NaNoWriMo Halfway Point

by limebirdkate

So far, I have written 42,538 words.

A NaNo buddy of mine complained that two years in a row I’m showing her up in word count. She asked me if I gave my kids away. (No, but I did forget to feed them lunch one day–but we’re not talking about that.) I reminded her that while it helps to have uninterrupted time and fast typing skills for NaNo, none of that matters if you get stuck.

Last year, when this same friend asked for advice, I posted a quirky, somewhat useful tip list on my personal blog here. I came up with a few more this year that hopefully might help out anyone else who’s struggling, too.

1.) Write an action scene. I don’t care where in your novel you envisioned this action scene, write it wherever you’re stuck. Don’t bog yourself down with inner story; stick with fiery, fast-paced, gut-wrenching action. This works if the reason you’re stuck is because you’re writing something dull and flat and you can’t seem to get your fingers to type because the stupid scene is going nowhere and you think you’re a failure and you can’t write and shame on the person who came up with this insane challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days I mean really who in the world thought this was helpful…

See? Being stuck is not good for the soul. You start thinking bad things.

2.) Mix it up. If your workspace is quiet, then go to a busy cafe or sit in the mall. If you write on a laptop switch to paper. If you write in the morning, try nighttime instead. Listen to jazz? Change to rock-n-roll. Writing can get stale if your approach feels stale. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in routine and habit. But NaNo is anything but routine.

3.) Dear Protagonist, I’m devastated over what you did to your poor father, sticking him in the psych ward when he’s clearly lucid and sane. This is not how I thought you’d turn out. When I first met you, you were a dashing, suave millionaire who donated to orphanages. Where did you go wrong? How am I supposed to deal with you when you’ve committed this heinous offense? Please help me understand your reasons so I can stick it out with you for the next 30,000 words. Your friend, Author

Dear Author, my father is a white supremacist. I discovered this when I was helping him clean his attic. I was stunned. If anyone found out, he’d be killed. They’d figure out he’s responsible for that tragic barn fire…he’s my father. I can’t abandon him, but I can’t let him hurt any more people either. Please help me get through this so I can forgive him and forgive myself. Your friend, Protagonist

This is a fun method at extracting information out of your characters. You’ll be surprised at their answers.

4.) Maybe you suffer from the “all action, no downtime” syndrome which means you have little reflection helping you understand how your characters are changing. Sometimes you get stuck because you feel like your characters are doing the same crazy things with no hope of moving on, so your story might feel repetitive.

Take away one of their senses. Write a scene having them figure out how to cope with their current situation without sight or smell. This can help you understand how your character might deal with disadvantage or misfortune and you can apply his behavior to a scene that might benefit from some inner story.

5.) Thanks to LimebirdBeth’s latest conundrum I thought I’d include this little tip: Sometimes we get started off on the wrong foot, and it might help to flip things around for a better fit. Change your setting, POV, or your hero’s sidekick. Even if you’re halfway through the novel and you have to change your setting, don’t waste time updating what you already wrote to reflect your new decision. Wait until after you have reached the NaNo finish line to do things like that.

What are some strategies you use to get unstuck in your NaNo novel?

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47 Responses to “NaNoWriMo Halfway Point”

  1. Wow, you’re doing so amazingly! I’m pleased with how I’m doing, I’m on track, but not in your league! 😉

    Really helpful tips there! I don’t know if you’ve seen in the Limebird forum where I posted yesterday what I did when I was stuck with what to write yesterday? Quite a shock I can tell you, hehe. It kind of fits in with your number 1 point here though.

    My NaNo story definitely feels repetitive and quite flat through a lot of it, just biding time in between the plot points, but I’m really learning a lot. One of the areas I’m getting stuck with is where I haven’t done enough research on something – I know I can do that later and fill it in, but in the meantime I don’t know what to write for those bits! Still, I’m getting through it…

    • Hi Vanessa,

      No, I didn’t see your forum post yet, but I am due to check in there tonight!! I can’t wait to read what you did. 🙂 I might be bearing down on that finish line, but my last 10,000 words have been rough and it is definitely because of lack of research. You end up leaving a lot of questions unanswered or decisions unmade because you need to know the history of basket weaving or something like that.

      I’m glad you’re still in it, Vanessa. Keep it up!

    • Hi Vanessa, the areas I want to research/check spelling/grammar, etc. – I make those bold face type. Then later when I’m editing, those things will draw my eye quickly and I can correct/look them up for details.

  2. You’re on a role Kate! Go you!

    Haha, yes I’m definitely back on track after changing my POV, it’s a bit frustrating though, because I wonder what I would have been on if I’d realised this in the first place! Great post.

    • I’m glad the POV change was the right thing to do, Beth. Isn’t it amazing how we figure these problems out? It’s like waking up from a dream and realizing what you have to do. Keep plugging away!

