Another NaNoWriMo is behind me.
Did I learn anything? Were there any takeaways?
Oh, sure. Planning is good. Plotting can be a friend… even to a pantser like me.
Maybe only character-driven writers will understand this, but all the planning and prepping in the world still guarantees you nothing.
I was plodding right along, words flowing like a cool stream, when all of a sudden, my beloved protagonist looks around with the malevolent grin of a serial killer and dumps a plot twist in my lap. (We’re still not speaking.)
Okaaaay. Now what?
I went with it.
The scene I was writing looked nothing like the one I sketched out six weeks ago. But, hey. Words were flowing… from somewhere, so I kept writing—and making notes.
I gave a cursory glance to my journal every morning, wondering if the completed scene would resemble what I’d planned in any way.
But, I stayed with it, because that is the point of NaNoWriMo. Get the words out of your head and on paper…fifty-thousand of them at least.
I reached the halfway mark and wondered if Hemingway ever struggled like this. Then I realized he drank… and a glass of wine doesn’t sound bad. But should I drink it or give it to my protagonist?
Nah. I’m still not happy with her… the wine is mine.
After one glass of Sweet Red, I understand why Hemingway drank!
It gets you out of your own way. The wall of doubt and fountain of inhibitions fall and you write like you’re on fire.
Or maybe that was just me.
No, I’m not advocating drinking while writing. Our liver is our friend and unlike plots, we can’t get a new one with every manuscript.
But, a writer writes because they have to. It is a deep-seeded need that can only be fulfilled by putting words on paper. Anything else is unacceptable.
If you get hit with a dose of writer’s block, get out of your way. The characters didn’t change and the words remain the same. The problem is you.
Remember why you write.
Remember the freedom you feel.
Remember the sense of accomplishment you feel regardless of if it’s five, five hundred, or five-thousand words you leave on the paper.
It took me a couple of years to “get it” but the NaNoWriMo rule of no editing makes perfect sense. It makes me get out of my own way to just write. Of course, by doing so, I’m also giving my characters free reign, but that’s a completely different blog post.
I’ve spent the first three days of December making notes and moving things around in my MS, however, I’m putting it away until after the holidays. But sometime in January, I’ll have to decipher all those red squiggly lines and double blue lines, and wonder if I was typing in alien code.
And there may or may not be wine involved, because… Hemingway.
Writer’s block gets far too much credit for words not written and false starts on manuscripts.
Not being able to develop a character or plot to move the story forward is maddening. However, sometimes a lack of words is not the problem but the overabundance of words vomited by your brain!
After finishing a twenty-five-hundred-word chapter, you read it and cringe in horror at the forty-seven adverbs, nineteen pronouns, twelve dialogue tags, and eleven uses of the word ‘had.’
You believe writing is not your calling and consider a career in the food service industry where name tags and hats are required.
Instead, you delete the paragraph and start over.
You’re dealing with another type of writer’s block—one where you’re blocking yourself from moving forward because you’re trying to write the perfect first draft using the rules.
Everyone’s first draft is craptastic—you’re not going to be the exception.
First drafts get rewritten during the editing stage … hence the name FIRST draft.
Your story can (and will) change, making the chapter you’re agonizing over irrelevant.
Your editor could say the chapter doesn’t add to the story. Wave goodbye to the chapter.
Your MS will go through more changes than an Academy Awards show host.
Take a deep breath … and exhale.
Now. Write your story.
Let the words flow. Good, bad, passive, indifferent. Get them on paper.
Write your story. Finish it … and take a break from it.
After your break, make a copy of your MS and put it away.
Now you can use the rules and fix the excessive adverbs, run-on sentences and five-hundred-sixty-five occurrences of the word ‘that’ … or maybe that was just me.
Line up your Beta-readers and alert your editor.
And when you’re holding your published book in print form or on your reader, take out the saved copy of your first draft and compare the two.
You turned something craptastic into literature.
Pat your yourself on the back … and start all over again.
Write your story.
‘Writer’s Block’ is basically writing-related procrastination. This means that overcoming procrastination = overcoming writer’s block.
In ‘How to be a Knowledge Ninja,’ productivity expert Graham Allcott claims procrastination occurs when we find something:
Fighting writer’s block comes down to fighting these 4 concepts, which have the handy acronym of DUST. If you can deal with DUST, you can beat writer’s block. So, let’s work out how to tackle each word:
“How do I create a lifelike, interesting character?”
The reality is that it takes a long time to become a good writer – I know I’m certainly not there yet!
However, even if you lack the skills to do what you want, give it a shot. Through trying, experimenting, developing and most of all putting word after word on paper or screen, your writing will improve. You don’t have to focus just on…
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