It’s almost November, and writers know what that means… It’s time for National Novel Writing Month, or as the pros call it, NaNoWriMo. This is when crazy writers, like myself, pledge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in thirty days. We stock up on caffeinated snacks, properly light our cave dwellings and upgrade our power cords to do our best to make this goal.
But to what end? Where do all those words go when the month is over? I mean, there are a plethora of writing contests and slush piles to enter them in, but how does that help the world? One of this year’s #Pitchwars participants (Alice Chao-woot woot!) got together with some other participants and created #Scrivathon, a 24 hour write-athon to help raise money for Syrian aid. This way writers can do what they do best and help people receive food and clean water while they’re at it. Plus, anyone can enter to win really cool raffle prizes! (Click on the link to check them out.)
This is a beautiful thing. (Add heart eyes here.)
Except, there’s that thing called writer’s block. Some say the inability to put words on paper is an urban legend right up there with Big Foot and The Donald’s real hair, but try telling that to the writers staring at their blank screens and zero ideas on how to get the word faucet flowing.
So what do you do? I think the more important question is why it’s happening at all. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons:
- Nothing creates defeat more than caring about what other people think. (Your mother was right about this one.) Whenever I can’t seem to get the words in the right order, it’s usually because I’m thinking about who will eventually be reading them. I say things like, “They wouldn’t get that…” or “Not everyone gets your humor…quit with the cheese already.” Even as I write this, I have to force all those judgy demons out of earshot and focus on what I want to create.
- Sometimes the structure of a paragraph can halt the story. Or the lack of it. This boils down to how much information you are trying to fit in to a paragraph/chapter/flashback/etc. The trick is to write everything you feel needs to be said and not worry about it making sense. I know, but stay with me here. We know where we want our story to go, and yet it sits there like…In order to get it moving in the direction you want it to, you have to ignore the path and focus on the movement. The real magic happens in the edits. Say that to yourself. Write it on a Post-It and repeat as necessary.
- Do you know your characters well enough? As I worked on my last book, I got stuck on a scene where our awkward protagonist opens up to the shy farm boy who’s been admiring her from afar. Except I couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out what he would say or do in the scene. And then it hit me. I’d done character prep for every character but him. I had no idea who he was, except for the shell I’d created to further my plot. I decided to take him on a cleaning mission. In order to get to know my characters, I have them clean out a backpack, car, room, whatever. So, this boy was given the chore to clean out his closet while I took notes. (I swear, I’m not nearly as creepy as I sound. It’s a writer thing.) He started pulling things out and laying them on the bed, but carefully, not like you’d think a typical teenage boy would. Turns out the things were his mother’s. She’d died a year or so ago and he’d been assigned the job because his father couldn’t do it. Turns out there was quite a bit I didn’t know about him. Once I figured out his past, his future was much easier to write.
Whether or not you are signed up for NaNoWriMo or plan to take advantage of the #Scrivathon on November 12th, hopefully these examples will help you figure out why your words aren’t flowing. And remember, first drafts don’t have to be great, they just have to be written.
If you’d like more information on how to get involved with #Scrivathon16, go to my previous blog entry or click the link here.
Check out these other #Scrivathon Blog Hop Hosts by clicking on their names here: