We are ten days into Nanowrimo and if you are taking part this year, you are either feeling smug about being ahead of the game (unlikely), still going strong and managing 1,667 words per day (possible), or perhaps you are struggling a bit but vowing to catch up (been there, done that). The thing is, at this point you should be around the 20,000 word mark, and for some reason this is often when people “hit the wall,” to use a running metaphor.
I have theories about this. I think it’s easy to start Nanowrimo with an idea and a few plot strands, and this will certainly carry you through a good 10,000 words no problem. Sub plots might even occur, which can take you to 20,000. But then it can all start to fall apart. Maybe you know where the end is meant to be, but you have no idea how to get there.
Sometimes you find you’ve been just discovering what the story is by writing, but by 20,000 words you pretty much know what sort of story it is, and it becomes time to impose structure, flesh out characters etc, and that slows everything down. No way of keeping that 1,667 words going when that happens.
Life also gets in the way. You miss the odd day or two. In the early days it’s easy enough to make that up by going over the word count the next day but the further into the month you get, the harder that will be. (There’s probably some mathematical explanation but who cares?)
Don’t give up. Accept that you might not make the 50,000 word mark after all, but there is still plenty you can do. Don’t beat yourself up about the word targets. Instead set yourself a new goal. This could be just sticking to time spent on this project per day. After all, you’ve already planned that time out – use it to move the project forward. Maybe you’re going to need to spend two or three days writing a new plan, or working out a plot structure. Maybe you need to spend a couple of sessions on character development. Maybe you need to use the time to read a few “how to” books or blog posts and get yourself thinking about the project in a different way.
Here are some useful places to go for help.
If you’ve written lots of words and you feel you know the plot, but it’s all a bit of a rambling mess and you’re needing to impose some structure on it, have a look at these beat sheets for writers. Based on Save the Cat, you’re sure to find something that will speak to you. And incidentally Save The Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody is a fabulous resource. One of the things you might use it for is to work out what type of book you are writing. I know you think you know that already, but her categories and descriptions may well surprise you. Once you grasp the concept it will be an enormous help. But if the beat sheets are too specific and frighten you off have a look at Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress. You know your novel has those, right? This resource might offer an easier way to untangle problems with structure.
If your problem is with character, why not try Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland? That looks at uniting character and plot, by getting you to think about who your characters are.
And if you’re just stuck for ideas, have a go with What IF? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. I challenge you to work through just a few of their exercises and remains stuck.
Wherever you are, and wherever you end up, congratulations on what you’ve achieved. You fended off the ubiquitous Christmas distractions, you’ve ignored that slump in energy that November imposes on us, and you’ve written something! Remember it’s always easier to edit words on the page, than to edit a blank sheet.