We’re half-way through NaNoWriMo, and for many writers, inspiration is lagging, adrenaline has dipped, and you’re beginning to wonder what on Earth you were thinking to attempt this crazy novel-writing thing in the first place. So I thought some of you might be needing a little bit of pep and sidelines cheering, especially those of you participating in the Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge!
This is the pep talk I wrote for last year’s NaNoWriMo. It was sent out during Week Four, but I think a lot of the advice applies to any point of this crazy journey.
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Ahoy there, Fellow Novelists,
I hope this pep talk finds you happy, healthy, and in the full swings of writing euphoria.
I suspect that by now many of you have stumbled into pockets of magic during this month-long writing fling. Your characters have said ridiculously unexpected things, your settings have blossomed into life on the page, and you’ve had plot twists come screaming out of the ozone and smack you concussion-style on the forehead. These things tend to happen when you’re putting as much work into a novel as you are. After all, even if you’re not hitting your 1,667 words per day, I’m sure you’re at least thinking a great deal about hitting them, and it’s only fair that the muse rewards that.
But let’s be pessimistic for a moment and consider that maybe you haven’t had a magic-moment for, oh, a few hours, or a few days, or—heaven forbid!—this whole blasted month.
Never fear. Anyone who has ever written “The End” on a manuscript knows that, sometimes, inspiration eludes us. No one looks forward to those lulls in the writing process, but they are natural, and they can be overcome. These are the times when we must proceed on willpower and caffeine and the unflappable confidence that each word we write is one word closer to a finished novel. I can promise that, tough as those times may be, they often lead to some of our most proud and beautiful writing moments.
And lucky for us, there are non-magical tricks to get us past the slumps and back to that happy writing place. Before you, I lay out three common noveling dilemmas and some tips for conquering such foes.
Dilemma #1: If you find yourself realizing that, 35,000 words in, you’ve just about hit the end of this story and are convinced you’ll never make it to 50K…
It sounds like your book needs a hearty injection of The Unexpected. So unexpected that not even you could have seen it coming. The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clichés and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.
Maybe you’re being called toward eye patch-sporting pirates and buried treasure. Maybe you’re dying to write about a hitchhiker with aspirations of being the world’s greatest baseball player. Maybe your dystopic, plague-ridden society is bringing you down and you’d love to send your characters on a romp through a whimsical wonderland.
Make your list, choose what’s calling to you most, and drop it into the next chapter just as if you’d been planning it all along. Watch as your plot and characters scramble to make it work, and the words once more begin to pile up. Dilemma #2: If you’re coming in on that beaming 50,000-word mark and you haven’t even introduced all the main characters yet… Congratulations, it sounds like you might have a series in the works, or at least one crazy-epic novel. I can guarantee, however, that no matter the scope of your book, you will be more motivated to finish, revise, and edit after this month-long writing extravaganza if you’ve reached some kind of closure by midnight on November 30.
There is no rule against skipping some scenes and launching your way right into that massive good-against-evil climax you’ve been anticipating. Secure a few romantic confessions and a happily ever after and you’ve just wrapped up one monster of a storyline.
Then you can breathe deeply and look forward to filling in those plot holes come December.
Dilemma #3: If you’ve been a noveling mad-machine for days on end and are now struggling to keep your eyes open long enough to write “Once upon a time”…
Seriously? Go to bed. Even the most dedicated of us need a power nap now and then.
Awake refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to show that novel who’s boss.
For all other dilemmas, I advise you to keep your head in the clouds and your hands on the keyboard, and to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. But if NaNoWriMo had been around back then, it very well might have been built in thirty.
Best of luck to you all, and I’ll see you at 50K.
“Pep Talk from Marissa Meyer” originally appeared on National Novel Writing Month’s website, nanowrimo.org.