How to Write a Decent Draft in 30 Days or Less | NaNo Talk 2015


Whether you’ve written novels outside of NaNoWriMo before or NaNo is your first novel-writing experience, it’s tough to balance quality with quantity. For everyone. Experienced writers mostly agree that during NaNo, the most important thing is getting the words out: there will be time for editing out all the garbage later.

While this may be true, and no one is actually suggesting you have to write an awful novel during the month of November, part of the experience is feeling like you’re making good progress – not just word-count wise, but that you’re writing something halfway decent. Something you won’t have to completely trash come December.

It’s hard. We know. So we’ve come up with some tips to keep you updating your word count, and feeling good about those words, too.

Carry your novel with you

Google Drive is an excellent free NaNo tool you can use to take your novel with you wherever you go. When brain rush blocks out all thoughts unrelated to your story, you basically have no choice but to write a little just to get it out of your system (good for word count and sanity too, eh?).

But you also have a job, errands, places to go, lines to wait in, everywhere to be except a place where you can pull out your laptop and crank out a few hundred words. Keeping your novel in a Google Doc lets you open it from anywhere – your phone, your tablet, on your lunch break – and if you’re on a roll, 100 words can happen in no time at all. That can add up over the course of just a day.

Mark your mistakes

There’s not always time to fix continuity errors, especially on days you just need to get the words done and move on. But those errors still bug most of us, sometimes to the point where we either have to try and fix them or risk not being able to write well, or at all, because we’re too distracted by that character who just ate an apple even though earlier she said she hates fruit. (It’s the little things, you know?)

Use a highlighting tool or bold or different colored text to mark places you notice you’ve made a mistake. Not only will this help you move on from them now, but it will make editing later a lot easier. And if you are having a rough writing day but still want to spend time with your novel, see if you can fix some of those small things – and maybe add some words in the process.

Find a place to store your ideas

Brain rush (you might use the phrase “plot bunnies” interchangeably in this case) does not usually happen when we need it to, like when we’re sitting at our desks and writing our daily 1,667 is the only thing left we need to get done today. It comes on when we’re trying to fall asleep, driving to work, in the middle of working on something else. It’s inconvenient, but we can’t ignore it.

Especially during November, we need places to store the ideas we can’t get rid of but can’t sit down and write right this second. Sticky notes, voice memos or a similar note-taking method gets the idea out in that moment you can’t do anything with it, and the fear of forgetting it vanishes, too.


You will have days you don’t feel like writing. Maybe you already have (or today is one). What’s important is that you make the decision that’s best for you: write a small amount that you’re going to be able to keep or just write whatever comes to you, even if it’s not good.

Remember, just because your first draft isn’t exactly what you want it to be doesn’t mean it’s “bad.” Writing 50,000+ words in 30 days sounds impossible, and writing 50,000+ good words sounds even more so. But you can do it. YOU CAN DO IT!!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Today We Finally Define “Brain Rush”


We’ve talked about it more than once, leaving the phrase up to interpretation. We want to talk about it more. But we can’t do that if we continue to neglect defining what it actually means.

Here’s what comes up on the first page of search results when you type “brain rush” into Google:

BrainRush, “high-efficiency game-based learning” from Adaptive Practice™ (they’re also on Twitter @GoBrainRush and they have, at this moment, 536 likes on Facebook)

Brain Rush, the Android puzzle app (Brain Shape Rush for IOS)

Brain Rush (the American T.V. game show that lasted, count it, one month)

Putting the words “brain” and “rush” together isn’t something new. There are a lot of companies and concepts out there dedicated to combining creativity and fun with learning and thought development.

In a way, we’re doing the same thing. Writing is a creative process, but it requires a lot of brain power. Sometimes it’s hard to get a string of thoughts together; other times, it’s impossible to stop thinking.

Therefore, we like to use the phrase “brain rush” too. Maybe a bit differently than playing a game or watching reruns of a short-lived T.V. show (if you want, you can watch the Cartoon Network show promo here).

What is brain rush? 

For writers and other creative thinkers, brain rush is that occasional yet glorious (and sometimes annoying, inconvenient, overwhelming) period of time when ideas rush into your brain nonstop. Old ideas, new ideas, odd combinations of both—you’ll be reading something, watching something, eating dinner, and boom—brain rush. Sometimes so severe you have to write something down, fast.

Why? To make room for more ideas, of course. But really because the feeling of harboring multiple ideas at once, accompanied by the fear of forgetting them, is worse than actually (temporarily) forgetting them.

How do you manage brain rush?

Whether you’re for writing down your ideas or against it, find some way to get the ones that stick out to you most out of your head somehow. Make a note in your phone. Scribble keywords down on a post-it note. Record a voice memo. Do something to free your mind from the rush of thoughts inside. Then, leave it there and go on with what you were doing before the rush.

When you go back to your phone, post-it, voice memo, whatever your method, your list of ideas might not seem quite as promising as they did when they first came to you. This is exactly why it’s never a good suggestion to jump on a new idea the second you think of it. With the rush comes excitement, a tiny bit of healthy mania. It’s likely, though, that only a few of those original thoughts, or maybe even just one, is worth developing further.

Is brain rush a good thing?

It can be, if you know how to manage it. After period of “brain drought” (much more justifiable than writer’s block, because your brain can’t block thoughts that aren’t there!) brain rush can quench your creative thirst and melt your fears of never being able to come up with a decent idea ever again (we’ve all been there).

However, learning to use brain rushes to your advantage takes practice. It takes time to figure out a good spark-record-review cycle. It takes time to figure out which ideas are promising enough to turn into future projects. Over time you learn your style, your strengths and how much of a challenge is too much.

In a sudden rush of creativity and abstract discovery, it’s not easy to know what to do with all the ideas you’ve transferred from your brain to another device, ideas that, seemingly, came out of nowhere.

That’s why we practice. That’s why we refine our craft. That’s why it’s okay, every now and then, to try out an idea, decide it isn’t working, and set it aside. Like writing itself, managing our ideas is a process. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s so frustrating it seems impossible.

Creativity is unpredictable. Expect the unexpected. Power through the drought. Drink in the rush. Whether you’re putting the fun back into learning, creating an app or pitching a new idea for a game show, ideas will come. Often all at once. In the middle of the night.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.