NaNoWriMo Day 16 – Down the Other Side (aka Tips, Tricks, Inspiration to Get Through the 2nd Half of NaNo)

Today’s Goal: 2,000 words
Actual Words: 2,568 words
Total Words to Date: 36,142

I have two NaNo friends who chose to quit last week because they were too far behind. I’m not going to give them a hard time b/c I know life gets in the way, we all have different priorities and responsibilities, and sometimes it’s not the right time. That doesn’t mean it was in vain, though, because 6 or 8 or 10,000 words on a new novel is a great start.

If you are on the cusp of deciding whether to continue or not, I encourage you to stick with it. If you’re having procrastination issues, time management issues, focus issues, perhaps there’s a tip or word of encouragement in here to see you through.

Tip #1) Your Timer is Your Friend

I have had my Pillsbury Dough-boy Timer for almost 15 years. I use it in my writing classes for timed writing exercises and to keep my classes running according to my agenda for the day. I also use it as an anti-procrastination device and a way to stay focused.

Here are some of my own personal timer tricks.

+ If I’m feeling really unmotivated, I give myself a timed writing warm-up to get my mind going.

+ If I’m really dragging myself to the page/computer, I tell myself to just write for 20 or 30 minutes and see how it goes. I set my timer and GO. (usually after 20 or 30 minutes I’m so into the story I don’t want to stop). Setting the timer helps me to start and focus. I have no idea how PBD tricks me into writing every time. I must be very gullible.

+ Even if I’m totally motivated to get to the page, I set it for 30 minutes anyway so I’ll remember to get up and stretch or do some yoga sun salutations.

+ If I really feel like checking my Facebook or email after breakfast, I give myself permission to do so, but set my timer for 20 minutes and when the time is up, I stop. That way it’s a conscious choice and I don’t feel guilty afterwards.

+ Say my daily goals are to work on my novel, clean the kitchen, do some marketing, and write a blog post – I set my timer for each task. I can take 60 minutes to clean the kitchen if I’m not timing it. 20 minutes if I am. It makes a huge difference.

IMPORTANT: USE A TIMER and not a clock. Clock-watching is distracting. Timers go off when you tell them to. Do not use the one on your cell phone. I keep all phones away from my cottage when writing.

Tip #2) Don’t watch your word count

I’m typing my NaNo into a Word Doc. At the bottom of the page is the Word Count. It’s so easy to get obsessed with those little numbers down there, so I always scoot my Doc down enough so that the word count is off screen. I find that I go faster when I can’t see it and usually by the time I do check it, I’ve surpassed my goal.

Tip #3 ) Go for a WALK

If you are stuck, frustrated, foggy, unfocused then reread your last several pages and take a walk. Think about what just happened, what needs to happen in the next sequence, and where you want to go. Play out different scenarios in your mind. Run through some “what ifs.” It’s so safe when it’s all happening in your head.

Tip #4) Put Another Obstacle in the Way

At 20,000 words I panicked a little because I thought I was almost done with my story. What? I know I’m an economic writer, but that’s not even a novelette. But idoLL and Jettison had already reached their final destination, where I had imagined my profound climax. Oops. What did I do? I figured out a reason they had to leave the planet, then threw a new monkey wrench into their plans.

When you’re looking to make your story more interesting, throw something else in the MC’s way. Make their goal harder to attain. Never make it easy for them.

Tip #5) The Final Quarter Beat Sheet

When I’m about 2/3 or 3/4 into the story and closing in on the climax, I write a new beat sheet. Generally by this time my old one is useless anyway, b/c the story has taken a left turn at Albuquerque.

This is a great way to see what’s left to do and gets you out of overwhelm. It puts the end in sight and a map to get there.

I will go into this more on my Friday Weekend Workout (and guess what your weekend workout will be?)


If you haven’t noticed it yet, there are writers out there who have published their NaNo novels. Some of them give pep talks on the NaNo website.

Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus, which she wrote, yes, for NaNoWriMo, gave this little pep talk I enjoyed.

Author Deb Olin Unferth adds THESE TIPS.

Lastly, even though I know I’m in danger of giving you too many tips as to distract you from your writing, one of my favourite YA authors, Scott Westerfeld, reposted his NaNo Tips from 2009 if you’d like to check them out.


  1. Deb Marshall
    Nov 22, 2011

    As always I appreciate the tips n help!! Thanks, Danika.

  2. You’re welcome. My students think I’m a dork when I go on about my timer, but it is seriously a fantastic tool.

  3. 4amWriter
    Feb 13, 2012

    Just thought I’d take a gander at what you have here. Thanks for sharing the links on my post for Kady.

    When I participated in NaNo, I did a lot of these things you mentioned. I didn’t do the timer though–mainly because I don’t have one. That’s a good idea. I’ll have to hunt one down, although I doubt I’ll find anything as cute as yours!

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