Anyone who has participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) knows that the first couple of weeks are full of excitement. Characters appear and begin to grow, the plot of the novel starts to unfold, and Wrimos can generally get away with following the story wherever it leads.
Then comes the dreaded 30k mark. All of a sudden, the elements that seemed so interesting and exciting at the start are weighing heavily on the story. Threads of plot dangle. Characters become restless, their actions stagnant. Wrimos all over the world find themselves staring at their computer screens and wondering, “What now?”
The last third of a NaNoWriMo novel can be the most difficult. Given that the challenge is characterized by reckless abandon, suddenly having to bring all of the bits of the story together and be responsible for them is a daunting prospect. Characters and plot points that had so much potential at the beginning of the month are now more firmly established. Story elements must be reigned in and herded into some form of cohesive order as the novel begins to draw to a close.
At this point, the time comes to switch gears from building the story to working within it. Rather than discovering a new fact about a character or a fresh facet of the plot at every turn, Wrimos must move on to gathering the threads of their novels and spinning them into a cohesive novel. Word count will come more slowly, and that’s okay; it’s more important to enjoy the journey and like what is being written than to bang out words just for the sake of hitting the daily goal.
The best way to make it through the final stretch is to relax. Take a deep breath. You signed up for NaNoWriMo for a reason. Did you set out intending to write your first novel? To get down a story that’s been in your head for years? Or was the rush of writing 50,000 words in 30 days simply too much to resist? Whatever the case, remind yourself of this reason, even if you have to write it on a post-it note and stick it to your monitor to keep yourself on track.
If you find yourself metaphorically banging your head against a difficult part of your novel, take a break. Though often shunned by hardcore Wrimos, breaks are essential to making it to 50k without losing your mind. Make yourself a cup of tea, pop over to the forums and spend a little time commiserating with others who are having the same problems you are. This kind of contact can help fortify you to push through the harder parts of writing and move on with your story.
Above all, don’t punish yourself. NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge, not something you must complete at any cost. If you can’t get to 50k for whatever reason, give yourself a pat on the back anyway. You tried and spent the better part of a month doing something that most people only dream of doing. Whatever your word count come November 30, you’ve written more than a lot of people write in their entire lives. And now you have, if not a full novel, at least the beginning of something that can become a finished piece all your own.
So when the latter part of your novel looms large, don’t panic. There are thousands of Wrimos all over the world facing the very same hurdle, one that you can all get through together on the journey to reaching 50k and the end of your novel.