We are approaching the middle of the NaNoWriMo season, and it's about this time of the month when some writers start to run out of steam. Whatever motivation they had when they embarked on the challenge has begun to wane. It's time to refuel the muse, so we can keep going.
Here are 9 different methods that could help you get back into the flow of writing.
1. Change device, not just location
Many writers do the bulk of their writing on a laptop. This give writers the ability to change their writing locations at will. Coffee shops are a brilliant source of character inspiration, as you can watch the people walking by and how they interact with others. And for those who might not be able to afford a regular visit to a coffee shop, you have the local library.
(At my own local library, there is a Mommy-and-Me music class that meets regularly to sing Barney-type songs. You don't want to know the number of juxtaposition scenes of brutal violence have been written during those musical forays.)
However, sometimes it takes more than a change of location to get those juices flowing. Sometimes, a writer needs to walk away from a computer entirely and switch to some other form of writing. It could be the classic pen and paper, or you could start audio recordings using the dictaphone app on your smart device. Me: I often use a tablet with a bluetooth keyboard — the moment the keyboard is connected, autocorrect turns off, and it's just me and the typos.
2. Talk out your ideas
Sometimes, the reason for our blocks is the simple fact that our ideas are not entirely formed. We might see some elements that are sitting on the verge of existence, but for whatever reason, they refuse to spring forth and find the page. This is where having writing buddies is a blessing.
Talking out the ideas with someone you trust can help you see the path forward, sparking off-shoots of the idea in your mind. The one you're talking to might have that missing knowledge or experience that you require to make the whole thing work, and if they don't, talking it out has forced you to put words to concepts that you were unable to put words to before.
It's one of the reason why in-person write-ins are brilliant, regardless of the time of the year. Writers surrounding themselves with other writers, and helping each other over the hurdle that's holding them back.
3. Free-form writing
There are many different names to this one, but the basic idea is that you put a pen, or pencil, to paper and just start writing. The pen doesn't leave the paper. You might start by writing utter dribble, but after a few minutes, the gates open and more often than not, the story just pores out in good old-fashioned pantser style.
4. Write the boring hum-drum
A variation of the free-form writing is to actually use info-dumping to your advantage. Sometimes, the reason why a writer is stuck is because they don't understand the off-screen moments, or the motivating factors for a scene. If you need to, write all the aspects about that boring ride through the country side. Write the steps that your character goes through as they get out of bed.
It doesn't matter if you know that you'll be editing those elements out of your story come the first round of edits. Just make a note in your manuscript, marking the section for removal, and carry on. Do whatever you NEED to do to get your brain into the next section of your story.
5. Make a schedule and stick to it
Regular readers of this blog will know that I strongly believe that events like NaNoWriMo are not about word counts, but making writing part of your everyday routine. If you are struggling to write something when you sit down at the computer, perhaps it's because you haven't convinced your brain that writing is now part of your routine.
Pick a time of the day where you will force yourself to open your writing and write. In the beginning, it might seemed forced, like a waste of time. However, if you continue with the practice, regardless of the outcome, eventually your brain will succumb to your will. Eventually, you will sit at your computer and the ideas will just flow.
6. Writing targets and rewards
There are many different targets that a writer might choose. It could be word counts, or a scene break, or a completed chapter. Whatever your target might be, make of note of your target for a particular writing session. If you achieve your objective, then reward yourself. The rewards could be as simple as allowing yourself 15 minutes to read that new novel by your favorite author while enjoying a cup of coffee. (Then again, you might want to leave that one for the big targets. Once you start reading, you might not want to stop.) My chip challenge falls into this category. Just remember to keep your session targets as the smaller stepping stones needed to reach the ultimate goal.
7. Word sprints
This idea is similar to the free-form writing concept, except that you set a timer and just go for it. After say 15 minutes of writing, take a quick break — go to the toilet, get a drink of water, grab a bit of chocolate. Then sit down and start the clock again. On the second attempt, see if you can better your word count.
In a way, this idea does focus on word counts, but for some, that is the motivating factor that they need.
8. Go offline
It's no mystery that social media is a time sink. The temptation to procrastinate on the internet playground is incredibly strong. When you remove the temptation, you are forced to stare at that blinking cursor until you actually do something about it.
However, refrain from replacing the social media temptation with some other form of procrastination (like housework).
9. Multiple projects
I don't know of any writers who are working on a single project. Most have at least one in planning/plotting phase, another in drafting phase, another they're editing, and another they're doing final preparations on to ship it out the door. The pantsers might not have one they're planning/plotting, but they are always making notes about random ideas.
Me... Well, you don't want to know how many projects I have on the go. Let's just say that they easily talking in the double digits. I am constantly switching between projects (especially when I have editorial contracts on the go). My brain is rarely idle, as I refuse to let it get blocked.
There are many different tactics for dealing with writer's block, and rest assured that ALL writers suffer from it at some point. No writer is immune. The difference is that some writers have developed the techniques and strategies that work for them to get them through this hurdle.
The more you write, the more you'll understand how your writing process works. Remember that there is no right or wrong method. Do what you need to do to get the story down on paper.
You can't edit a blank page.