Writing when you're stuck

NaNoWriMo started this week, and tens of thousands of writers are diving into their dream novels (or drafts thereof). This is a month of writing without thinking, blazing bravely forward and then finishing the junk that you started. It’s a month of fun and adventure and stress and hard-work. Early decisions can change the course of the story, and it’s not uncommon to write yourself into a high-walled corner. Writer’s block is a real thing. Don’t be discouraged!

Here are few things I like to do when I get stuck in my own writing.

Write what you love! In most of my writing decisions, I ask myself if the story I’m telling is one that I would love to read or hear myself. Is it something I’m excited to share? Is the next plot point ridiculous enough for me to love it? Ridiculousness is encouraged, especially during first drafts. If it’s too much, tone it back later. For now, just write!

Put on a hat! Be a superhero! I find that being weird while writing opens me up to being as crazy as I want. As I wrote here, being inhuman can open you up to being superhuman. Normal imagination limits do not apply to you! You can do anything!

Write it as fast as you can. Set a timer, stop thinking, and do not get up or do anything until you’ve finished the current scene or chapter or whatever it is. In two hours, you’ll have something to work with, something tangible to love or hate, and you’ll at least know what you didn’t want to do or where it could be going.

Bounce around. You don’t need to write your story in order. Jump to that scene you’re excited about, and find the pieces to build to it once it’s done.

Steal. Remember that scene you read in that book you loved that was amazing and blew your mind and inspired you to be a writer? Yeah, that one. Twist it up and incorporate it. And don’t feel bad! Read this, watch this, and remember this Picasso quote: “Good artists copy, Great artists steal.”

Take a break already! If you’ve been pouring all your mental energy into the ins and outs of the story so far, taking a short break can be extremely productive. The rest is very good for you, especially after pushing yourself to the brink.

Learn how your subconscious works, and let it do the work. I’ve learned that my subconscious is not productive when I’m playing video games or exercising, but it fires off ideas like crazy when I’m reading fiction or reading advice about writing. In fact, I planned my current NaNoWriMo novel by writing out notes on the story while reading all of these.

Finish. Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged. Chuck Wendig gets it right when he says: “The true author finishes what he begins.” Stick with it and get it done before moving on.

Also, bookmark and read and reread this aloud and often. It works.

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