Note: The prompt post for this month’s Mid-Month Short Story Challenge will post tomorrow, November 16 rather than its regularly scheduled day.
Welcome to the halfway point of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.
- November 1 – Choosing Your Topic and Starting Your Novel
- November 3 – Taking Advantage of Your Weekends
- November 6 – What if I Need to Take a Break?
- November 8 – NaNoWriMo Has Turned Me Into a Hermit
- November 10 – Telling Your Story
- November 13 – Progress Over Perfection
- November 15 – Halfway Done! Now What?
- November 17 – Continuity Issues in a First Draft
- November 20 – Handling Writer’s Block
- November 22 – What to do About Holidays
- November 24 – I Hate My Story
- November 27 – I’m Not Going to Make It. Have I Failed?
- November 29 – Ending Your Story
- November 30 – You Did It! Now What?
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the halfway point of NaNoWriMo! That’s a really big accomplishment. Even though you’ve still got quite a bit left to do prior to completing the project, you should be proud of how far you’ve come.
This leads to an obvious question — what do you do now? Aside from the fact that you should just keep writing, that is. Depending on where you are in the process of finishing, the answer to that may differ ever so slightly. In today’s post, I’m going to give some short pieces of advice for the various points in the process writers may find themselves at halfway through NaNoWriMo.
I’m Way Ahead of Schedule
Criteria: You’re over 40,000 words and/or at least 75% done with your story.
This is where I was in 2011. I was super motivated to write my story and to get it done within the time limit that I wrote my 50,000th word on the 15th day of the month. Though I still wrote another 8,000 or so words across the next few days, I was functionally done with my story by this point. If, for whatever reason, you’ve written three-quarters of your story already, I say keep that momentum up and don’t be afraid to finish the story well in advance of the end of the month.
That said, you should also do something I didn’t bother to do in 2011. Once you do finish the story (if it is early), go back through your manuscript and see how you can make your story better. Is there a small scene you can add to better flesh out one of your side characters? Are there plot holes you can patch up with an additional chapter added to your story? This is the perfect time to add them. While this isn’t formal editing of your story, think of it as a way to make your story more editing-ready.
I’m a Little Ahead of Schedule
Criteria: You’re in the 30,000-40,000 word range and/or 60-75% done with your story.
If most writers are honest with themselves, this is where you’re hoping to find yourself at the halfway point of the month. You’ve gotten past the midpoint and are building up to the climax of the story. This might be by design, as you’re trying to build up a buffer prior to the Thanksgiving holiday1If you’re an American, that is., or it might be because you’ve just gotten invested in your story. Whatever the case is, you’re ahead of schedule, but not so much that people think you’re crazy.
With the coming fifteen days, use your time to keep doing what you’re doing. Write your story. If you need a day or two off as a break, you’ve likely built yourself some leeway to take that break. So long as you budget your time accordingly, what you’ve done through this point in the month will carry you through to the finish line.
I’m On Schedule, Plus or Minus a Few Words
Criteria: You’re in the 20,000-30,000 word range and/or 40-60% done with your story.
It seems like you’re nearly directly following that little line on NaNoWriMo’s site telling you how many words you should have each day. That’s both good news and bad news.
The good news is that you’re exactly right where you should be, at least statistically. Depending on whether you’re judging ‘on schedule’ by word count or by how finished you are with your story, your stress levels are likely either relatively normal or through the roof, in that order.
The bad news is that November has the potential to be a busy month for most people. If you’re not running at least a little bit ahead of the goal word pace, you might find yourself needing to do a bit of writing on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. And if that’s your plan, awesome! If that wasn’t your plan, you might want to start adding to your daily word counts in advance of that long weekend.
The secret good news is that if you’re like me, you can sneak away and write a bit while everyone else is in a food coma.
Oh God, I’m So Behind. Halp.
Criteria: You’ve written less than 20,000 words…possibly significantly less.
I have some advice for you that I shall break down into bullet points.
- Coffee is your best friend. You’ll need it for one of the coming points.
- Remember that strategy I talked about a few days back about sprint writing or scheduling days where you just write for hours on end to beef up your word count? If you have the time this (or next) weekend, take a shot at that strategy.
- Stop writing your book in a linear fashion. Write the exciting parts now and fill in the rest. If you know what the climax of the book is going to look like, but you’re struggling to slog through the world building to get there, write the climax now. It may well motivate you to write what gets you to that point2I actually did this in my 2015 NaNoWriMo project to help get me back on track..
- If you’re writing your book anywhere that’s online (Google Docs/Wordpress/etc), stop for now. Put your story into offline mode (if using Google Docs) or add it to a Word doc, shut off your WiFi, and just write. The internet is distracting.
- Consider following a pomodoro timer to help you write in bursts. Use Tomato Timer if you need a quick, free site to help you with this technique.
- Finally, keep up the faith that you can do this. In the next three NaNoWriMo posts I’ll be writing over the coming days3Technically, it’s three of the next four. I wrote this point when I had my schedule originally plotted out, only to realize I had forgotten when Thanksgiving fell this year. This forced me to change my schedule just days before the start of November. I also forgot to come back and update this post until the day it published, so you get a footnote., I’ll be talking about some of the pitfalls that can cause NaNoWriMo authors to get behind in their stories, as well as what you can potentially do to fix it. We’ll begin with one I’m dealing with now in my work in progress — continuity issues — on Saturday.
Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.