The following is a guest post from Kai Kiriyama. Kai is a writer and a generally geeky girl. She likes to read books by the fire and playing Pokemon on her DS. She invites everyone to friend her on the NaNoWriMo forums, her user name is KaliYuga. She also has a blog which she is attempting to keep updated and you can find it at thekiriyamaheir.blogspot.com she also has a youtube channel which she hoped will be updated with a video blog on her life during NaNo, her channel is thekiriyamaheir. Kai also insists that you find her author page on facebook (Author: Kai Kiriyama) and her twitter which is @thekiriyamaheir. There, no reason for you not to talk to at least ONE person during NaNo! Kai Kiriyama sends you all the warmest wishes and good luck hugs.
So you’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo. Awesome. I decided to do NaNo 3 years ago. I was so not expecting anything even remotely close to what happened to me in November. It’s difficult, writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Difficult, but not impossible. I will admit that life tends to throw curve balls at you, and none are more apparent than when you’re trying to reach such a lofty goal of writing a novel in a month. I should know. In 2010, I was working 3 jobs, working 7 days and well over 70 hours every week. In a mall. During the Christmas rush. And trying to write a novel. And planning for Christmas. And did I mention that I was trying to write a novel? I reached the 50k mark. In fact, I surpassed it. Barely. But it is attainable.
The other thing that I’ve noticed in my first two years of NaNoWriMo, is that there is a point in the month where you will hit a slump. You can be a planner, or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pantser, or a go-in-it-blind-and-hope-for-the-best kind of person, but no matter what you do (I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants novelist in 2009 and a planner in 2010) it is almost inevitable that you will hit what I refer to as the dreaded “Week-Three Slump.” Sometimes, it happens in the second week or partway through the first week, but for me, the slump tends to strike on the third week of the month. I get so psyched up about writing and I fly outta the gate full tilt. My first week typically is fantastic for my total word count. My second week, I start to get right into the plot, developing what is happening and where the story is going. I find my second week to be a lot slower than my first week during NaNoWriMo, but I get most of the set-up in my story done, and usually all the back stories and secrets my characters have are developed enough to make the story work. But in my opinion, that is the easy part.
Week Three tends to be the part where you’ve started to feel like you’ve hit the wall. Your word count slows down. Your plot has become developed and your characters are solid but now it feels almost like work to try and progress the story towards that 50,000 word mark. Sometimes life has thrown you for a loop, sometimes you’re discouraged by the people who have written 80,000 words in the first three weeks (I know I have been in the past.) Sometimes it’s just writer’s block. Whatever the reason, it happens. It’s normal. I’ve compiled a list of tactics that work for me when I hit that slump, and I hope that you will find this list helpful. Read on!
Tip One: Keep Breathing.
Okay, so it’s kind of a stupid tip, of course you’re going to continue to breathe, it’s not something that you can normally shut off (unless you’re a vampire, but that’s a whole other discussion.) When I say ‘keep breathing’ I mean relax. Don’t stress yourself out over it. Writer’s block or a slump happens, especially when you’re pushing yourself as hard as you will be in November. Take a step back, push yourself away from your computer or set the laptop aside, and just breathe. Calm yourself down. Take a minute to refocus yourself and ask yourself these quick questions:
• Why am I stuck?
• Am I letting this [writing a novel] stress me out? How can I remove that stress?
• What is the worst/best that could happen in this situation? (In your story)
• How long have I been sitting here?
Usually, these four questions will give you an answer to what you need to do to get over the hump. If you’ve been sitting at the computer (or notebook, or typewriter or parchment and quill pen) for a long time, maybe you just need to get up. Which brings me to my next tip.
Tip Two: Get up, go out
If you’re like me, week three dictates the third week that you haven’t left the house for non-work or groceries-related reasons. And you’ve probably consumed enough caffeine to power a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters for a week. And you probably haven’t slept much.
