Saturday, 8 October 2011

NaNo 2011, Post 3, 23 days to go! Tips & Tricks

I've actually started to slightly get together a plot, I've got characters (but they are still missing names ;) ) and I've got... okay that is it ;) So yeah, I'm going for a vampire story with a twist.

But today I'm not gonna be talking about my NaNo preparations, I'm going to be talking about how to make sure that you don't suddenly end up with too few words on the last day of NaNo (which has happened before, so don't freak out already), some ways to keep track of your word count and your to-do count and end with a couple of tips. Tip of the post program is Simon Hayes' yWriter.

Yeah, not uncommon to happen... But don't freak out. There are ways to solve this. The best tip out there is to use the NaNo validator all the time, but not everybody wants to constantly update on the NaNo website when they are writing.
The big bad guy here seems to be Open Office, the conclusion being that if you use curly quotes they will count extra, if not then not. They have updated recently and I lost a huge chunk of words (and I love using curly quotes) so they might have solved this problem.

So, what accounts for the difference in words?
- space count vs 5 character count (some programs, like the NaNo counter, count every space and give that as a word count and some programs count every 5th or 6th character as a word, I found a post here where someone explains it very well.)
- the way the program handles quotes (curly or straight quotes, but as far as I know only the double ones)
- hyphening (some count the hyphened word as two and some as one, red-haired is in some counted as two and some as one)

There are a couple of ways to make sure that you keep the right word count.
The program yWriter is specially designed to work with NaNo and gives the right wordcount all the time
You can use a simple text program and just check for yourself how they count the words, possibly by using the link I provided above. If you see it counts spaces you can assume the word count should be fine for NaNo, though I don't know if the NaNo count uses one or two words for hyphenated words (someone who can help us out and comment on this?).

Also as a last resort, check your work into the official validator on the 25th of November and see how far you are, if your wordcount is off then you have 5 more days to get that right. I have heard really high error margins so you might want to make sure you have a 1 or 2 day leeway for "fixing" your word count.
DON'T leave officially checking until the last day! You might be a couple of hundred words off and not win even though your word count told you you had enough! Don't fall into this, cause that would be really bad :(

So, now that stress is gone how are you going to keep track of the word count day by day? Are you going to depend on the NaNo tracker or use a different way?
I haven't decided what I'll be doing, but I'll list the different options that I have found (some links might be for NaNo 2010 but it shouldn't be hard to change)
- standard 1666.6 words every day for 30 days, most used way to keep track. I will put a link to these when the NaNo forum reboots on Monday.
- 2000 words per day so you have a slight leeway of 5 days at the end, for when you might be ill or something. I know yWriter developer and Science Fiction writer Simon Haynes uses this method as he describes in this post.
- go from high to low, so write a lot in the first couple of days and then write less and less until you only have a few words each day at the end of the month.
- go from low to high and then low again, so you get a slow start have a very intense middle and then a slow ending again. Might be one of the harder ways to do it as it involves a lot of writing around the November 15 mark at which point most people start to worry and freak out.
Some people swear by one method, some use a combination of methods, you have to decide for yourself what works best, as long as you make the 50k at the end of the month ;)
I can't say what method I will be using as I have classes 3 days a week so I only have 4 days of dedicated writing. I might put up a chart when I create my own.

Tips and tricks:
- bribe yourself with something nice for if you finish at the end of the month, or even better after you reach certain goals. Some hate this, some love this, I think it might be good for those who get discouraged easily.
- outline up front, make use of October to outline your story so you know where everything will go. Don't worry if in the end you won't follow it, but if you know where you want to go you have more chance to actually make it to the end. (even if the end of November is nowhere near where you intended it to be, as long as it's 50k it's fine)
- interact with other NaNoers. This might sound silly, but you will feel better by interacting with those that are in the same boat as you are. Are you having a bad day? There will be more who are. Did 7k in one day? Big change you can find more who did that. Share your highs and lows and you might not fall into the pit of despair around the 15 day mark.
- stock food in the freezer. You can save a lot of time every day by having food that is easy to prepare. I will spend the Monday before NaNo at the shops and then preparing a lot of food. The more you have up front the more time you don't have to spend each day preparing it. Of course I could eat fast-food every day but I've been trying to get healthy and don't want to gain everything over NaNo.

Tip of the post:
yWriter is a program that is specially designed for novel writing. It is especially useful for NaNo'ers because it uses the same way to count words as the NaNo counter does.
You can keep track of your characters, items, places, etc. in a really easy way, which will save you a lot of time during NaNo (which you don't have much of it to begin with) and you can makes changes on the go.
I myself use some of his other programs more frequently, like Remind Me Please which keeps track of appointments and such.

Keep writing!