I visited friends over the weekend, so the only writing I got done was on the train there and back. Still, I’m creeping towards the finish line.
That won’t complete my novel. I’ve barely gotten started with the actual storyline, in fact. I’m pretty sure that once I’m finished, it’ll all be rewritten again. But that’s okay.
If you’re not doing so well, or if you’re lagging really behind, don’t give up! You’re probably hearing this all over the place at the moment and maybe it’s getting annoying. It annoyed me last year. I didn’t want to give up, but my story was being difficult, so I felt as if everyone who was telling me to keep going should’ve been yelling at my story instead.
Yell at your story if it’s being difficult. If your character is being obstinate, have them fall into a well and refuse to let them back out until they co-operate. If your story is missing key plot points, skip them. I’m serious about that. Sometimes, you don’t know how your characters get from A to B, but it doesn’t matter. Write them at A, write them at B, and at some point when you’ve finished and are reading back over it, the means of getting from A to B will fall into place. It might even be really, really obvious.
If you can’t come up with any more ideas, talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be an author. I was at a panel with Juliet E. McKenna who said that her engineer husband is a great person to discuss plot aspects with, because if something doesn’t work, he’ll spot it. Or find a solution.
It usually helps me to listen to the right music. I found some pretty epic music a while back, actually, by a band called Two Steps From Hell. It’s all instrumental, so it’s perfect for writing, and it sounds very epic. Check out Dragon Rider and Sons Of War and see if that doesn’t put you in the mood for great deeds. It does me, every time.
Still, sometimes, you get to the point where you have to take a step back and think about what you’re doing. And why you’re doing it. NaNo is an voluntary event for the arguably insane. It involves an arbitrary goal and an arbitrary deadline. It puts pressure on you to write, which is good, because pressure helps people do stuff. But sometimes, the pressure gets too much and instead of motivating, it starts to turn into an obstacle. It starts to crush you and make you feel like you can’t do anything anymore.
So take a step back, if you need to. Don’t worry about finishing. Even if you end up with 40,000, or 30,000, or just 10,000 words, that’s so many words more than you’d have written without NaNo. It’s still a win. You still win all of those words that you wrote. And you’ve still got your plot idea, or your characters, or your world, or all of those things.
Maybe all you’ll take away from NaNo is that this particular story won’t work. That’s what I learned last year. (I also learned that German with its ridiculously long compound words is a bad choice for a competition where the idea is to use as many separate words as possible.) This year, I learned three days in that a character needs to be a bit snappy or conflicted in order for me to write them; that’s a win, too.
So no pressure, okay? You do what you can, and no one can expect more from you. Take a break, go for a walk, bake a cake, relax.
Remember why you want to write. If there’s a part that you can’t wait to write, but you just can’t figure out how to get to it, skip ahead. Write it. Throw chronology out the window if that will get you back into the zone. You can connect the dots later. Right now, skipping ahead and writing chapter 17 is better than staying chronological and not writing chapter 6.
No matter what happens, don’t let it get you down. You want to write a novel. By signing up for NaNo, you’ve already done more than most people ever do towards that goal. Maybe it won’t be perfect, maybe it won’t be finished by the end of November, but it’ll be a lot more than most people ever manage, and you should be proud of that. We should all be proud of that. I am. I’m proud of you.