8 Tricks for When You're Stuck During NaNoWriMo

by Melissa Ragsdale
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We're over halfway through National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which means that if you're on track, you've made it to 25,000 words. (Don't worry if you haven't, though. I'm behind, too.) No matter what your word count is right now, if you've made it this far, you deserve a big pat on the back, a glass of champagne, and a hearty congratulations. You've made an incredible, time-consuming commitment to your craft, and you should be proud of yourself. But while finishing NaNoWriMo is amazing and magical, the process of getting there can be incredibly difficult. So that's why I've got these tips and tricks for beating writer's block during NaNoWriMo.

First of all, if you're stuck, don't panic. Calm down, drink some tea, and read through these exercises that help you pull more out of your novel and your characters, even when you're hopeless stuck. Trust me, we've all been there. Even if it feels like you're completely dried up, there are plenty of things you can do to get back in the groove, and sometimes, the best thing you can do is write yourself out.

So full speed ahead, NaNoWriMo writers. You've got this!

1. Describe the setting.

It's easy to get caught up in the action of your manuscript. But, if you're feeling stuck, take some time to really dig into the setting. What does it smell like? What can your characters see out the window? What makes the building they're in special?

2. Discover your characters' opinions about different topics.

This is an idea inspired by The Wangs Vs. The World author Jade Chang, who in an interview with Bustle discussed about how she likes to ask questions about her characters, ranging from "What does Charles think about brunch?" to deeper questions about their motivations. Often, asking these questions can lead you into discoveries about them that push your work forward. I've been trying this with my NaNoWriMo novel, and it's really helped. Some questions to try: What gods/religion does your character believe in? What is your character's favorite genre of books/movies and why? What does your character miss most in the world? What is your character's biggest regret?

3. Take your characters to one of your favorite places

Maybe it's actually your favorite place, or maybe it's a place in their fantasy world that really resembles your favorite place. See what happens when your characters knock around your high school or get up to mischief in your local library. It's easy to write about the familiar, and fun to throw your characters into a new situation.

4. Use photographs and art for inspiration.

Art begets art, right? Pull yourself out of your novel, look through some visual art, and see what it in spires in your mind. Try flipping through Unsplash or Deviant Art, or even take yourself on a field trip to a local museum.

5. Dive into the past.

Throw a flashback into your story, and go deep into your characters' back stories. Even if you don't end up keeping the flashback when you go back to edit, this is a great way to discover new threads of inquiry about your characters.

6. Get your characters talking to one another.

When I'm writing (especially writing this fast) it's easy for me to get caught up in the action, trying to hit the plot points that I know need to happen. But take some time to slow down and have your characters interact with each other and have realistic conversations. Let them eat breakfast together or have a silly argument. As you write, ask yourself: how do they feel about each other?

7. Write yourself into your novel.

Even if it's just as a barista in the back of the scene, throw yourself into the story you're writing. Have yourself interact with the characters. It's fun to try to describe and fictionalize yourself, and maybe it will kickstart some new ideas.

8. Give a character a secret.

Throw a wrench into your plot and up the stakes by having one of your characters keep a secret. It can be something as silly as that they ate the last piece of pizza, or as menacing as a murder in their past. What does having this secret mean for the rest of your characters? How does it complicate things?

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