It happened. After a week of successfully meeting word count goals, banging out scenes I had planned in advance, and consuming more coffee than I had the previous ten months of the year, I fell behind. On day nine, I wrote a measly 500 words. 500 words that accumulated to utter garbage.
Falling behind during NaNoWriMo is enough to send even the most confident novelist into a spiraling cycle of self-doubt. 1,667 words every day, for thirty days. That’s the bar that had been set, reached for, and missed. Gaining word count when you’re even a single day behind is like clawing your way out of a dirt pit with nothing but your bare hands.
That was me. By day twelve, I was over 4,000 words behind the rest of the writing community, and there didn’t seem to be anyone around to drop a ladder into my pity party. I was going to have to dig myself out.
The one thing that got me back on my feet after a few days of watching my graph dip sadly below the goal line, was getting out of my house. Nearly every evening for a week, I drove to the local Starbucks and planted my butt in one of the armchairs in the back. I wouldn’t go home and make dinner until I had written at least 2,000 words.
I never tried to meet the goal for the day. That task was simply too daunting. I set the reachable goal of 2k so that every day, I would be a little bit closer to catching up. The consistency of travel paired with writing pushed me over that hurtle.
2. Don’t Compare
Something I had to avoid when I was behind was the success of others. I know that sounds terrible, but comparing my low word count to those excelling around me only hurt the motivation I was struggling to hold onto. Your word count is your own. Your goals are the ones you set for yourself.
Just because the person next to you can type faster does not mean your words have any less merit. Stuck on a scene? Stop wallowing over your NaNo Buddy who is spewing dialogue onto the page and skip ahead. You can always go back and add to it when you’re feeling the right motivation.
3. Just Write
At the end of the day, there’s really no way to catch up during NaNoWriMo if you don’t put words onto the page. Some of it will be crap (okay, most of it), but without dumping your novel into the world, there will be nothing to work with come December 1st.
Just. Write. When you look back at the end of the month and 50,000 words stretch out before you, there will be nothing to hold back your relief and sense of accomplishment. Take it one sentence at a time. It will be okay, I promise.