|NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is the annual challenge many writers take up. The goal is to write a full 50k word (or more) book in one month. There are many classes, blog posts, and tips out there for getting through this challenge. If you ever get a chance to take Candace Havens “Book in a Month” workshop, we highly recommend it.
For those participating in NaNoWriMo this year, we thought we’d share some tips–born of experience–on getting your writing unstuck. If your writing is bogged down, try any of the below!
Push Through It / Set a Goal
Obviously for NaNo, you probably have a goal of so many words or pages a night. If you’re stuck, keep writing until you hit that goal. As a rule, pushing through, even if you eventually go back and re-write all of it, often gets you past the sticky point. NaNoWriMo, in general, has proven that the “just get it on paper” technique can be quite effective, or people wouldn’t continue to do it every year.
Skip It & Come Back
Sometimes getting back in the rhythm takes a little inspiration. If you’re stuck on one part, go write a different part. Something you’ve been noodling on and just waiting to sink your teeth into tends to be best. Come back to the sticky part later. It’s possible you’ll find you were stuck because what you were trying to write wasn’t integral to the story and you can either leave it out or skim over it quickly.
Going back through what you’ve already written and starting to perfect it can often clarify a point you forgot about or were still fuzzy on. Sometimes that discovery ends up being exactly what you need to get you unstuck. Or sometimes editing inspires a new idea or direction – yet another solution. (Just be careful, because sometimes you can get bogged down even more – gotta be careful with this one!)
Map It Out
You may find yourself lost in the journey of your writing because you don’t know where you’re going. This happens a lot to pantsers, we find. By doing a little outlining, determining the frame of the story moving forward, even if it’s just the next few scenes, it may get you out of your sticky mess.
For whatever reason, I do all my best thinking when I’m running (or walking these days). This is true if I’m working out a problem for work, for home, for my kids… or for writing. My mind clears and ideas solidify. Find the activity that does that for you – cooking? yoga? shopping? –and then go do that when you are in a dead-lock. It blows away the cobwebs.
Work on a Different Project
If you’re anything like us, you may have several projects going, or an idea you’ve been wanting to work on. It may seem counter-intuitive, given the short time limit for NaNoWriMo, but changing projects, even if just for an hour, can help. Whether it’s editing or outlining or researching. This can give your brain a break, and gets the inspiration flowing again.
Go Back Through Workshop Notes
If you’re like us, you’ve have taken (and continue to take) writing workshops. You probably have loads of fantastic notes and templates just begging to be used. If you get stuck, start reading through your notes and handouts on workshops to see if anything pops out to get you moving again.
Boil It Down
A great workshop I took once had us define the idea, premise, concept, and conflict. It’s a booger of an exercise, but if you force yourself through it, it can help sharpen the direction of your story. Help you focus on what’s it really about?
Write the Blurb and/or Tagline
Writing the blurb, and especially the tagline, is another way to pinpoint what the focus of your story is. This also helps you get it out of the way for later. 😉
Do Something Outrageous
Another great workshop on building conflict, talked about torturing your characters–trying to find the worst situation(s) to put them into. So if I’m stuck, I try to think of the worst thing I could throw at them at that moment in the story, and then I try to make it even worse, something really difficult for me to solve, and then I write it. Building the conflict definitely spices things up when you’re writing!
Research / Surf the Web
This is another one where you can bog down, so be careful. But sometimes doing research can help details pop out that might be your breakthrough brilliant idea to improve your story. Do research on location, or mythology, or clothing. Start looking at images – fan art, movie clips, book covers. Or even something as basic as putting together your heroine’s outfit for a particular scene. Visual cues and new information can help.
Go to the End and Work Backwards
Maybe you know where you want things to end, but have gotten stuck on how to get your characters there. By writing the ending and then working backwards a scene at a time, you may eventually figure out what needs to happen in the middle to meet up with where they end. Like with mysteries where you need to know the end to lay the clues properly.
Retrace Your Conflict
Many times, a story gets bogged down because you’ve lost your conflict. Take the time to go back retrace what happened. Did you lose sight of the conflict? Do you solve it too soon? Is it not enough of a conflict? Do you need to reintroduce it? Look to your conflict, and 9 times out of 10, you’ll reinvigorate your writing.
We hope this helps! Best of luck to all you NaNoWriMo’ers! 🙂 And we hope you have a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!