This is all normal, but for the love of everything you hold dear (and your sanity) call someone and go out for coffee, or dinner, or just to the park. Anything to get you up and out of the house for an hour or two.
Seriously. Save your work. Back it up. Turn off the computer. It will still be here when you get back. Change your clothes (you’ve been wearing the same ones for a few days, if you haven’t had to go to work, I’ll wager) and go meet up with a friend. Bonus points if it’s a non-novelist friend, because then you can talk about things outside of NaNoWriMo.
Make sure that you take a notebook along with you on this excursion so that you can write down anything that inspires you or if you get that perfect idea for the next big plot point, or that clever one-liner that your hero can shout right before the epic showdown at the end. You never know where inspiration will strike. And even if all of your friends are doing NaNoWriMo, then good! You can all take an hour to go out, get some fresh air and have a social visit. Which again, brings me to my next tip…
Tip Three: Attend NaNoWriMo events
I’m lucky enough to live in Calgary, Alberta. We have a fantastic NaNo group called the Wrimotaurs. (Like Minotaurs, but for writing month, get it?) The Municipal Liaisons here are fantastic at organizing events in the city throughout the month of November (and we even have monthly meetings to keep the NaNo spirit alive year-round!)
The events that they so meticulously put together are great social events where you can chat with other people as crazy as you are for participating in NaNoWriMo, compare your progress in real-time, and generally have some fun. We also have word wars (which are basically mini-contests to see who can write the most in a set amount of time; sometimes, there are small prizes with us.) which will definitely increase your word count because who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? We also have a 12-hour event which is amazing if you can go. You will honestly increase your word count by a huge margin at this event. Almost everyone does, and a lot of the Wrimotaurs win at this event.
Now, maybe you live in the country, or you don’t drive, or you can’t make it to these events for any number of reasons. Well, that’s okay too because there are the forums on nanowrimo.org, and there are chatrooms (at least for Calgary) that you can get on and chat with people doing NaNo as well. So there’s really no excuse for you NOT to be in touch with someone else who is participating in NaNoWriMo, and with events in person and online, there’s even less of an excuse for you to be a shut-in when it comes to pep-talks and participation! And there’s tons of Wrimos on places like Twitter and Facebook, all you really have to do is get online to find out who has these options in place and see who is interested in setting up a chat to cheer each other on.
Darn, I didn’t have a clever segue into my last (and personal favourite) tip on overcoming the week-three slump…
Tip Four: Break time!
Yes. Take a break. An actual break. Usually in Week Three, you have ingested a ton of caffeine, have neglected doing the dishes for as long as you can, haven’t showered, haven’t slept, have barely eaten. Sound about right?
This is my favourite way to overcome the Dreaded Week-Three Slump. I have a day off, sometimes two in a row if I’m lucky, and I had planned to get another 10,000 words put into my novel. I had big big plans to finish the 50,000 words before the end of the month. And then, the Slump happens. I sit for hours struggling with what I’m trying to, but nothing is coming to me.
So I take a break and pamper myself.
I’m a girl, so I tend to do my nails, take a bubble bath, maybe colour my hair or give myself a facial. But I also make myself (and sometimes my fiancee if he’s home) a nice meal; maybe steak and potatoes, or pasta and sauce, something that isn’t previously frozen and usually requires a fork and knife (or a spoon, if it’s soup) to eat.
But the real thing that I find helps is if I let myself get up from my work and literally unplug myself. That’s right. I take a nap. Even if it’s only for an hour, a nap is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to recharge your mind and body. (I always give myself a minimum of 90 minutes though because I have trouble falling asleep on a good day.)
Oh and, DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT!
I know, NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality, but you will still feel like you should be writing instead of taking a bubble bath and a nap like a five-year-old. Relax, allow yourself to take this break and trust me, you’ll feel so much better when you get up afterwards.
So there you have it. My four tips on getting over that Week-Three slump. I’m always looking for more, so feel free to email me or NaNomail me or even find me in person and let me know what else you do to overcome the Week Three Slump.
Happy writing everyone!