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Getting past that mid-novel lull

The Nanowrimo season is upon us and going at full speed. If you are a writer than I’m sure you see the othersout there writing 10k a day, hitting not only their 50,000 word goal but flying by it. Even the others who seem to be going just fine, steadily meeting their daily goals without much strife.

But don’t worry, even if you are falling behind you aren’t alone! This is the time that makes or breaks you in nano.

I know I, unfailingly, always have a mid-novel lull. You know it-- when you’re going along just fine at the beginning, you’re excited about the project, but after 2 weeks and 20k the words start to get slower and slower. You don’t know what scene to write next. Maybe you don’t even feel like writing.

This is normal.

But, it’s still there and hard to overcome. This is one of the reasons I love nano, it pushes you not to indulge in the idea of putting the novel away until a later date. Most likely you will push past the barrier at some point, but it might not happen for months. Well, in nano, you don’t have months. So you find ways of pushing past it NOW.

I’m still a new writer, I’m working on my third novel now, but I still believe I have come across a few very good suggestions for overcoming this nasty hump.

Disclaimer—everyone is different. These seem to work for me, so try them. But if they don’t work, don’t start throwing things at me (please:-) take them and morph them into what does work for you. Or ignore me all together. Either way.


1. Remember what you loved about this story in the first place.

(this suggestion is mostly for non-pantsers, or partial pantsers. If you just woke up one day and decided to start writing on a whim, this might not work)

This summer I wrote a fantasy romance. Well, technically I started it in febuary-ish but put it away (yes, this is how I know about indulging in your whim to stop writing mid-novel). I still liked it, but just wasn’t compelled to continue it just then. But I had been writing some notes into my phones handy-dandy memo-pad. And at some point had written a “query”for this project. I reread it, right there are work.

And I fell in love—again.

Starting that night I went home and wrote the most I’ve ever written in a 48 hour period. I wrote about 10,000 words, in less than 36 hours. Impressive, no?


(This is your inspiration elephant. Let him fly!)

How did this happen? Since I had made an attempt to put my passion for the story down on paper for others to read, this helped jog my own memory. (I plan on writing a post soon about why you should write a query BEFORE writing the MS. This is one small reason) I know not everyone writes these summaries before writing (although nano does promote this, by having the spot on your profile for a synopsis. Try rereading that for a start) so luckily there are other ways to jog your initial passion. Here are a few-

Reread your notes.Most people at least write down a tid-bit or two in a journal before writing a novel. I’m not talking about an outline (although for some this MIGHT work too, but I usually see an outline as an emotionless list of scenes. Maybe that’s just me), I mean the seemingly random notes about the story in general. Maybe the first thing you wrote down after you had a dream about this story. Or the spark that took a small idea and turned it into a glorious one. Sometimes you write down a line or two for later (we writers think in narrative sometimes, no?) Most likely there is something there to remind you why you decided to write this story in the first place.

Music- Was there a song that inspired you? Doesn’t even have to be for the whole MS, maybe it was just one scene. Maybe it was a song that just reminded you of your character. Go back and listen to it, maybe even put it on repeat as you write (or put the song into Pandora and listen to similar music)

Reread what you’ve already written. And I don’t mean just that last scene. Most likely, if you’re stuck or bored, that last scene won’t help. It might even be the problem. Go back to a particularly exciting scene, or just the first scene when you were teeming with excitement. Don’t worry about how good the writing is, or how many typos there are—that’s not the point here—the point is reliving the passion. The inspiration. Read it for the emotions and the excitement, and that alone.


2. Plan.

Some people won’t like this one, and that’s okay. I don’t always like this one. But it does help keep your mind on track and not get too lost in the muck (some people like the muck, there are hidden jewels in there I’m sure, but a lot of people also drown there so tread carefully).

Sometimes your mind gets too overwhelmed. “I don’t know what to do next!” “Where am I going with this? UGH.” (these may or may not have come straight out of my own mind from my lulling issues last week) So, taking a moment, sitting down, and planning what you are going to do next can definitely help you. Now you can look at the empty paper infront of you and have a clear mind, a clear idea of what you want out this story. It can help loads. But, again, not for everyone.


3. Write, even when you don’t want to.

Just this weekend I was stuck at just over the halfway point. I stopped and outlined and felt better about what I was going to write—but the words were still coming out SO SLOW.

 I searched for a CP to word war but no one was available. Luckily, my local host for Nano was hanging out in the our regional chat room thingy. We did three ward wars and I got out about 2500 words and you know what happened when she went to bed? I wrote more! I wrote over 3k on a day I was struggling to get out any.

Word wars are great when you are stuck because they give you the motivation to 1. Just write! Whatever comes to your mind. Some of this, maybe all of it, may get pitched in revision stage but it usually will lead you to something worthwhile. 2. Stop paying attention to the TV, or the dog, or thinking about a midnight snack because “I’m word warring I MUST WRITE”.

The point of a word war, isn’t writing more words than your opponent. It’s about making a goal and hitting it (you aren’t warring the other writer, you are warring your inner procrastinator—mine is huge. And scary. But word wars usually works to subdue him for a little while) For some people just sitting down at the computer and making yourself write is enough. But for me, when I’m really stuck, the words don’t really start flowing until I have some real motivation. You can do word wars by yourself, just set a time “At 11:45 I WILL write for 20 minutes!” and write. Don’t stop for those 20 minutes (I know, for you people with kids, this is a lot easier said than done. Just do it within reason. If your kids are choking, for example, you are allowed to stop. Just sayin.)


Okay, that’s it for my mid-novel lull seminar suggestions. Feel free to post your own in the comments. I’d love to hear them! Also, let me know if you use these and they work (or not).

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  1. Some great idea's here. I find that when this happens to me mid novel it usually a lull in the plot and I'm not certain what comes next. (I'm a panster)

    I often use your planning suggestion, taking a long walk or drive and just thinking about what comes next.

    I find that skipping over the scene that is blocking me and leaving a INSERT BLAH BLAH SCENE HERE really helps. then I come back to it at a later date.

    I love your inspiration Elephant!