If you’re on track, then you’re at the point where all you have to do is keep going: which is not to belittle the stress and effort of such action, but to point out how simple it is. If you’re on track for your word count, you’re past the point where doubts really mean anything. What if the ending sucks? What if my characters are flat and totally unbelievable? What if I finish early? WHO CARES?!? Type “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” as many times as necessary and call it done, right? Right?
But what if you’re not on track?
Most NaNoers are not.
This is where the hard choices are.
If you are within a reasonable distance of 50K (or whatever your goal is), do you push on through with extra wordcount or not? And what if you’ve given up a long time ago?
I can’t give any advice here; I can only say that this is a test.
Are you the kind of person who sets goals and then meets them? Or not? Are you the kind of person who bites off more than they can chew…then swallows and digests? Is it come Hell or high water? Do or die? How badly do you want to write, anyway?
It’s okay. You don’t have to pass the test yet; you can still call yourself a writer if you don’t slide through 50K in time, or even 1K. If you signed up for NaNoWriMo and didn’t write word one you can still call yourself a writer. But it is a test, and if you didn’t pass it, you should find out why.
- Do you really want to write? That is, do you really want to invest yourself in an imaginary world so strong that putting the words on the page isn’t a chore but an addiction?
- Are you hanging onto rituals that block you from going into that world–from favorite pens to favorite plotting systems?
- Do you honestly have the time you need to write?
- Do you have the mental resources right now that you need to write–or are you tied up in situations so heavy that you cannot escape into another world?
- Do you have the consent you need to be able to leave the real world for this other one? From family, friends, job, social obligations, volunteering…getting this consent is your responsibility, not theirs.
- Did you pick a world that you really wanted to go to? That you never want to leave?
- Are you allowing yourself to make the hard choices your world needs in order to be a story instead of a playground?
- Do you lack faith in yourself as a writer? Do you qualify yourself when you say you’re a writer–“I’m not very good, really?” Do you believe that writing itself is worth making sacrifices for?
- Are you afraid of what might happen if you succeed? Will it mean changing something you don’t want to change?
I suppose I could have waited until after NaNo to put this post up, but by now, you know whether you’re going to finish or not (a few people might get close but get held up by emergencies over the next few days, but mostly you know). Stop for a moment here, if you’re not going to finish, and start nosing around into the reasons why. I assure you, if you can identify one reason that you’re not finishing and resolve it, then NaNo has been worth it for you as a writer–that is, if you identify one reason that isn’t someone else’s fault. One reason that you, yourself, are holding yourself back.
Then keep writing.
Okay, you won’t have the support you had in November. You won’t have people yelling “chug chug chug!”to encourage you. You might not have the write-ins (although they’re easy enough to organize). Maybe you need to write slower for a while–writing fast is pretty scary, because it takes a deep investment in that other world. But keep writing.
If you keep writing, no matter where you end up, no matter how long it takes you, then you have hit that week four feeling that the ones on track are feeling. In front of you there is nothing: behind you is a story.