Here you are, halfway through November—National Novel Writing Month—and there’s about a gazillion and one things you seem to be doing other than writing. What’s happened to your carefully laid plans for writing a certain word count every day? What happened to prioritizing your writing (and letting the kids have takeout Chinese for supper!)? How about keeping your momentum going all month? Ouch, huh?
After the buildup and fanfare of November 1, inspiration and motivation both have a way of fizzing away under the pressures of real life. But they don’t have to! Let’s examine three ways you can boost your inspiration in the middle of NaNoWriMo and regain both your focus and your forward motion.
Don’t Wait for Inspiration
At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, don’t you need to be brimming with inspiration in order to write well? Nail Gaiman doesn’t think so. “You have to write when you’re not inspired,” he said. “And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.”
Here’s another weird thing: more often than not, when you start writing without inspiration, the inspiration will show up on its own sooner than later. Don’t play mind games with yourself. You’re not an “inspiree”; you’re a writer. So…write!
Rely on Your Preparation
More and more authors are learning to take advantage of October to prepare themselves for the writing that’s supposed to happen during November. Why is this? Simply because a prepared writer is a writer who is much less likely to get distracted, overwhelmed, or discouraged.
If you’ve put in the time upfront to outline your stories—whether that means a few Post-It Notes above your computer or, as I talk about in my book Outlining Your Novel, an in-depth advance troubleshooting process—then you can allow yourself to relax into that preparation.
Take advantage of it. Go back and look at your scene notes. Remind yourself of your ending scenes. You’ve already provided yourself with a map. Now, all you have to do is joyfully follow it.
Concentrate on Doable Daily Goals
Perhaps the most common reason writers stumble mid-November is simply because of how overwhelming the idea of 50,000 words in 30 days sometimes. But I’ll tell you a secret: although this is undeniably a big goal, it’s a long way from being too big.
If we assume you’re going to take a day off here and there, then we can estimate that you’re going to need to write right around 2,000 words per writing session in order to reach 50k by a few days after Thanksgiving. Now, 2,000 words may seem like a lot, especially if you’re not used to writing that much every day. But I gotta tell you: it’s not. If you teach yourself how to manage your time and energy, 2,000 words a day is a wholly reasonable goal for you to keep up for the rest of your life.
The secret lies in not simply breaking down the overall 50k goal down into daily bites, but in breaking the daily bites into even smaller goals. Instead of forcing yourself to write 2,000 words in two hours, challenge yourself to write 250 words every fifteen minutes.
That’s just a few paragraphs. It’s just a little bit bigger than this section of this post. It’s something anyone can handle without undue mental strain. Give it a try. You’ll need to stay focused, keep your fingers moving, and ignore your internal critic. Don’t worry about mistakes; you can fix those later. But the really juicy part of this is that more often than not, your writing itself is going to be all the better for this focused haste.
Don’t think of NaNoWriMo as a once-a-year challenge. Think of it as a warm-up exercise for all the hundreds of thousands of words you’re going to be writing all through next year. Train your brain to embrace good writing habits and not to give in to distractions and discouragement. If you can do that, you’ll not only win NaNo, you’ll find yourself easily writing 50k every month!
K.M. WEILAND lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.