NaNoWriMo: The Inevitable Writing Stall

IMG_8555We’re in the final stretch of the NaNoWriMo marathon – day 23. Whether we started well or poorly, on time or late, with a well defined idea or not, we’ve been living in this reality of writing a novel in a month for 23 days now, and there is a mere  7 left.

If we we’re on track with the daily word count, we should be be hovering somewhere around 38,000 words about now.

But I’m willing to guess that you’re not at 38,000 words – maybe not even close. Your plot holes are big enough to drive trucks through, your characters are all sulking in their rooms and listening to depressing music, and you’re pretty sure you were an idiot to even try writing a novel – any novel – this year or any other year. Maybe you should just give up and go be a taxidermist.

And if you’re stuck in that very special place I just described, I’ll bet you nearly anything your word count is somewhere around 30,000 words, give or take.

Congratulations! You’ve hit one of the major and inevitable goalposts of any successful NaNoWriMo. I call it the 30,000 slump, and it’s perfectly normal. (It happens at least once in every novel – just ask Neil Gaiman.)

I’m not sure exactly why this always happens, but it does. Every one of the 13 novels I wrote in 2012, and ever single NaNoWriMo novel I have ever written always goes completely silent and stale somewhere between 25,000 and 33,000 words.

I suspect it is because 30,000 words is 3/5 of the way through, and somewhere in our minds we know that we need to wrap this giant mess up somehow. Or maybe that’s just how long it takes before we run low on energy and steam. But whatever the reason, it’s normal to get stuck at 30,000 words. Everyone I’ve talked to about it has a similar experience.

And the only way through is, well, through it.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some of my favorite strategies to get past the slump. For now, just know you’re not alone, and you’re not hopelessly lost. You can still finish on time – this is all part of the process.

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