When people train to run marathons or ride long distances they talk about hitting the wall. Hitting the wall is when part way through a long run or ride you have a sudden decrease in energy. Instead of running strong, you are tired and struggling to put one foot in front of the other. During NaNo the writers version of hitting the wall usually happens around now. Here are some of the stumbling blocks I have run into over the years and how I dealt with them. As always these are just the things that worked for me, your mileage may vary as they say.
Longest project ever
My very first NaNo was the first time I had ever broken 10k on a project. I remember when I realized I was officially writing the longest piece of fiction I had ever tackled. I was both proud of the accomplishment and at the same time paralyzed by it. This was new territory for me. I had never written something that got past the newlywed phase. I still liked the idea, but did I still love it? Would I be able to write a full 50k from this idea or would I find myself grasping for ideas in the final stretch? For several days I kept a ridged 1,667 words per day schedule. I tried hard to think about the scene and the words instead of the project as a whole. It is okay to take it one day at a time.
Past the beginning
If you are a linear writer, like I am, you may find yourself struggling through the middle. When I get an idea for a story it is usually the first or last scene that pops first. If you started the month with a clear view of the beginning, but only a hazy idea of how to work through the middle, it is easy to get stuck. The good news is this is NaNo and you have to write through it. You don’t have time to put it aside and wait for the ‘right’ time to continue the story. Before trying NaNo I would have given up a this point. Now I know to fight through it and the words will come. If you are really stuck with where to go next try throwing something unexpected at your characters. A villain makes itself known, a fairy godmother appears, or there is an unexpected earthquake. New ideas will be flowing before you know it.
Another idea just won’t leave you alone
This is the time when I usually have plot bunnies multiplying like crazy. Before I wrote regularly I got new story ideas a few times a year. Once I started writing more frequently I noticed that the ideas never stopped coming. Something about starting this creative process gets your back brain all fired up. If the new idea can be worked into your new story go for it! If it won’t fit and you are worried about losing the new idea, let yourself write some notes in a word file or a notebook. Keep your main focus on the NaNo novel though. Don’t take your eyes off the prize of 1,667 words each day or 50,000 words this month.
The words I have written are crap
Has your self doubt started yet? “I can’t write.” “Why should I keep going when the words I have so far are crap?” “No one else will ever want to read about this.” Thoughts like that are a normal (at least for me) part of the process. Remember no novel is perfect from the very first keystrokes to the last. With NaNo this is even less true (you are aiming for quantity not quality). You are writing for speed and fun. If you really can’t get past the feelings try taking a break for a few hours or even the rest of the day. Come back at it fresh tomorrow. And don’t forget: If you are interested in writing the story someone else in the world is interested in reading it. Edits can change everything, until then keep writing. You have to practice to get better and this November is all about getting 50,000 words of practice. I promise when you reread the whole thing in December at least a few scenes will surprise you with their potential.
Have you hit your first stumbling block this month? Are your staying on track with your novel?