NaNoWriMo: Overcoming the Slump

Happy Week Two, novelists! You’re nearly halfway there–16 more days to go.

Alas, the deeper we get into November, the more likely it is many writers will find themselves in the dreaded NaNo slump.

You’re just a little behind at first. You miss a day or two. Something may have come up IRL. Or, more troublingly, your enthusiasm has started to wane. What was a brilliant, hilarious idea in Week One now seems trite, boring, and an utter waste of your time.

In other words, you’re writing the first draft of a novel. Whether you do it in 30 days every November or over the course of 365 like the rest of us, you’re going to hit some snags.


Why did I ever think a love affair between two centenarians in a nursing home was a good idea for a novel? I just wrote thirty pages about prunes.

Never fear. Snags can be overcome. Some methods to consider:

  • Introduce a new character. Tired of your protagonist? Want to drown her love interest in a well? Get some new blood in there. Complications abound when we meet people.
  • Conversely, kill someone off. Go ahead and drown that love interest, whether it makes sense for the story right now or not. All literature is about life or death, some say, so let’s murder some unwieldy secondary characters.
  • Or otherwise, up the ante. If you’re not aiming for homicide, you still might need to raise the stakes. If your characters aren’t doing anything, give them a purpose–something to fight for. Don’t try to write a novel without a conflict.
  • And if that doesn’t work, change your setting. Sometimes it’s the scenery that’s gotten stale. Find a new place for the action to go and think about why it might head there.
  • But if all else fails, maybe aliens attack! (Or they land peacefully in the backyard.) Or there’s a dragon. Or ninjas. The dark lord Cthulhu rises. A dramatic turn of events may not work in your sleepy little novel-in-stories, but this is NaNoWriMo, friends. 50K in November, no matter how you finish. So if the dead have to rise in the middle of your Faulknerian meditations, so be it.

If nothing’s working for you on the page, it might be time to step away, briefly. Go for a walk. Do some stretches. Re-watch a beloved movie. Read some poetry. Take a nap. Bake bread. This may feel counterintuitive to the “write anything every day no matter what” philosophy behind NaNo, but it will help you in the long run.

And as we turn the corner into Week Three, happy writing!


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