We’re roughly halfway through NaNoWriMo and, if everything is going according to plan for us, we’re also roughly halfway through reaching our 50,000 word count goal of our first draft.
In reality, many of us are stuck. We feel our characters are flat. Or maybe we’ve written a series of scenes, but when strung together they don’t resemble a cohesive story. And now, we’re desperate – ready to change our story concept or throw in the towel entirely!
I want to try and convince you why it’s a good idea to stick with your original NaNoWriMo story idea instead of changing to that newer, better idea that came to mind yesterday while sipping lattes and listening to smooth jazz at the local coffee shop.
First thing, take a deep breath. Let’s look at what you’ve learned so far. Go ahead and make a short list, and maybe it’ll look something like this:
There’s a great quote attributed to author Mark Twain that summarizes the NaNoWriMo experience:
NaNoWriMo is a bit like that. You can read other peoples’ posts all you want about how challenging it’s going to be, how beat up and battered you’re going to get, but it’s not real for you until you learn it for yourself.
While it may be tempting to change story concept mid-month, I want to suggest that you don’t. In reality, you’re going to run into the same challenges as you did with your original concept. You’ll question your creativity every time, I promise! So why not embrace this struggle and push through it now?
Imagine if you will that you were being paid to write this novel. Maybe you stepped in to finish a novel for someone else, or perhaps you’re paid to write a screenplay for a major motion picture studio. You wouldn’t necessarily have the freedom to change your romance story to that of a sci-fi novel. Therefore, you should stick it out with your original story concept. Plus, it’s only a month. So look at it from the angle of taking with you for life the lessons you learned from this experience.
So how can you recover and make the most of NaNoWriMo 2013?
What I like to do is take a step back and revisit my story concept at the highest level. I’ve been known to do this daily. Maybe it can be summarized in simple bullet points like:
I then look at what I’ve written as part of my story so far. Have I deviated from these bullet point objective? If yes, let me put myself back on course. If not, then I am reassured I’m still on track.
See, that part is pretty easy to do. Now take it a step further and write a dozen or so bullet points that show progress and setbacks. These can be used for chapter breaks:
Now I look at the rising and falling action of these bullet points against what I’ve written so far with my novel. Is there alignment? If yes, perfect. I’m still on track. If not, then I push my existing chapters to the bottom of my document and start fleshing out new chapters.
Now I have a clearer picture of my structure. This is where I go ahead and start filling in details, jumping around and writing the details of chapters out of sequence.
I promise you if you take these actions every day, in a few short days you’ll find yourself no longer questioning the validity or merit of your story and you’ll find yourself feeling back on track.