#NaNoWriMo: Dirty Trick #1

A few days ago, in the comments, Chuck said:

I usually aim for the middle ground on first drafts — I know it’s not going to be perfect, but I aim for a solid B to B+ range. Hell, I’m going to go through five drafts anyway — but if my first draft is littered with lots of little problems, I’m looking at six or seven drafts. Further, the little issues take a lot lot lot of time to go back and fix. So, for me, it’s a matter of economizing the process. Fixing small errors now — largely by making sure they don’t happen in the first place — actually saves me a shit-ton of time on the back end.

So here’s the thing. Chuck is totally right.

I’m walking a dangerous line here, because when you’re working a NaNoWriMo project, going back and editing is a phenomenally bad idea that will put you in the hole on wordcount faster than anything, so I don’t want to tell you to do any editing at this point. Perish the thought.

But there are a few things you can do using your brain-thinking-thing so the words you put down aren’t as bad as they might otherwise be. A few very very very simple rules you can follow.

However, I still wouldn’t mention them, except for one thing.

*looks around*

*leans in*


A couple of these rules, like the one I’m going to talk about today, will actually give you more words than if you don’t follow it.

Dirty Trick: No Adverbs

Sorry, did you just say, "She held the gun tremblingly?"
Sorry, did you just say "She held the gun tremblingly?"

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. – Stephen King

That’s a pretty strong vote against the adverb. It’s a pretty widely accepted rule among writers, though perhaps King is the most passionate about it.

Well, and me. I’m kind of rabid about adverbs, but not for the same reason. I don’t like them because they kill my word count.


“What’s up?” he said smilingly.

*wince* Right. That sucks. Let’s try it without the adverb.

“What’s up?” he said with a smile.

Ehh. Better. Marginally less wince-worthy, and more words. Okay. Some people will grouse about how words can’t come with a smile, but whatever.

Now, once you’ve broken your two-pack-a-day adverb habit, you can take it a step further by avoiding those “with a…” phrases. I don’t know what they’re called in grammar books; prepositions? Maybe. Not all prepositional phrases are bad — most aren’t — but those ‘with a …’ phrases are really just a way of writing adverbs without writing adverbs. You’re cheating yourself.

“What’s up?” he said, smiling as he spoke.

Better! Considerably less suckitude. More words. Win/win.

Maybe you could…

“What’s up?” he said. He was smiling as he spoke; the particular smile I liked to imagine he saved just for me.

Bam. Maybe not the great american novel, but exponentially better than “smilingly”.

There’s your first dirty writing trick: No adverbs.

Now get back to work.

Have fun.

8 Replies to “#NaNoWriMo: Dirty Trick #1”

  1. He is pretty smart.

    … but I can’t tell if you’re saying that I’m cheating by observing this rule… or cheating ON the rule.

    … and it’s sad that I don’t know which is more true about myself.

  2. I am a smart guy, thank you! I have the IQ of a particularly snappy manatee. Pale corpse-like cow body floating there in the water, doing Sudoku and thinking about existential issues.

    Okay, I’m actually probably not that smart.

    But thanks.


    — c.

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