NaNoWriMo is all about gains made through every chapter, every paragraph, sentence, and word. The beginning and end will likely be very easy to write. The middle is going to be a certified Grade-A pain. Maybe you’re at that point right now and are getting stuck in the muck and mire of your plot?
Rest assured, you’re not alone. Many writers struggle with the middle. Much like the middle of a chess game, the middle of a story is difficult because of the possibilities. It’s not as well defined and can become tricky when you’re trying to decide how much attention should be given to plot versus character. The middle is also the most important part of any story. It’s the meat and potatoes of the narrative. People love to experience the journey of your character more than knowing the beginning or end of the journey. So, the middle carries more weight and it’s easy to get stressed out wondering if its working or not.
What’s a struggling writer to do when they’re in the muddy middle?
Push through it like a bulldozer.
It’s going to be really tough but the best thing you can do is fight like mad to get through it as fast as possible, come hell or high water. Put all your weight and strength into getting it done. Sometimes that might mean regrouping with your outline and make sure you’re sticking to your structure. It might also mean not sweating the small stuff or getting hung up on how things are clicking. If it clicks enough to be workable later, then leave it for the edit.
Why is pushing through so important? Because once you make it to the finish line, hindsight is 20/20. You’ll now have perspective and can see the full picture. Once that full picture is in view, the middle will suddenly start to make even more sense and you’ll feel more comfortable editing and molding the middle to meet the end.
When you’re in the thick of your novel, it feels only natural to have the itch to tell people about it. It’ll be even more tempting to send a part of the draft to friends, family, or anyone else who says they want to read it.
Don’t do it.
With your first draft, you need to adhere to the door closed policy. That means you don’t tell people about your characters, your story, your ideas, or how things are going. The only exception to this rule could be telling other writers who also are working on a NaNoWriMo project but even then, keep things brief and simple. Don’t go on and on about the project.
Your project isn’t finished yet. The first draft is solely an exploratory venture that’ll need to be heavily changed, edited, and molded into something else. If you start telling people about it, you open the floodgates to potential criticism, judgment, or weird looks.
Even weird looks can kill motivation. All it takes is a weird noise from your Aunt Helen or an “Uh-huh” from Uncle Walter to make you feel seriously foolish and want to crawl into a hole.
Letting people read your manuscript is even worse than telling people about it. Grammar mistakes will abound. Details will be wrong. Descriptions will be awful. Pacing will likely suffer. The whole gambit is not going to be any good. Why in the world would you run into a battlefield unarmed with only a speedo to protect you?
So, when you have that insatiable craving to tell someone about your novel, repeat after me:
The first rule of writing club is you don’t tell people about writing club.
If there’s one thing writers love most, it’s having a big chunk of free time to sit down and churn out words like a madman. “Just a couple of hours is all I need,” we might say. “I could get so much done.”
While having large chunks of writing time is ideal and most productive, it might not be likely, plausible, or even reasonable in your situation. Some days you’ll have those time clusters to bang out the masterpiece but if you’re like most people, those days will be few and far between.
So, what’s a busy writer to do?
First, recognize that every minute counts. In turn, every word counts. Quick, how many words could you write in 60 seconds? Quite a few I’d bet. Even if you wrote two sentences within a 60 second period, that’s two more than you had before.
Obviously, I don’t really recommend writing for 60 second periods. That would drive a writer straight to the looney bin.
Here’s what I do recommend: Budget your time.
I have a writer friend who is super busy. He rarely has time to write. But he makes time by budgeting his time. He would get up early and write for thirty minutes in the morning. He’d leave the office on his lunch break and write in the car. He’d stay up late nights and write.
Often, I would write on my phone when I commuted on the bus. It was a thirty-minute bus ride to and from work. I figured it wasn’t ideal, but it would do. My thumbs could get plenty of words down in thirty minutes and it helped get me further on my daily goals.
The point is wherever you can find time to write for NaNoWriMo, then you need to do it.
Every minute counts. So don’t wait around for that writer’s magical time oasis. Just find any small moment of time and write.
Very few writers have a perfectly open schedule. With full-time jobs, commuting, families, friends, parties, pets, great movies, annoying neighbors, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, making dinner, cleaning the house (did I mention great movies?), finding time to write can feel like trying to find oxygen in outer space.
When you do find time to write for NaNoWriMo, you’re likely going to be frustrated you can’t hit your daily word goals. Fortunately, there’s a sliver of hope: Weekends.
I know what you’re already thinking. 2,000 words a day! That’s more than the 1,600 words a day to reach 50,000 by the end of NaNoWriMo.
You’re right. It might seem like a lot to write 2,000 words a day. Nigh-impossible for people with 8 to 10-hour shifts, a family, and tons of other responsibilities. Regardless, you still need to shoot for 2,000 words.