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9 Things to Do When You Hit the NaNoWriMo Wall

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nanowrimo-session

An actual mid-month NaNoWriMo support group “write-in.”

National Novel Writing Month is all fun and games (until you lose all hope and sink into a deep pit of creative despair which usually happens around week three).

Seriously though, did no one warn you that writing a novel in a month would be hard? I know I did. Week Three of NaNoWriMo is an especially common time for this to happen after expending lots of lovely creative energy in Week One, writers are now a little tired and realizing that it’s a long way to the finish, with just two weeks to go.

Here are some tips for making it to the end of NaNoWriMo with a finished (though very imperfect) product.

1. Find a Group
Maybe you’re a solitary type, or you believe writing needs to be done by yourself, and that’s fine. But NaNoWriMo is a rare kind of experience for mixing up your old habits and changing your perspective. If you haven’t already, check the NaNo website and forums for information on write-ins in your area. The collective energy of a group can be motivating. Plus, they usually meet at a coffee shop: Pastries and doughnuts!

2. Sprint
If you can’t find a meet-up, or just need something you can do from the pajama-ed comfort of your own home, find or lead a writing sprint on Twitter. To do it, follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, or find/organize your own group of writers to power through chunks o’novel.

3. Take a Field Trip
Dorothy Parker was a big advocate of the butt-in-chair method of getting writing done, and I couldn’t agree more. But if you never allow yourself a detour, you’ll deprive your brain, and your novel, of the inspiration it needs. While you can’t plan a dozen field trips and expect to write a 50,000-word manuscript in a month, you can allow half a day here and there to explore a flea market, visit a weird museum, try an odd restaurant in your town or just get outside sans laptop, smartphone or other distractions. When you wander, so does your mind, and you might solve some story problems.

4. Block Your Internet Access
Well, block the Internet. I’m a big advocate of the Freedom App. For a $10 download, you can get the software, which allows you to turn off the internet on your computer for up to an 8-hour stretch. If you’re someone who finds themselves checking Facebook every few minutes, this is perfect.

5. Get a Totem
If you haven’t already, choose a good-luck charm to guide you the rest of the way through NaNo. Visit a thrift store to find a silly mug, a cheesy figurine, anything you can make the symbol of your writing success. Keep it on your desk, bring it with you to write-ins, talk to it. (Yes, participating in NaNoWriMo is just crazy enough to make most crazy acts perfectly acceptable.)

6. Use Black Friday
If you’re way behind on your book, the day after Thanksgiving might be your day to get it all done, or at least play a massive game of catch-up. Take advantage of loved ones fighting for low-priced electronics and spend a day with your novel. Choose your fuel wisely, though: Too many leftovers and you’ll probably just end up napping on the couch. Again.

7. Do Something Random
You thought you knew where this book was going and then your characters just kind of stopped being interesting. Layer in a writing prompt mid-book to get things moving again. Read your character’s horoscope, choose a handful of random words from the dictionary, ask a small child for a story idea. It might not lead you to the most coherent plot twist, but you could get your engines firing again.

8. Reward Yourself When You Hit Milestones
You’re writing a novel, for heaven’s sake. Don’t you think you deserve some rewards? Brew some of your favorite fancy coffee, or tell yourself you can have that cookie if you manage 500 words on your next writing sprint. Or, lay out larger rewards for hitting weekly word goals — and maybe don’t make them all food-related, since you’ll already be fighting holiday weight gain.

9. Remind Yourself This Is a First Draft
Even if this was a novel you were meticulously taking your time with, your first draft would still be, shall we say, not very good. In her book on writing, Bird by Bird, author Ann Lamott talks about squelching perfectionism in pursuit of a bad first draft. Remember: By forging ahead, you’ll have something on the page to work with later.

 Photo credit: Anne-Lise Heinrichs via Flickr

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