Should You Take Writing Breaks During NaNoWriMo?

No.

That’s the end of my post.

Oh, I have to write more? Alright. I guess I can expand upon this answer.

Yes and no.

It’s dangerous to take breaks once you’ve established a set, habitual writing time. But you don’t always have to write the main part of your novel during your set-aside NaNoWriMo writing time. If you feel stuck on your story, or just don’t feel like writing, or are suffering from that (fictional?) pest writer’s block, don’t give up the time you’d usually spend working on your project and play video games or go to the movies or something. Instead, do other writing-related projects with your novel when you get stuck.

1. Further develop your characters

There’s a lot of background and planning that can go into a novel that a reader never sees. Having an entire biography for a character, along with a personal profile, is one such aspect of a novel readers aren’t often privy to. If you haven’t already developed a ton of information on your characters, this can also help you get to know your characters better and understand their motivation more within the story. I’m talking minor characters or supporting characters as well. Even if the character is featured in one character of the book, having an entire life history worked up for him or her can make them one of the most compelling characters of your novel. So pretend like you’re character is making a profile on a dating cite like OkCupid and have at it!

2. Further develop your fictional world

People like J.R.R. Martin are experts at creating their fictional worlds. While writing the sixth Game of Thrones book, he decided to write down all of the history of his fictional world for his readers to indulge in called The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros. Some fans are upset that he put effort into this instead of into the sixth book, but part of him figuring out what was going to happen in the sixth book, I bet, comes from his exploration of Westeros’s history. Knowing your world can help you further develop the plot and story of your book. You don’t have to release it as a companion piece as J.R.R. Martin did, but you can reference if when you get stuck while writing your novel.

3. Plot and re-plot your story’s trajectory

Plots important. Maybe part of the reason you don’t want to write your novel is that you don’t feel where it’s going anymore. So reexamine your plot. Add more points to it, or rewrite its path. Get intimate with your plot – put on some Barry Manilow on and give your plot a glass of wine. Don’t be afraid to go old fashioned with this, either, and draw yourself a plot diagram of your story.

4. Edit the work you’ve done so far

Editing gets a bad wrap. It’s not a painful process, and if you’re stuck or don’t feel like writing, editing what you’ve already written should be one of the first things that pops into your mind. Refining your work by going over it and making the concepts clearer and better executed will only make your end product stronger, overall. So go over your story, from the beginning up until the point you’ve written thus far, and when you’re finished making your story sing, you should be ready to pick up on writing your novel once again.

5. End your story right where it is and see if you can start up again

If all else fails, if you see no other way forward with your story and you’re too frustrated to write it, just end it. Wrap up the romantic plot, have all the antagonists drop dead and have the sun supernova and wipe out the entire planet. Maybe part of why you can’t move forward with your story and your writing is that you’ve become too attached to your world, characters, and plot. So mess with them and see if you can’t set your creative mind free.

So yes, you can take a break from writing your novel during NaNoWriMo, but not a complete break from the novel-making process. There’s more than just writing that goes into a novel’s main story, after all.

Amanda Riggle

Amanda Riggle

Amanda is the Managing Editor at The Poetics Project and of The Socialist, the national magazine of The Socialist Party USA, as well as the Lead Editor of Pomona Valley Review's upcoming 11th issue. She graduated with a BA in English Education and a minor in Political Science. She is currently enrolled in an English MA program with an emphasis in Literature. During her free time, Amanda enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling, crocheting, watching entire seasons of campy shows on Netflix, and, of course, writing blogs.
Amanda Riggle

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