Saturday, November 13, 2010

Writer’s Block, NaNoWriMo, and Another Way to Procrastinate

Every writer encounters writer’s block at some point.  I can attest to the fact that it’s brought me to my knees a few times.

“What’s the problem?” you (non-writers) may ask.  “Don’t you know where the story is going?  Can’t you just, you know… write it?”

The problem with this assumption is that sometimes I really don’t know where the story is going.  Some authors plot everything carefully before they begin writing.  Some are even organized enough to write an outline.  People who know me and my detail-oriented, list-loving ways might guess I’m one of these people, but oddly enough, I’m not.

I enjoy the organic flow of the writing, especially when it’s going smoothly.  When that happens, it feels a lot like I’m just sitting back and watching the characters do their own thing.   Sometimes they even surprise me by doing something I didn’t expect at all.  This is one of the best parts about writing! 

But this blog is about not writing. 

In some cases, I do know where a scene is headed.  But I can get stuck on a page or even a paragraph. Honestly, sometimes it is a single word.  Written, then deleted.  Rewritten.  And another word tried and discarded.  You get the picture.

Why does this happen?  And what the heck can you do about it?

As to the why, it can be for any number of reasons, and they can often be specific to the author.  For example, writing any kind of love scene is nearly impossible if I keep reminding myself that my parents and in-laws may someday read it!  If you love to write, but this is your problem, I offer one possible solution.

Write like it’s your diary.  Pretend nobody will ever see it.  Write badly.  Write stupid stuff.  Write about what happened so far today until your fingers start to write something that resembles your story.  The point is to write.  Give yourself permission to write ugly, sucky stuff. The prettifying and fixing and removing of all that other random junk is what the editing process is for.

Need some motivation?  What if you’re simply overthinking things?  I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  This is a website where a bunch of crazy people – me included – get together every November and write 50,000 words of a book.  It’s intense and difficult and exhausting, but I love it.  In order to hit the requisite 1,667 words a day that you need in order to stay on track, you don’t have much time for staring at the blank page or second guessing yourself.  Put away your inner editor and go for it.  If it’s not November, there are a bunch of similar projects going on year-round that you can get in on. 

My debut novel, Magick Charm, was my NaNoWriMo project from 2007, and I finished the manuscript in my free time over the next few months.  Sure, when I began editing the manuscript, there was a lot of work to do.  My plot lines were all over the place.  My high school English teachers wouldn’t have approved of my sentence structure or grammar.  And don’t even get me started on continuity problems!  But it was a completed book.

So far this NaNo, I’m a little bit behind. I call it the week-two ick. I usually hate whatever I’m writing in week two. The glow of starting a new story has faded and the fun part – when my characters take control – hasn’t yet kicked in. At this point, I’m just slogging through.

The result is my desire to procrastinate. Today, that procrastination has taken the form of this blog. Because have no doubt, this blog is an excellent distraction at the moment.

But I’m going to get back to the writing now. I know the evils of week two are almost behind me and my characters are going to start acting out any minute!


  1. I no what you mean!

    Im also writing and it is super tough! Especially writers block!

  2. Hi Jen!

    I'm having the two weeks in blues too, my MC happens to be male, and right now, he's acting like a typical man, all closed mouth. LOL Then, I read some random post about how all MCs should be female characters especially in a PNR or UF, and my MC really gets pissy. Doesn't want to play at all now. All of Saturday went by without a single word, and finally when I was trying to sleep, he gives me this tangent on the storyline. Going to go with, see how it plays out. LOL I'm mostly a pantser, I let the characters take me where they want to go when they want to go. I figure, I wouldn't want someone letting me what to do all the time, they probably wouldn't like it either. I'm a little behind, but maybe this new direction is what my MC needs, only time will tell, and the edit machine may have to work extra hard after NaNoWriMo is over.

    Dottie :)

  3. Jennifer,

    I think we're about the same distance into NANO and I have to tell you, my problem isn't writer's block it's my poor, abused, abandoned family. I had to take a break yesterday and give them some attention. Now, attention is rendered, I should be back to writing this morning. But, I wanted to say that your advise about pushing through is dead-on. I tell fellow writers this all the time. When I lose motivation on my story, I'll blog, visit other blogs and comment, anything to get my mind back into sentence structure and creativity. Reading is another great WB knock-down tool. I'll read my fave author and it reminds me why I want to push through. Then, next thing you know, I'm back in my story. Great post!!

  4. Thanks for your comments and great ideas! I've been blogging, reading, and spending a little time with the fam.

    I may be starting to pull out of the week-two slump now. At least I'm starting to catch up on my word count. I threw a little chaos at the twins today and that sparked a flurry of writing. When in doubt, torment your characters!

  5. I know what you mean by week-two ick. That,s when the grind started, I had the glow from the first week as well. During those first few days, I felt really proud of myself, now it,s tiring. But the third week is giving me promise because I,m realizing I,m half way done with my novel puppy.