We’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo right now.
It’s a time of supercharged creative tension. People are scribbing and typing, trying to churn out 50K words before the month ends.
It can also be a time of staring at the blank page or words written, contemplating a corresponding blank space in one’s head. All the while, the writer wonders what happened to their inspiration, their desire to write this particular story?
How do they move forward from that blankness, even if it’s just a little?
I’m only too well acquainted with this blankness. I’ve stared at my empty page, feeling lost. I’ve felt equally lost, looking at what I’ve already written with no idea what to do next.
The story I once loved starts to feel like a ball and chain, weighing me down.
How do I lose the weight? How do I get back the passion for the manuscript I once felt?
Different writers have different ways of escaping from their slumps. Some of them abandon their story entirely.
I’ve done that. Back in 2003, I abandoned Stealing Myself From Shadows entirely to write a similar story with different characters.
The original characters kept coming back in fragment after fragment of fiction while I tried to work on the other novel. Christopher, Damian, Gabrielle, and Peter would not let me forget them. They even wormed their way into the other novel as minor characters.
Eventually, I gave in and wrote a new draft of Stealing Myself From Shadows for NaNoWriMo 2015. The result was I had two manuscripts, the first two potential books in a series; Stealing Myself From Shadows and The Hand and the Eye of the Tower.
Putting aside the manuscript had positive results, but I’m still trying to sort out the chronological confusion caused by these two books. Much revision was required for both of them before I could publish either book.
I needed a more straightforward way of dealing with writer’s block. One which would enable me to finish a manuscript in a more timely manner.
I’ve come up with these three techniques. I’ve found them very helpful when I’m stuck.
One, take a break. Get up from the table or desk. Move around. Empty the dishwasher. Make the bed. Do some other task that requires movement.
While I’m moving, I think about my story and my characters. Perhaps I’ll listen to some music, while I do something else.
This achieves two things. One, I’ve accomplished something, even if it’s something else entirely. It makes me feel like less of a failure. Two, activity refreshes my brain, recharging it.
This recharge often helps stimulate me.
Two, sit down with a fresh piece of paper. Vent, rant my frustrations in full about not being to finish my manuscript.
Once I’m calmed down a bit, I try to recall what I wanted to accomplish when I chose this project. Why did I want to spend a month on this story? What is it that makes me want to write about this particular character? What’s changed since I started this story? What would I like to do differently? What can I do to rekindle my interest in this particular tale?
Three, indulge myself. I may not have much time, but I try to jot down a paragraph of something I really wanted to happen in this story.
These three tricks have helped me to wiggle out from under many a writer’s block. I wouldn’t have made it through NaNoWriMo without them.
What about you, dear reader? Ever wiggle out from under or shatter a writer’s block? Any techniques you’re willing to share in battling this formidable opponent who tries to weigh our stories down?