On Overcoming Writer's Block

It happens all the time: you're ready to write, you have an idea in mind, and you have the time to dedicate to getting it on the page. But the longer you stare at your computer screen, the stronger the desire to check Twitter, to rewrite your notes, to get a snack. Each sentence feels like you're pulling out your own teeth. It becomes physically painful to write. You have writer's block. 

During NaNoWriMo, writer's block can be a buzzkill. The more you try to write, the worse it gets. The more you ignore it, the further behind you get in the challenge. It's a catch-22. 

I have found writer's block to be heavily tied to procrastination: it's less that I can't think of what to write and more that I want to avoid the actual process of doing it. I might have hit a plateau in the story or I might suddenly hate the plot I picked up, but I know I have things to write about... I'm just bored with it. Writer's block is a convenient way for me to avoid doing the real, difficult work of writing through a crappy situation. 

But in the midst of NaNoWriMo, how can you work through the pain and get your word count in? Here are a few ideas. 

1. Rewrite your outline. 

Did you write an outline for your NaNoWriMo novel? If you didn't, consider creating a rough one now. As I've written before, an outline is one of the best ways to ensure success during NaNoWriMo

If you do have an outline, congrats! You have a few options. You can jump ahead to a future chapter that gets you excited again and at least get a word count in for the day. Or you can focus on reworking your outline to change the story enough to get excited again. Only spend about a half an hour doing this or else you'll spend a day tweaking your outline and avoiding writing, which is no bueno. Once you've got your outline set, get back on the horse. 

2. Do some writing exercises. 

I'm a big fan of doing short writing exercises to get myself excited again. There are tons to choose from and a quick Google search can give you a ton of ideas. Here are my favorites: 

  • Write a list of 10 things you'd find in your main character's trash can. 
  • Free write for 5 minutes. 
  • Write a list of your main character's favorite things. 

Any writing exercise should only take you about 5-10 minutes tops. Once you're done, think of how that information will help you write your story--and maybe you've written something you can incorporate into your word count for the day. 

3. Let yourself move on. 

Really hating your plot? Really not wanting to continue? Guess what? You don't have to! 

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you don't have to write the perfect novel. You have every right to start a new novel in the middle of this one or to change everything after two chapters. It's your novel and you can always fix it later. For now, you're just getting words onto the page. Don't want to continue with your main character or your setting? Don't. Start fresh. I promise, it will be ok (and it's what revision is for)! 

Share your #NaNoWriMo tips with me on Twitter!