      • Yeah definitely, I’m nearly catching up now. So annoyed that I didn’t think of it before! Thanks 🙂

      • Don’t be too annoyed, Beth. I don’t think your issue was an obvious one. POV is tricky, especially if we’re used to writing in one style. Plus, it’s one of those decisions we make after some careful thought, because it is all about voice and we have to figure out how we want to relay that voice. There really isn’t a lot of time to think about POV before you start NaNo’ing. Just be happy you figured out that was the problem! 🙂

      • Yes I guess so. I’m just so used to writing in third, I just went straight for it, and I couldn’t work out why it wasn’t working. It was so frustrating!

        I’m up to 20,311 so I’m hoping I’m going to be able to catch up! I’m not going to have much time to do this weekend though, so I need to try and do a lot today! Eep! I wish I was at your stage!

      • Me too, 3rd person is the way I usually go. But interestingly enough, my first NaNo novel I automatically wrote in first person POV. And I really try to avoid first person because it annoys me. Perhaps it was the element of NaNo that got me writing away from my style?

        I’ll be interested to see if you keep the first person when you revise….:)

  3. Well done, you’re killing it woo!

  4. I stay focused because of my prologue – it’s set towards the end so I feel as though I’m stitching together the parts of my story rather than writing blind and losing track of the story.
    I’ve had setbacks with a few computer melt downs, but other than that it’s been quite okay 🙂
    Wow well done on the word count! I was just about to take a longer break but am going to get back to it now 😉

    • Hey jessmittens,

      Computer meltdowns are no fun ever, and even worse during NaNo. I’m glad you didn’t run into too much of a problem. What a great idea about your prologue, I think that’s super clever. I can see how that will keep you on track.

      Thanks! Wishing you continued success. 🙂

  5. Congratulations on the word count! Are you going to ease up at 50,000 words or keep writing at this pace through the end of the month?

    These are great ideas to use at any time we don’t know what to write next. It’s easy to get “stuck in a rut” when we’re writing and to lose track of our characters’ motivations and journeys (as I’m addressing in this new round of revisions).

    Keep up the great work, and for everyone who’s doing NaNo, remember—while you can compete against other writers, the important thing is to get your story ideas out there, regardless of final word count. So don’t be discouraged by another writer’s numbers. Focus on you!

    • Hey JM,

      Umm, that’s a good question. I have been finding this last 10,000 words to be difficult because I don’t know how to bring a couple of storylines together without knowing a thing or two about pirates. Seeing as how my accidental protag diverted my story a bit, I am pantsing like never before. I think I’ll need to stop at 50,000 words and let it rest while I do some serious research.

      You’re absolutely right about word counts being a personal challenge and not to fret too much about how everyone else is doing. I actually think the fact I’m this far along is not a good thing because I am writing crap. Come the 50,000th word I’m pretty sure this whole draft will be thrown out. Not the ideas of course, but the writing most certainly!

  6. Excellent advice! I looked at your profile yesterday actually because I often stalk the Limebird Writers when I’m updating my word count and noticed that you were near completion (even more so now). You’ve absolutely destroyed NaNoWriMo, I started a week late but I’m nearing 25k after 9 days so it’s going alright so far. Usually when I get stuck I’ll come up with a random flash back scene and throw that in there to break things up a bit. 🙂

  7. And you were worried about ever going back to the site to log in. Look at you now! You’re a writer. You write books.

  8. I’ll be honest… The first line of your post came through on my email and I just thought “The hell am I reading the rest of this! Smug so-‘n’-so!”

    However, I can’t seem to stay away from LimeBirds now, so I inevitably read the rest and I’m so glad I did! Kate, you’re amazing. You’ve completely smashed the 50,000 word target for NaNo at the halfway mark and your advice will help me achieve the goal, too. I’ve so far done #1, #2 and #3… I think my current problem is #4 and I just really hope I don’t encounter Beth’s #5.

    In terms of personal strategies, I think you’ve covered all the ones I’ve tried. Although, I do find talking to my wife very useful. I’d probably add that to #3 and say that a fresh pair of eyes/ears can help write the character’s response letter 🙂

    One thing I would say is taking a day off doesn’t help much in terms of confidence (I note the Walt Disney quote on your blog).

    • Haha! Scree, I hope you’ll learn soon enough that I’m not the smug type at all 🙂 In fact, I would have added a lot more about the terrible writing in that 42k, but then I thought I’d save that for a post-NaNo post. Because it’s important to know that even though it’s about the word count in November, after November none of that really matters. Now it’s the real writing with research and character development and structure and setting, etc. (Sometimes, NaNo seems a lot easier by comparison.) But that info would have been a such a downer if I wrote that in the post. Then again, I have put it in my reply to you so now you’re at risk for severe depression. Sorry.

      Yes, having a confidant, someone to bounce ideas off of is super helpful. Yeah, #5 issue is not a fun one to encounter. That can be really stressful. But I think Beth has gotten through it, so there’s hope for all of us! 🙂

      I’m dealing with #4 now too, and that’s probably because of a need for serious research. I can’t really move the story as forward as I’d like because I don’t know enough about tthe time period I’m writing in.

      Ah, yes, taking a day off–not very helpful. 🙂 Thanks for reading my alter-ego’s blog.

