NaNoWriMo: Beating Writer’s Block

November 7, 2017
Keri Horan
Riveted Editorial Board

Hey everyone! Happy NaNo week two! How are we all feeling after the first seven days? Excited? Exhausted? Well, don’t worry. No matter what your situation, you’re in luck. Week 2 is notorious for giving Wrimos everywhere a hard time, but it doesn’t have to. I guarantee you’re in a better position than me (oh, hello, 1,200 total word count seven days in!) but even if you’re still at zero, the awesome thing about week 2 is you still have SO. MUCH. TIME. to make up for any snags you’ve hit so far.

If you thought you’d be at a certain point by now and you aren’t, you may need to reassess your pace for the rest of the month.

But say you really are stuck and have no idea what to write about next. Here are a couple things you can do if you should happen to find yourself at a loss for words. Have any other suggestions for what gets you through a mental block? Let us know in the comments! 

Make it Awkward.
See how your character would react if they were forced into a situation completely outside their comfort zone. What would your main character do if he lost his sight for a few days? What would she do if she had to do a presentation in front of a large crowd completely on the spot? What if he got lost in a foreign city where he didn’t speak the language? Put your characters in uncomfortable situations to get to know them better, see how they would react, and, of course, to add to your word count.
giphy (43)Use Music.

Listen to your favorite (or least favorite) song, and use the lyrics as plot points. Okay, so maybe your urban fantasy novel doesn’t need a scene about getting down on Fridays. But you know what? You don’t have to keep it. Just write it, stick it in a separate folder (totally counts towards your overall word count) and then continue on. It’ll get you out of your rut, and help you get closer to 50k.
giphy (39)Dialogue first, exposition later.

You can progress your story quickly through dialogue while also adding a ton of words. You might start heading down an unexpected road if your characters start talking a lot, and who knows where that could lead. Once you’re happy with the direction, go back and add all those little things happening to and around d your characters while they’re talking. If you aren’t happy with the direction, stick it in a folder and move on to something else.
giphy (41)Skip ahead.

If there’s a scene part-way through your novel that you’re particularly excited about, skip ahead to write it. It’ll get your creative juices flowing, amp up your excitement, and you can go back later once you’re in the groove to fill in any gaps.
giphy (42)Describe your world.

I find if I’m stuck and I’m not sure what to do, describing the environment around my character helps a lot. It adds a ton of words to my word count (which will probably get cut later, but who cares right now) and I might notice something in the room that I didn’t know was there. Maybe there’s and urn on the mantle. Maybe that old guy in the corner of the bar knows something my character really needs to discover. Maybe the spoon on the table is a family heirloom my main character will take on his journey. Think about how many words it took J.K. Rowling used just to describe Hogwarts Castle. Start adding those sensory details and you’ll be well on your way to your word goal.
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Something incredible happens when we let our brains work out problems while we aren’t consciously trying to. If you’re stuck, give yourself permission to abandon your laptop without feeling guilty. Get in a quick cardio sesh and see if it helps. If nothing else, it’ll help shake out your body, which has probably been sitting at a desk too long anyway.
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Step away.
I was recently talking to an author and she told me she struggled to find the perfect opening line to one of her recent(ish) novels. Until, that is, she stepped away from her project and went to a museum. The art, the lighting, and the people around her all worked together and the perfect opener just fell into her head (if only we could all be so lucky). Get away from your laptop every now and then and just go take in some art, visit a museum, see a standup show (even if it’s terrible, it’ll be great fodder). And if you’re legally able to, definitely give yourself permission to take time away from your novel to GO VOTE TODAY. Bring a notebook with you if you want to keep writing, and take in the people and scene around you while you wait on line.
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