I don’t know about you guys, but I had a lot of trouble following my own advice. I have written every day for the past five days, but for the last two days, it’s been under a thousand words. I allowed my up-front extra words to carry me for a few days, and now I’m at risk of getting behind if I don’t put my rear in gear. The worst part is, around this time (the end of the first week) is a really common place to start doubting your plot. For me, this comes in the form of thoughts like “why the hell do I always write people traveling? How can you make a four day journey by horse interesting?” I spent a lot of time on day 2 doing plot outlining in an attempt to not waste my early days writing stuff I would eventually end up cutting or changing. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my grip on that planning since I did it.
If you lose ground in week one, it’s so easy to give up, because you’ve only written a few thousand words. But we’re not quitters! Or … maybe we are, sometimes, but we’re not going to be this week! Here are the methods I’m going to follow to get back on track.
clarify your plot
It’s no longer early enough to justify writing blind, and it’s not yet late enough to justify throwing words at the page haphazardly. This is a great time to make sure you know where your plot is going, and what you should be writing towards.
The easiest way to do this for me is to explain your plot, top to bottom, to another person. It’s best to choose someone who will be genuinely interested, because those people will ask you clarification questions as you go, which can help you discover plot holes and trouble spots.
Another good way is to write a timeline or an outline. I like to do this with sticky notes or index cards, so I can rearrange them at will, and because tactile, physical items help me conceptualize. On day 2, this method helped me realize that I was completely misunderstanding what proportions of my story were going to be made up of what plot points.
If you’re not behind yet, like me, that’s awesome! But don’t let yourself get behind. The time I spend thinking or talking about how much I don’t want to write is time that could instead by spent writing. It’s been a few days and those of us who aren’t used to writing every day might already be getting tired of it. Just remember that the most recent episode of How I Met Your Mother will still be there, waiting for you, when you’ve caught up on your wordcount.
If you’re already behind, it will only get more difficult to catch up. Use this week to push yourself up to your goal wordcount, and you will feel empowered and motivated by your success. If you haven’t done any word wars, or in-person or online meetups with writing groups, this is a great week to get started.
If you work best with positive reinforcement, writtenkitten is a great tool that shows you adorable kittens every time you pass wordcount markers of your choosing. Or, if negative reinforcement is more your thing, you can try writeordie, which is … scary.
remind yourself why you’re writing
Yesterday, my coworker told me that her Christmas shopping was done, she and her husband had gone on a lovely sunset hike through the canyon, and that she was procrastinating on making a baby quilt for an upcoming baby shower. For a split second, I thought to myself, “If I just gave up NaNoWriMo, I could be doing fun things like that.”
When you’re under pressure, the easiest thing to do is lift that pressure by giving up. Yes, it would be lovely to take a canyon hike. No, my Christmas shopping is not even close to done. But NaNoWriMo is something that’s fun. It’s something that I want. It might be more difficult than some other things that I want that are fun, but the reward is also greater.
I want to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve dreamed about being a young adult novelist and influencing young people the way that my favorite young adult novels influenced me. I’m out of school now, I’m in control of my own life, and I have no more excuses to not be writing. Achieving my dreams is worth a month of stress, a month of panic, and a month of not taking hikes.
Always remember why you’re doing this. You are writing a novel in a month and that is amazing. Don’t let less important things draw you away from it.
Are you behind, ahead, or on track? What’s your plan of action for this week? Tell me in the comments! And don’t forget to add me as a writing buddy!