  9. Congratulations, Kate! It’s inspiring to see someone soaring through the quota. 😀 Everyone else currently on my Buddy list – Beth and Vanessa included – are doing great, too!

    For those of us (like me) who are (far) behind, let’s give those front-runners a cheer! And, maybe, they’ll throw a few words our way! 😀

    • Thanks, Mayumi. I think you’ll continue to do just fine, because NaNo might not be the right venue for that particular story you’re writing. Sometimes, we don’t need to force a story out. That could be what’s happening with yours. But I hope you keep writing toward that 50,000th word, just because. 🙂

  10. Great going, Kate, good for you. Last year during NaNoWriMo I ran out of plot, so I gave my characters all kinds of problems – the baby got colic, the wedding cake arrived with sliver bullets all over it which the bride hated, so she spent the morning of the wedding picking them all off — true story — I fired one of my characters from her job, etc. etc. Don’t know if I’ll use it all in the final draft, but it helped beef up my word count 😉

    • Hi Nancy,

      I love those ideas–or problems– that you added into your story. That is certainly a great way to spice up the novel, add word count, and brainstorm different routes from beginning to end. I like the silver bullets on the wedding cake. I think I would have picked them off, too.

      Thanks for swinging by. 🙂

  11. Kate, I was just going to leave you a NaNo email — congratulating you for the great word count — but I checked my Reader first and here you are on Limebirds.

    I gave these tips yesterday to a writing buddy who is stuck in the “squishy middle” of her NaNo novel: “I found a list of character development questions that I’m using to create additional scenes. I read the question and just start writing a scene based on the question. Here’s the link at The Kill Zone — http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2012/11/kick-starting-your-story.html … Another thing I find helpful is describing a room. I had my character upset about something and she just started describing every item in her bedroom, which is her place of peace. Just doing that got me going off on a tangent via a photo she loves.”

    See you at the finish line!

    • Hi Darla,

      Awesome! Yes, I think the middle can be really tough. I am definitely going to look up that link. I don’t write sequentially in my first drafts or NaNo drafts, so I have no idea which scenes that I wrote would be considered my middle. But character development is important because it can bring out so much more in your story that you weren’t aware of.

      Oh, describing a room and overall setting is actually a great way to warm up your ideas and help you build your word count.

      Great tips, thanks Darla. And yes, I’m eager to see you at the finish line, too. 🙂

  12. Awesome word count Kate, I’m only at 21,000, so I’m a bit behind. I’m not worried about it, like many things in life, getting there is the fun. Whether or not I finish on the 30th I will still have been writing A BOOK! 🙂

    So far I have resisted padding my word count, though it might mean making the “word count” goal it does nothing for “writing the novel” goal. It feels like cheating and would all have to be cut out later anyhow. Okay no, no I haven’t completely resisted, lol. There are a few scenes that I will probably take out later and left in there anyways. I just continued the story after them. Really making an effort not to though.

    I have enjoyed your Thursday posts about Nano on here, you are full of encouragement and good ideas, so thanks!

    • Neeks, you inspire me. I remember way back when you thought you wouldn’t ever write a book, and now look at you. 21k words is amazing for anyone, but I think especially so for you because of your earlier doubts.

      I’m sure I have padded my word count — with terrible writing! There were a couple of scenes I tried reading and immediately had to stop because I was so turned off. However, the ideas are there and that’s what matters. Because before November 1, I had nothing except a measly little premise.

      Thank you, I’m glad you’re finding these posts useful. Keep up the great work, Neeks. 🙂

  13. You little stunner Kate – well done in doing so well. I’ve had such blummin little spare time (anyone working in a UK Uni’s research department will understand the dread REF input going on right now… blah). I was so psyched up to do it too! You’re tips have been an inspiration.

    Another thing I love about Limebird’s… Even those of us who write for it can get tips from other LBW-er’s! I think it’s because we are all very different types of writers from different types of backgrounds. Bringing different things to the table makes us magical and wonderful and unique!

    Will write to Nick and Kitty (my protagnists)… see what they say 😀

    • Hey Cat,

      It’s really tough when life gets in the way of NaNo. Doesn’t it know any better? 😉 The bright side though is that if you have a book that you’re really interested in writing, you can still do it, NaNo or NoNaNo. 🙂

      I agree with you about reading other peoples’ accounts regarding their NaNo experiences. I really love how people get into it and take off with a book. I mean, when you really think about it it’s quite an amazing feat.

      Hope you at least keep working with Nick and Kitty, even if you can’t fully participate in NaNo. 🙂

  14. You are doing so great! I’m a horrible nano-er this year 😦 I have the worlds worst time management, and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I always do this to myself. grrrr!

    • Hey Laura,

      NaNo is hard for people who have difficulty with time management, so don’t get too down on yourself. Perhaps you could give yourself an extension that’s more logical for your specific needs? There’s no reason you have to get it done by November 30th, so if you think you need that extra time then I say take it!

  15. Just keep riding the bike and taking the tablets.

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