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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Ways to Keep Writing During NaNoWriMo

So, how's NaNo going? By the end of today you should have 8330 words. That's not a small number, but it's not even one fifth of what you need to win this thing. And by now you're approaching the boggy section of the book. Wit and charm are wearing off, now you need substance, determination, and a whole lot of inspiration to keep going.

Week One sees a lot of drop outs. People disheartened by the ones who've already crossed the finish line. People overwhelmed by the idea of doing this for twenty-five more days.

But you are a survivor! And I have the magic potion you need to turn these fatal fens into a solid foundation for your novel. So without any further ado, and without any more gilding the lily...

Five Things To Do When You Get Stuck! 

1) Make A List
Make a list of everything that could possibly happen to your character next. Write at least twenty-five ideas, be outrageous, be dangerous, get messy, make mistakes! The first five ideas are probably going to be pretty tame, or (worse!) they'll end the book. Yes it's tempting to shoot Mister Obnoxious right now, but this isn't a short story and you need that antagonist for a few more pages.

The next five ideas won't be bad, but they probably won't be the ones that you want. Look to the bottom of the list where the desperate ideas are. Look for the one that says YES! to possibilities. Look for the idea that will provide temporary comfort to your hero, but will draw them deeper into the web of trouble. You want to find the idea that makes your character's life a living nightmare, but a hopeful one. Find it, and write on!

2) Name That Thing
There are two ways to handle the naming issue that is bound to arise during writing: either insert (Person 1) instead of a name, or have a list of names for people, places, and things already generated for you before you start writing. This also works for unsticking a stuck plot. Save your work, close Word, and make a list of names that fit the world. Name the ships, the swords, the people, the places. Try to come up with some really crazy place names, or names that have an inner conflict "The Swamp Of Silent Screams" or "The Pit Of Despair". Nothing good is going to happen in a Pit of Despair. You know it won't. But wouldn't it be fun to put your character in the Pit for a bit?

3) Plot twist!
Ideally, you have a plot stepping stone for your book every 4 pages (roughly 2000 words or every chapter ending), but you also need plot twists at regularly intervals. For a full length 90,000 word novel the plot twists should come around 20,000 words (that's this Friday if you're doing NaNo right now), 40,000 words, 60,000 words, a major twist at 75,000 words when you hit the climax, and another twist at 85,000 to end the book and make the reader gasp is surprise one more time.

If you're stuck right now, plan those plot twists. Even if you are a pantster who shoots from the hip, knowing the plot twist you're building to can help you get the book moving again. You have to make sure the logic works.

4) Abandon Ship
Literally. Save. Close Word. Walk away.

Go read a book, watch a movie, meditate, run, have a great meal... You can achieve output if you put nothing in. It seems counter-intuitive to walk away from writing on a deadline, but your brain needs down time, and a chance to relax. Take a six hour vacation from NaNo, and come back after you've let your brain have some true down time.

5) Some Good Advice
If you've come this far and you're still staring at the blank screen in despair may I recommend you turn to the wise words of the master wordsmiths who have gone before?
Chuck Wendig has some excellent (expletive laced) advice
Neil Gaiman has some advice
All These Authors have advice ... and it all boils down to... WRITE.

Put your butt in the chair. Nail your doubts to the wall. Tape your Inner Editor's mouth shut, and write.

This is a rough draft. It's meant to be rough. It's meant to be imperfect. It is meant to not be as pretty as a finished draft. If it is pretty, you've failed, you've played it safe, and this novel won't be as good as it could be. Make it rough. Make mistakes. Keep writing.


  1. I can't write rough. The inner editor always creeps in.

    Good tips, though.

    1. I need a reminder that it's allowed to be rough or I'll quit. I look at a finished work compared to new writing, and it's too intimidating unless I remind myself that this is what a baby book looks like. Baby books are ugly.

  2. Today is definitely a slog for me. I'm telling myself that at 1200 words, I get to have some spiced apple cider. After I finish sipping that, I'll be able to tell myself it's just another 400 words! Easy peasy!

    I also try to break up my writing so that I do ~800 words in the morning, then ~800 at night. Even on my worst day, I can manage to scrounge up 800 words. Breaking it up makes it seem less monumental on bad days. If I had more free time, I'd probably chop it up even more.

    1. I do that too. I aim for 3 chunks of 800 and usually get over 1000 when I write, but even if I fall short 800 is better than 0!