We’re near the halfway point of November, which means we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo. Now that the novelty and excitement of the challenge has worn off a bit, sometimes people can run into second week slumps, or they can slow down considerably.
And I’m hoping that this will help you to continue.
I will start by saying this one thing: there is no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t get all crazy on me, hear me out. I don’t think there’s actual writer’s block. There are other things getting in the way of you writing: lack of motivation, distractions, thinking too much.
So what I’m really going to be tackling in this post are the problems that come when you just can’t seem to get those words on the page, and how you can deal with them.
Now, these are all ways that I deal when I have a hard time continuing my writing, and bits and pieces that I’ve picked up over the past couple years in meeting all the authors that I’ve met. Everyone is different in their writing strategies but I do hope that this helps a little bit.
1. You’re Thinking Too Much
This is the one that I struggle with the most, which is why I’m writing about it first. I think way, way, way too much when I’m writing. I’m thinking about whether or not the grammar is great. I’m thinking whether or not the actual writing is good, or if the scene that I’m working on now fits with earlier scenes and whether it’ll fit with future scenes. I’m worrying if what I’m writing is good enough, if people will like it. I’m comparing my writing and my story to other writers.
And I have to stop doing that, and so do you! I think we all fall into that trap and it has to stop. So many writers that i’ve met over the past year have told me the same thing over and over again: Just write. Just write, and don’t be afraid to write really badly.
The point is to write. Just write. Don’t think about whether its good, or whether it makes sense. Not yet. Don’t worry about that yet. Just write. I will never forget: a few weeks ago, I met Cinda Chima and Marlene Perez, and Marlene quoted Nora Roberts, saying, “You can’t fix a blank page.” Just put your pen to the paper, put those fingers on the keyboard, and write. We can always go back and make it better!
2. Take a Break
On the other hand, don’t FORCE yourself to write. Take a break and go do other things, things that don’t require a lot of thinking. Take a walk, go out to dinner, play a game. I would NOT recommend reading a book or watching a movie. You want to focus on your story, and immersing yourself into other stories may only hinder you while you’re feeling blocked.
So definitely take a break. Sometimes getting away from the story, and distracting yourself from it for a bit can really help with bringing your focus back to the story. I’ve heard from authors that they’ll take a bath, or a shower. Get up, put some music on and have a dance party.
Sometimes just getting away from the actual keyboard but not the story helps too. Close the laptop or notebook, and just kind of lay back in bed and focus on the story. Visualize it in your head, play out the scenes like a movie, and sometimes that can help to put them into words. You can play with the scenarios in your head, until they seem to work better than what you had them at before.
Lastly, maybe talk it out with someone. Tell them where you’re at, what’s going on with your characters and maybe tell them your concerns. As an outsider, they may have some insight to where your character could go from there. Sometimes talking it out can help lead you in the direction you want to go.
3. Work on Something Else
This can mean so many different things. For me, I either work on my blog, because its a way to write but its not nearly as stressful, or I work on another scene in my novel.
Now some authors don’t do that, and they recommend writing in a linear matter. Some authors jump around. Its all sort of up to you. I have never had an issue with writing future scenes, in fact it helps me. Sometimes its hard to push yourself through those hard scenes, the ones that are slower, and are more build up and less action. I can understand that. I’m sort of stuck in that right now.
But what I do is, I either push through, reminding myself that I get to write a fun action scene at the end of it OR I just write the action scene. I write the exciting scene because its fun. Sometimes, in writing that more exciting scene, I answer questions that haven’t even been asked yet, and it helps me to write those slower scenes. I know exactly how I want to lead up to the scene I just wrote. It gets me excited for the story again, and I’m writing again.
It also helps to write other things as well. Write for your blog, if you have one. Write in a journal, or do a writing exercise. Keep using your writing skills, and maybe focusing on something else for a little while will help give you that motivation to continue your story.
4. Eliminate Distractions
Turn off the TV, turn off the wi-fi. Make sure that you are writing in a clutter free zone.
Now, I can write with all of those, but I’m also the oldest of six kids, and I live in a house with eight other people. Peace and quiet are concepts that I’m just not familiar with and I’ve gotten VERY comfortable with noise. In fact, silence bothers me and it can be a distraction for me.
But for most people, you need to cut out those distractions. Turn off the TV, get yourself to a quiet place, where you’re alone. Play music. Music can help, but don’t let it distract you too much. I usually only listen to music when I’m confident in what I’m writing. When I’m less sure, I tend to write in silence.
Definitely turn off the wi-fi. This is one that I have the HARDEST time dealing with. I get distracted by Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t let yourself be distracted. Just write. When you have nothing but the blank page in front of you, you can concentrate on it, and write. And remember, it doesn’t have to be good! JUST WRITE. Make sure you have nothing around to distract you. I’ll put my phone on my charger, on the other side of the room, and I’ll clear the space around me. Make sure the only the that’s between you and writing is the keyboard or the pen.
There are softwares you can purchase, for fairly cheap (think 10-15 dollars) to help you out. Freedom will block out all internet for a period of time, up to eight hours, in order to promote productivity. For those of us who use internet for research and such, there’s Anti-Social, which blocks out sites like Facebook and Twitter. Definitely check these out.
5. Set a Goal
This can be in any form. Set a time limit, or a word goal. This holds you accountable, and you’re more likely to finish the work if you’re holding yourself to it. Tell someone that you’re working on this goal, someone that you know will remind you and hold you accountable as well.
Set a time limit. Tell yourself you’ll write for an hour, two hours, three hours a day. Set a time for that. Tell yourself, “I will write for an hour from 8 pm to 9 pm before I go to bed”.
I set word count goals. I tell myself that I must write at least 1K words a day. Sometimes I bypass it and sometimes I don’t reach it at all but the fact that I made the goal, and I wrote something is better than not sitting down to write anything at all.
You can also set weekly goals as well. We get busy through out our weeks because of work or school or family commitments or social commitments and its understandable. Set yourself a word count goal for the entire week, so that you can write at your own pace through out the week. Keep yourself accountable.
6. Treat it Like a Job
Author Shannon Messenger told me, back in May, that its NEVER too early to start treating writing like a job and I’ve really taken it to heart. Put as much effort and time as you can into it, if you’re passionate about it and you want to get it done. Create a schedule for yourself and commit to that schedule. Tell yourself that you cannot make plans during certain hours, because you are working. You wouldn’t skip out on your job for things (for the most part), so don’t skip out on writing either.
Also, the more time and commitment that you give to your writing and your novel, the better it will be and the more likely you are to get it done. Treating it like a job will only help you to get better.
Sometimes, I just don’t believe in getting inspiration. Once you’ve published that first novel, and you start working on new ones, you’ll be on a deadline. You can’t wait for inspiration. Treating your novel like a job now, giving yourself set times to write and deadlines to meet, helps prepare you.
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I hope this helpful for you guys and that you don’t get stuck in the midpoint blues!
Good luck with everything, and don’t forget to check out my NaNoWriMo Support Group on facebook. I’m surrounded by a little more than a dozen of the most supportive friends and writers and it has been a great group. Definitely head on over!
Happy Writing Everyone!