If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before, you’ve probably heard of the infamous “second week slump”, when the rush of the first week wears off and writers find their story starting to plod along. Maybe it’s the third week that got to you, or in those last few days you just can’t get the motivation to reach for the finish line. Maybe you’ve done NaNo too many years in a row and it’s just not as fun as you thought it would be this time around.
Writing fifty thousand words in a month is usually both enjoyable and a challenge for most of the month, leaving its participants with a well-earned sense of accomplishment, often even if they haven’t won. But when the words don’t want to come and you’re sitting there wondering why you ever decided to try, here are some ideas to try to bring the excitement of midnight November 1st back.
Shake up your plot (or, ninja pirate zombie attack!)
NaNoers, if not just writers in general, have probably already heard the joke about plot ninjas. When the plot gets stuck, the answer: ninjas attack. Sometimes it’s pirates, sometimes it’s zombies, sometimes it’s ninja zombie alien feline pirate fairies, but the joke remains the same. With NaNoWriMo, however, it’s also a valid suggestion.
No action in your story? Have someone or something attack. Find a way to tie it into the main plot, if you have one, or just let it be a random attack to move the story a few hundred (or thousand, if you’re enterprising) words along. No idea how to get the main character to where they need to be? A helicopter appears over them, a ladder descends from the sky, and someone holds out an invitation to the next plot point. No idea how they’d come up with the solution to the main plot? Suddenly, an older version of your main character appears and explains the next few chapters to them. Just plain tired of your plot? Leave it behind entirely, and let your story go wherever you’d like it to; if you decide you want to, you can always come back to it later, whether you can explain it or not.
Shake up your narration
Try one of these for a chapter and then, if you like it, keep the rest of your novel that way, and if not, switch back. Whether your characters ignore the events of the chapter or not is up to you.
Switch your style without switching your plot. Always wanted to write a suspenseful thriller? Tell your love story in the most ominous way possible. Or give your coming-of-age novel all the purple prose and extended description of a romance novel. Pepper your horror with puns and off-topic tangents.
For a different tactic, try writing the rest of your novel in poetry. Another option is to take a book off your shelf or pick your favorite author, or just one with a unique style, and try to imitate their writing: do your novel in your best Shakespearian impression, or try your hand at Terry Pratchett’s footnotes.
You can also try switching to a different narration: if you’ve been in third person, start using first person from your main character’s point of view, or vice versa. Or try a different viewpoint character: best friend, antagonist, love interest, the throwaway character you mentioned two chapters ago, or even their pet. For a milder version, let your characters break the fourth wall and comment on the plot and the writing, or even hold discussions with you, their author.
Take a tip from the dares thread
This one requires braving the NaNoWriMo forums, which has been known to suck in unsuspecting first-timers and never let them out again, or at least not until after several hours of writing time is lost. However, it’s a quick and amusing way to find interesting things to throw into your novel. Usually found under Plot Doctoring or Reaching 50,000 in the NaNoWriMo forums, the Dares thread is full of amusing, intriguing, and often downright ridiculous things to add to your NaNo. Some genres have their own dares thread as well, with genre-specific ideas, or you can type “nanowrimo dares” into Google and see what comes up. This tip is especially useful if you’re having trouble finishing because you’re taking your novel too seriously. Once you’ve got three chapters about side characters who never get mentioned again and every other line of dialogue is a random interjection or side-tangent, it’s hard to take the story seriously at all.
Find a group write-in
Sometimes being around creative people can spark your own creativity. If your interest has run out, go looking for a group write-in and see if being around other frantically typing NaNoers helps. Under your regional forum there should be meetings listed; keep in mind that not all groups use their weekly NaNo meetings as a write-in, for some it’s simply a check-in. Ask if you’re not sure what your city does. If there are no write-ins scheduled in your city, make a post on the forum or contact your Municipal Liasion (ML) and offer to set one up yourself: either invite the group over to your home, or schedule one at a large coffee shop, such as Starbucks or Panera, that won’t mind a large group of people sitting around for hours. Being around other writers can make the process more enjoyable, and you’ll likely find out you’re not the only one having problems getting to the finish line.