed the Pale Trace and brought the Dark Trace back-” It sounded Biblical, but was a total cheat’s way to ‘finish’ Nano. So instead, set content targets. Like so –
  3. Week 1 – Set scene, introduce everybody, write the ending. Writing the ending is psychologically vital. This makes the rest of the month just ‘finishing it off’.
  4. Week 2 – First bit of action, flesh out the ending.
  5. Week 3 -When you’re sick of the sight of the thing – do scene-setting, adding details to characters and locations you’ve already done, boost your wordcount with Chris Baty’s numerous tricks, including having characters tell each other random stories, or giving every character three names.
  6. Week 4 – Home stretch. The tricky middle part still to do, so start with the ‘final battle’ whatever its form, and spread out from there.
  7. When you cannot think of anything, snuggle your face in a pillow. Or faux fur throw. Seriously. Cuddle up and picture yourself in the climactic scenes of your story.
  8. Type quickly and don’t stop. Obvious but essential. Ignore the Autocorrect stupidity. In fact, for fantasy novelists, Autocorrect will provide some of your best character names and ideas! A Persian Car Pet?  Why not?
  9. Get a spreadsheet. There are always a ton of Track Your Progress spreadsheets around, available through the Nanowrimo forums or just by googling. It is amazing how motivational these are, especially the ones with charts. I work all day with charts and dashboards and mostly I hate them as a pseuodomanagement waste of time, but for novelling, they’re great.  Update your wordcount on the Nanowrimo website as often as you can.
  10. Tell everyone you’re noveling. But do not mention it to your work. They may find your mystery illness spanning 27-30 November suspicious.
  11. Get the Facebook widget which picks up your wordcount from the Nanowrimo website and announces it to your FB buddies – unless your FB buddies are your workmates, in which case, don’t.  See above.
  12. You need a plan to follow blindly on bad days, so make a scene list in a  little spiral bound notebook: split it 15/10/15/10 and label the sections Start, Trouble, Battle, End. That’s just my guesstimate, but it should help avoid Overstarting (see #2).
  13. Remove Tumblr from your phone. I’m serious. Also Pinterest, Instagram and anything else you stare at, your mind blank, your swiping thumb the only sign you still live and breathe. You can always put them back in December. I uninstalled Tumblr, which was almost my favourite thing, in May and I still haven’t put it back. I’m getting too much done.
  14. Blog or journal your progress. A single line is all I’m talking. End or start your day with it and by Day 30 you’ll have an excellent guide to your own noveling style, which you can use to reassure/castigate yourself with next time around.
  15. Eat one-handed for a month. Lunch is sandwiches, dinner is pasta. Type with the free hand. Come on, you’re not the Queen.
  16. Be prepared to hate your novel at any point. Try not to take it personally. Conan Doyle hated Holmes and swore he’d never write another word after the Reichenbach Falls. He held out for 8 years, but you don’t have that long. Just think UGH and continue.
  17. Resist the urge to use Scrivener’s Compile button.* Your story will look so beautiful, so complete, that you’ll never write another word. (*Until you’ve finished of course. Then Compile away!)
  18. Make a list of things you love about the kind of novel you’re writing. I love unrequited love, sarcastic people, intricate cities and happy endings. You might love tall ships and heroes with squints. So whatever’s on the list, make sure you put it in your book. Or really, what’s the point?
  19. Plan for some varied moods in your book. Maybe you want to try Gothic suspense, or Arthurian derring-do; maybe it’s frenetic action or lingering poignancy you seek. Add some mood notes to your plan. “Jane reveals to John she is undead. Tone=Flirtatious.”
  20. Open each day’s scene list with a light heart. It’s only a novel. Start typing. You’re way ahead of the people who signed up for Nano and then did nothing.
  21. Make a list of names for background items which might crop up. These could be mere placeholder names, for speed – but they can’t all be Smith. Grab Seventh Sanctum’s amazing set of generators and make a list of people, towns, pubs and brand names you might need.
  22. Back up your work – I use Evernote AND Google Drive as well as my own PC – but don’t look at it.
  23. Abbreviate. Make AutoCorrect work for you in Word/on your phone. This can plus-up your word count too: you type HPRZ, it puts High Priest of the Realm of Zinnador. 7 words for your one, and more time for creation.
  24. When you are exhausted, write 100 more words. You really can do this. Just 100 more. This increases faith in yourself too.
  25. Pick your noveling music  before you start. I love Classic FM, but also movie soundtracks. Check out Audiomachine. Nothing with words!
  26. If your scene list item develops into a paragraph or more, brilliant. never mind the No-prose-before-November rule. Just use those words. No blank page for you, sirree.
  27. Steal time ruthlessly from other activities. Do the Tesco shop in 7 minutes but say it took 60. Sit in the car and write. The shopping’s still done, right?
  28. Feed your brain between writing sessions. I recommend TV drama. There are also books. But remember: 1660 words first, X Factor finals second.
  29. Buddy up with like minded people on the Nanowrimo website. Buddy me if you like, I am usually encouraging! My author page for Nano is below.
  30. Remember, everyone else is just trying to eat, sleep, work, raise children. You’re doing all that AND writing a novel. That makes you special, forever.

