Last year, I wrote a pep talk for the Sudbury NaNo Group. I'm posting it here as a reminder to all of us: it can be done.
It’s NaNoWriMo! Woo! That magical time of the year when words fly onto the page, you don’t change clothes for days and you forget your own name.
When the words don’t fly, however, don’t panic. Well, panic a little bit, have a cry and eat a chocolate bar. I mean, those are just healthy coping mechanisms. But afterward (shortly afterward), try one of these tricks to throw yourself out of a scary non-writing spree.
1. Change mediums. Change from laptop to paper, pen to pencil, lined paper to plain. That might jog your mind into spewing those words out again.
2. Change locations. Go from coffee shop to home, home to a friend’s house, a friend’s house to a rock by the water. Keep it fresh. You’re technically supposed to ignore the scenery and write, but your senses are still being stimulated by the world around them, so give them something fresh to mull on while the rest of your mind is engaging your story.
3. Stop whining. I mean, whine a bit. It’s seriously healthy. But give yourself a limit. Have a breakdown in the shower if you must. But get ‘er done. Whining is good to get the stress out, not for gaining sympathy. NaNoWriMo is not for the strong of whine.
4. Skip a scene. If a scene is really not cooperating, dump it. Skip ahead. Can’t figure out how to connect one piece of the action with the next? Then skip that, too. I usually leave stars (***) in my first drafts when I forgot a character name or can’t connect things right away. When I edit, they’re easy to find. Now’s not the time to worry about the finer details of your work.
5. Kill your protagonist. It’s a weird trick, I know. But sometimes those protagonists are infuriating! They just won’t cooperate. Your head goes in spinny little useless circles trying to figure it out. I drop an elevator on my protagonists’ heads when they don’t cooperate. This is especially fun in fantasy where elevators don’t exist. I drop that elevator and go for a walk. By the time I come back, snickering, my protagonist usually smartens up. We erase the elevator (or keep it in for your word count – you did write it!), and we proceed with the story.
6. Go with your instincts. The best laid plans… You know about them. If your gut is telling you that what you thought would be the best twist ever isn’t, don’t write it. You’ll stay stuck. Your gut knows when something is leading you off track or to a dead end. Your subconscious, cool beast that it is, is making connections your mind hasn’t even thought of. Trust it and let your instincts take over where your mind might fail you.
7. The usual. Butt in chair. Give yourself word counts to follow. I usually write down my word count on a sticky note every half hour and post them on my wall. I find it motivating. They’re coloured sticky notes, too, so it’s almost like decorating your room! (I may not be the best to provide advice on home décor.)
8. Isolate yourself. If you can, do this. Even a few days could save your word count. I go to a convent. Cheap, no TV or Internet, three meals provided, and peace and quiet. Last time I did this, by keeping my butt in the chair and ignoring the beautiful sunny world beyond my closed curtains, I wrote 45,000 words in two days. Those words needed lots of edits, but the draft was there.
9. Imagine you are… a warrior in battle, and getting those words down is imperative. A soldier fighting a war. A world-renown journalist with tight deadlines. Make your own story about you. Character play. Do what you have to do to stay in that chair.
I had a tenth idea, but I prefer sets of three in lists. It’s clean and tidy. BUT, if I were going to say a tenth one, it would be: Remember how cool you are. How cool this is. Because it is. Not everyone has your power with words and your ability to do this.
So go for it. Do it. Keep doing it. And, at the end, give yourself a hero’s welcome. You’ll have earned it.