I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo – I’ve taken part a few times, though only hit the 50k word target once – but every time I reach a point in the month where I start to wonder 1) whyyyy the hell I’m doing this to myself, and 2) whyyyy I thought this shambles of a story could ever work. I have now arrived at that stage in the process, so I thought I’d share some of the ways I get myself back into the swing of things (or try to, at least… check back on 1st December to see how successful I was!).
Talk it over
I think one of the best things you can do when you’ve hit a wall, in NaNo or in general, is talk it out. If you can, have a chat with someone about your story and where you’re getting stuck; someone who’s new to the story and objective can often see the problems and solution more clearly than you can. If you’re too shy to reveal the inner workings of your mind to somebody (I know I would have been the first time I did NaNo) just talk to yourself – even describing the issues out loud can sometimes help untangle them.
Design your novel aesthetics
I made one of these for my WIP the other day and while it felt like major procrastination, it did actually help get me back in the zone afterwards. I think it can also be pretty useful if you’re setting your story in a fictional universe or in a different place or environment to the one you’re in – mine is set in freezing cold Montreal whereas I’m in still-pretty-sunny Spain, so all the snowy pictures were a big help!
Try something different
If you’re working in first person, write a scene in third. Put your characters in a completely different setting. Narrate a chapter from the point of view of a lamppost or something. Your NaNo draft is going to need a ton of work after November, anyway, so there’s nothing wrong with playing around at this stage. (I’ve done a lot of this with my story – I’ve got 28k and will be lucky if I can use 500 of it – but it’s been fun.)
Make a playlist
A bit like the novel aesthetics, music can be a good way to find inspiration or put you back in the zone. I usually make a Spotify playlist before starting a new WIP and fill it with songs that match the tone of the story I’m trying to create, so I can go back to it when things get tough, but you could do this at any point. It could even be just one song – something that really sums up a particular scene or feeling that’s important to the story.
Take a day off
Personally, I think NaNo is a great way to get into the habit of writing every day or just to get a big chunk of words down on paper; hitting the 50k target and ‘winning’ doesn’t have to be the most important thing. Take a day off to read, make some notes, go for a walk or just do something else entirely and come back to it later. Even if you don’t manage 50,000 words, you’ll probably have written a lot more than you would in a normal month.
Read the pep talks
If you’ve checked your inbox on the NaNo site, you’ll notice there are pep talks from some excellent writers with far wiser things to say than I have, such as Daniel José Older and Alexander Chee. As well as giving some useful tips, it can be useful to remember that all writers are going through more or less the same process, and that even the greats have their off days.