The Cheater’s Guide to NaNoWriMo



All of your life you were told “Don’t cheat in school” and “Cheaters never Win”. There is an exception to this and it’s called “Padding your story” and it’s allowed during NaNoWriMo! A lot of us out there struggle with notion of writing 50,000 words; or 5,000 every three days. We just know that life will get in the way and sometimes you get the feeling that life intentionally gets in your way when your pounding away at the keyboard during November.

            Below are some suggestions to help you get to your daily word goal and the 50K overall. Remember, the advice given is not mandatory nor will it remain in your final draft. It’s primarily suggestions to help you get to the next portion of your story or fill in when you’re stuck.

 Take out the contractions

I’ve made this suggestion several times on the official NaNo forum boards and all I get in response is, “then my story won’t be grammatically correct.” My response is, “Who cares? This is just a first or rough draft.” We use contractions all of the time in our speech and our writing and sometimes it’s difficult to flip the switch to change the mode of thinking. “I’m” is “I am” and that counts for two words instead of just one. See you’ve doubled your word count already.

For possessive contractions like, “This is Steve’s ball” you can say “This is the ball of Steve” or “This ball belongs to Steve.” And then you can go into further detail by describing the ball.


Song Lyrics

Suppose a character is going to sing the American National Anthem at baseball game, Find the lyrics to the song and insert them into your story. It increases your word count and it stays in connection with the story. Most lyrics to your favorite songs are available online all you have to do is search for them. Here are a couple of suggestions for songs to include: Albuquerque by ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. The National Anthem of Greece has 158 verses. How’s that for padding?

Stuttering or Hard of Hearing

A character who stutters a lot can be utilized as part of your word count just be careful not to link the multiple letters together otherwise it will still be one word. For example: My name is S-S-Steven = 4 words. While, My name is S S Steven = 6 words. You can still include the hyphens, just make sure there is a space in between.

For a character who is hard of hearing, all you are doing is repeating the previous comment and by adding, “I said” gives you an additional 2 words. You can take it further by having the hard of hearing character repeat what he thought he heard which will force the character to repeat it a third time.

Example: “What’s the title of the sermon?”

“Oh, to be like thee.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘Oh, to be like thee’!”

“Moldy like me? That’s an odd name for a sermon.”

Chapter Title Extensions

This was actually something done in some of the more classic books of the 19th and early 20th century; perhaps earlier as well. A chapter title is listed then just underneath, a short summary of what’s involved in the chapter. For example: Chapter 11: The Treasure is Found! In which George and Alex arrive at the end of the maze and discover the lost treasure of Sierra Madre.

This might also serve as a useful device to help you stay on course in regards to your story outline.


Recipes, Grocery lists, and Directions

Another fun way to increase your word count is copy and paste a recipe into the story. Suppose a character is at a potluck and their best friend brought a new dish to the party. They like it so much they ask for the recipe. The best friend starts to quote it then, is interrupted when asked to write it down. Then later when they go to the store, you can write in a grocery list which features the ingredients for said dish and add a few others to round out the list.

You can also have someone stop and ask for directions and insert all of the directions given, then have the character repeat the directions to make sure they got them correct; even write one or two incorrectly to have those certain ones repeated.

Name extensions and titles

Instead of naming a character Bill Jones, name them: Bill Carter Jones or “Wild” Bill Carter Jones, the fastest gun in the Pecos. Then each time you mention them, insert the entire name and title. This works very well with royalty who are rulers over several lands, territories and/or kingdoms.

Sudden Life Changes

This is a great way to pad if your story comes to a screeching halt. There are two major life changes you can create which will generate extra words: A Wedding or A Funeral. In other words, either someone gets married or someone dies. Both events can take a lot of time in describing each plus the services will get you a lot of extra words.


The wedding service, vows from the couple, and scripture from the bible. When the preacher asks if anyone objects, have two or three characters stand up and give their testimony as to why they shouldn’t get married.


At a funeral service you have the standard eulogy (including scripture) and, if there are a lot of people present, have several characters stand up and say something about the deceased. If you’re into undead, have the deceased come back from the dead and give a rebuttal to everything that was said.

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This is by no means a complete list of things you can do to pad your story but a few suggestions to help you get to your desired goal of words. Whether you need come from behind to catch up to the desired word target or finish out the 50K in time to validate your manuscript, I’m sure these will get you to where you want to be.

What about you? What have you done to pad your story? Did you keep it or did it give you inspiration for further ideas? Share with me what you prefer to do.


Happy Adventuring!



2 responses to “The Cheater’s Guide to NaNoWriMo

  1. Adding a story line (like a wedding or funeral) with supporting dialogue makes sense, as does a stuttering character. But while I understand the concept of wanting to pad word count, and that a NaNoWriMo manuscript is only a first draft, several of these suggestions seem to create extra work. For example, changing possessives to something you’ll then have to change back. Sorry, but that just goes against my editor’s brain. 🙂 I would actually have to slow down to consciously write instead of ; I’d rather spend that time and energy dreaming up something creative that advances my story, and spend my revision time improving the story.

    A warning about song lyrics: Of course using them in a draft that will never be published is fine, but writers need to be aware that publishing even one line of a song lyric that isn’t in the public domain could potentially lead to legal issues. Chuck Sambuchino writes at Writer’s Digest: “Song lyrics are copyrighted, which means you need permission to use them. Although there isn’t any specific law about how much you can take under fair use, it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission for even one line of a song.”

  2. Hi Candace! Thanks for the comments. I do agree with you on both points especially the use of lyrics. I’m just trying to help out people reach their word count and I sometimes look at lyrics as a quick way to do it. I always delete them later. And yes, I do understand that it is more work splitting up the contractions but I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years for my nanos. Thanks again!

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