NaNoPrep: How to Beat Writer’s Block

NaNoWriMo has one goal: write a lot of words. It’s an issue, then, when we forget how to write. It’s a thing every writer goes through at some point, when the words don’t flow and you’re left staring at a screen wondering just what the heck you were thinking signing up to write 50,000 words in a month. While I have a whole set of writer’s block posts to help deal with this issue, there are some that I want to highlight for the sake of NaNo simplicity.

Write a Haiku

Writing a haiku has always been one of my favourite ways to make myself focus on word choices. They’re a type of short-form poetry originating from Japan and ruined by Western culture, and I’ve found that they work well as a mental stretching exercise before starting to write.

Don’t Start on a Blank Page

A blank page puts a psychological barrier in front of a writer. There’s so much potential, and absolutely nowhere to start. (Spoiler alert: the top of the page is usually right.) If you can help it, start your writing session mid-chapter. This gives you somewhere to pick up from.

“It was a dark and stormy night”

Sometimes, writing a bad opening sentence is a good way to just get started. You can litter your novel with cliches and bad writing if your goal is to later (after NaNo) go back and edit. While it’s not something I recommend actively practising, it’s useful when you just need to put words on the page.

Skip a Difficult Scene

Not all writers work linearly. If you find yourself struggling to write your book, try skipping ahead to another scene. A change of pace, of setting, or of character can lead to greater ease in writing at a given moment in time. It’s worth taking note of which kind of scene you struggle with the most – and when – so you can mentally prepare yourself for them in the future, too.

Put a Song on Loop

This is baffles people…but try listening to the same song over and over again. I do this regularly while writing. The idea is to block out other sounds, while eliminating how much attention you pay to a change in music. It’s a concentration technique I picked up from Tim Ferriss’s podcast, which I utilised to write A Death in the Family. (‘All Time Low’, covered by Walk Off the Earth, in case you were curious.)

Write Something Else

Sometimes the best way to write more is to write something else entirely. Short stories, poems or short scripts can be effective ways of taking your mind off a problem in a book, while ensuring you get yourself writing again. While it’s not recommended when you only have a limited amount of time, it can be a life saver during a long writing session to be able to take yourself away from your book whenever you’re stuck.

Force Yourself

Finally… force yourself. It might seemed like a moot point, but if you force yourself to put one word after another, eventually you’ll have a sentence. Even if it means just writing the dialogue, or just writing the exposition of descriptive paragraphs, words on the page are better than none. You can go back and fill in the gaps later.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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