Week One of NaNo is over, and the Week Two blues have officially commenced. I’ve made really good progress so far (hoping to hit 25k tonight), but I’ve written many of the initial scenes I was really excited about and I’m now well into the meat of the novel. I’m also properly mired in several of the logistical problems I’d been studiously ignoring. Now, it seems, I’ve actually got to do the work of sorting out my plot rather than just playing around with fun scenes. Sigh.
So, when the initial excitement has worn off and the hard work hits, how do we keep going? What are the best ways to beat the Week Two Blues?
1- Don’t Stress
Firstly, don’t stress if you’re struggling a bit, or your novel doesn’t seem as exciting anymore. This is completely normal! Every writer goes through phases of self-doubt, and the early-middle is one of the hardest parts of a novel. The shine of a new story has worn off, but the end is still nowhere in sight. You now have to confront all the logistical problems you could ignore at the outline stage. This stage of writing is just hard, so don’t feel inferior because you’re struggling.
2- Take a Walk
If the creative juices aren’t flowing, sometimes the best thing is to get away for a little while. Crucially, you should do something that allows your brain to wander and be creative. Avoid scrolling through social media or watching TV, as these activities take up too much of our attention. Instead, do something to make space for your thoughts, like going for a walk, taking a shower, or doing something artistic. Allowing your mind to wander is crucial for creativity. Pro tip: keep a notepad handy to capture all those brilliant thoughts when they show up!
3- Spend Time Plotting
If something genuinely isn’t working in your story, it’s worth taking the time to sort it out. Just like tugging harder at a tangled skein of wool only makes it worse, pressing forward with a story that’s broken can just make a mess. Instead, take an hour out to brainstorm solutions. Try using a mindmap, or freewriting (you can even count these words toward your NaNo total, if you want!) You don’t need to do this every time you hit a minor snag, but taking an hour to solve a major problem can make the words flow much faster.
4- Jump Ahead
If you’re stuck on a section of your story, feel free to jump ahead! There’s no reason why writing has to be linear. Whether you’re wrestling with a stubborn plot hole or just feeling uninspired by a chapter, it’s okay to leave it behind and move on to a more exciting section. Sometimes, moving forward can give you just the energy you need to revitalise your story.
5- Silence Your Inner Critic
Someday, when you’re sending your novel to beta readers, or agents, or publishers, it might matter if your novel is good. Someday, you might need to turn your most critical eye upon your work. But today, in the middle of NaNo Week Two, is not that day. Today, you write. With NaNo, the only thing that matters is your wordcount. Try “sprints,” where you write as much as you can in a short space of time, perhaps 5 or 20 min. Or, if you’re really stuck, try writing one chapter as badly as you possibly can. It may surprise you just how good your “bad” writing is!
6- Keep Going
Finally, the most crucial thing of all: keep going! Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. The most important thing is to keep showing up. Even if you’re behind, even if you can only manage 167 words, not 1667, just keep going. It doesn’t matter how small the steps are, as long as you’re moving forward.