The second week of NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now that the first week push is totally over (and motivation is waning, might I add), it’s time to bring it back home and address all the things that currently might be standing in our way.
I, for one, have started out pretty droopy. Even though I am trying to use NaNo as fuel to get me to the end of Disconnect, I am finding myself still getting stuck in the mud of discouragement, writer’s block and misty character motivation. My plot that I thought had all figured out decided to take a small twist, giving me whiplash and leaving me feeling disoriented for a few days, I did manage to hurtle the initial writer’s block I was experiencing before Camp started only to faceplant into the one only a few feet behind it, leaving me with should-I-keep-this-character musings that I would much rather not deal with.
But enough kvetching about my week one woes. It’s time to talk about the solving of them.
Discouragement is a horrible thing to encounter. If you are anything like me, outputting an enormous amount of words in one day is like trying to lift a 1,666 lb angry cat with one hand and no glove. In other words, it hurts and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
The solution is simple: Do what you can do. Don’t hurt yourself trying to kick the angry cat’s butt, go kick the butt of the weight machine first, and maybe go shopping for body armor. Work up to that 1,666 words per day. Sure it gets you behind, but after sitting on the couch your whole life, you aren’t going to one day be able to stand up and say “Hey! I’m going to run a marathon today!” You need to begin training. If the word count you can pull of in your best day is only a few hundred words, then great! Try to add another hundred to that the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, even if you have to carve an extra three hours out of your day to do it. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing off a novel, but also pushing yourself to do your best and reach a goal.
The next thing to address is the bane of every writer’s existence: Writer’s Block. Having been wrestling with my own sever case of WHY-ISN’T-THIS-WORKING, I discovered that you can’t take the inspiration train to happy land through a wall of death. It’s one of those things you need to get up, face and start knocking your forehead against until you see the light peeping through tiny cracks and make them big enough to shove through. Writer’s block is work, and you have to keep clocking in and force yourself through slogs of nasty, cheesy dialogue, bumpy prose and embarrassing cliches.
The directors at NaNo recommend throwing in something unexpected like ninjas (my personal favorite) or stampeding elephants and seeing how your characters react from there. Even though you’ll probably have to delete the scene in later drafts, at least you learn things about your characters like how they react to absurdity, or what their fighting skills are like, maybe even who would throw who under the bus in times of life and death. Who knows? You could uncover a plot gem! A new twist! A sub plot! The possibilities are endless.
Something that seems to be working the best for me in times of writing block is switching mediums and the occasional environment. For example, I since summer started I started going to sit outside on the deck with my laptop perched on the bistro table, watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other while the sun rises. For me, the change from my desk to outside in the cool morning helped a lot. When I’m super blocked, I resort to the good ol’ writing journal and handwrite it out. This allows me to get over the mentality that everything has to be perfect and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. A lot of times I’ll write out the same scene several different times in my journal to help me figure out what I want to accomplish.
But probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself with a block is continue writing. Those walls slow you down and bring all the fun to a stop. Don’t let that happen, and a lot of the time, everything will work itself out. You’ll be back on track and getting things done before you know it.
The last thing I’d like to quickly address is busting your way through character motivation. This first week, a scene occurred to me that didn’t really seem congruent with the rest of what I had written. I really liked it, and my IR said it was one of her favorite scenes I’d done yet. My only issue I had a character take a full 360 turn for about 2 pages then reverting back to the original personality I had given them. I couldn’t figure out if this was a part of the character I didn’t know about yet, or if I was just tailoring things to go my protagonist’s way for the sake of building his character. There are really only two bits of advice I can think of to give in situations like these.
The first mirrors what I said about writer’s block. Try journalizing about it. Write different scenes with them. Try some choppy pieces of dialogue with them. Introduce them to ninjas. Do something away from your manuscript to try and figure out who they are and why they act certain ways.
The next involves interviewing your character. I’ve only done this a couple times, and not with this particular storyline, but it works, and I enjoy it a lot. Having a back and forth or even an arguement with the character as an author lets you know a ton about motivations, especially if the characters are open enough with you to come out and say it. I’ll admit, it’s a little eerie when that happens, but totally worth it.
Well fellow NaNoers and non-Nanoers alike, this post has run long enough, and I hope it helped at least someone out there struggling with their own week one woes; I know it’s certainly helped me!
Time to get back to that manuscript! Stay strong and write on!