NaNoWriMo 2021: How to Get Back on Track If You’re Starting Late or Running Behind

BY HANNAH GUY • November 12, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021: How to Get Back on Track If You’re Starting Late or Running Behind

As National Novel Writing Month swings into high gear, some of the truly ambitious have already met the monthly goal of 60,000 words. Others are ahead of their daily writing goals, and many are still on track.

But what about the writers and authors who have fallen behind, started late, or hit a block? Can you catch up?

The answer is yes. Here are just a few tips for getting back on track.

Just breathe.

Most of us have been there: everyone is writing faster. They’re more successful, better writers. Meanwhile, we’re thinking, Why am I doing this? Someone please help me feel motivated and have those words flow from my fingertips. Center yourself and just take a breath. And then take five more.

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic challenge, but don’t let it define your ideas of success or dictate a pace that doesn’t work for you. If you need to set your own pace and your own goals, or shift the challenge to something that inspires you to keep writing, that’s the sweet spot.

Take advantage of technology

If you’re struggling to find time to sit down and type, consider using voice-to-text options on your phone or computer. This way, you can write while you’re folding laundry, preparing dinner, and even exercising. Not only that, but you’ll likely find you talk faster than you can type, which is an ace approach to getting the words down quickly.

“My favorite part of voice-to-text writing is how quickly the words come,” writes Jennifer Mattern in Falling Behind During NaNoWriMo? 3 Tips to Get You Back on Track. “The biggest downside is remembering to speak punctuation (hate that). If you’ve never tried this before, it might take some time to adapt before you’re writing at lightning speeds, but you’ll get there.”

Work on a project already underway

While many writers and authors save NaNoWriMo for new book projects, you might find it easier to grab an older writing project that may need some revision before adding fresh content. What’s more, you won’t have to panic about plot or the evil of the blank page.

Put in the extra hours

One way of catching up is by committing to overtime. But be prepared to make sacrifices. “Overtime is exactly what it sounds like—putting in extra hours of writing,” writes Genevive Chamblee in How to Get Back on Track with NaNoWriMo. “If you’re used to spending four hours a day writing, you may need to up it to five or six in an attempt to make up ground.” Chamblee admits this can be a challenge, especially for folks who have full-time jobs and families. “However, sacrifices may need to be made if you want to reach your goal of completing your WIP.”

Consider taking a personal day at work, or ask a friend or family member to help out if you have little ones around. If your kids are older, place a sign on your closed door and protect your working time. Bribes may also help.

Avoid comparisons

“Comparing yourself to others is the road to hell,” my therapist once told me. If you find yourself constantly comparing your word count to other people’s, remind yourself why you’re doing this. Competition drives some people forward, but don’t compete or compare if it’s just making you feel bad about yourself. Take a step back from the updates and online communities, especially social media, until you feel more confident in your own progress.

Don’t wait until you feel ready

“The thing is, you need to start writing now—don’t tell me you don’t have time,” says H. Duke in Wondering if it’s too late to start NaNoWriMo? You Should Read This…. She suggests you skip the whole registration process and set up later, and just start hammering out your book. “The truth is, if you want to write, at some point you will have to commit to it, even when it feels hard. And here’s the secret—it’s always going to feel hard. You’ll always feel like you’re not prepared enough. The only way to write is to write through that.

“You might as well start now.”

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