For veterans of National Novel Writing Month, Week Two has the same kind of cheerful reputation as Darth Vader. It’s so evil it gets its name capitalized.
Week Two has become so notorious it’s become a verb, as in “I’ve been Week Two’d.”
“For participants everywhere,” says Lindsey Grant of the NaNoWriMo home office, “this has become the week to survive.”
Week One started off with a bang. Like other NaNoWriMo writers, I was full of energy and enthusiasm. I hammered out extra words each day beyond the daily goal of 1,667. I was cookin’.
But Week Two, veterans say: that’s the tough one. People start to run out of steam. Plots begin to bog down. Characters begin to stagnant. Enthusiasm flags.
Brick walls. Writer’s block. End of the road.
JessAnn, my regional liaison, calls it “the Second Week Slump.”
We’re all close enough to the beginning of the process that it might almost seem easier to just start over. Or, worse, we’re not far enough in that we’re invested enough to keep at it, so maybe we could just give up now with no harm done and no time wasted, really.
“Don’t let your inner editor convince you that this isn’t worth your time, or that you should start over, or—even worse—that you should start over some other time,” Grant writes in her weekly pep talk. “For this novel there is no ‘later.’ There is only now.”
Of my friends, Jennifer McConnell felt the Week Two pinch first. “Monday was so hectic that I literally only wrote 50 words,” she told me on Wednesday. “I wasn’t too worried though because I was already ahead a bit and would catch up on Tuesday. But then Tuesday was not a day conducive to writing, so here I am today, facing 3,000+ words to catch up.”
Like me, she’s taking a break from writing to write about writing. But she’ll be back at the novel after she catches a breather. “There is no giving up,” she says. “It’s like giving birth. Once the baby starts to be born, you can’t really stop it.”
In Madrid, Anna Maria Ballester Bohn was wary about the week, too. She’d ripped through Week One with words to spare because she was on vacation. She started Week Two with 20K words in the bank.
“Week one was just, well, great, because of the vacation,” she wrote to me on Wednesday. “I can already tell you, I’ve worked a half day today and my motivation to write is pretty much zero.”
By the end of the day, she had topped 26K—but she hasn’t written anything since. On her Facebook page, she posted: “So writing really *is* harder if you have to do it after work. Huh.”
In Bradford, Jill Smith seems to have stalled at around 7K. In Texas, Ann Ivins hit 15K a couple days ago and is holding steady.
In D.C., Rebecca Campana has bailed entirely. “I bailed before I started,” she told me. “Oh, the shame! The guilt and shame!”
Not really, though. “As I suspected, the thrill of writing in quantity has worn off for me,” she admitted. “I have spent the last week or so plotting and mapping an overhaul of my second NaNo novel. That’s my frontier and—cross my fingers—it is going well and I am excited.” After a year’s hiatus, she says, she might be ready for another round next year.
Even as Rebecca has decided to use NaNoWriMo to find her own writerly way, one of my students, Ashley Waterman of Dunkirk, NY, has decided to take the NaNo plunge—eleven days in. She’s not intimidated by Week Two at all.
“I got this awesome idea for a story and right off the bat thought it was something I could turn into a novel,” she told me. “I figure it’ll be great if I hit the 50,000 mark, and I’m going to try to, but I just want to know that I can write something lengthy. And besides, they give the little estimated date of completion. Even if it takes longer than the month of November, that’s encouraging.”
Right now, my estimated date of completion is December 13. Yeah, I’m that far behind. I’ve been circling the airport since Monday. I topped 13K, then stalled—although not for lack of trying. My days this week have literally been packed. On Tuesday, I had to go out of town for business. “Did you dictate your novel on your drive up here?” one of my colleagues asked when I arrived. I wish.
On Wednesday, a personal mini-crisis erupted, offsetting my work. Thursday, I had a ladyfriend ask me out for drinks. (Who am I to say no? Many a fine novel has been derailed by the charms of a lady, I’m told. Eventually I’ll have to tell her, “Not tonight. I’m under deadline.” That’ll go over well, I’m sure.)
I should be up to 18,337 words, which means I’m 5,321 words behind schedule. I can do that in an afternoon—if only I had an afternoon free.
‘Cause the thing is, I want to write. The novel is going well. The words, when I sit down to write them, are coming. The setting fascinates me. My characters are doing interesting things. Over the weekend, my antagonist unexpectedly committed suicide in a shocking way.
Good God, where did that come from? I wondered—without stopping. Go with it. Go with it and see what happens. That is, after all, one of the Commandments of NaNoWriMo: Go with it.
In Penn State, Jeri Webster is making similar discoveries about her characters. “I’m wondering why I want my character to do bad things, but he keeps doing good,” she said. “Kinda bothering me.”
That’s a good sign, of course. Characters who do their own thing are characters who have come to life, and that usually means they’re well-written, well-realized, three-dimensional people on the page.
To me, that kind of discovery is fascinating, and it makes the struggle worthwhile.
“I am watching your word count and you are doing great!” Rebecca tells me. “Go, Groovy One, go!”