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NaNoWriMo Tip #15 – Push Through the Middle

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.

NaNoWriMo Tip #13 – First Rule of Writing Club is You Don’t Tell People About Writing Club

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. 

NaNoWriMo Tip #12 – Every Minute Counts

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.

 

NaNoWriMo Tip #9 – Ditch Microsoft Word

It’s no secret Microsoft Word is mostly an absolute pain to use. Quite frankly, most word processors don’t make the cut. Novelists need to keep track of their notes, outlines, and organize everything accordingly. Word processors don’t have the tools to help.

So, ditch Microsoft Word and find a good piece of writing software. Yes, unfortunately, you’ll likely have to throw down a little cash to get the software but it’ll save you a ton of headaches.

I personally use Scrivener when I write my first draft. It has flashcards built in to keep track of my outline, a notes database to keep track of my characters, backstories, plots, and anything else I need to know. It has everything. Fair warning, it does have a learning curve but once you figure it out, you’ll never want to go back to Word again.

NaNoWriMo Tip #8 – Use a Productivity Timer

In yesterday’s NaNoWriMo tip, I said you should write in short and timed intervals. You’re not going to be able to keep track of the time while you’re writing. That would be a nightmare and ruin the whole process.

So, how do you do it?

You could use the timer setting on your phone. But, frankly, that’s only slightly less cumbersome than watching the time yourself.

The best way is to use a Productivity Timer app. Countless services exist helping keep people focused and monitor the time they use. Here are a few:

  1. Toggl
  2. Focus Keeper App
  3. BeFocused App

They all are FREE and easy to use, though some might have ads or try to get you to buy upgraded services. At the end of the day, you have a great solution to keep you focused and capable of tracking your time without worrying about it.

For some, finicking with a productivity tracker might seem like too much bother. But, if you want to get the most out of your writing and milk every hour (because let’s face it our time is valuable), then I’d highly recommend doing this.