Got The NaNoWriMo Blues? Five Ways To Get Unstuck

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If you’re doing NaNoWriMo (or are slogging though a first draft at any time!) there will be plenty of days when you get stuck.

Don’t panic!

First off, know that this is entirely normal. It doesn’t mean that you have failed or that your book sucks. It (almost) definitely doesn’t mean that you are working on the ‘wrong’ project and that you should switch to the Shiny New Idea which is fluttering its eyelashes and looking adorable. A couple of weeks with that idea and you’ll be in exactly the same situation – trust me!

So, if you can’t switch projects and you’re not going to give up (as if), what can you do to get the words flowing again?

  1. Stop writing and go for a walk. Or do some cleaning or crafting or take a shower. Activities which engage part of your brain (and get you away from the blank screen), can be perfect for mulling over tricky plot points.
  2. Try a different point of view (POV). Try writing in a different tense or POV (switch from first person present to third person past, for example) or write from the POV of a minor character. Remember, these words aren’t intended for the final manuscript, so it doesn’t matter whether they ‘work’ or not. They’re just to get you writing again and to give you alternative insights into your characters and story.
  3. Go meta and write about your story. Open a new document and tell yourself the story as if you don’t know it. I like to begin with: ‘This is a story about //name//who wants…’ Then you just waffle on about everything you know about your book; where it’s set, what happens, who is in it and what they are like. There will be lots you don’t know and that’s fine, too. Ask yourself questions! Don’t worry if you can’t answer them right away, just typing them out will plant them in your mind, ready for your subconscious to answer.
  4. Write a list of everything you thought was cool about your idea when you started out. The stuff which would make you want to read the book if you were the reader, not the writer. If you’ve done this already, revisit the list and remind yourself of what got you excited about the book in the first place.
  5. Make a book collage (or Pinterest board) or book soundtrack. Concentrate on getting the feel for the story; the atmosphere and tone, but don’t over-think your choices. Just pick the pictures or musical tracks which you feel instinctively belong in your book.

Finally, try not to fret too much about your word count goal (even if you have signed up for 50,000 words during November). All of this day-dreaming and noodling about and writing words which are for your eyes only is part of the process; it is the work.

Good luck and happy writing!

The Only Way To Defeat A Bad Writing Day

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Bad Writing Days. We all have them.

We don’t like to talk about them. We’re frightened that by talking about them we will make them stronger. Or, worse still, we will jinx our productivity and conjure them into existence. No writer wants to say the word ‘block’.

I’ve always struggled to write. There are two people inhabiting this body; one wants to be left alone to write, wants nothing more than acres of time in which to type and think and come up with sentences and words and passages of description and dialogue. The other one, unfortunately, wants to do anything else. Anything!

Both of these people, however, like having written.

I read this quote from Brene Brown (from her book Rising Strong) recently: ‘We can choose courage or we can choose comfort but we cannot choose both.’

The toddler part of me bawled ‘why not?’, while the adult part of me nodded sagely, letting the words sink in and the truth trickle through…

I can’t have both.

It’s supposed to be scary.

I need to choose courage because that’s where creation lies.

But on a bad writing day, I choose comfort over and over again. I choose to write this blog rather than open my work-in-progress because however frightening a personal post like this feels, it is nothing to the anxiety I feel about working on my book.

On a bad writing day, I choose to say ‘yes’ to a friend’s invitation, even though I know it’s during my writing time. I may pretend this is something else (the selfless act of a good friend, for example) but I am lying.

On a bad writing day, I slip into the comfortable routine of editing a piece of old work when I should be making something new. Or I take all day to write a paragraph, telling myself it’s ‘difficult’ when the truth is, I am stalling.

On a bad writing day, I let the voices that tell me I’m worthless and my story is stupid and that I have no talent or creativity win.

I’ve had a lot of bad writing days recently. I’ve chosen comfort so often it’s beginning to feel like my new routine.

Luckily, that frightens me. I see my life stretching ahead, filled with comfortable no-writing-days, and I imagine all the books I will never write, the stories I will never tell.

That frightens me enough to make me open my document and get back to work. I want to have written and I know fine well there’s only one way for that to happen: courage.

 

Did this post resonate with you? Do you have Bad Writing Days? How do you overcome them? Please share your tips, advice, or experiences in the comments below!