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Thursday, November 11, 2010

So, You're Chugging Along with Your NaNoWriMo Project . . .

. . . and you find yourself stuck. Here it is, about 1/3 of the way through the month, and you're struggling to write your 1,667 words for the day.

Each day, you look at your handy-dandy chart of how many words you should have written (18,337 by the end of today). At the beginning, you were meeting your goal with words to spare. Then slowly, those extra words fell off, but you were still meeting the daily goal. And then sometime in the last few days, you couldn't do that any more. Now your deficit seems almost too big to overcome.

The more you think about how much you have left to write in these last 20 days of NaNoWriMo, the more insurmountable the entire thing seems.

How are you going to manage it?

First off, know that you are not alone. This is normal. Almost everyone who has ever attempted NaNoWriMo has encountered this problem--what I like to think of as the NaNoWriMo Slump. Whether you run into your Slump on Day 2, Day 12, or Day 22 isn't important. What is important is how you deal with the Slump.

If you focus on what you're not accomplishing, you'll never break out of it. I learned that the first time I attempted NaNoWriMo. I was making good progress for the first ten days or so, but then I blanked. I stared at my chart of words and how far behind I was getting. I obsessed over the fact that I wasn't getting my writing done, instead of finding ways to get the words flowing again. And what happened? I stayed stuck, and I never finished my NaNoWriMo project.

So how do you avoid that trap when you hit your slump? You've got to force yourself to keep writing. There are any number of methods you can use to do that.

If you're stuck on a certain chapter or scene, jump ahead to a part that you're excited about writing. You can always come back later and fill in what is missing or change what needs to be changed in order for it to work.

If you're just completely blocked, try your hand at free-writing. Don't try to write your novel. Don't try to force yourself to write anything in particular. Just pick up your pen and paper, or turn on your word processor, and start writing. Write without stopping for a short period of time: 5 minutes, or maybe 10. Don't fix any mistakes that you make. Just keep moving forward. Don't stop and analyze what you've already written during this time, either. If you don't know what to write, start with that. "I don't know what to write, but I have to write something, so . . ." See where that takes you. You may find during this exercise that you'll free yourself and be able to get back to your NaNoWriMo project. If so, awesome! Keep going from there. If not, don't worry about it. Count these words as part of your total anyway. Then try something else.

Another good tool to try out is Write or Die. You can set it up with a specific word count or an amount of time to write. If you start writing too slowly, or stop completely, it will dole out some consequences for your inactivity. Use it in short bursts to build up your word count for the day. Set it for 5 minutes, or 100 words. After you've accomplished that little goal, go and do something else, then come back and repeat the process. Do this until you've gotten back into your groove.

Try writing the end. Then you'll know where you're headed, and can fill in the blanks as you go.

Step away from your writing. Do the dishes, go for a walk, have dinner with a friend, or visit a museum. Try not to think about your NaNoWriMo project for a little while. Then come back to it with a fresh perspective and try again.

Talk the problems out with someone. Maybe you have a friend who will listen and help you brainstorm. Hook up with another NaNo'er on the message boards, or someone from your local NaNoWriMo group, and see if they can help you out. If all else fails, talk to a pet or stuffed animal. I know from personal experience that pets will listen very attentively if you talk to them. They may not be able to offer you solutions, but a lot of times simply saying something out loud will help you to get the words flowing again.

So, are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? How is it going so far? Have you run into a slump? How do you get yourself out of the slump once it hits?


  1. Write or Die. LOL. Now that's serious!

    I would love to try NaNoWriMo, but it will have to wait until after I've handed in my resignation at my other job. :)

    I am finishing a wip and have been motivated by the NaNoWriMo participants. I've been completing around 2,000 words on my writing days, but I can definitely imagine a big slump if I had to do it every day. Oh, and I would hurt! I should plan weekly massages if I do try NaNoWriMo.

  2. I guess I'm going to be the grinch and say "I'll never do nanowrimo." simply because I believe a writer needs to develope a schedule on thier own, sit down and write every day, and not just one month a year. But that's me. Again I'm not nay saying nanowrimer's I'm just saying it's not for me.

    But you know all these tips, which are wonderful Catherine, can work for a writer at any time of the year. And for once I can't think of a single thing to add to it. I applaud everyone who's finished nanowrimo and hope they keep up the pace and don't fizzle out in a few weeks. Keep up the good work everyone and thanks for the great blog, Catherine!

  3. Samantha, weekly massages sounds like the perfect solution! Or at least I'd like to think it is a perfect solution. LOL. You should definitely try NaNoWriMo sometime. You might find that you're able to accomplish it even if you don't think you could.

    Melissa, there's nothing wrong with NaNo not being for everyone. After trying it twice, I discovered it didn't work for me, so I'm not doing it this year. I did succeed with it last year--but I wound up trashing everything I wrote. It taught me a lot though, particularly about finding my own schedule that works for me. I don't know that I would have ever managed to settle into a writing routine if not for giving it a try.

  4. Mmm, I thought I'd left a comment earlier. I must have forgotten to press "post comment" a few more times. :)

    Anyway, I'm sure what I said earlier was brilliant. LOL I just don't remember what it was! Oh, maybe this is what I said: you don't have to do ALL the wordcount in one sitting. Do a little bit, maybe 400 words, and then come back later and do some more. Do it in bite-size pieces.

  5. Donna, Blogger has eaten my replies in the past, too. Drives me up the wall. I'll go with your brilliance. LOL. And you're so right, breaking it up into smaller pieces is often the key. Writing a page in one go is a lot easier to convince yourself to do than writing five pages.

  6. Great advice, Cat. I have found that getting up early--before other people can make demands on my time--is the best way to get my words in.

  7. I am definitely slumping this week. Time change and extra evening activities (and full time job) have really been hitting my energy level. I've been getting up earlier...at 4:30 am, but I'm still struggling. I am hoping that this weekend gives me the time I need to catch up.

  8. Clarissa, I've never been much of a morning writer. I've always tried to make myself, because I tend to be an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. But invariably, my most productive writing time seems to be afternoon.

    Sherrinda, thanks for joining us today! The time change can definitely put a crimp in writing schedules. Good luck with catching up this weekend.