During our Fall Writing Bootcamp, we've been sharing our best advice on getting ready for NaNoWriMo (or any new writing project) from how to come up with story ideas and how to pick your next story project to how to have a successful, positive NaNoWriMo experience. Today's post is the last in this series. We hope you've found this series helpful!
Today, we're talking about getting unstuck when you've hit the wall, when you can't think of what to write next, or when you can think of what you want to write, but the words won't get on the darn page.
First, we've all been there.
You're not alone, there isn't anything wrong with you. Sometimes you get ... stuck. That's okay, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to be kind and forgiving.
Beyond that, our crew has a few tips and tricks for getting the words on the page.
1. Take a walk.
When you're stuck, you might be tempted to check Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, but it's a dangerous choice. You may very well end up wasting hours scrolling through social media feeds. Or, even if you don't check social media feeds, staring at a blank screen and feeling guilty and/or crummy about not writing, won't help you either.
Picture us waving our cutlasses at you and saying: STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER!
Close your laptop. Go for a walk, a run, a hike - get moving. Don't want to go outside? Clean something. Do jumping jacks. Play with your cat/dog. Make dinner or cookies.
Bottom line: break away from the computer. Either the change of scenery will jog your imagination and help you write when you sit down again, or at least you'll be doing something with your time you can feel good about.
BONNY KITTY CUTLASS (KATHRYN HOLMES)
The best way I have found to get unstuck is to keep writing. Something. Anything. Words on the page. And then, once that's done, to take a walk or do something entirely un-computer-tethered. I have had some of my best writing epiphanies in the middle of a contemporary dance class.
Also, have a good sounding-board in your life who is willing to talk out ideas and quandaries with you. My husband is great at this, and I have one friend from grad school who is almost always willing to have a lengthy g-chat about plot problems. :)
Which is an excellent segue into our next tip:
2. Talk about it.
Sometimes we're stuck because we can't figure out how to "fix" our story. Perhaps you have a plot hole and aren't sure what to do about it. Or your character's motivation is fuzzy. Find a friend, loved one, or fellow writer, and ask them if you can chat with them about your problem. Even if they aren't a writer, simply saying your problem out loud might help you figure out how to fix it. They might also see a solution, or make a suggestion that gets your creative juices flowing again.
Psst: Be sure to thank your kind listener. Perhaps the cookies you made after step one would do? ;)
3. Shake things up.
Let's set up a scenario: You're participating in NaNoWriMo; it's day fifteen, and you've been doing great so far. But then disaster strikes. You hit the dreaded middle and you. Are. Stuck. *cue screaming, hair pulling, growling at family members*
Try this: Pick a scene you *can't wait* to write. Even if it's the climax or the ending, and you're only a third of the way through to book. Write that seen you are SO excited to write. Jumping to a new point in your story might give you the extra energy and motivation you need to get back into the story.
JAS KETCH, SIREN OF THE SEYCHELLES (KRIS F. OLIVER)
I get stuck if I try to write everything in order, beginning to end. If I get stuck, I don’t make myself get unstuck, instead I just write whatever scene I want to write when I want to write it. I can stitch it all together later in the “edit” phase. (hopefully) But for me, I feel it’s better to keep moving even if I’m not necessarily moving in a forward direction.
4. Turn off your inner editor.
We have an entire post about how to turn off your inner editor, the voice that tells you your word choice is lacking, or pressures you to write faster, snappier dialogue, or that you really should do more research. That voice is great for when you need to edit and revise. When you're drafting? It can do more harm than good. Worse, it can make you feel like you can't write a word because it won't be good enough.
If you struggle with your inner editor, then read Bonny Kitty Cutlass' post, How to Quiet Your Inner Editor.
5. Just keep writing.
Whether you call it getting stuck, hitting a wall, or writer's block - we all experience it. The writers who keep going -- no matter how terrible they *think* their manuscript is -- are the writers who hit The End.
Curly McGee (G. Myrthil)
The only way out is through. You have to keep pushing forward, even if you've hit a wall. If I got really stuck on a scene but knew I still had to write a certain number of words that day, I would skip to a new scene and start writing that instead. I think the only way to get through challenges like NaNoWriMo is to never let yourself stop writing until you reach your goals! Eventually you'll get past that wall and you'll feel good that you still made progress.
We'd love to hear your advice about how to get unstuck when you're writing. Jump in the comments and tell us what works best for you!