Getting unstuck with NaNoWriMo

Hello fellow writers, I hope you’re all writing away mad, as we say in Cork. I, on the other hand, am mad that I’m not writing away, having hit something of a wall with my current WIP (book 2).

It was going great guns. I recently completed an excellent Curtis Brown Creative three-month novel course that really helped me to outline the book, and it went from 18,000 words to close on 45,000 as a result. I also buddied up with another writer and we have been exchanging chapters and wrestling with our dilemmas every fortnight via Zoom.

But suddenly, everything stopped. Ideas – gone. Solutions to problems – nope. The motivation to read back through what I already have for inspiration – are you kidding me, have you seen how much good TV is around right now? Those series won’t binge watch themselves, you know…

It’s very frustrating, but this writing paralysis (or writer’s fatigue, thank you, lovely Marian Keyes) has happened before and the words have returned, eventually. If I were working on a short story or piece of flash fiction, the solution would be simple – switch to something else instead. But a book takes over until it’s done. That’s been my experience so far, anyway. It’s currently sulking in a corner, refusing to talk to me.

So to try and get back on track, I’ve signed up to do NaNoWriMo, the free writing tool that encourages you to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I did this back in 2015 (and blogged about it here) and calculated that I needed to write 1,667 words a day to reach the target. Some people do it differently, binge writing at weekends or on days off. Others don’t worry about minor things like wordcounts and just see where the road takes them, or hang out on the no doubt very enjoyable forum boards, discussing writing matters. There are also lots of articles with helpful writing advice, if you need guidance.

On my NaNoWriMo account, I see that I also attempted to participate in 2018 but dropped out very quickly – there were a lot of personal challenges that year. Nonetheless, I added 12,000 words to an MS before bailing, which I certainly wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.

For anyone considering it, the website is very straightforward. You set up a (free!) account, then give your project a name. This is the page you have at the start of the month:

Every day that you write, you log your wordcount and watch the graph grow. It’s amazing how motivating it is, trying to stay on or above that projection line! To egg you on further, badges are awarded when you hit certain milestones – 5k badge! 10k badge! Outdoor Challenge badge! (No, wait, that one’s the Girl Guides…) And you don’t have to upload what you write – that is between you and your typing device, it’s up to you to be honest about your score.

I’ll try to post the odd update on how it’s going over the course of November. And if anyone else decides to embark on a project of their own, I’d love to hear how you’re doing.


Photo: Steve Johnson/Pixabay


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