Nano Tip: Increase Your Word Count

At Nanowrimo time of year I see all sorts of tips on how to increase your word count. Use "all of a sudden" instead of "suddenly". Do not use contractions. Use every adjective you can think of to describe something and then come back and edit down the correct one. These will work, and it would be a bold faced lie if I said I've never let unnecessary words stand in the name of the mighty word count, but I honestly try to avoid them whenever possible. If you plan on doing something with your manuscript that doesn't involve fire or locking it in a drawer and throwing away the key, then you are going to have to edit it at some point. For me, I have to trim enough fat out of my work that I can't afford to just throw in snack sized Kit Kat bars of words for fun, even if it will get me to the 50,000 holy grail faster.

My Word Count Tip: My word count tip is actually very simple. When I finish writing for the day (preferred) or when I start in the morning I take a couple of minutes to make a plan of my scenes. I know all of you pantsers out there are quaking in your writing pants right now, but I'm not talking about outlining here just a to-do list of sorts. For example, if my word count for the day is say 1,667 words, I would jot down a quick list of all the scenes I know I have coming up (in whatever order as I am a non-sequential writer) and an estimate of their word counts. If possible I try to make sure I have at least one scene more than the required word count for the day in case my other scenes fall short or I'm just not feeling something during the scene. 

If you were writing a book about wizards and vampires in a dystopian fight to death reality show, your list might look like this:


Wizard Zednor offers self as tribute - 250 words

Zednor says goodbye to best vampire friend Sally - 500 words

Full cast homage to Frozen - 800 words

Zednor tells Sally he loves her - 250 words

Sally tries to bite Zednor - 500 words


As you can see I usually keep a standard (250/short scene, 500/medium scene, 800/long scene). None of this is set in stone and none of it goes into too much detail that it affects my ability to run with the scene wherever it takes me. Most times, I am usually conservative on my word count estimates and end up going way over. 

This gets tougher as time goes on because it is always easier to start a new scene than to add words to something you've already been working on. Around the last week of November, my to-do list has a lot of "Finish chapter/scene X - 250 words" on it.  



Why It Works: There seems to be two reasons, at least for me anyway.

1.) I'm not staring at a blank screen trying to figure out where to start. I have an idea about the focus of the scene and about how long I think it's going to take. This helps cut out a lot of that wasted time trying to figure out where to go next. 

2.) If I have a plan, and even better if I wrote the plan the day before, my subconscious starts doing the heavy lifting for me. If I know that tomorrow I'm writing an epic battle or a first kiss, my brain is already starting to put together the details without my knowledge (or sometimes my consent). By the time I put my fingers to the keys I already have some of the kinks worked out letting me get the ideas out faster.


So that's my tip. If you're a plotter you might already do something like this, but it breaks down your outline to a micro level to get the brain juices pumping. If you're a pantser, you only have to plan one day at a time. Maybe only half a day if that is how you operate, but it will help give you some direction and at least some early morning motivation to get moving. 


How do you keep up with your word count goals? Are you? 


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