NaNoWriMo: Productive Procrastination

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. But instead of giving you the typical tips and tricks for how to write 50K words in a month's time, I thought I'd do the opposite—give you advice on what to do when you may not make your daily, weekly, or overall goal.

You've had a long day at school. Or work. Your friends are driving you crazy and your roommate, dog, or kids, boyfriend or girlfriend, wife or husband won't leave you alone. You woke up late. You have a cold. You just don't feel like it. Either way, today sucks, and it's going to be humanly impossible to write those 1,666 words. 

Before you beat yourself up about what you can't do, think about what you can. Can you write one word? A list? A sentence? Do you have 15 minutes to hide in the bathroom before your shower, or to run to the store and sit in the parking lot before you go grocery shopping? Steal those minutes and make them count with productive procrastination (It's a thing).

Start with the bones.

Start with the bones of your story. Build up your skeleton when you're unable to put a ton of words on the page. Worry about the meat later.

Who is the main character? 

What does he/she want? 

What is stopping him or her from getting it?

If you know the basics, (Jimi. She wants to go to college. She has a sick kid sister, and she helps pay the medical bills, so her parents want her to get a full time job) build on them. Think about your character's family, her friends, her love interest. Think about who those secondary characters are, and what they want, and how that complicates your MC's goal. 

These are the head, heart, and arms, of your story. Now, you just have to give it legs. 

Write what you can.

If you already know your main character, their motivation, and their conflict, start building on that. Think about your setting. Identify the climax and resolution, as well as the main rising and falling action of your plot. Make a list of what you want to happen and when, even if you can't write out a full scene. Your future self will thank you for using the time to plan instead of feeling guilty. 

If you already have a fully fleshed-out outline, write a scene you've been looking forward to writing, even if it's only 100 words long. Puzzle out how a scene can work logistically. Draw a story board (stick figures are fine!) if you can't figure out what to say. Do the entire scene in dialogue, like a screen play—you can fill in character's gestures later (or maybe you won't even need them if your dialogue is strong enough). 

Just do what you can. And let that be enough.

Get to know your characters.

You can never get to know your characters well enough. If you know you're not going to hit your goal for the day, do an exercise that will bring you closer to the main players in your story. There are tons of worksheets online that ask questions about characters (where they live, what their occupation is, what they like to wear or eat or what they like to do in their free time), but you can have some fun with this.

Find a writing prompt and write with your character in mind even if the prompt has nothing to do with your story. 

Write a review for a TV show in your character's voice.

Write a journal entry about your day as if everything that happened to you happened to your character. How would they react to a long line at the bank? What would they do if they got yelled at by their boss? 

Even if you don't use any of what you end up writing in your story, it's still valuable work that will help you tell your character's story more authentically.

Celebrate small victories.

Did you write 1000 words, but didn't quite make it to 1,666? Have some ice cream! 

Did you write 500 words, plus outlined your next 2 chapters? Cheers to you! 

Did you make a novel To Do list, so tomorrow morning you'll be ready to write? Reward yourself by watching an episode of your favorite show!

Celebrate your small victories. It will do wonders for your morale. 

Remember: All forward motion counts. 

​So even if you aren't exactly writing, as long as you're productively procrastinating, you're still working towards your goal. And that is something to be proud of!

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Ashley W.

Even though I work in marketing, I’m a consumer in every sense of the word: I love shopping, indie movies, …

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