Camp NaNoWriMo: Tackling Writer’s Block

So, it turns out that this month has not exactly gone the way I anticipated. I’m behind on my word count, and I’ve missed a lot of writing days. I wish I could chalk this up to some easy excuse–working more than usual, personal stress, etc.–but it’s a combination of stress, exhaustion, and just not wanting to write. I’m beginning to wonder if my idea really has the teeth to make it to 50,000 words. So far, I’ve hit a little over 20,000, and I’m not entirely sure where it’s going. That can be good, but I don’t know here. Also, it’s a horror story, and quite frankly, it’s just not scary enough. I need to amp up the fear factor.

That being said, I wanted to take on a common problem for writers: writer’s block. I know some people will try to convince you that writer’s block isn’t real, but I am not one of those people. Sometimes, the well runs dry. You can look at a blank page and just have no idea what comes next. There’s no way around it: this sucks. But it happens to everyone. The trick is figuring out a method that works for you to combat the block. Here’s a list of things that I have found help me:

1. Write something else. If you have a blog, write a blog post. If you have another work in progress, switch over to that for an hour or so. If the block is specific to your current project, “breaking the ice” on something else can be all that it takes for ideas to flow again.

2. Read something. Basking in the creativity of other people can be a huge help. For me, it helps to read something else in my genre. I get motivated by reading great stories by other people. It makes me want to write an equally great story.

3. Create a Pinterest board for your story. I know, this might sound silly. Hear me out: I like to do this anyway, but if you’re having trouble with inspiration, a little visualization can go a long way. Cast your story. Research the city where it’s set. If it’s a science fiction/fantasy story, and it’s not a real place, search for artwork on Pinterest. Finding pictures that match the tone of your story can help get you back in the mindset you need to write.

4. Create your story’s soundtrack. Go back through what you’ve written so far, and imagine what songs would be playing in the background if this was a movie. Or if your reader wanted a recommendation for what to listen to while reading, what would you suggest? Music is critical to my writing. I have a giant playlist full of instrumental music that I use while writing, and I would encourage you to do the same, if you like listening to music while you write. Another musical option is to pick out your story’s “trailer music” – again, imagine it like a movie and think of what the trailer would look like. What are your key scenes?

5. Work on character development. If you google “character development questionnaires,” you will find a plethora of resources. Fill out one of these for each of your main characters. Even if it doesn’t actually inspire you to go back to the project right away, it’ll give you more information on your characters.

6. Take a walk. The world is full of inspiration, and sometimes, the best thing to do is to get out of your house. This is especially true if you’ve been staring at a computer screen for hours. Take a walk. Get a cup of coffee. Engage in some quality people-watching. Keep your mind as clear as possible, and you might be surprised what ideas jump in.

7. Don’t writeThis may seem counter-intuitive, but if you really can’t break the block, just walk away for awhile. A lot of writers say that you just need to power through it, put some words, any words, on paper, but that’s not always healthy. Sometimes you just stare at the screen. There’s just nothing coming out. The longer you sit at your desk, the worse you’re going to feel about yourself. With every passing moment, you start to doubt and criticize yourself. If you know that you’re not going to be productive, take a step back. The project will be there tomorrow. Take the time to recharge yourself.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are simply a few things that I’ve used in the past that help me. Writers, how do you battle writer’s block? 


Inspiration Strikes!

Today was an odd day. On the way to work this morning, I was pondering which of my “in progress” projects to continue next month during Camp NaNoWriMo. I told myself that I was going to do some outlining and brainstorming on each one, and I’d make a decision by the end of tonight.

Around three o’clock this afternoon, I was struck with a sickness that I just couldn’t shake. I had a terrible headache and felt nauseated. I popped some Excedrin, but I didn’t feel any better, so I ended up heading home early. I went straight to bed and fell asleep for almost two hours.

I had the weirdest dream that I have had in a long time. It was creepy, but more than that, it was a complete narrative. This used to happen to me a lot, but it hasn’t happened in awhile. Somewhere in the middle of the dream, I realized that I was dreaming, and it got so intense that I had to wake myself up. Then, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. The narrative was too bizarre, even for fiction, but the base idea was intriguing. Within an hour, I had four main characters and a general plot outline developed in my head. This is an idea that I can honestly say I’ve never approached before, so I have no idea where it came from.

It strikes me as especially weird, since if I didn’t feel sick today, I wouldn’t have gone home, wouldn’t have slept, and wouldn’t have had the idea come to me – would it have come to me at another time? I don’t know.

