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.






First Draft Forgiveness – let yourself off these ‘writer sins’

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Fast First Draft Tips
Do not let concerns about plausibility – or style – slow you down in your first draft. Snakes-head exhaust pipe on classic sports car, Liverpool 2014

I’m currently writing a fast and horrible first draft. Fast because I have the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull, and horrible because I need to just rattle out ideas regardless of style or grace. To do this I need to forgive myself a host of writing sins. I’m finding this very useful and rather relaxing. Here are my top 6 things I cast gleefully aside in order to get the words out.

  1. Adverbs. Oh, how the adverbs spill out joyously, easily, triumphantly once you switch off the inner LAZY WRITING alarm. My characters are free to speak firmly, to turn awkwardly, or swoon completely away. It’s bliss, I must say. Strong verbs, take a break. I’ll be back for you later.
  2. Accuracy. Was Hyde Park in existence in 1820, so that my characters can go for a drive in it? Does it take two days to get from London to Hastings, or only one? Or a week? Is my novel in fact set in 1820 – or some other year when there may, or may not have been the Napoleonic Wars still happening? I’ll look it up when I’m done with the plot.*
  3. The exact order of events. Often I’m flying along in Chapter Six when I realise that something ought to have been referenced in Chapter Five, but I forgot to mention it. Quick, go back and between some asterisks, insert the line which will tie it all together. So what if it breaks up the flow of the dialogue? It’s one less thing to remember for the second draft.
  4. Typing and punctuation. Obviously. Unless it makes your writing incomprehensible, leave all the your/you’re stuff for later. Especially if, like me, you’re typing it all on your phone, under the tyranny of the AutoCorrect. Every single ‘the’ autocorrects to ‘Rye.’ All of them. It’s highly irritating, but I’m not changing them now. I haven’t got time.
  5. Repetition. Your hero just flicked his fingers at a servant, and then two paragraphs later, your heroine flicks a crumb from her skirt. Aarrgghh. Never mind, you can it in the second draft.
  6. Finding the exact right word. Sometimes I can see the scene very clearly but cannot pinpoint the specific thing which will call it perfectly into the reader’s mind. When this happens I just write all around it, hoping that when I return to it, my mess of over-description will prompt me to the phrase I need. The sky was, um,  dull, silvery, grudging, the colour of a dented teapot at a service station. One of those will call up the required mood, and I’ll decide which one on the way back.

Those are the main things I throw out of the window when I need to write fast. Anyone who’s read my recent posts to The Write Practice may have noticed a slight dip in, uh, grace. But I cannot stop for beauty. I must Get This Done. And on that note, I’m off. More next week.


*Or I won’t bother, since this is alternate-timeline historical fantasy. Maybe the Napoleonic struggles happened a bit earlier or later. Maybe I’ll just put a massive caveat inside the front cover asking readers not to contact me with all the anachronisms. Maybe I’ll worry about that in November.



My terrifying timeline

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Knole Park, 2016
Fighting through problems, and smashing deadlines.

Do I dare? Do I dare put dates and deadlines to what I’m trying to achieve, and have to acknowledge publicly when I miss or make those targets? Is my book, my weird Young Adult Arthurian Genderfluid Fantasy Coming Of Age novel really going to become accountable?

Yeah, why not? Chris Baty is big on accountability. Also deadlines. He invented Nanowrimo around those core principles in 2000 and that is now a venerable institution.

In Nanowrimo you write a complete 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’ve participated eleven times, aced it seven times, (one story is now a Sherlock Holmes time travel Dracula fanfiction love story here) and it taught me how to write fast.  So given that writing fast is what my next goals require, this should be a cinch.

  • Middle section – approx 20000 words – by end of July
  • End section – approx 40000 words – by end August
  • First draft generally whipped into shape, to be a novel of perhaps 90 000 words- by end September.
  • Sit back and take a break. -I’m kidding.
  • October – Start the rewrites.  My aim is to have something on the Kindle shelves by the end of the year. This year.

Yes, these are quite distant deadlines, by Self Publishing School standards. SPS founder, Chandler Bolt, reckons you can outline, write and launch a Kindle book in 90 days. I’m sure you can. But I’ve learned a lot about myself these last few years, and I know that the next 90 days are pretty likely to hold a few brick walls from Real Life. Worrying about work deadlines doesn’t help climb over those walls. So there’s leeway here. Maybe too much leeway? What do you think? Am I being soft?

My real issue is that I have other writing projects ongoing as well. Some purely for-fun ones which I nevertheless want to complete (three of them, two nearing the end and one really not…) plus my ongoing involvement with The Write Practice; plus I want to continue to make short stories and submit them to possible markets, just for the practice of the craft.

So OK. I have these deadlines. Are they crazy – crazily lax, crazily tight, or what? I don’t know. Let’s find out.