Weekend NaNo Workout: Here Sloggy! Goooood Sloggy!

Today’s Goal: 3,000 words
Actual Words: 3,114
Total Actual Words To Date: 26,481

All writers hit it. That point when you realize your characters have been crawling through air ducts for 20 pages or that the 5-page circular conversation you just wrote brought nothing new to the table. With no dramatic tension in sight, you’re starting to get bored of your own story.

That’s right. You’ve entered THE SLOG!

I definitely hit it last night, but for NaNo word count sake, I just kept going. It was mighty painful.

When I’m tired, like I was last night, I tend to slip into screenwriting mode and just start typing straight dialogue. I hit my goal, but felt completely unfocused and uninspired by my characters’ lackluster conversation.

After wallowing in the slog, I find it best to take a break, get a good night’s sleep if possible, then apply the following tools to rev things up again:

I go BACK to the idea of sequence and scene.

Approaching the story in bite-size chunks helps to keep from getting overwhelmed. Refocusing on the purpose of your current sequence and scenes will help it flow faster.

I know some people at NaNo would say “Who cares, just keep writing! It’s quantity, not quality.” But I actually think that when your story gets sloggy, if you step back and re-enter your story you’ll actually write stronger AND faster. You’ll see where you need to go, how to get there, and be more motivated to make it happen.

Here’s exactly what I did this morning when I re-entered my story after a slog session.

1)   I asked myself, What is this whole sequence about? What has to happen in this sequence?

Well, I told myself, idoLL and Jettison explore the space station, come to the conclusion they are alone, and through some series of small events they open up to each other, share a beautiful moment, and basically see each other differently than they ever had before.

2)   Perfect. Okay, then I asked myself, At the end of this sequence, what happens? What reversal upsets the status quo?

At the end of this sequence, just when idoLL and Jettison are forming some kind of new friendship, they are interrupted by Doctor Baybee. The only other sentient life-form on the space station. The status quo changes because they are no longer alone and they have no idea if they can trust Doctor Baybee or not, but they need his help.

3)   Great. I know where this sequence of scenes is going, and I know what’s going to happen at the end of it. So . . .

I set my timer for 7 minutes and I freewrote using my favourite startline: The scene that needs to be written is . . . and off I went. (I actually figured out what I wanted to do in five minutes and switched to the computer when I was inspired enough.)

Personally, I think you should do all three steps, but if you are pressed for time, at least do the first two. It will only take a few minutes and it’s guaranteed to make you feel better.


Wherever you are in your story, take a step back and see where you are in your sequence. Remember, a sequence is like a mini movie. There is a beginning, middle, and end and its strung together by scenes that have beginnings, middles, and endings.

My sequence starts as soon as idoLL and Jettison (separated from their crew/bandmates), land on the TREND space station. There is a series of scenes where they explore the station and decide they are alone. They share a moment in the atrium where we see a softer side to them both. The sequence ends as soon as Doctor Baybee interrupts their bonding session.

Set your timer for 5 minutes for the first two writing sessions and for 7-10 minutes for the 3rd one:

In this sequence, Character A discovers . . .

At the end of this sequence, Character A is surprised when  . . .

The scene that needs to be written is . . .

And for another approach to getting out of the SLOG, CLICK HERE.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Deb Marshall
    Nov 11, 2011

    Thanks for this!! Will give it another read–then settle in for some more de-slogging. Enjoy your weekend, as well.

  2. Coreena
    Nov 11, 2011

    Great post. I know my book was definitely sloggy for a few days last week, but am feeling good about it today.

  3. @Deb – I was in de-slog mode all day. The writing exercises really help!

    @Coreena – It comes and goes, but I’m feeling really good since I just passed the half-way mark today.

  4. Deb Marshall
    Nov 13, 2011

    Yay for de-slogging! I am doing it again today. That rotten little slogger is still hanging on for dear life….

  5. Mirka Breen
    Nov 13, 2011

    Good post.
    I never understood the ‘quantity not quality’ thing when it comes to writing. If a writer is to ‘feel good’ about their work, how can thousands of words of inane dialogue do the job?

  6. @Mirka – exactly! I don’t think you need to sacrifice quality for quantity during NaNo – they’re not mutually exclusive. Sure, our first drafts will be rough, they always are no matter how much time we take.

    My belief is that if you take the time out to look at where you are, what needs to happen (and why), and where you are going you will be able to write more quickly and with confidence. It doesn’t take that long! When I get to the end of a sequence or get stuck, I use exercises to get unstuck and on track. I rarely just plow through. Like you said, I want to feel good about I’m writing.

  7. Shannon O'Donnell
    Nov 14, 2011

    These books are so popular at my high school! 🙂

  8. 4amWriter
    Feb 13, 2012

    I like this. I will admit I am one of those NaNo’ers who would say “Who cares, just keep writing! It’s quantity, not quality.” But the few times that I have reworked a scene in the middle of NaNo has been beneficial in that it propelled me forward with enthusiasm.

    And that was the key for me. To be enthusiastic about trudging through 1,667 words a day and wondering where this story will end up going. Otherwise, I think I would have either given up, or hated my story so much by the end that I wouldn’t have made plans to write the next draft.

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