NaNoWriMo – Hitting the Hump

A lot of people never finish NaNoWriMo. They hit the hump, and don’t know what to do.

The ‘Hump’ happens when you get to a place where you just can’t write anymore. The Hump tends to be different for everyone, so my advice may or may not help you. The answers below worked for me, but everyone is different.

My ‘Hump’ happens when I literally don’t know what to do. Seriously. I’ll get to a certain point, and bam. I’m clueless.

It took me a long time, and help from some people with a lot more experience before I managed to figure out what my problem was. In my case there were several problems.

  1. I didn’t know the story well enough, or there’s an issue with the plot.
  2. I was writing from the wrong viewpoint (I love First Person, it doesn’t love me).
  3. I was concentrating on the wrong character.
  4. I had a character wrong.
  5. I had the setting wrong.

Let’s take them one at a time.

I didn’t know the story well enough

There are Pantsers, who write by the seat of their pants, and there are Plotters, who work out the story ahead of time. If I try and write as a Pantser, it turns into a disaster. I’m one of those people who must have a map before he starts writing.

If I don’t have a map, I have a tendency to wander around in circles. Usually this is evidenced by my writing five or six pages of dialog. Oops.

The solution for me at this point, is to sit back, and think about where the story is going. Get plotting in other words.

The other variation on this is that sometimes my plot doesn’t work. It might be because the plot is in conflict with either a character, or the setting, or I might have added something that just doesn’t fit with the rest of the plot.

Whatever the problem is, the solution is to stop, and work out what the problem is, then fix it. Hopefully it won’t take too long, and often it may not require much if any re-writing (I don’t count deleting five pages as re-writing).

I was writing from the wrong viewpoint

Roger Zelazny wrote some wonderful stuff from the First Person perspective. Roger was a damned fine writer, who we lost at far too young an age. Dashiell Hammett was also an expert at First Person, as was Raymond Chandler.

Problem is, First Person may not fit what you are writing. It is also difficult to pull off. Take a look at the perspective you are using. Is it the right perspective to tell your story?

If it isn’t, no big deal. Switch perspectives, and carry on writing. You can go back later and fix the chapters written in the wrong perspective.

I was concentrating on the wrong character

This may sound unlikely, but I’ve done it. I was writing a short story (which sold – see ‘Grandma’ in What Scares the Boogey Man!) and it fought me. Still, the story sold, so no big deal, right?

Wrong. I did some thinking about the story. The Monster, Killer, or whatever was unusual. I came to the conclusion that the story should have been told from the Monster’s point of view!

OK, so I wrote it wrong. What did I do? I wrote the second ‘Grandma’ story from her point of view. You can read it in the story Ice Worm in the Terror by Gaslight anthology. I think it is a far better story.

Choosing the wrong character as the protagonist is easier than you think. Go back. Look at some of your older stuff. Might it have been a better story if someone else had been the focus?

Make a note of the problem, with your solution, and keep on writing.

I had a character wrong

What if you decided that a certain character was a bit paranoid, but later you had the character not noticing stuff that was happening? Wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

But it isn’t hard to do. The character of ‘Grandma’ in Ice Worm changed four or five times, and the story is only about 4000 words long. I’ve got a novel which is nearly finished, which I had to re-write part of, because I had a character wrong. I just hadn’t thought about the driving force behind the character all the way through. The change was minor, but it impacted a lot of words.

What if you get part way through your NaNoWriMo novel, and realize that your protagonist is the wrong sex? Or the wrong whatever?

Simple. Mark the spot with a note explaining the problem, and keep on writing. You can re-write later.

I had the setting wrong

This is from the uncompleted novel above. It is a Fantasy, and I had done a lot of research to get the setting right. But…

When I looked at it, around the 40K word mark, I realized I had a problem. Two parts of the setting I had made conflicted. I didn’t notice until that point because those particular parts of the setting didn’t come into play until that point, and the conflict was fairly subtle.

If you run into something structural like this, you may have to stop, and go back. Setting threads through everything you do, and the problem may show up in a bunch of ways.

Or, you could just mark the spot with a note and keep on writing. Both ways have their advantages.

FYI, this also happened to a friend of mine, and the fix ended up taking less than two hours worth of re-write. Looking to see how much time it’ll take to fix first might be a good idea.

But my problem isn’t here

Hey, it might not be. Feel free to drop it in the comments, and I’ll see if I know anything about it. The problems above are the ones that I have the most issues, with, but I’ve seen others, and heard friends talking about the problems they have, so I may have an answer for you.


Wayne Borean

Friday November 7, 2014


2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Hitting the Hump

  1. I’ve run into this on occassion. My way out was to shift the direction of the action (this usually happens when there’s a lot of ‘just talking’ involved). A shift of action mayhe a phone call, someone walking in, or even missles thrown at the office. The point is that it gets you off the stalled part, and back in action.

    1. Raymond Chandler said that if you got stuck, just have two guys with guns enter the room.

      I tried that, and found I ended up introducing things and people too soon, which made things lop sided. But that was my experience, different things work for different writers. Thanks for the comment – I’m sure this will inspire someone past the Hump!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s