The Halfway Mark: Strategies to Keep Going on your NaNo Project

Saturday 16 November 2013 by

We’ve just passed the midway point of NaNoWriMo. 25,000 words down. If you’re on target, it’s all downhill from here.

In theory.

No doubt many of you out there are actually really beginning to struggle. You’ve written a good chunk of your novel – enough for the initial burst of enthusiasm and the novelty to well and truly wear off. Which is also enough for you to be realising it has more plot holes than you can count, your characters are flat and it’s the biggest pile of rubbish you’ve ever written in your life.

But don’t listen to the voice telling you that.  The point of NaNo is to write the words and worry about everything else later.

So how do you beat the mid-point if your inner anxiety is getting you down? Or if your ideas have just plain dried up?

1.     Think of the worst thing that could happen to your characters. Then make it happen

Nothing like disaster to ramp up the conflict, and hopefully your interest. Spend some time thinking about the thing that would set your characters back the most. The absolute ‘end of the world’ scenario. While you’re probably fond of your characters and not wanting to put them through such torment, it’s not only a good way to spin out a few thousand words, but a great way to keep readers turning pages.

2.     Write scenes out of order

Dry ideas day? What scene are you most excited about writing about that you haven’t got to yet? A character death? A romantic evening? The ending? Whatever it was that got you itching to write the story in the first place, write it now out of sequence. Chances are you’ll race through several hundred words without really noticing it. And with a bit of luck, exercising that part of your brain might just get your creativity flowing again.

3.     Do some more planning

Generally the best way to get inspired to write is to write, but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Rather than staring blankly at your screen for two hours, writing a few words only to delete them, spend the time constructively. Plan out some ideas then cross out all the obvious ones and try to think of something a little more unusual. Keep going until you have a set of scenes that really get you excited. Even if you don’t write a single word that day, as you go into your new scenes, hopefully the excitement will translate into extra words.

4.     Accept that you will write rubbish

That little voice that speaks to all of your anxieties can easily drain you with its assertions that your work is rubbish, no one will ever want to read it and you should just give up now. Don’t let it. Accept that you are going to write bad things, probably some dreadful ones too – no one writes 50k in 30 days without writing some dross. It really really doesn’t matter. Editing is the time to go back through and fix that sort of thing.

5.     Use a random generator to give you writing prompts

If all else fails, write nonsense until the ideas start to flow again. Oblique Strategies will give you a random phrase, or try listening to I Should Be Writing’s daily NaNo podcasts – each one ends with a prompt. The challenge of relating a prompt to your story should get your brain thinking outside the box, and hopefully lots of fresh ideas will come from this.

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