Things are tough all over, but I’ve been happy to see that the Catholic Church seems to be doing a good job at improvising during the pandemic.
In other news, the folks at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) have nagged me relentlessly the last couple of weeks, begging, exhorting, cajoling, and threatening me to join JuNoWriMo, the summer version of Novel Writers Torture Month. I have easily resisted this call, because I tried the November version once.
But when I was thinking about what to post today, I bumped into the blog of author Sarah Wynde, who talks about participating in this event. I’m sure otherwise she is a sane person. I’ve seen her comment on Jenny’s blog, and she always strikes me as intelligent and thoughtful, as well as amusing and kind.
(Note to sharp-eyed readers: The date of the post is October 31, 2018, so I have no idea how NaNo turned out for her.)
In any event, to meet her NaNo goals, Sarah made a list of things she could do to stimulate her thinking when she ran into a wall. She said that she thinks writers block can be fixed only by writing more, rather than, say, taking a walk, which a lot of other people advise. This is a concept I agree with, so because I’m having trouble meeting my word counts, too, I read her suggestions with interest. Here’s her list of 20 things to do to get out of a writing stall.
- Switch the point-of-view to another character
- Write an unexpected sound and the characters’ reactions to it. How does it change the scene?
- How can the POV character say “yes, and…”? Write that.
- Immediately make the challenge facing the POV character more difficult. (The challenge can either be the overall story challenge or something in the current scene.)
- Write an Aha! moment for any character, a moment of discovery or inspiration, within the current scene.
- Some detail of a character’s past is important in how they’re perceiving the current situation: fill in the details.
- What does the POV character believe a non-POV character thinks/feels/believes in this moment, and how are they reading it/perceiving it? (Body language, voice, actions?). Write it.
- Give the POV character a reason to laugh. (What might make the POV character laugh in the current moment?)
- The POV character smells something: what is it and what does it mean to her?
- An object in the setting matters: what is it, what does it look like, how did it get there, why is it important?
- Reveal a clue to someone’s secret without giving the secret away. Might require giving your characters some secrets.
- An animal enters the scene. Plot bunny!**
- Add a physical detail (or two or three) to make the setting more vivid.
- A character has a question: what is it?
- Delete the last three paragraphs and take the story in a different direction.
- Write one line to end the scene, add a break, start again in a new setting/time.
- Give the character a physical want or need — hunger, sore feet, thirst, need to pee, aches and pains, oncoming cold, allergies, tired, etc. — and help them resolve it.
- Go to chaoticshiny.com and use a random generator to create something story-appropriate and add it to the story. (A monster, an artifact, a character, a setting… whatever would help with the stuck-ness.)
- Ninjas hop out of the closet — probably not literal ones. But write something that forces your characters to move. Bonus point if the movement includes a fight.
- Go eat some chocolate. If necessary, go to the store and buy the chocolate first. Then give your POV character an equivalent treat, whatever would make her as happy as that chocolate is going to make you.
**I must mention here that you try suggestion number 12 only at your peril. Four years ago when I had really bad writers block, I wrote in a dog. And then I was stuck with that pooch for three books, and every single month, my critique partners would say, “Where’s the dog?” until I was ready to rip their heads off.**
So, if you’re having trouble writing in these times of stress and upheaval, maybe Sarah’s ideas will help you. They sure helped me. What do you do when you don’t know what to write next?