In my last post, I talked about the 30,000 word slump – my name for it, anyway.
It’s that point in the novel where it all seems to go to Hell in the proverbial hand basket. It may or may not happen exactly at 30,000, but every novel at some point stalls out, completely out of gas and with no hope of a tow truck coming to the rescue. It just stops working.
And it’s also a good sign. It means that some really really good writing is about to happen. The trick is to keep pushing though the stalled place until novelizing starts to flow (or sometimes gush) again.
Now, without further ado, here are the top 5 tricks to blast through a stall and get back on track to 50,000 words.
- Remember what NaNoWriMo is about. NaNo isn’t about writing a perfect – or even coherent – story. It’s about an act of writing so absurd we’re pretty much guaranteed to have anything but perfection. NaNoWriMo is flexing the writing muscles, practicing writing even when we don’t want to, and ignoring the twitching of perfection that keep us from getting things done. This novel can be total, glorious, incoherent crap, as long as it is 50,000 words of crap. Never, never forget that.
- Skip the boring scenes. This is my favorite trick. A lot of times when we think we’re stuck, we’re actually just bored. Novels often are a series of important and significant events chained together by other scenes to create a flow. A first draft doesn’t have to have it all – it’s just a basic idea. So skip the boring parts, and write the vivid scenes in your head. Go for the juicy bits and write them with lots of words.
- Reframe the plot with a quick synopsis. Whenever I’m feeling stuck, lost for plot, or need to get a feel for what I’m writing, I take a few hundred words to summarize what has happened already. This adds to word count and can get our brains back in the noveling mindset. This not only adds to word count overall, but also can give us a fresh view of our story, and often shakes loose revelations that get the juices flowing again.
- Research – within reason. Research can be a black hole of time and productivity that frequently ends in cat videos. It can also be just what we need to shake loose that extra piece of plot or ideas. Set a timer. No, for reals SET A TIMER. Give yourself an hour to research things that can help you, then stop and get back to writing.
- Problem solve elsewhere. If staring at the screen isn’t working, we can trick our minds into working on problems by solving others unrelated things. My go-to is to assemble LEGO sets or do a jigsaw puzzle; using my hands to put things together makes my brain put things together in the background. Some people clean, others do sudoku, color coloring books, or practice easy algebra problems. Do whatever will let your subconscious work in the background and give you a sense of achievement.
- BONUS: Whatever you do, don’t call it writers block. You’re stalled, thinking, or contemplating. You are what you say you are – don’t curse yourself.
And don’t forget to avail yourself of the wonderful people in the NaNoWriMo forums and to get ideas from the NaNoWriMo blog. You can feel free to email me directly, too, if you need a more personal contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep writing – we’re almost there!