Halfway There: Finishing NaNoWriMo Strong

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You're almost there; you're halfway through National Novel Writing Month, at least based on the calendar. Whether or not you're halfway through your goal to 50,000 words (or whatever your goal this month is) may be another story.

These next two weeks now become as or more critical than the first two and a half weeks that you've spent writing. If you've made it this far (and presumably even if you aren't exactly half way to your goal, you still have a decent chunk of words), then there's no way you can throw in the towel.

So how are you going to motivate yourself to finish what you've started? Have you been through a deadline like this previously? How did you survive? Be sure to share any tips or thoughts on getting through the rest of NaNoWriMo in the comments below.

Have you missed any of the other posts in our NaNoWriMo blogging series? Be sure to check the others out:

Question: Now that we're at the halfway point, what's your number one tip or suggestion to help other writers get through the rest of NaNoWriMo?

Natania Barron: Make it an incremental change. Don't go crazy and type 10,000 words a day. I did that once. Sure, I got my word count in. But most of it was terrible. Not to mention my whole body hurt afterward. As a writer that struggles with repetitive stress injuries every day, it's no laughing matter.

But incremental word counts—keeping it under 2,000 a day—I find are more attainable in the long run. I find that the writing is better, too. And I find that the sanity factor is sincerely less an issue when you're not scrambling to catch up and panicked. If you're in this to get into the habit of writing, don't get into the habit of binge writing. Get into the habit of writing well, writing focused, and writing sustainably.

Also bring wine. This isn't easy.

Rachael Herron:My number one tip? Sugar. After that, some coffee. And then some more sugar. In normal life, I don’t let myself eat sugar very often, but in November? This is my favorite month of the year (because of the writing) and I let myself go there. Other people let themselves get a little out of control in December, but for me, November is the month to binge on Twinkies and Reese’s. And when I’m flagging, when I just can’t get that extra thousand words I need to reach my goal, a Twizzler appetizer followed by a hot chocolate chaser will get me the words I need (especially if I have the reward of a sugary aperitif to look forward to after I’ve done my words). 

Nikki Hyson:Just DO NOT quit. Even if you feel you won't hit 50k; that you'll never get to the end of it. Keep writing. Every day. As much as you can until midnight of November 30th. You'll mine magic if you do. An odd twist of words. The coolest of names will spring out of nowhere. A side character might take charge and inspire you. You made a promise to yourself to write for 30 days and Ipromise you, if you stick it out, you won't regret it.

Regina Kammer: Plot got you down? Concentrate on the parts of your story you are sure about and ignore the parts that are giving you headaches. That is, get down on paper (or up on the screen) all the parts of the story you know need to be written, even if there are huge plot holes. That will keep up your word count, with the added benefit that sometimes plot holes get filled in while you’re writing other parts of the story.

Another bit of advice is to read some posted excerpts on the NaNoWriMo site. What you’ll find might inspire you, motivate you, and make you realize you’re right on track.

November/December 2014 Writer's Digest

 The November/December 2014 issue of Writer's Digest
has all of the resources, tips and tricks you need to finish
off your goal of writing a novel in a month.

Kathy Kitts:Keep on keepin’ on. I’ve had an absolutely exhausting weekend and I had fallen about two days behind in word count. All I wanted to do was go to bed, but I told myself, just 250 words. Just write 250 and then go to bed. I didn’t want to break the chain. It’s hokey, but I have a calendar, and I put a star on each day that I write. I didn’t want to miss my star for today. So, I wrote my 250 and then got inspired and wrote 1750 more. Words beget words.

Kristen Rudd: Just keep writing. It’s all downhill from here. If you’ve made it this far, then you can finish this. I find I have one of two problems around this time in the month. It’s either “Oh, crap, I have too many things to write, and I’m not going to finish” or it’s “Oh, crap, I don’t have enough material to see me through until the 30th.” Really, neither of these is a problem. The first one just means I’ll have plenty of stuff to work on, and the second means I need to start killing people off.

There is a third problem, which is, “Oh, crap, I’m totally in over my head/I hate my story/I don’t know what I’m doing.” This one may or may not be my problem this year. But I just keep writing. Writing solves all of these problems.

EJ Runyon: All I did to get me to the mid-point in this month of writing is to do it daily. I didn’t miss a day of writing. Sometimes I made my word count goal, other days I exceeded it a bit. So the tip is: Work at it consistently.