And so Good luck! And if on your journey, you discover more Nano-winning tips, please let me me know.

Resources mentioned:

Seventh Sanctum Random Name Generators

National Novel Writing Month

Chris Baty, National Novel Writing Month founder


Buddy me! Here’s my Nano page.






Nanowrimo – how to write a fast book

Reading Time: 2 minutes
6 tips for writing a fast book for Nanowrimo
Don’t write yourself into a tight corner – follow these 6 guidelines to write a fast book.  Entrance to Paisley Close, Edinburgh, 2016

National Novel Writing Month requires you to complete a 50,000 word work of fiction in 30 days. If your typing is speedy, this is quite achievable. But what you choose to write for Nanowrimo can scupper you before you start. Follow theses guides to write a fast book.

  1. Go contemporary. I love to write fantasy, but even urban fantasy requires world building and development of a magic system. All of that eats into writing time. Set it now, in the real world, and save yourself the work.
  2. Go local. Exotic settings are great but need research. Set the action somewhere you know, have visited, or have painstakingly stalked with Google Streetview.
  3. Go genre. For romance, thriller, mystery and horror the conventions are already in place.  For literary ground-breaking, wait until you’re not grinding out 1666 words every day for a solid month.
  4. Go away. The essence of a fast book, for Nanowrimo or any other project, is undisturbed writing time, in big blocks. Bestseller JF Penn loves a cruise for getting her writing done. I’d love that too, but I have to do the school run. If you can hang an enforceable Do Not Disturb sign on your writing space for a chunk of time every day, do that. If not, book a Premier Inn and do 13,000 words a day over a long weekend. It’s possible. Exhausting, but possible.
  5. Use a template. I don’t mean find a get-rich-quick writing formula. I mean take your favourite novel and slice it up into chapters, parts, scenes, themes which you can use as a model for your work. Chris Baty, founder of Nanowrimo, recommends this in his No Plot, No Problem! guide. It’s very reassuring somehow to see that a real book is only 10 chapters of  5,000 words, each made of a few scenes. That’s very possible, and does not make for a big To Do list.
  6. Do not research as you go. For every thing you write which makes you think, I must check that – don’t. Resist the urge to quickly google it, or scan a few free preview pages on Kindle. Just jot it down in another document, and keep typing. My current list includes ‘nabob’, ‘spun glass wig’ and ‘leghorn’. I’ll look them up later, but meanwhile, I have bluffed it.

I’m using all of these (except #1, my bad) in my current project, which is a purely for-fun story. I want it done, but quickly so I can return to the Thing I shoved on the back burner three weeks ago.

Also I want it done fast because I have learned that my enthusiasm for most things last three weeks. Three weeks. Bam. That’s it. Midway through week four, I cannot be bothered with it. Maybe this blog should be called GadflyMind. But anyway, fast writing is vital for me.

