Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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37 Tips to Get You Writing Again

A man so stuck with writing that he is eating his keyboard.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

We’ve all been there. The words aren’t coming and your eyeballs are glazing over every time you look at the page.

At any point in the writing life this is frustrating, but during NaNo WriMo it can be excruciating.

If you’re stuck and not able to write, try some of these tips.

Force Yourself to Continue

Sometimes all you need is a little stubbornness to get you over a slump in energy or enthusiasm.

NOTE: While following these tips, do not at any point check your social feeds or e-mail.

  • Say out loud: ‘Perfection is my enemy. I will write imperfect words and edit later.’ Then say it again and again until you’re convinced.
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes (or 30 minutes) and freewrite. Don’t stop writing, even if all you’re recording is drivel. Something might pop up and get you going again.
  • Set a word count (500 words, 1,000 words) and work towards that goal. Forget about the quality, focus on the quantity.
  • Set up a reward system, (e.g. for every sentence written, you’re allowed one potato chip).
  • Tie yourself to the chair. Literally. Go find rope or a scarf or a bed sheet.
  • Stick your feet in a bucket of water. (This forces you to stay in your chair, but don’t do this near electrical outlets.)

Change Things Up a Bit

If you can’t force yourself to write (let’s face it, force is painful and not always helpful) then why not try a change?

  • Change the font of your manuscript.
  • Change the word processor you’re using. (Try Scrivener, OmmWriter, or even just TextPad.)
  • Change the location of your scene, (e.g. if your scene takes place in a posh restaurant, move it to a car rally).
  • Change the characters’ names, (e.g. instead of Max and Joanne, write about Fluffy and Mrs. Winklebottom).
  • Use one of Creativity’s suggestions on how to add a new element into your scene.
  • Move on to another scene that you feel enthusiastic about. (Remember: novels don’t have to be written in order.)
  • Choose a writing prompt.
  • Get up and walk around your office to give your brain a bit more blood flow.
  • Move yourself to another room, or even outdoors if temperature allows, and write there.
  • Write by hand. Use your favourite pen or different coloured markers.
  • Use a typewriter to pound out your words.
  • Dictate your scene into an audio recorder (e.g. on your computer or phone) and then type up the transcript.

Trick Yourself Into Writing

The above not working for you? Let’s get more creative!

WARNING: Use all tips below sparingly and not as excuses to avoid writing. Only use these once you’ve tried the above and got no results. After using a few of the below, go back to the tips above and try those again.

  • Have a chat with a fellow writer. Find out how their work is progressing and then maybe bring up the problem you’re facing.
  • Sketch a location for your scene.
  • Act out a scene from your novel.
  • Choose music for your scene.
  • Think up your character’s favourite activity, then do it.
  • Read what you’ve already written and build momentum for what comes next.
  • Go back to whatever sparked your original idea and rekindle your excitement.
  • Get out your favourite book and fall in love with writing again.
  • Watch the special features of your favourite film, especially anything to do with the writing, scoping or directing process.
  • Read your dictionary.
  • Read your thesaurus.
  • Play Balderdash/Fictionary.
  • Find your favourite piece of your own work and read it.

Bore Yourself Into Writing

Still stuck? Now we get serious.

The purpose of these tips is to either provide the mind with the downtime needed to come up with new ideas, or to do something so mind numbing that you’ll voluntarily return to the page. As mentioned above, use these tips sparingly.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Take a shower. (I can personally vouch for the success rate of this tip.)
  • Bounce a ball (preferably without breaking priceless household objects).
  • Iron clothes.
  • Sew buttons on shirts. (If buttons have not fallen off yet, then help them along with scissors.)
  • Get out a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and start with the sky.

Do you have any more tips for the list? Add your own in the comments below.

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Oops, I Started NaNo WriMo Without a Plan

Four kids jumping into a pool holding hands

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

So, you all know how Jessica’s been dutifully telling everyone she wasn’t going to participate in NaNo WriMo this November? Well, when November 1st came around, force of habit kicked in and somehow she found herself opening a new document and just pouring 2,000 words onto the page.

She was surprised.

I was surprised!

But it was fantastic. By word 1,542 I had woken up to what she was doing and created the most brilliant idea (if I do say so myself, which I do, so there).

We went from averaging half a sentence per day (and the sentence was complete and utter bilge I tell you), to knocking out 2,000 words a day. Just like that. It was wonderful.

Why?

Because we didn’t feel like we had to fulfill any particular requirements. We just had to throw words at the page until we reached 2,000 and then we could do the same tomorrow.

But there’s a snag. Because we didn’t realise we were going to NaNo WriMo this year, we did no preparation. None. Zip. Nada. *Insert sound of air rushing through ear holes.*

So how do you go from having absolutely no idea what you’re gonna write about to pounding out 50,000 words?

Naturally, we have suggestions on the subject.

Start Chasing Wild Horses

Recently Jessica came across a post by Raewyn Hewitt in which she likened writing first drafts to chasing wild horses.

This is a brilliant description of a first draft. You’re chasing the idea and trying to scope out its edges. That’s all a first draft is for.

If you don’t know what your story is about, then this is the time to find out. Just open up your words and chase horses until you catch one. Often, it’s only one thought or one sentence from your first draft which is all you take across to your next draft.

So make that the goal. 30 days. 50,000 words. One good sentence.

Describe the World from Your Protagonist’s POV

If you have no idea what your world is like and what kind of people live there, grab yourself a protagonist and get them to describe the world to you. See things through their eyes, and search for the history, people, experiences, customs and quirks of the world.

In this way you find out about your world and your protagonist at the same time.

Interview Your Characters

If you don’t know much about your characters (Jessica started out not even knowing her main character’s name!) then put your characters in an interview situation and start asking them questions.

Any questions – easy, hard, random, obscure. You might be very surprised at their answers.

Don’t stress about how accurate the answers are or about getting to the absolute heart of what that character feels. People twist the truth or evade answers and your characters probably will too. Just let the words flow and see where they take you.

Change Elements at Random

This is a first draft. It’s free and it’s written only for you.

So feel free to switch points of view whenever you feel like it (especially if you’re getting sick of your current point of view). Switch time periods. Switch genres. Switch tenses (e.g. instead of ‘he said he would fling a mango at me,’ try ‘he says he’s going to fling a mango at me’).

If you’re blocked for words, use the opportunity to change things around and find another angle to write from.

This is fun! This is exciting! And this is what writing is all about. Fling your words happily and freely at your canvas and see what happens.

Remember. 30 days. 50,000 words. One good sentence. Not necessarily a great sentence, just a good sentence. And take it from there.

How’s your novel coming along so far? Do share.