Millions of people started NaNoWriMo on November 1st. Some had grand plans for their novels and characters. Some started flying by the seat of their pants in the style of No Plot? No Problem, written by the founder of the contest, Chris Baty. During the first week, fingers flew, coffee disappeared by the pot, and writers got a lot less sleep.
By a week into it, most hit the dip, where the initial ease of something dissolves and things get harder, and it’s not going so well. Believe it or not, many have given up their hope of writing a book already. After one week? Yes, after one week. The words aren’t coming. It’s not fun anymore. They can say they’re still working on it, or that they’re looking for ideas, but the truth is, they’re not writing.
Stuck on NaNoWriMo novel
Some say they’ve hit writer’s block when they get to this point and they feel stuck on their NaNoWriMo novel. How do you deal with writer’s block? I have a list of ways I’ve found over the years to get past it, because I’ve had it a lot in the past. Mostly, I got around it, one way or another.
Just what is writer’s block? Usually I hear it described as the inability to come up with any ideas to write about. I don’t think that’s actually it. I think writers have tons of ideas. I think it’s indecision about which idea to write first. I think it’s fear of making a mistake. I think it’s a Writing Dragon. And that puppy has to be tamed.
How do you get past writer’s block?
So how do you do that? You begin to tame your Writing Dragon by writing. It will get the hint that you’re not going anywhere, that it can’t just huff a little smoke in your direction and distract you from your writing, or blast a little fire breath your way to make you run in fear.
If you can’t write during NaNoWriMo, when all the conditions are right for it—you have time set aside, you have plenty of caffeine and snacks, and everyone expects you to be a harried, sleepless mess—then when can you write? Never, the answer SEEMS to be, but it’s not true. That’s just more smoke from your Writing Dragon. Don’t buy it for a minute.
You can write
First of all, you CAN write during NaNoWriMo, and any other time, for that matter. Sneak around your Dragon if you feel the need to, or be bold and tell it to sit down and shut up and watch you bang the ‘board like a boss. You can write nearly anywhere, nearly anytime. Standing in line at the bank, you can jot notes about people’s appearances for descriptions. Overhearing a conversation at the next table at a restaurant (did I say eavesdropping? No, I didn’t) might give you ideas for dialogue, and you can scratch it out on a napkin if you have to.
Sometimes I’m feeling feisty, so I tell it to get its scaly butt outta my chair. Sometimes I start by tiptoeing around it, and get a few words on the electronic page. “I’m not really writing,” I might say. “I’m just going to jot down a few of these phrases and ideas before they vanish from my head.” That’s safe enough not to disturb my Writing Dragon.
Then I get going and I can say, “Looka here, I have 1,200 words. That’s one article down,” or, for some of the places where I’ve written, three articles. Not too shabby for just jotting down some ideas. Sometimes the Writing Dragon inches over as I write, slips up behind me, and reads over my shoulder.
That’s not the time to worry, though. For most writers, editing comes later, so if your Dragon is reading over your shoulder, just keep going. If you edit as you go, like I usually do, just keep at it. Eventually your Writing Dragon will see that you’re doing just fine, and it will go take a nap. Dragons like naps.
Amygdala alarm center in brain
Sometimes they’ll sleep for years, as long as you don’t try to write, or as long as you don’t get too ambitious, but when you do, it wakes. So while you’re taming yours, sometimes it’s best to just slip around it and get some writing done. Don’t trigger the alarm center in your brain and wake an untamed Dragon if you don’t have to.
Even when it is tamed, which can take a long time—I won’t lie to you—it might puff a little smoke at you, and we all know that Writing Dragons are wild critters and there’s always that chance that it might turn you into toast for a while, so even after it is tamed, it’s still a creature to be reckoned with and treated with respect. But you won’t need to fear it like before.
Get started writing
So jot down a few ideas. Put a few interesting words on a page. They don’t have to be strung together in a sentence, or even look like they’re related in some way. When there’s nothing but white on a page, it might be intimidating, so throw some text on it. Ease into it, and your Writing Dragon may just keep snoring. Then, just keep going, and your word count will grow.