At this, the eleven-day mark of NaNoWriMo, I’ve heard more than one person talk about throwing in the towel.

Fixated on the word-count, 50,000 words looms large. Many writers have strategies to use the initial blast of writing enthusiasm as fuel to get ahead of the 1,667 per-day word-count. If you’re one of those people, you might be laughing right now. If you’re not one of those people – don’t  panic. I’m not either, and I’m still going.

My own NaNoWriMo journey has been pretty stop/start, on-again-off-again. I came to commit to NaNoWriMo only days before the starting shot, and so I have only a small deck of cards (about ten of them) containing “plans”. When I say plans, I’m using that term quite loosely. They’re really cards with the titles of ideas, and then some dot-points of anything I had in mind.  I guess this makes me a bit of a pantser. My commitment to writing has waxed and waned, depending on what other work I have to do. I have had 0-word days, and curl into myself in envy as friends post their milestones (20K! *wither*). I wish I’d found this in my frantic planning weekend. Overall, I’m not the model NaNoWri-er.

Not having a novel currently in-progress, I have opted instead to spend NaNoWriMo working on blog posts, Writers Bloc posts (this here is included in my word count, folks), building up a stash of articles and essays, and short stories. I’m primarily a nonfiction writer. Rather than hastily concocting a novel idea, or bowing out altogether, I took the best advice I was given in the lead-up to NaNoWriMo: Make it work for you.

For me, this involves writing off-topic. It’s not a novel. It’s highly unlikely that any of my NaNo words will ever be turned into a novel. It’s also pretty unlikely, I’m coming to realise, that I’ll hit the 50,000 word mark. Neither of these things are the point: ‘making it work for me’ involves coming out with more words than I’d write in a regular month, and having a stockpile of material to finish and refine in the period after NaNoWriMo.

If you’re one of those people who is considering chucking it in, here are some practical ideas for keeping your material going:

Move laterally

If you’re having trouble figuring a certain character or situation out, why not write a character sketch or a scene that doesn’t actually appear in your book?

What about dialogue? Write a conversation between you and your main character.


Big Picture

While the writers on this list are admirable, note that between the content of the article and the comments, it seems common for NaNo to be used as a drafting process. Realise that what you are writing is not Your Novel, it’s not the thing that jackets will go on, it’s just the very solid foundation for your project. It’s what you go back to work on until next November.

Seek Support

There’s a whole bloc of writers who are here for you. Head to the forums, tell us your woes, and we’ll carry you through. Tell us about your story, and we’ll ask questions.

You could also try a Write Here event, or a Meetup.

It might just be what you need.

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