NaNoWriMo Update 3: No such thing as too far behind

With only a week left, I felt like I would never catch up. Then I wrote 10,000 words in a weekend.


Every NaNoWriMo participant needs this pep talk at some point along their journey.

Fair warning: This is going to be a shorter update, as I have just spent the last few days typing furiously and should probably give myself a break.

More articles in this series:

In my last update, I talked about my struggles with motivation and I am disappointed to report that those struggles did not magically disappear. I had some great days, where the writing felt easy and fun. But I also had some bad days, where it felt like just sitting at my keyboard was too much work.

I have been moving forward, but not nearly at the pace I would have preferred. That gap between where I hoped to be and where I actually am has grown, little by little. It was not super noticeable at first, but then suddenly, it was so obvious, I started to avoid looking at it. If I just told myself it would all be fine, then eventually it would be, right?

Well, I got to the third weekend of November and made a sobering realization. With a little over one week left to go, I had more than 30,000 words left to write.

To quit or not to quit … that really is the question

Was I willing to give up on my goal?

I was at a crossroads, and it boiled down to a simple question: Was I willing to give up on my goal? At that point, I had written a little over 17,000 words, which is way more than I have ever written for a single project before. I have created characters, conflict and the beginnings of what could be an interesting story.

But is that enough?

The truth is, that answer is going to be different for everyone, but for me, the answer is no. As proud as I am of how far I have come, I want to reach that finish line. I want to see my word counter tick over 50,000. I want to prove to myself that I can do this.

Let it all go and just write

So, with that decided, there was really only one thing left to do. I had to start writing. And not just the hour a day I had been happy to accomplish two weeks ago, now I needed to get some serious work done.

I knew I couldn’t get totally caught up in two days, but I wanted to get as close as I possibly could. So I set out to try to reach 30,000 by the end of the weekend. That meant I would have to write over 10,000 words in two days.

Don’t let looming failure scare you off from trying

The biggest hurdle was just getting started. I couldn’t look at the mountain I was trying to climb, I could really only look a few steps ahead. I decided I would set hour long timers and then would sit and type until they went off.

This strategy appeared to be working. I knocked out my first 2600 words before lunchtime on Saturday. But then I ran into my second biggest hurdle: I had no idea what to write.

As I previously mentioned, I have a rough sketch of what my story will be, so every time I sit down to write, I know I am trying to get from point A to point B. The problem is that I have started to feel less and less sure of how to connect those points. And with that confusion comes an anxiety that says, “maybe I can’t do this.”

I do all this work to get myself to my keyboard, only to realize that my fingers are frozen, with no clue what to type.

That anxiety is almost as paralyzing as my lack of motivation. I do all this work to get myself to my keyboard, only to realize that my fingers are frozen, with no clue what to type.

I am not sure I have any super helpful advice here, beyond assuring you that this is a perfectly normal feeling and you have to find a way to push through. Don’t worry about continuity or bridging one scene to another. Feel free to drop your characters into the middle of a conversation or take them to the next place they need to be.

Just whatever you do, don’t let that fear of having nothing to say, stop you from just getting some new words on the page.

It is never too late to finish

It wasn’t the easiest weekend, but now safely on the other side of 30,000 words, I can confidently say that I am really glad I didn’t give up. 48 hours ago, that 50K finish line felt completely out of reach. But now, it is back within sight (albeit still just a dot on the horizon).

This will not be the last time I have to power through a big chunk of writing in order to get this thing done, but so long as the calendar still says November, I still have time to make it.

And so do you.

Even if you gave up in the first week, you could still pick that plot outline back up and keep writing. Feel free to set a different goal for yourself, but this doesn’t need to be another year where you simply tried NaNoWriMo.

Let this be the year that you reach November 30th and print out your brand new novel. It’s never too late to make that dream a reality.

What would you say in your own NaNoWriMo pep talk? Let us know below in the comments.

Read My Other NaNoWriMo Updates:

Chelsea still can't believe that she lives in NYC and works to make movies happen. You can find her checking out way too many books from the library or getting lost in an audio book on a long walk.

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  • Spencer Miller • 4 years ago

    I really enjoyed following along with your writing journey this month!