It’s November! And you know what that means? No, not pumpkin spice the everything! November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And for those of us who are trying to reach that coveted 50,000 word count by the end of the month, I have for you the secret to success, a list of ingenious ways you can increase your word count without bruising your brain.
1. Give your characters super long names
Ever wonder why George R. R. Martin’s novels are so thick? It’s because of his character’s names. Take Daenerys Targaryen for example. During her campaign in Slaver’s Bay, she is introduced as Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. That’s 40 words and you’ve only introduced the main character! And how about Robert Baratheon? His name is so long they actually say “so on” and “so forth” while writing it out to save on word count. But for those of us trying to win NaNoWriMo, we’d write the name out.
2. Have your characters break into song whenever possible
Why not? Tolkien did it. How else would his books have ended up so long? So make up a song, a silly song, or have your characters sing a popular number from their time period. If all else fails they can sing “The Song That Doesn’t End” from Lamb Chops Sing-Along, as many rounds as it takes to make your word count goal.
3. Provide lengthy descriptions of everyone/everything
Another thing Tolkien did to stretch his stories out was to provide lengthy descriptions of characters and plants. And if he could get away with it, why not you? So, instead of saying something simple and direct like “she fled into the forest” try fleshing it out with more adjectives until you end up with something like “The young brunette girl in the white and blue polka dotted dress fled into the thick, damp, and moldy forest. Her red high heel shoes stuck in the sticky brown mud.” See how many more words there are when you describe every single little detail?
4. Have your characters slip into lengthy monologues
Even if they have nothing important to say, have them say a lot. Nothing like a three-page monologue to up the word count. Villains, in particular, are good at this sort of thing. Just watch any cartoon or movie to see how it’s done.
5. Copy and paste the same scene multiple times
Go through your draft and find a scene you really like. Copy it. Paste it. Repeat until you reach your word count goal.
6. Give every character a complex backstory and share it
Either by storytelling or by flashback, reveal every single character’s complicated backstory. That’s sure to add pages to your draft and help you reach your word count goal.
7. Create a ton of minor characters
The dialogue alone will increase your word count. Then there’s the added description, interactions, and backstory. Make them argue, tell jokes, quip, and banter. The more the merrier. Make sure you give them all really long names!
8. Fill your story with filler filling
If your characters run out of things to do or defeat the baddie before you reach 50,000 words, have them go on a side adventure like a shopping spree or a trip to the circus, whatever keeps them busy and ups your word count. A visit from a long lost grandmother is sure to keep your main character occupied while his best friend and worst enemy go out on a date. Whatever inconsequential activity you can think up, it’s sure to pay off word-count wise.
9. Have your characters perform tedious daily tasks
Another reason why George R. R. Martin’s novels are so long. His characters eat, sleep, bathe, and f**k as often as they can and then they eat some more. So have your characters wake up each morning, wash their faces, do their chores, eat breakfast, pee, wipe their butts, eat lunch, roll in the hay, eat dinner, pray, and go to bed. And don’t forget to describe in great detail what they’re having for dinner!
10. When all else fails resort to button smashing
Yes, you heard me. Hit the keys. Random words, letters, and numbers are sure to add up eventually. Special characters probably count, too, so don’t exclude the top row on your keyboard.
Now you’re ready to . . . write the world’s worst pile of drivel. Okay, let’s quit playing around. Here are some GOOD tips to increasing your word count:
1. Wake up an hour early or stay up an hour late
Better than finding more words and scenes to write is to find more time to write. Having more time will allow you to pace yourself and focus on putting down words that will enhance your story, not harm it.
2. Drink coffee
I don’t drink coffee in the mornings; I drink it ALL DAY LONG! Caffeine makes us more productive and allows our brains to work more rapidly, allowing us to get a lot done. Coffee helps us stay alert, plus it tastes good and keeps us happy while writing those difficult scenes.
3. Plan. Plot. and Prep
I’m a panster at heart, but I create an outline because I must. It helps to know where your story is going so when you come to a blank page you spend less time wondering what should happen and instead spend your time actually writing what you know should happen next. Plus, you save yourself half the headache during revisions.
4. Gag your internal editor
The best way to get words down on paper is to put them down and leave them. Your internal editor is going to want to stop, go back, and tweak that word. Tell that internal editor to shut up because he’s/she’s wasting your time. Remember, you can always go back and fix that word or sentence later. The goal is to just get the words down on paper.
5. Generate new ideas and try them out
You’re in the drafting stage, not the editing stage, so take this time to brainstorm new ideas and try them out. Bad ideas can always be cut out later, and good ideas can take your story to a whole new level.
6. Explore the unexplored
Wondering if those two characters should hook up or what would happen if those two characters were left alone together? What if so-and-such never died? Wonder no more. Write it. Unnecessary filler can be cut later, and if nothing else, the scenes you did cut will still have allowed you to explore your characters in more depth. Themes, characters, and conflicts should all be explored and played with during the drafting phase. Remember, you can cut out the crap later.
7. Create an interesting cast of minor supporting characters
Give your main character someone to talk to and interact with. Loners don’t reach word count goals. Plus, characters are more interesting when placed beside someone who pulls out their best and worse qualities. Take Shrek for example. He was pretty boring until Donkey and Fiona showed up.
8. Add internal conflicts to external conflicts
Instead of just adding more and more action scenes to up your word count, add some internal conflict during the scenes you already have. If your main character is pitted against a monster, don’t just have him battle the beast; have him battle his own cowardice as well. Maybe fighting isn’t his first response to a conflict. Maybe he’s worried he’s a wimp. Maybe he’s a careless showboat and needs to learn a lesson. Maybe he has to choose between saving himself or his friend or choose which friend he can save. The internal conflict will not only add word count but it will set the stakes so much higher.
9. Let your characters talk
Don’t just give your hero traveling companions to ride with. Have them talk and argue, quip, and banter while they ride or camp or whatever. Even the dullest of travel scenes can be improved by a few well-timed jokes plus dialogue increases word count.
10. Just. Keep. Writing.
Seriously, the only way to increase word count is to keep writing. So, just keep writing, writing, writing. What do we do, we write! Write!
There you have it, 10 ingenious ways to increase your word count and win NaNoWriMo. If you have other fun or helpful ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments below.