Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Steph Sinkhorn

Y'all have heard the big news, right? The news about today's superstar blogger and newly-agented-author-of-mythic-proportions, right? No? Then please allow me this SUPER proud moment to introduce to you Steph Sinkhorn! And if you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading her blog from last week where she shares her good news (and may or may not make my eyes water), then GET OVER THERE! After you read this post, of course...

A (Maybe) Genius’ Tips for NaNo

You probably just started writing your NaNovel for this month. Congratulations! Do you know how many people talk about writing a book, about having all these ideas, but they never put pen to paper (or cursor to screen)? A LOT. A LOT OF PEOPLE. So good for you for undertaking the big, scary task that is creating a novel.

I’m a big proponent of NaNoWriMo for just this reason – it gets people to write. There are so many different paths to becoming an author, but there’s only one 100% irrefutable fact: if you want to be a writer, YOU MUST WRITE. There are no tricks or shortcuts for getting around it. So many people have issues with scheduling that essential writing time, and NaNo gives them just the kick in the butt they need to take the plunge.

I’m not a ten-year NaNo veteran like some other folks – my first attempt was in 2007 – but I have won the challenge. Today I’ll be sharing with you my tips for getting those 50,000 little words down on the page.

- As our dear blog hostess told you on the very first day of this blogfest, IT IS OKAY TO SUCK. In fact, you are SUPPOSED to suck. Sucking is how we eventually get better. Do not let the fact that you’re not writing Hemingway-level prose right out of the gate discourage you. NaNo is about quantity, not quality. Quality comes later.

- Don’t edit as you go or you’ll never finish. Remember that “quality comes later” thing? Yeah.

- Write the way that works for you, but remember that playing catch-up can be brutal. If you work best in 12,000 word bursts over the weekend, go for it. If you want to write daily, aim for 1700 words a day. Aiming for 2000-2500 words a day will give you some breathing room to take a day or two off if you need it.

- Pick a schedule and stick to it as best you can. Really. That might mean getting up an hour earlier or missing your evening television, but it’s best to get into a regular writing habit. When it feels like part of your routine, you can hardly believe you didn’t make time for it before.

- Does competition inspire you or discourage you? If you’re someone who loves a friendly race, check other word counts and see if you can beat them. If seeing someone pulling ahead of you makes you feel like a loser, then avoid looking at anyone else’s word count. Move at your own pace.

- If you need a few quick “cheats” to beef up your count, here are a few ideas: don’t (do not) use contractions, allow your characters to go on random info-dumps, insert a complex dream sequence, have someone break into song and sing the entire thing, or bring in an unexpected element and have all the characters express their surprised thoughts. Very wordily.

- Writer’s Block does not exist. I repeat, Writer’s Block does not exist. You are always in control of your words. If you’ve written yourself into a corner, break yourself out. Don’t worry about leaving gaping plot holes or “cheating” your way out of a situation. The important thing is getting the story out however you have to.

- When you hit 50K, pour yourself a drink (or have a treat, if you’re not the drinking sort). You’ve earned it. Why? Because you’re amazing and you WROTE A BOOK.

Now comes the obligatory part where I remind you that finishing a novel draft is a HUGE accomplishment, but it’s not the end of the road. That sucker probably needs at least three more months of work (AT LEAST) before it should be let out into the world. But that’s for later. For now, rejoice in your awesomeness!

NaNo is a for-fun exercise, but that doesn’t mean the things that come out of it are useless. You learn from every word you put down. And hey, in that shitty first draft, there may be a kernel of gold. I should know… my current manuscript started as a messy, no good, terrible NaNo draft. And now, two years later, it’s good. And it’s going places.

Good luck, writers!

S.E. Sinkhorn is a YA author who blogs at Maybe Genius ( Her YA Steampunk novel, THE TICK-TOCK HEARTS, started its life as a NaNo draft and just took the next big step into Agentland - she signed with literary agent Michelle Andelman last week. To get the full scoop, visit her blog! You can also follow her on Twitter: @sesinkhorn.


  1. The news about today's superstar blogger and newly-agented-author-of-mythic-proportions...

    HA! Oh, TL, you made me laugh :) And blush. Thank you! I hope this entry is helpful, folks.

  2. I fully blame my inner editor for failing last year. My inner editor is such a bossy person.

  3. I'm going with the Adapted Steph Sinkhorn method and will have a celebratory drink for every 10K mark I hit. :)

    All jokes aside, I wholeheartedly agree with this: "You learn from every word you put down." I can see how much my writing has improved in just the past two years. This tells me that NaNo has NEVER been a waste of my time.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement! First two days of NaNo have been great--I met my goals, but I know I will need to remember stuff like this post on those days when things will be crazy!

  5. Congrats on getting an agent! - and esp. for a NaNoWriMo book - that gives me hope! Love your little tricks for getting to your word count.

  6. I keep telling myself it's the bare bones of the plot this book will become once this first mad draft is finished. It may feel rubbish some times, but it's going to get better!

  7. Excellent tips! Giving your characters really long names helps as well. (Not that I thought to do that...)

  8. I actually allow myself to edit as i go, otherwise the draft would need so much work later that i'd probably abandon it.
    BUT! And this is a big but. I am not allowed to look at anything i've written until i finish the word count for the day. Once i've done that, then i'm allowed to go back an read what i've written. It's an agreement with myself that works really well

  9. How could I forget about adding musical numbers? Great tips!


I love getting comments. They're as much fun as getting real snail mail. So please, chime in and tell me what you think!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...