Editing, though – boy, I could edit all day. And soon, if I follow my own advice and finish draft 1 of this project, I’ll be able to. And there will still be time for a new book for Nanowrimo!

How do you write when you need to write fast? Let me know! -Sef


Master post on outlining a novel – 21 ways to outline your book

Reading Time: 2 minutes
The Sphinx beside Cleopatra’s Needle is inscrutable, but these links will help unlock the mysteries of book outlining.

In my attempts to outline my novel I did a lot of online reading as well as the books I’ve previously mentioned. Google will find you many sites which offer help with outlining a (fiction) book, but I’ve gathered 20 useful articles. Which one suits you?

  1. This starts small and builds up from a single sentence for your story, to a complete novel. It does assume your initial sentence is good though:

2. This is like the reverse of the snowflake method – start with some questions, imagine scenes that answer them, then write a sentence to describe the overall story:

3. This helps you build a scene list for a novel:

4. This has 8 story structure elements, different to others I’ve seen:

5. Like a Lady Boss? Surely that’s just a Boss, the same way we no longer have Lady Doctors, or Authoresses? But anyway. This is an overall strategy for your book, including outlining:

6. This is part of the Guardian’s series, 30 Days to Write a Novel, or more accurately, 30 days to outline a novel. It goes into enormous detail and for a total pantser like me, is terrifying. 30 days before you can write? What? It’s high quality advice though:

7. This takes a workshop format to build up an outline:

8. Oh my god so much detail in this I can feel the creative life force being drained from me. Sorry. If you love micro-managing your writing, this is for you:

9. This has a great checklist to make sure every scene is adding to your story. No fluff allowed!

10. This is very strict – answer 9 questions to develop a chapter list, then the remaining 15 to complete a detailed outline:

11.This is high level novel-writing strategy, but it includes what to consider when crafting your outline:

12. The Plot ‘Skeleton’. Ugh. But it explains it clearly:

13. This is very detailed and you’ll need to up your browser zoom to read it but:

14. Short and sweet, with further links to explore:

15. For pantsers:

Planning for Pansters: Writing a Novel without an Outline

16. This uses the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to illustrate story structure:

17. This is very similar indeed to the snowflake outline:

18. So is this:

19. This is very straightforward and would work for pantsers as well as plotters:

20. This comes with various free templates. The spreadsheet one is pretty good:

And finally this – if you’ve read all of these and tried them and still your story will not be shoehorned into any of these outline shapes:

21. Pants it.






Nanowrimo 30th Daily Writing Prompt

Reading Time: 1 minute

Today, include a little foreshadowing of what will happen after your story has ended. Is this in fact merely a new beginning? Will the tale continue? How will the characters go on with their lives after the whirlwind they have just experienced?

And…. include some congratulations and partying, too.



Nanowrimo 29th Daily Writing Prompt

Reading Time: 1 minute

Today make everything in your writing joyous. Have joyous trees, roads, food, gestures, clothes. Let every word sing, we have reached the end and we are happy. Or make it all tragic, depending on the ending of your novel.


Nanowrimo 28th Daily Writing Prompt

Reading Time: 1 minute

Today write a big declamatory speech. It could be your villain, revealing his dastardly plot to a strangely passive audiennce; it might be your main character declaring his position on life, love and everything she has encountered on her journey. It could be a wrap up speech to tie together all the loose ends you’ve created as you write. Make it big and make it cross several paragraphs.


Nanowrimo 27th Daily Writing Prompt

Reading Time: 1 minute

Today include an ignoble emotion in your story: jealousy, irritation, intolerance, anger. It might be something your character experiences, or it might be displayed by a minor character they encounter. But big it up, as the end is near!


Nanowrimo 26th Daily Writing Prompt

Reading Time: 1 minute

Today write about the obstacles in a journey, perhaps a mundane journey or a climactic, life changing one. Include plenty of detail about what kept your characters from proceeding smoothly.