NaNoWriMo Tip #18: Writing a novel is a marthon, so pace yourself.


Congratulations! You are more than half-way through this exhilarating creative writing marathon called  National Novel Writing Month. For the past seventeen days you've gone pens-to-the-wall, sprinting beyond word counts (1,350, 4,500, 10,000) that some of you never thought you'd achieve.

You have each other to thank: nothing inspires more than a group grope, especially when it comes to an artistic challenge.

But it's only Day 18, and you've still got a hella lotta words to go.

If you've been hitting your word count of 1,650 words a day, then I'm guessing you're somwhere over 28,000 words. In a 300-page book, that would put you just under a third of the way into your book.


If you've found yourself running out of steam, don't panic. These three tips should give you your second wind:

1. Move forward, not backward, in this writing process.
At this juncture, resist the urge to edit or rewrite. Just follow your outline. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to revisit those bumps you've hit along the way: in fact, IMMEDIATELY after you've completed your manuscript. I know you'll have the urge to show it to everyone you know, but don't. It's like putting on your makeup in the dark: what you DON'T want others to see could have easily been corrected in the light of day.

2. Whenever possible, schedule a “creative break” prior to writing.
By its nature, writing is a solitary experience. You are staring at a page (or computer screen) for whatever number of hours you put into reaching your daily goal.

All the more reason to get out into the real world, even if it's just for an hour. It's the best way to hydrate your creative writing process.

Every day I take a walk, usually a different one from the day before. I'm lucky in that I can walk with my husband. Because he's also a professional writer (a journalist) he's a great person with whom to bounce ideas around. It is one of the best ways in which to work through my plot concerns. Just hearing myself express my problem out loud gives me a new perspective, and helps me find a detour around it. Don't have a life partner who is also a writer? No problem, make close friends with people who also have a passion for writing.

3. Give yourself a reward.
Some people make it a favorite food or beverage. I ‘Flix a movie, or a television show I've missed. Sometimes I pick up the latest copy of New Yorker. I find myself doubly inspired when I pick up on some current event. In fact, my book, The Baby Planner, was inspired by an article I'd read (sitting in a doctor's waiting room) on the topic of this new profession. And yes, the idea for my next book also came from an article I'd read, this time over lunch with an online edition of the New York Times.

You never know when the next perfect “what if” idea will come. If you're lucky, you'll be able to incorporate it into your next scene, and continue the NaNoWriMo marathon.

Notice a pattern here?

Keep your eyes open, and your mind clear.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above is of actor Dustin Hoffman, when he starred in Marathon Man, the movie, based on the book by the same name, written by screenwriting legend William Goldman. His memoirs —  Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting (1983), and Which Lie Did I Tell? (More Adventures in the Screen Trade)(2000) — are must-reads for anyone interested in writing in Hollywood.




Question of the day: What has been the most exhausting part of the NaNoWriMo process? How do you put it in perspective, and move forward? 

Happy plotting (Yes. You. Can), and Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie