NaNoWriMo: How to Fix the Week Two Blues

I’ve done NaNo many times. I always get a slow start because (a) I always forget just how much commitment it takes and (b) I’m a champion procrastinator. So while some people are hitting 25K or even 50K or more by the end of Week Two, I’m usually struggling to hit 20K. I spend the whole month trying to catch up.

Despite that, I’ve won NaNo six times. (And lost once.)

So how do you pull yourself out of the Week Two slump? (Yeah, it’s a thing. I’m not alone, and neither are you.) Depends where exactly your problem lies.

The Saggy Middle

I always find Week Two tough from a story perspective. I’ve finished introducing my characters and plot and world, and throwing in a bunch of story problems. (I’m a reformed pantser — or seat-of-the-pants writer — and still lean in that direction.) Now I have to actually do something with all that. I have to develop the plot I’ve set up. But I can’t get to the payoff yet, which means I’m still in the set-up…sort of.

So if this is your problem, how do you plow through the saggy middle of your story to reach the really fun stuff at the end?

If you’re the sort of writer who can read articles about craft without getting derailed, check out Plotting with Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure over at Janice Hardy’s blog. (If that one doesn’t speak to you, the beginning of that post has links to several other posts Janice wrote about other ways to look at big-picture story structure.)

Basically, thinking about your novel in terms of a three-act structure, or a six-stage structure, or whatever, makes the middle not quite so huge and daunting because you have some points to hit along the way. And remember, it’s not a formula — it’s building blocks.

Taking the Time

Or maybe your plot is doing just fine, but you didn’t realize how much time NaNo would take.

There’s lots of advice around the interwebs about how to carve out time, so I won’t dwell. Just quickly, try:

  • doing a word war with other WriMos on Twitter or on the NaNo forums — these are often short sprints, usually 10 to 30 minutes long, but you’d be amazed how much you can get done in that time
  • setting a timer — if you don’t have access to the Internet or don’t want to let it derail you, run your own solo word war instead
  • downloading a spreadsheet — if you’re a numbers geek, you can find Excel spreadsheets on the NaNo forums where you input your word count each day and find out exactly how many words you have to write the next day in order to win
  • carving out a block of time — lunch hour at work? half an hour before bed? They add up, honest
  • designating one day as a mini-marathon — NaNo founder Chris Baty suggests starting at the top of the hour, writing until you hit 1000 words, then taking a break until the top of the next hour, and repeating. If you write slower than that, adapt as needed. Or try the Pomodoro Technique (Wikipedia warning!). Whatever method you pick, repeat it for several hours and watch the words add up.

If you’re a NaNoer wallowing in the mires of Week Two, don’t give up! You still have a little over half the month to reach that magic 50K. People win NaNo in two weeks all the time (I did, my first year) and if they can, so can you.

Personal Updates

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not doing a regular NaNo this year — I’m aiming for 50 hours of editing instead. (Well, really, I’m aiming to recommit to my writing. 50 hours is just a side effect.)

However, true to form, I’m slogging along at the back of the pack. I have yet to hit 14 hours. At least I’m reasonably happy with the results so far (except why is editing soooo slooooow?).

Here’s hoping I can follow my own advice and pull off yet another come-from-behind-and-win.

Your turn! How is your NaNoWriMo going? Which week do you find the hardest?

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2 responses to “NaNoWriMo: How to Fix the Week Two Blues

  1. I really miss doing NaNo…maybe next year.

  2. That’s how I feel too, Ken — an editing NaNo just isn’t the same somehow. Next year, for sure!

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