Is it Cheating to Use Tricks to Get to 50K?
50,000 words in 30ish days. That’s the NaNoWriMo goal and it breaks down to about 1667 words a day.
For some, word counts in the thousands a day is routine. For others (*cough cough* like me), this is no small feat.
Prior to NaNo, I averaged about 5-600 words a day. 750 was a pretty good day. And 100o was cause for a parade and statue erected in my honor (in my head, anyway).
Of course, I was also hand writing all those words. So that may have played a big part.
Coming up on November, the idea of hitting 1667 daily was nothing short of terrifying.
But then I remembered reading a post on padding your word count for NaNoWriMo and 750Words.com. At the time, I ignored the advice. Sounded like a good idea but I didn’t think I needed it.
And I didn’t need it for 750 words but for 1600-2K?
Right here, it might help to tell you a little about my writing style. I tend to write sparely and flesh out the work in revisions. Even then, I favor lean-ish writing (for my fiction, anyway) in the finished product and I hate to have to clip out a bunch of nonsense to get there.
Lean won’t cut it for NaNo.
My word count has got to get fat. Fast.
Except, how could I possibly use sneaky, dirty tricks for reaching 50K? That’s cheating, right?
Still, I was willing to give it a try. After all, NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality.
Quality is for rewrites.
I picked three tricks and settled into my first day. 2400+ words later, I was sold on word count tricks.
The idea that I had a little help with word count eased my anxiety about writing.
And, it put a gag on my inner editor. Putting in material I know I’ll cut out later actually made me feel free to just write whatever popped into my head. I can just cut it out later too, I told myself. It worked like magic. My inner editor was too busy gaping at all those ridiculous tricks to pay attention to the story experimentation.
Yet another unexpected benefit of all word count obesity was deep insight into my story. As I piled on the description, inner monologue and musings, I started to see connections between the characters that I hadn’t seen before. I found backstory that sizzled. I even discovered a couple of new characters who brought with them suitcases fully of subplot possibilities.
In short, those word count tricks which were just intended to soften the blow of 1667 words a day actually made me write completely non-tricked out words. And the more I write, the less heavily I’m relying on the tricks because the story’s starting to flow all by itself.
Here are my favorite word count tricks so far:
- No contractions: Do not instead of don’t. She is instead of she’s. And so on. You get two words instead of one. This is likely to lead to relatively smaller gains but sometimes even one extra word makes a huge difference. I only use this one in narrative. When I tried it with dialogue (except for some of my more uptight characters), it came off sounding too stiff and killed the flow. Word Count Calorie Rating: Fun Size Milky Way.
- Always use full names, titles, etc: If your character’s name is Bucky Ball, make sure you always refer to him as Bucky Ball and not just Bucky. You can also add a title such as Bucky Ball, Ruler of the Known Universe and Prince of Underpants. Or you can go with a genealogy element: Bucky Ball, son of Basket and Base Ball. This can lead to substantial gains, depending on how often you mention characters by name. Again, I only use this in narrative as it feels way to heavy in dialogue. Word Count Calorie Rating: Hot Fudge Sundae.
- Loads of description, inner monologues, musings, etc: Describe everything, from what people look like to what they’re wearing. Describe every detail of the location. Make the characters do a lot of thinking and soul-searching. Have them ramble to themselves and each other about the situation. Potentially massive gains plus the chance to realize new aspects of your story. I use more or less of this depending on how fast the scene is coming to me. Word Count Calorie Rating: Two Extra Large Doughnut Burger Combos with Extra Cheese, Super Size Soft Drink and a Hot Fudge Sundae.
Here are more word count fattening ideas from around the web:
- Suggestions from NaNoWriMo participants.
- 5 Completely and Utterly Ridiculous Ways to Boost Your NaNo Word Count
- Top 10 Ways to Increase Your NaNoWriMo Word Count
Do you pad your word count or is that cheating? What are your favorite tricks?
Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
Cat (05) – 20Jul10, Phaistos (Grece) by philippe leroyer, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Dancepuss by brandoncripps, on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Fat Cat Moe by Dan Perry, on Flickr CC BY 2.0
Hostage by Scott Joseph, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Miami-Dade Fair 10 by Bob B. Brown, on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0