[Guest Post] Overcoming NaNoWriMo Obstacles

November 7, 2011
I'm taking a break from blogging a little bit and having some awesome guest bloggers! 'Tis the season for NaNoWriMo...fa la la la la la la la la...If you're interested in guest blogging for me during this month, just click here. Today's guest blogger is Emily Matthews, who is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Click here to check out her blog!

So you’ve got 30 days to write a novel. Sound like fun? It is -- at first. After the first few days of type-as-fast-as-you-can composing, writing becomes what it always is: a struggle. Around day five or ten, you start thinking, "Am I ever really going to get where I am going?" This is what as known as the National Novel Writing Month hump, but luckily it can be overcome.

First, writer's who think they have writer's block should take a closer look to determine whether they are suffering from blocked imagination or are just experiencing the essential delay that is often a part of writing. Many professional writers spend very little of their time writing. They do a lot of walking around the house, reading, strolling around the neighborhood, and running errands. This isn't writer's block, writer and writing teacher Donald Murray argued, it's just the essential delay that all writers go through, those who have graduated with a masters degree in fiction or those attempting a novel for the first time alike. As a writer, you need time to come up with your ideas. And sometimes you need to come up with those ideas somewhere other than in front of your computer. If you're stuck, don't berate yourself, just accept what you're going through as natural and go take a walk.

Second, you shouldn't stop writing. This may sound like it's contradicting the first piece of advice, and in a way, it is. Sometimes you're so stuck or unsure of where your plot is going next that you have to let your brain catch up to your fingers -- you have to step away. Other times, you know what you have to say and you are just having trouble working through it. In this case, you need to just keep writing, to write junk until you hit on something good and then to go from there. Allow yourself to have really terrible first drafts because it is often through those really terrible first drafts that you find the content needed to make excellent final drafts. Odds are, a novel written in a month won't be ready to be published, but it could lead to something publishable if you let yourself make mistakes and don't get so caught up on finding the right word that you miss an interesting plot twist.

Finally, you need to read. Many new writers stop reading when they're in the process of writing a novel because they are afraid that they will accidentally use another author's ideas. Maybe you think you don’t have time to read. Reading is actually one of the best things you can do for your writing. Not only do you give your brain a break from your own novel, but you also exercise it in a literary way, exposing it to sentence structures, words, and dialects that can make it into your own writing.

Whether this is your first time sitting down to write a novel or you are a seasoned author trying to challenge yourself, writing a novel in a month is difficult! But if you use the advice above, you'll be more likely to make it out of November with a novel, not a traumatizing experience.


  1. Great post. I find that if I step away for too long, the self-doubt creeps in and it becomes harder to get back on track.

  2. Hello! :)

    I'm your newest follower via GFC and I stopped by from the MondayMingle blog hop!

    Hope you can stop by and follow back sometime!

    Sarah Kay


  3. I did it all. In fact, it took me a year to finally get my first children's picture book done. And that includes planning (not written), imagining (how every page should look like), and keep on thinking about it:), worrying (to find a publisher). Currently I got this book self-published so I can start doing its cause in giving its copies (for free) to less fortunate children across the U.S. Just submitted manuscript to publishers and still waiting for their reply:)

    Hopping by and following your lovely blog. I'd be honored to have you follow back too:)

    Author of children's picture book 'Over and Under'
    http://blyro.peachburst.com --> give the gift that gives

  4. I wrote my first novel in a little over a month, but it wasn't during NaNo. I don't think I'd work well under that kind of pressure. Good luck to you though.

  5. Hi, new follower here from the Tiggerific Tuesday Blog Hop, http://babyfeetandpuppybreath.blogspot.com/
    Hope you can drop in, say hello and follow back.

  6. Thank you Nicole - this is a great post. Your advice re. reading is key - I remember when I started writing I did not read for a few months. Big mistake. Now I am back, with a book always on my nightstand.

  7. Perfect tips. I don't believe in writers block. You are right. We need time to come up with ideas.

  8. I stumbled on you from a blog hop today. Would love a peak back!

    I am thrilled to find another NaNo blogger. I wish I would have thought about getting guest bloggers to help me fill the month. Maybe next year!


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