3 Tricks to Keep Writing When You Want to Give Up

NaNoWriMo may be over, but if you're stuck in your story these tips still apply!

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Alright writers. We’re halfway through National Novel Writing Month and I don’t know about you, but the strain that hit me on day 3 is drowning me now. Unless you’re superhuman, I’m guessing that the same strain is hitting you because it hits every writer who tries to finish a novel.

It’s called “The Murky Middle.”

TMM is the moment when the excitement and momentum of starting a new story fades and the idea of continuing seems pointless.

No matter how many words you write or how your page count grows, it feels like you’ll never reach the end. You start doubting whether your story is worth fighting through this. The dread of trying to write everyday hangs over your head.

Right now millions of writers across the world are fighting through TMM with you, and millions more have fought through it before you (with great NaNoWriMo success!).

But if you’re doing NaNoWriMo you’re hit with double the murk. Other writers get months or years or decades (okay a little dramatic, but stay with me) to get through the murky middle.

You get a week.

It’s an uphill battle, but I’m here to help. Here are 3 strategies to get you through the murky middle today!

1. Remember Why You Started

One of the best parts of writing a story takes place before it’s ever on the page. Think back to when your story was a sparka writing prompt you came across or an interesting news story you read.

Think about how excited you felt when you started creating these characters, the pleasure you got when you figured out the rules of your magical world.

The inspiration for a novel is incredible because when it’s in your head, it’s everything you want it to be. It sounds the way it’s supposed to sound, it feels the way it’s supposed to feel.

That inspiration can bring you through chapter one and chapter two, but as you continue, the burden and labor of writing crushes the inspiration and makes you forget why you’re doing this tortuous task in the first place.

When TMM hits, it’s important to remind yourself why you started writing. When I was trying to finish my debut novel last NaNoWriMo my inspiration had disappeared for ten straight months.

It wasn’t until I rediscovered this picture that I remembered the adventure and magic and wonder that made me want to start writing in the first place. So take a moment and remind yourself why you’re doing this. The part of you that loved falling in love with this story will be grateful.

2. Take a Murky Middle Vacation

I gave this advice in my post on battling writer’s block, but it applies now more than ever!

One way to fight through TMM is to stop fighting all together! Take a vacation, and skip to writing your favorite scene. One of the hardest parts about the middle of your book is that every time you start writing, you know it’s going to be hard.

The words aren’t going to pour of you like they did in the beginning, and every scene isn’t going to be the most fun to write. Sometimes just being stuck in that aspect of your novel can make the murky middle last forever, so take a break!

When you write that amazing scene you’ll have a new energy to reach that point in your story. It’s a lot easier to get through chapter 11 when you already know how mind-blowing chapter 23 will be.

3. Try the Keyboard Challenge

When you can’t rediscover the inspiration for your story and writing your favorite scene doesn’t make TMM any easier, this is one technique that will keep you writing no matter how murky your middle is.

The Keyboard Challenge is simple:

  1. Put away your phone and close everything on your computer that doesn’t have to do with your story
  2. Set a timer (try 25 minutes to start)
  3. Don’t take your hands off the keyboard until the timer is done

Now this challenge doesn’t necessarily make the murky middle easier, it just forces you to power through it. Try sitting with your hands on the keyboard for just one minute. Seriously, do it. You can’t click to a different tab, you can’t scroll through instagram on your phone. Your fingers have to stay glued to “ASDF JKL;” whether you choose to write or not.

If you do that for 25 minutes, you’re probably going to choose to write.

So if worst comes to worst, take this tough love approach! Count down the 25 minute segments until you’re past the murky middle and greeting the exiting climax of your story.

Alright, there you have it! Good luck writing and stay tuned for more NaNoWriMo tips!

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is the #1 NYT and International Best-Selling author of book and upcoming movie CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE.