We’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month already. For many writers taking part in this 50,000 word challenge this is often the hard part… pushing yourself through that story middle. Some writers even refer to it as a “muddle.” All the new and shiny sparkles have worn off. The adrenaline and excitement associated with what was possible have now given way to about half of a first draft of a story. There might be parts you like. There are certainly parts you don’t. And when life comes knocking at your door, it’s certainly tempting to throw in the towel.
Here are my top tips to help maintain motivation as you slog through your story’s muddle.
Read Something Inspiring
This is a great time to be reading something in your genre that you love. Go back to a favorite author, download an audiobook and listen to one of those stories that really connects with you during your commute, or while you’re doing some of those chores you can’t put off until December. Immersing yourself in a great story can help to fill you with inspiration to keep going.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
What you’re writing during NaNoWriMo is a first draft. That’s it. There’s a good chance that a lot of the material in the first draft won’t ever see the light of day, so it’s totally okay if you’re not happy with it. The whole point of it being there is just to get the basic idea down. You can edit in December.
Skip the Boring Parts
A lot of writers feel the need to write the story chronologically, because that’s how we experience stories as readers. But there’s no rule that says it has to be like this. When you’re stuck, it’s often because you’re so deeply emerged in your story that you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture. Part B needs to happen so characters can get from A to C. But if B is just a description of your character’s day… skip it. Go straight to C, that scene that your mind keeps racing to. Focus on that and get it down. Sometimes when that happens, it gives you ideas for B, or you might even realize you don’t need B if nothing critical is happening. Instead, write that juicy scene that makes your pulse race.
Getting through a marathon challenge like NaNoWriMo is all about consistency. Even if you’re not quite getting the word counts you want, as much as possible, try to be consistent with your writing time. Over time, this can help to trigger your brain to get into creative mode. Put in the time, keep putting words on the page and eventually you’ll get through that muddle.
Connect with Other Writers
Go to virtual write-ins. Talk with other writers who are struggling with similar problems. Bounce plot ideas off of each other. Even if you write in a different genre from other, writers are often more than willing to listen. And sometimes just talking through a problem can help you to see answers that hadn’t been there before.
Send In The Ninjas
If you’re stuck for a plot point, it’s time to think about the story from another point of view. How are things looking from the antagonist’s point of view? If things aren’t going according to their initial plan, send in a hoard of ninjas or pirates to attack and otherwise disrupt the status quo.
Another way of thinking about this is asking: what is the worst possible thing that could happen to your main character right now? Run with that for a while and see where it takes you.
Take Care of Yourself
Outside of novel-writing, make sure that you’re keeping a reasonable balance in your life. Sleep, nutrition, exercise and socialization. I know… a lot of that takes away from writing time. But you can only sacrifice so much for time in the writing chair. Making sure that you keep everything else in balance, helps to keep you at your creative peak when you do have writing time.