First of all, if you’ve made it this far and are still achieving your 2019 NaNoWriMo goals, whether they’re the traditional 1,667 word per day or something else–all projects are valid and celebrated!–congratulations!! It’s an accomplishment simply to get anything done, and you deserve to feel affirmed for the important work that you are doing. Well done!
Now that you’re halfway through the month, the true doldrums of NaNoWriMo, you’re no doubt facing the universal challenges all writers face, only condensed down into a two-week span: the hard slog of keeping on keeping on even when the finish line isn’t quite in sight yet, tying together plot threads that are doing their absolute best to defy your control, and (depending on whether you draft consecutive chapters consecutively or jump around) writing those final and all-important moments of drama leading to the climax and denouement of the book’s action (if it’s fiction).
If you’re writing poetry or memoir or any number of other genres, you face a slight variation on these problems; just as with fiction, poetry and other genres still need to build toward some sort of emotional beat, and identifying the heart of a book that isn’t fiction can often be a challenge. Memoirists often decide upon what scene from life will serve as their crux in advance, but since many people (pantsers like me) get underway without a lot of preparation, one of the key challenges for Wrimos is developing the book’s structure after the fact (or partially after the fact). This is much easier to do at the midway point than at the end, which is why I mention it now. Unfortunately, it’s not always a lot of fun to do, so doing so can contribute to the general misery of the mid-month doldrums.
Giving you an itemized list of suggestions for what to do runs somewhat against the spirit of NaNoWriMo–remember, you’re not supposed to edit yourself as you write this month, in the interest of generating as much raw material as possible toward your final manuscript–so I’m going to keep my advice simple:
- Spending the first five minutes of each day’s writing session thinking about the emotional heart of your book–before you set your pen to paper!–may just be the best possible service you can do your manuscript just now. In a separate document or on a scratch piece of paper, consider jotting down whatever comes to mind, whether it’s snatches of dialogue you want to include or descriptive words that evoke the feelings you want to inspire, and tape that up somewhere near your computer (or keep the document open in the background, if it’s digital).
- Remember to write for yourself first and your ideal audience second. If you’re prone to obsessing over what your readers will think or need, as I am, this can totally paralyze your writing process and keep you from doing the necessary free-flowing writing exercises that are needed to reach your word goal for the month. The time to worry about other people is December, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Although if it helps you focus to get those thoughts down on paper and out of your head, consider jotting them down the same way you would material in the previous point (see above).
- Clear your mind of all the things other people have told you makes for good writing or the “right approach” unless you immediately are 100% convinced that it is actively helping you write. We all love Stephen King and Margaret Atwood and all of the other authors who’ve put out “how to write [x]” books, but sometimes we get so caught up thinking about how other people think we should be writing that we freeze. Or at least, I do. The fact of the matter is, you will have your own “right approach” that is specific to you, and you don’t need to worry about anything else right now than what feeds your work and your heart as you write.
That’s it! That’s my advice for the coming weeks of NaNoWriMo! As always, I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about your projects!
You are not alone. ♣︎
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!