If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you are about to step into a writing marathon. It would be a good idea to take the remaining days to stretch your writing muscles and warm up. Here are a few exercises to get you going.
Word count warm up - Whatever your normal word count is, it needs to average 1,667 a day to meet NaNoWriMo goals. If you normally write 200 words a day, you need to edge your output upward by 166 words each day starting tomorrow to be up to speed. Your warm up does not need to be on a work that resembles your NaNoWriMo project (although that would be good). Writing letters to people you know can work. Even automatic writing can help here. What this warm up is about is getting the feel of putting 1,667 words onto the screen each day, along with a sense of how much time you'll need to dedicate to the task.
Idea prodding - Some writers overflow with ideas. Some struggle to get them to emerge. If you are among the latter, don't expect the tap to flow just because you've turned the calendar to November. The simplest thing to try is a brainstorm list. Come up with ten (or twenty) answers to a tangible question. Without searching the Web, what gifts under US$100 might you give to a specific loved one? How would you set a trap to catch someone who is stealing your newspaper from your doorstep? How would you get onto the roof of your bank without using stairs? The first answer may be easy. The last will require you to stretch.
If you want to push yourself, put together a series of actions connected by "therefore" or "but," the South Park advice for creating causation between beats. For example: I was hungry, therefore I went to my refrigerator to find food, but my spouse had eaten everything worth eating, therefore I drove to the deli to buy a sandwich, but I'd left my wallet at home. And so on. Again, try for 10-20 instances. (For 1,667 words, you will need about 8-12 connected things happening.)
Door closing - Practice using your fortress of solitude. Build up to the time you will need to be uninterrupted each day. Build patience. Dodge distractions. Learn how to defend your fortress from needy spouses, demanding children, and garrulous friends.
Practice your ritual - Before writing, I have already had my coffee. I turn on my music. I review my task for the day. I open the file to the right place. I set my timer, and jump in. (I also have an exit ritual that includes writing down my task for the next day.) There is utility to my ritual, but it is okay to include wearing a lucky hat, chanting a mantra, lighting a candle, spinning your swivel chair around three times, or whatever else cues you to get going. If it works, do it. If you don't have a ritual, consider developing one. Habits can be powerful things.
There are other exercises you can try, based on skills you want to build up before NaNoWriMo. Have difficulty with emotion? Try some acting techniques, such as using sense memory. Uncertain about characters? Interview them as if they were guests on your talk show. If they come off as stiff, get them drunk first. Trouble with distractions? Taper them off in the remaining days. (For instance, you might whittle away at time you spend watching TV or reading Twitter posts.)
Thanks to Jennifer Fusco, who asked for exercises in her interview in this blog. Let me know if you find these useful, or let me know if you have your own exercises that help.