If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. About two weeks ago, before this all started, we were all filled with both excitement and dread. We were all going to write our own novels and reach that goal of 50,000 words. We didn’t know how, and many of us secretly doubted that we could do it. Then week one kicked off, and we were wrapped up in our stories and the exhilaration of creating. Word counts soared, and we all accomplished so much in that first week. And then week two hit. Suddenly, I’ve been finding my job and my home life to be twice as taxing, and even when I have plenty of inspiration for my story and I know exactly where I want it to go, it’s hard to find the time and the energy to sit down and write it. For others, it seems their problem is the opposite: they may have the time and energy, but they don’t know where they want to go with their stories. And finally, there are those who are out of time, out of energy, and don’t know where to go with their stories. Here are some of the problems I’ve encountered:
- I don’t have the motivation. I can’t do this. Don’t give up! This is about keeping your spirits up. Think of every story you’ve ever loved. When the characters encounter a challenge and realize that it’s going to be much harder than they thought, they somehow find the strength to push on and accomplish great things. It’s so easy to give up and say, “I can’t do this.” But you can do it. There’s no room for self doubt, so stop doubting!
- I’m so busy; I just don’t have the time. This requires some basic time management. You can make the time; it just requires a sacrifice. The hours you spend watching TV or browsing the internet can easily be converted into writing time. Unplug the tube, turn off your wireless, and get to work. For me, I find that waking up early or writing on lunch breaks are good ways to make the time. Another good one is not going home immediately after work, but writing instead.
- I don’t have the energy. I’m so tired. Writing a story of 50,000 words is the longest thing that many people have ever written. If this kind of marathon writing is too challenging, break it up: rather than setting aside a whole hour, just plan to write for twenty or thirty minutes. If you’re still watching the clock at the end of your time, take a break. Otherwise, press on. If you do this several times a day, it can solve both the time and energy problems, and soon you’ll find that writing for an hour or more becomes much easier.
- I’m so far behind. Many people get discouraged and give up once they fall behind. It’s possible to catch up, though. If you fall behind, the weekends or a day off are good times to make it up. Here’s how to plan your day: Wake up and write as much as you can for an hour, take a short break, and then sit down to write for another hour. Do whatever you want until the afternoon, and then repeat the process. Finally, in the evening do another two sessions. Time wise, it’s like putting in a good part time work day, but often this kind of challenge can help you find both story inspiration and bring your word count back into the game (or way ahead).
- I don’t know where I want my story to go. If you don’t know what to write anymore or feel like you’ve reached a dead end, the thing that helps me most is to step back. Try doing some housework, going for a run, taking a shower, or any other activity that occupies you (but not your mind). You can ponder the problems in your story, perhaps remembering abandoned subplots or forgotten characters, or you can think of interesting, unexpected plot developments, new characters, or ways to kill current characters. Unexpected disasters, challenges, or losses are great ways to move a story forward. Also, try skipping ahead. If you don’t know how your characters can solve a major roadblock, just go to where it is already done and continue from there. Maybe you’ll come up with an answer later. You can clean it up when you’re editing.
- I don’t like my story. This happened to me last time. About halfway through, I realized that I hated my story. If this happens to you, first off, make sure you turn off that critical part of your mind and stop worrying about whether or not your story is any good. After that, try introducing a change, or getting rid of characters you don’t like and replacing them with characters that you do like. It is a first draft after all. You can fix it in the editing. In my case, finishing a book that I did not like showed me that I was able to finish a book. Figuring out why I didn’t like it has made my current one much better.
If you’re having any of these problems, one thing I suggest is attending write-ins. Check the NaNoWriMo regional forums to find out who is organizing events in your area. Meeting other writers and discussing your work provides support and inspiration. I have been meeting with my local group when I can, and I also work with an online group set up through Insatiable Booksluts. You can find us on Twitter with the hashtag #NaNoTeamIB. I got a lot of this advice from No Plot? No Problem! and from other writers I’ve talked to. I’ve tried most of this advice, and it works for me. If you’re still in the game, I wish you the best of luck. If you have any tips or tricks to add or if you’re facing a problem I didn’t mention, leave them in the comments!