You can enjoy all the fun in NaNo’s playground of forums, and FB feeds, sure camaraderie is wonderful. But writing is what this is all about. Three of my NaNo titles were accepted for publication, and this year’s been picked up too, because I did the work. During the NaNo Months and out of them.

Just sit and do the work.

Jessica Schley: Years ago, there was no detailed stats bar that told you how many words you were behind or how many you wrote that day, or how many words per day you needed to finish on time. The only motivator you had was the blue bar, going further and further until you hit 50 and it turned purple. Personally, I found it more useful—it wasn't easy to quantify if you were falling behind short of getting out a calculator and doing the math. You'd just push yourself to keep going every day.

So if you find yourself behind, a) you're in good company (I'm not even going to talk about how many days I'm behind right now!) but b) don't focus on the count relative to where you "should" be. Focus on pushing that blue bar forward as far as you can push it each day.

And two, it is almost a NaNoWriMo impossibility to not finish once your book hits 35,000 words. As you turn into the fourth week, words tend to start tumbling out. So if you feel like quitting, just stick with it no matter what is going on right now, and get to 35k. When you get to 35k, then you have my permission to quit. Because you won't be able to.

Brian Schwarz:When I was in high school, I subjected myself to a "sport" known as cross country, which was really just another form of torture. I remember every race began the same way, with me and my fellow torturee's saying "I will never run another race again after this." We always told ourselves that we were finished, that we would cease to volunteer, but all of us were always there a month later for the next race. We found comradarie in the whole ordeal. On one particular race, I found myself struggling through the last leg of the race and repeating in my head over and over again, "No one has ever died from running." I found the thought comforting, and this was a common thing I would say to myself to press onward, to keep running despite how much I wanted to stop. Unfortunately for me on this particular race, it was hot enough out that one student had literally passed out while running. I saw the ambulance while I repeated my phrase over and over in my head, and the thought crossed my mind—did someone actually just die from running?

I guess my point, and my advice, are to lie to yourself. Lie early and lie often and lie over and over again, because I'm pretty sure that someone somewhere has died from running, just like I'm pretty sure some person has died from a lack of sleep caused by an excess of writing. But NaNoWriMo has a lot in common with cross country, because at the end of the day it isn't about a battle of you and another person. It's you versus you. Of all the paralyzing frustrations and disappointments that happen during Nanowrimo, none is worse than this—getting discouraged. Because the only person that can stop you from finishing NaNoWriMo with 50,000 wonderful new words is—frankly—you. I mean, you'll end up blaming it on your cat getting sick, or your favorite television show starting up, or that thing you had to do for work or school that you weren't expecting—but at the end of the day its all on you.

So whether you have 25,000 words written today or 25 words written (mind you I'm at 18,000 and still very much plan to finish at 50k), don't limit yourself by telling yourself all of those bad lies, and tell yourself some good ones. Tell yourself that writing 5,000 words a day for 15 days is WAY easier than writing 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Tell yourself that you've got all the time in the world even when you don't, just to calm your nerves. Tell yourself that everyone is as far behind or as far ahead as you. Be convincing. Believe it. No one has ever died from writing 50,000 words in 30 days, and neither will you. Forget sleep. Sleep is for the weak. Write something that takes your mind off sleep. Just don't let yourself be the reason you didn't finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words, or with 25,000 words, or with 750 words. Readjust. Change your goal if you must but I would recommend just convincing yourself that you're not in bad shape. That's what I'll be doing. 

* * * * *

Everyone thinks about doing it, yet most people who do start a novel end up stalling out after a few chapters. Where do these would-be novelists go wrong? Are the characters dull and clichéd? Did the story arc collapse? Did they succumb to a dreaded bout of "writer's block"? Or maybe it was all just taking too long?

Write Your Novel in a Month

These problems used to stop writers in their tracks, but nothing will get in your way after reading Write Your Novel in a Month. Author and instructor Jeff Gerke has created the perfect tool to show you how to prepare yourself to write your first draft in as little as 30 days. With Jeff's help, you will learn how to organize your ideas, create dynamic stories, develop believable characters, and flesh out the ideal narrative for your novel—and not just for that rapid-fire first draft. Jeff walks you through the entire process, from initial idea to the important revision stage, and even explains what to do with your novel once you're finished.

Cris Freese is the associate editor of Writer's Digest Books.

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