5 Tips to Survive NaNoWriMo

We’re just starting Week 2 and for some, the excitement and drive to finish is waning or gone. You’ve discovered your plot has more holes than you thought, that your characters aren’t as well developed, that writing almost 2,000 words every day takes a lot more out of your week than you thought. All these combine into the perfect disaster that makes it difficult to survive NaNoWriMo.

Week 2 is hard because the excitement isn’t as exciting and you’re starting to realize the work it takes to write 50,000 words in a month. Plots and characters that aren’t as developed as you thought are giving you problems as you reach the middle of your story. The fun of a new project has worn off, and you still have 3 long weeks of writing ahead.

Fortunately, everything gets better in Week 3. The end is in sight, you’ve slogged through the middle and know how to finish the book. Characters and plots have progressed, and writing becomes fun again. But you have to get through Week 2 to reach Week 3.

5 tips to survive NaNoWriMo, especially Week 2

Keep Writing

This seems obvious, but if your plot isn’t working or your characters are stuck, the easy thing to do is stop or take a break. However, this doesn’t solve your problem. Stopping doesn’t fix the plot or characters–writing does. So keep writing, even if you have to spend a page or two exploring possibilities. You can even write out the problem and see where your writing takes you.

Writing Tip: Keep writing. Stopping doesn't fix plot or character problems.

Personally, I tend to be a mix of a discovery writer and a planner. If I’m stuck on a scene or a plot hole, I find it helpful to write out my thoughts. Usually, I can find the solution(s) to my plot/character problem in my ramblings.

For example:

(begin writing ramblings) Matt is stuck in a hole. I want him to get out and meet people, but all he wants to do is stay at home and read, which is kind of what I want to do right now. He isn’t going to meet Sarah this way. How can I get him to listen and leave the comfort of his home? I mean, staying home and reading books sounds perfect, especially when it’s snowing and I’m cold. Why would I want to leave that to go meet someone at a dance? If I had to leave, I’d rather go to a bookstore or library or cafe to read, but something at home would have to force me to leave, like the power being out or an obnoxious party at the neighbors. What if he goes on a book errand because the power went out? Or the internet? If he was picking out some new books for his TBR pile to kill time, maybe he could bump into Sarah there. Maybe they could be interested in the same book or bump into each other. Maybe they want the same book and there’s only one copy left. Got it. I know what to write next. (continues on with WIP)

A paragraph or page, etc., like this will keep you writing and may help you figure out what’s wrong with your novel and where you’re getting frustrated or stuck. Just make the paragraph italicized or a different color so you can come back and delete it, but for now, leave it in, include it in your word count, and continue writing.

Change things up

If your characters aren’t fleshed out enough or your scenes aren’t exciting to write anymore, mix it up. Add something you like writing about, whether it be a new personality quirk or goal, kittens, murderers, flirting, or dragons. Mix it up, add something new. Kill a character (or maybe just get them a little lost for a while), and find something you’re passionate about writing.

Writing Tip: Mix it up. If you aren't happy writing something, add something you love writing about.

You don’t have to write something that bores you, but that doesn’t mean you should start new projects every time you get bored or when writing a chapter seems like a drag. Stay focused and add something you’ll be excited about. Chances are the reader will be excited about the new addition, too.

Don’t give up if you get behind

Falling behind in NaNoWriMo is pretty normal. A lot of new writers don’t understand how long it will take to write 1,667 words every day, or life happens and we lose a day or two writing. So if you fall behind, don’t fret. There are a lot more participants who are behind than those who are ahead.

Writing Tip: Increase your daily goal by small amounts instead of trying to fit in a half-day or full-day writing catch up event.

Rather than give up, just keep writing. Increase your word goal each day by a couple of hundred words. It’s easier to write 1,900 words a day over several days to catch up than it is to find time to bang out 4,000 words one day because you fell behind. Catch up in daily spurts rather than all at once, and your goal won’t be as daunting.

Chat with another NaNoWriMo participant

Most writers are in the same boat as you. Week 2 is hard for everyone, though some writers may feel the stress of Week 2 on day 4 or day 15; that stress hits everyone eventually. Talking with another participant (or multiple participants) can help you reconnect with the excitement and thrill of NaNoWriMo.

Talk about your characters, your plot, how hard it is to get in the word count. Bemoan falling behind. Express your frustrations. Help someone dig out of a plot hole or issue with their characters.

Being a part of the community will help boost your morale and keep you writing, even when things seem hard.

Writing Tip: Chat with fellow writing friends. They know what you're going through and commiserating with them can uplift your spirits.

Where can you find fellow NaNoWriMo participants?

Promise yourself a reward

If you find completing your writing is misery and you want to pull your hair out, but you’re still determined to finish this month-long writing torture, reward yourself when you accomplish mini-goals.

If you think you can’t write another word, push yourself with a small goal and reward yourself when you finish it, even if the words aren’t good (remember it’s a nano draft). Eat something small and delicious every 100 words. Listen to your favorite song every 500 words. Watch the next episode of the series your binge-watching after 1,000 words.

Writing Tip: Reward yourself when you hit writing goals.

Whatever you do, break up the goals and reward yourself along the way. Sometimes you just have to do the writing and push through Week 2, and then you can fix the middle later on when you’re working on the next draft of your novel.

Happy writing!

More NaNoWriMo:

NaNoWriMo: Positivies & Negatives

5 Tips to survive nanowrimo
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