Five Tips for the Halfway Point of NaNoWriMo

Hey PubCrawlers! Today is November 17, so we’re just past the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. I’m not participating this year, but I have a few times in the past, and I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo once. Though it’s certainly not your greatest failure if you quit partway through, finishing and “winning” NaNo can help you jumpstart a new project and validate your ability to complete what sometimes seems like an impossible task.

We’ve had some great posts here on the blog to help you tackle NaNo, including one from Hannah, one from Sona, and one from E.C.. Hopefully, you’ve read those posts, you’re making good progress, and you feel like you’re well on your way.

But what do you do if you’ve reached the 17th and you’re worried you’ll never finish 50,000 words by the 30th? Here are five tips to help you stay the course and make that 50,000 word goal by month’s end.

  • If you’ve fallen behind, catch up sooner rather than later. Many people find it difficult to add 1,667 new words every day. Some people make up the shortfall from the work week by writing additional words on the weekend. If you fall into this category, take note of the calendar now: there are two remaining weekends in November, and the last four days of NaNoWriMo are all weekdays. If you know you will be falling behind in those last four days, you need to make up the difference in advance. Don’t leave a lot of catch up to be done at the end.
  • Remember: its quantity above quality—at least for the month of November. This is not the time to be drafting with a critical eye on your prose. You will have lots of time to revise your novel once you’ve gotten to the end, or, if you really can’t stand moving forward in the draft without shaping it up, you can shape up the first 50,000 words beginning on December 1. But November is for getting the story down on the page. One thing NaNo teaches you is to keep pressing forward even when you do not feel inspired to write. Some days, your prose will be better than others. Don’t worry about that now. Concentrate on getting the words on the page.
  • Use the time you’re not writing to think about the writing. You will get more words written in an hour if you sit down and start writing immediately, rather than spending the first fifteen minutes looking over what you wrote yesterday and thinking about what you’re going to write today. So think about where you are and what comes next in your story when you’re not writing: in the shower, while you’re fixing dinner, or during your commute to and from work. This will help you maximize your production during the time you’re actually sitting at the keyboard.
  • Be willing to play with the story. Frustration and self-consciousness will only hold you back in your quest to win NaNoWriMo. Give yourself permission to have fun with this draft. It’s hard to keep coming back to your desk if you feel like the book you are writing is a disaster. Outside of NaNoWriMo, it might make sense to step back from a messy draft and work out its issues before moving forward, but during NaNoWriMo, forward is the only direction available. If you feel your draft is going off the rails, give yourself permission to change course. Create a new subplot. Write the scenes out of order. Make a choice you hadn’t planned in your outline. If the book takes a sharp turn here in the middle of November, it can still be fixed in December.
  • Focus on the skills and habits you are gaining. NaNoWriMo is about sticking to a challenging word goal. It’s about developing persistence and commitment to your writing. Maybe you feel disappointed in the quality of your writing one day, and thrilled with it the next. All writers feel that way at times, and NaNoWriMo will not change that. What NaNoWriMo teaches you is to keep pushing forward through all the self-doubt. NaNoWriMo teaches you to make a promise to yourself, and to keep it, even if that promise is to do something that at times feels impossible, which is an essential lesson for novelists to learn. Those are the skills and habits you are developing this November. You can devote the rest of the year to all the other skills you will need as a novelist.

Keep going! You’ve got this!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you participated in other years? What are your thoughts? Please feel free to respond in the comments.

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