The dreaded second week of NaNoWriMo is here and several of the participating writers are having trouble keeping up the pace. It’s normal. We were all excited the first week. We may have pushed ourselves a little bit more than we should have because of that excitement. By now, we’ve caught our feet in a couple of plot challenges and one of them was bound to trip us over at some point.
First piece of advice today: Don’t get frustrated with your NaNo. Sometimes, it’ll refuse to come out, especially as the month goes on. And yes, that’s annoying. Unfortunately, our brain works in such a way that when we’re focusing on the negative, we go down a solution-less spiral. When I feel the first tendrils of desire to curse at my novel, I CTRL+S and close it.
You see, despite what the fast pace of NaNoWriMo drills us to do, taking a break is sometimes the best thing we can do for our word count. Even a short break to brew some tea or walk around the block can be helpful, and the fear of falling behind shouldn’t stop you from taking a deep breath. Sometimes, a short break isn’t enough to replenish the creativity, though, and this where my tip comes in.
Do a session of stream-of-consciousness speculation.
There are several ways to get this started: sources of writing prompts are legion and some come attached to official NaNoWriMo word sprints. However, I’ve found that following someone else’s prompt or schedule feels like too much of a constraint when I’m struggling to write. Instead, I let my mind wonder until I find something intriguing, something that makes me ask myself several questions.
Yesterday, as it turned out, I thought about how many characters I had had to name for my NaNo and how refreshing it would be to write a story about That Guy. Who is That Guy? What does he do? How is he “that guy”?
I opened a new document and started typing, following That Guy where ever he may lead me. Speculation, speculation. 1,200 words later, I’m still not sure whether my narrator is a man or woman, or what That Guy does. The story looks like a romantic comedy. The narrator had a mental breakdown when That Guy revealed that his name was Greg. The narrator finds it harder to speculate about Greg than about That Guy.
Your random story doesn’t need to be long, but you’ll find that if you pick an idea that sparks a lot of questions —that pushes you to speculate— the words will come by themselves. Some parts of the story will be stream-of-consciousness moments, others may be more structured fiction.
It’s fine. Unbridled creativity shouldn’t be judged. Give your brain free reign to follow any random thread. It’s refreshing after working hard to but down words within the constraints of a specific project.
Do that for a day. Don’t look at your main project at all. Just revenge-write something else. Don’t feel compelled to finish the story of random speculations; it’s a one night stand, no strings attached. You got your steady novel for the serious stuff.
In fact, I think I would recommend that you don’t try to push that story too far at all or else you’ll be back in the too-many-plot-hurdles funk, associate that feeling to both projects and be stifled all over again.
Get yourself high on creativity, then head back to your main project the next day.
When you return, read the last couple of paragraphs you wrote. No judging! You just want to get yourself back in the project. You’ll find that if you really committed to the random speculation story the day before, you’ll have a new outlook on your main project. In my case, this one day break is enough to overcome the hurdle —which suddenly doesn’t seem so bad— and be productive again.
If you’re stuck, give this a try. You’re not losing a day because the speculation you wrote counts towards your 50k, and chances are you’ll be a lot more productive after this. You may even be surprised by the result (I may post an excerpt from the story about That Guy to support this point.) 😉
Happy second week!