Not So Common Sense

Random thoughts on random acts, from the mind of author Gavin Kingsley

NaNoWriMo Day 16 – The Midway Point

It’s the halfway point of NaNoWriMo. How’s the competition treating you? Oh come on now, it can’t be that bad. It is? Ok well keep reading for some tips.

NaNoWriMo Day 16, or: The struggle is Real

We’ve reached the halfway point of this 30 day writing challenge. A few of you reading are coasting through, maintaining your word goals and well on your way to tracking 50k words. I’m so proud of you!

But then there a some of you who are just stuck. The halfway point of any novel is the point where weak plots run out of steam or writers block settles in for an extended stay. Never fear there are ways around this. If you’ve fallen behind there is still time to catch up with a little dedication and perseverance. So let’s start with the weak plot issue.

You’ve been diligently writing, day after day and it seems that you’re closer to the end of your story than you are your word count. It’s time for a surprise! Throw something at your protagonist completely unexpected. A death in the family, sudden loss of money, make his best friend his worst enemy. Go wild. Your changes may not make the final count, but the sudden change in direction will get your creative juices flowing, hopefully the words will flow too.

So you’ve just added some new chapters, your tale is moving again, awesome but don’t stop there. Take some time to step away from the story you’re telling and re-read through what you’ve written. You are not to do any editing here, just reminding yourself what you’ve written already. Now quickly write a short summary of what you just read. Compare this to your initial outline/plot notes. Have you covered everything you meant to? I ask because often you can get caught up in writing and your characters may take you in surprising directions as you write. There’s nothing wrong with this and if you find it happening go with it. But since you’ve taking a different path to get to the same place, you may find that you missed a few important destinations. Now’s a great time to work these plot points back into your story. With the changes you’ve already made your original ideas may not fit in perfectly, but consider the theme of your manuscript and adjust accordingly.

Speaking of theme, that may be your problem as well. After re-reading everything you’ve written so far, can you pick out the overall theme of your story? If not, you may need to ask yourself some important questions. Again, you have to take a step back to find your theme(s). Once you’ve identified them, see how else you can demonstrate and drive it home for the second half of your story.

Now let’s talk writer’s block. It happens to us all. You’re writing, you’re inspired, the words are flowing like water. You’ve hit your daily word count goal but you’re feeling so good you just keep on going. And then it all dries up. The scene just isn’t working anymore. The vision has faded and your muse has abandoned you. What do you do now?

I’ve been saying all along: distance yourself. You’ve been writing everyday but now it’s time for a break. It’s at this point I usually pick up one of my favorite books, ideally something close in tone to what I’m working on. This gets me out of my head and into someone else’s world for a while and often plants seeds of new ideas. After a short break I can come back to my own work and continue fresh.

Another way to jump start the the writing process is to have a conversation between two (or as many as you like really) characters in your novel. This conversation can be about anything or an extended scene (think a deleted scene from a DVD). Just the act if writing conversation keeps you moving and again can birth new seeds of plot. This candid conversation may push you in a direction you hadn’t considered before. If so, great. See above about making sure you hit all your plot points later.

Maybe the issue isn’t dialogue but just that the current scene you’re writing isn’t working out at all. In this instance cheat: jump ahead. There is no rule that says you have to write from the begging of the story straight through to end (something I have to remind myself all the time). I’ve read of some writers that start at the end of their book and jump around every time they hit a road block. This works! It never fails that as soon as I move on from a problem by jumping ahead, the issue is worked out shortly there after. Try it, it’s amaze-balls!

So these are my tips for the halfway point. If you have any other, list them in the comments below. I’ll check in on you guys later.