Anyway, I know this is a random post, but HOORAY for inspiration. This solves my Camp NaNoWriMo dilemma! Looks like I’m headed back to the horror genre for the month of July.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 12

We’re almost halfway done with Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s hard to believe that the midpoint of April is this week. I’m happy to say that this month has been extremely productive. Since my last post, one week ago, I’ve written 13,755 words. And you know what? Some of them aren’t too bad!

I’m finding that I’m taking much longer than anticipated in the first half of the story. I estimated that this project would be about 75,000 words, but I think it’s going to end up much longer than that. I have almost 37,000 words on the project right now, and I think it’s about a quarter done. So, although I hope to hit the 50,000 word mark in April, I will certainly not finish the project.

This is the start of the third week of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I know from experience that this is when motivation can wane. After the initial burst of energy from starting a new project, the words can take a little longer to get on the paper. My goal for getting over this is a commitment to write every day, even if it’s only 500 words. In past NaNoWriMos, I’ve taken a few days off, but I’m going to avoid that this month. Missing one day leads to missing two days, then three days, etc.

Back to writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 5

Well, friends, at the end of Day 4 of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had logged 9,590 words – averaging 2,397 words per day. Not too shabby! I’m impressed that I’ve already written more in April than I did in either February or March.

For whatever reason, I’m finding it to be a little easier this month to sit down and force myself to write. I definitely have a trend–before I get to 1,000 words, it’s hard for me to get momentum, but once I have a decent amount down on the paper, I just keep rolling.

So far, I’m enjoying my story and my characters. The outline that I wrote before the beginning of the month has been very helpful and keeps me on track.  Though I’m optimistic that I’ll hit 50,000 words this month, I don’t know that I’ll actually finish this project. I’m at around 22,000 now, and the story is just getting started. There’s still a lot of ground to cover.

If you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, or if you have any other writing goals this month, I hope they’re going well for you!

March Recap: Vacation Edition

March was a mixed bag. On the reading side, I read 10 books, including two from my 2015 Reading List.  I’m still on track to complete my goal this year of reading 100 books. Notably, I read The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, which has been sitting on Amazon’s Best Sellers list for quite awhile, and I finally read two classics, The Time Machine, and Lord of the Flies. My 10 books included 2 history books, as a result of my traveling, which I always find a little harder to get through.

On the writing side… mm, not so productive. I wrote a total of 8,677 words, which evens out to a sad 279 words per day. As I’ve written on here before, part of this was because I hit a block in my current project that I just couldn’t bypass. Another reason for this was just focusing on things other than writing (I know–what??). My day job has been busy and stressful, and by the time I got home and decompressed, writing was pushed to the back of my mind. There is more going on there, I think, but I’ll save that for another post.

But that needs to change this month. It’s Camp NaNoWriMo! Honestly, I’m wavering back and forth between excitement and reluctance. I need to just buckle down and work. I’m returning to the same project I started last April during Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve done a detailed outcome, and I’ve split my Scrivener file into parts, so I think I have a good road map. This project is connected to my novel, The Historian, though I’ll keep the connections vague in case you haven’t read it. It’s currently sitting at about 13,000 words, and I hope to get another 50,000 this month. I know I can do it, because I’ve hit 50,000 in both of my previous Novembers. I just need to push myself.

What are your April goals, readers? Anyone else doing Camp NaNoWriMo?

Writer’s Block and Camp NaNoWriMo

Welcome Spring! I’m so excited that the weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. I took a long vacation earlier in the month, which was great for my well-being but bad for my reading and writing goals.

I expected vacation to clear my head and spark inspiration, but that’s exactly the opposite of what’s happened. Since I got back from vacation, I’ve written a total of 500 words. That’s it! For some reason, my story feels stagnant. The weird thing is that I’m right about to really dive into some crazy action – I’m about at the halfway point, and I’m about to make a big reveal that motivates the actions for the rest of the story. So, why can’t I push through this hump and get to the good stuff?  My goal is to push myself to write something–anything–every day until the end of the month on this project.

Why only until the end of the month? Because next month is Camp NaNoWriMo! And during April, I’m switching projects. I need to back away from my current project for a little while and reassess where it’s going. I’m going back to a project that I started last April during Camp NaNoWriMo. Last April, I failed miserably and didn’t even hit 10,000 words. This year, my goal is 50,000 words. Over the past year, the story’s word count has crept toward 20,000, so if I sit down and commit, I think I should be able to finish it next month (or if not, get very, very close).

Are you signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo? Friend me! My user name is rbohlen, and I’m always looking for buddies to help with motivation.