If you have, and you’re participating this year, how are you doing? Are you on track? Have you fallen behind and lost hope of finishing? Are you fiddling with your Scrivener trial instead of writing?
With half the month gone and the holidays looming, here are some tips to help you get caught up and refocused.
When you’re elbows-deep in a fresh project, don’t waste time finessing software settings. Your job is to write. Save labels, status, custom icons, etc. for December.
Use Dark Mode
Dark Mode makes composing easier on your eyes. My only caveat is this can make things like highlighting a bit hard to distinguish. Don’t mess around setting custom colors right now, though; find one that works and keep writing.
Separate Each Scene
You won’t always know right away where some scenes will work best. Different apps can help with this in different ways. In Word and Google Docs, you can set the start of each chapter as Heading 1 to make easy reference points. GDocs creates a Table of Contents to the left, and Word has an easy way to insert the same at the beginning of the document. In Scrivener, you can set up folders for each chapter with individual text files for scenes, each uniquely named for quick reference.
These changes only take a few clicks: highlight text and change from Normal to Heading 1 (Word and GDocs) or choose “Split at Selection” from the context menu (Scrivener). Don’t waste your time on this one if you aren’t already struggling to check things you’ve previously referenced, but try it moving forward to easily find things you might have to double-check.
Write, Don’t Edit—Yet
It’s hard not to re-read what you’ve written, but that will be a time-killer in NaNo. December is for editing, so limit yourself to a line or two just to remember where you left off. If you realize you need to change something, use your app’s comment function.
Depending on how big an issue something is in your plot, it may need resolving before you can continue writing. Instead of rewriting all the related scenes, highlight the problem and make a comment. I use this space to tweak things without fully rewriting.
Each app has a different way to insert comments. In GDocs, right-click or go to the Formatting bar. In Word, right-click or go to the Review tab. Both will have a cartoon-style speech bubble to insert a new comment. In Scrivener, the same icon is on the far right of the right sidebar (the Inspector)—you’ll click that, and then the matching icon below it creates a new one. Whichever app you use, this lets you highlight text and make a note about it off to the side where it won’t be part of the story.
Resolve the problem in your mind so you can move on.
Kill Your Darlings, but Don’t Bury Them
Sometimes a scene is so wrong that you absolutely need to rewrite it now instead of waiting till December. But don’t just delete it—there might be some gold nuggets in there that you can reuse! This is why I love Scrivener’s Snapshot feature. Click the camera icon in the Inspector and then the +. This saves a copy of what you’ve written. You can open these to review later and even use the “roll back” function if you decide it worked better the first time. Maybe just take a Snapshot of your new version, too, before going that route.
If you’re using another app, there are other options for you. If the change you’re making is substantial, you can always save a new version of the file. If it’s smaller, maybe just a scene or a snippet of dialogue, copy the old and paste it in a comment. It will be right there when you’re going back through and want to reconsider it.
Stop in the Middle
When you need to keep your momentum going but have to step away from the keyboard, leaving off mid-sentence or mid-scene can make it easier to dive back in when you come back. To hold your train of thought, make a comment with a few keywords instead of rushing through to stop. It’s like placing a bookmark, and you’ll be better able to wrap it up when you’re not rushing.
Above all, just keep writing. Even if you don’t finish by 11:59 on November 30, you’ve got this.
About The Writer: Susan is the mom of two kids and a furbaby/editorial assistant who knows the phrase “Let’s write!” means she gets to curl up on Mom’s bed and look out the window. Susan has been writing stories since she was first able to write, and she started editing in college when her studies and interests led down that path. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.