Writers are the worst procrastinators around, able to find any excuse not to write, edit or anything else in preparation of that manuscript — even stare at the ceiling and count the holes in each tile. Social media is our worst procrastination tool because it holds all the illusions of productivity. If you’re struggling to get the words down, put yourself in a bubble and disconnect from the world. Remove the distractions. However, it won’t stop you from staring at the ceiling.
Sometimes the reason that writers get stuck is because they don’t know their characters well enough. Shift gears slightly, and work on the character development. Even if you write a few paragraphs of pure backstory that will be taken out of the final manuscript, it all helps to create the insight that you need, as the writer, to put yourself into your character’s shoes.
It’s okay to write off-screen scenes, even if you know they won’t be included in the final version of your manuscript. Sometimes a writer needs to write a scene just to get it out of their heads, or to work out some detail that might be vital for another scene. If you know you won’t be including that scene in the final version, you might want to mark that scene in some fashion so you can find it during your edits.
Events such as CampNaNo and NaNoWriMo focus so heavily on word counts, but to some that word count target is daunting and out of reach. These events, while rewarding high word counts, are actually about developing a habit for writing — a little more everyday. As such, shift your goal away from word counts or pages. Aim to finish that chapter today, or that scene. In the end, the word counts don’t matter; the fact that you’re writing does.
There is a saying, “If you get stuck, just add zombies.” (But this is CampNaNoWriMo, so we’re going to say, “Time to add zombie bunnies.”) While some writers will take this literally, it means much more than that. If you are starting to feel that your story is dragging, that’s a sign that you need to change it up. Adding in flesh-eating monsters is just a way to create instant tension, but there will be ways to do that which will fit your story better.
If you incorporate into your story a detail that one would not expect, then hang a lantern on it by having your characters/narrative comment about how it’s not expected. For example, your spy character might carry a Sig Sauer pistol with a safety. Well, many will argue that Sig Sauer doesn’t manufacture pistols with a safety, but if you call them, they will link you to approximately half-a-dozen different models that do have safeties. Your character might be gloating in the fact that she carries one of those few.
When writing a first draft, don’t feel obligated to write every single scene out in full. Sometimes our imaginations just don’t see the little details — fight scenes, in particular, can be the most complicated to write because you might not be sure whose POV you should be using. Make notes about what you can see. Write down the details that are vital that you do know. Then move on. The nitty-gritty is something that you can always come back to when you have a few more details.
With the introduction of smartphones, touchscreens and other technologies, not all the modern words have made it into the dictionaries yet. To complicate matters, there are many different ways of writing some modern words, e.g. touch screens, touchscreens, touch-screens. For these words that aren’t in your chosen dictionary, pick a spelling/punctuation and put the list into a spreadsheet to refer to when editing in the future. Consistency is the key.
Any story, be it a novel, short story or flash fiction, is a slice of life. Your story won’t start right at the beginning. Saying that, if you are writing a first draft, write the story from the point you NEED to, just to get it onto paper or into the computer. Don’t worry if you are writing a scene that will likely be removed during the editing phase. Finding the right place to actually start a story is one of the most difficult tasks of developmental editing.