Your Most Common NaNoWriMo Problems, Solved!

by Emma Cueto

National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, also known as the cooler name for November, is in full swing, and as the month progresses, the problems are bound to start accumulating. So what's an intrepid WriMo to do? Buckle down and deal with it, of course. But don't worry, you don't have to do it alone.

The hardest thing about writing a novel in a month isn't that a month is an incredibly short amount of time to write a novel — it's that a month is an incredibly long amount of time to work this hard on something. Writing 1,667 words in a day is hard. Doing it 30 times in a row is really hard. And that's true whether you've won NaNo 10 times already or whether this is your first ever effort. No matter how experienced you are, everyone tends to run into the same issues once the initial creative outpouring of the first week wears off. The trick is in knowing how to deal with them.

So to help with that, here are some tips and tricks for handling some of the more common obstacles WriMos face in November. Along with some cats. Cats help fix everything.

I Am Way Behind On My Word Count

Falling behind on your word count is somewhat inevitable. At some point during the 30 days of November you are bound to have at least one where you don't hit your daily goal, or maybe even don't write anything at all. It's understandable. The problem, though, is that with NaNo that doesn't stop your total goals from going up and up and up. So you need to catch up.

It may be counterintuitive, but falling behind on your word count is actually the easiest problem to fix. The first step, though, is to not let self-doubt creep in. Trust me, you can do this. You just have to write even more for a while. And that is also hard, but you can do it. Do some math and figure out how many words per day you would have to write to make up what you missed. Add that number to your daily word goals (and maybe raise it a little to give yourself some breathing room). You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to make up some words, though that can be riskier. The point is to keep on writing, using whatever motivational tricks you need. And just remember you can do it.

Did I mention you can do it? Because you can.

My Story Has Gone Off Track

The thing about writing is that sometimes all your careful planning turns out to be for nothing, and somehow your story goes off track. This is especially true when you try to write everything in 30 days. Maybe your plot takes an unexpected detour; maybe a secondary character turns out to be more interesting and steals the show; maybe you realize there's some huge factor you didn't think to account for in pre-writing. Whatever it is, now you have to deal with it.

The thing about this is that it's more scary and frustrating than anything else. You had a plan, and now your plan is not so useful anymore. The key here is not to try to go back and figure out what went wrong and to try to fix it. The trick is to keep moving forward. Who knows, you might wind up liking the story you turn out with better than the one you planned on. And if not, that's what December (and the many, many long months of revise ahead) is for. Just remember that getting off track doesn't mean your story is ruined; it just means writing is extra exciting.

My Story Has Gotten Boring

This is the worst. When you have this great big idea and everything is all planned out and then you start writing only to realize that your idea actually isn't as great as you thought. Maybe your plot wraps up too easily and too quickly. Maybe your characters feel stale. Maybe the whole thing just feels too predictable. Whatever it is, if you're bored with your story, it's going to be hard to keep writing it.

Add something to mix it up. Maybe try adding a new character, like someone who can add a new conflict or a different perspective. Maybe create a conflict on your own. If it creates some rough edges in the plot, you can smooth 'em out with a re-write once November is done, including excavating your new character from the beginning, or setting up your plot twist properly.

You can even, if you want, think back on your plot and decide that instead of what you actually wrote, something more dramatic and interesting happened instead. Don't go back and change it; just make a note and pretend it was that way all along. Again, you can fix it all with the re-writes once you have a draft.

I've Run Out Of Ideas

This problem especially (but not exclusively) hits people like me who don't do much (if any) pre-writing. Once your initial excitement over a project runs out, you may find yourself floundering for what to do next. And sometimes it feels like you just physically cannot come up with a thing.

To help with this, you can try some of the above solutions for spicing up boring stories, or you can try creating an inspiring playlist or thinking back on what got you inspired in the first place. You can also try doing a free-write for something random in your story. Pick a secondary character and write a scene just for him or her. Flesh out the backstory of some of your characters or of the place where your novel is set. Write detailed descriptions of people's appearances or the main character's bedroom... or whatever you want.

Just try writing something besides the actual story. You'll take it out later, of course, but in the meantime, it can help you find something to make you excited about the story again, and maybe give you new ideas about where to go from here. Plus, it still counts towards your word count. Writing is writing.

And if none of that works, it's OK — you might need to give yourself a little break. It sucks, I know, but if nothing's working that probably means your batteries just need to recharge. Give yourself a day or two off to think about your story without the pressure of writing or planning, and know you'll have to make the word count up later, once you're back.

I Don't Have Enough Time For Other Stuff In My Life

I hear you. Writing 1,667 words a day is time consuming. It makes it hard to do stuff like see your friends or finish your homework or cook yourself dinner. Or shower. Though you should really shower. Showering is important.

The thing about this one, unfortunately, is that there isn't any actual solution, just some perspective: Sometimes you can't do everything. NaNoWriMo is a commitment, and it's hard, and sometimes it gets in the way of life or life gets in the way of it. And you have to decide how to manage that as best you can. Get a Google calendar or a planner to stay organized and make smart decisions about what to cut out. The advice really is that boring and unhelpful. Sorry.

Best of luck, guys!

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