Why NaNoWriMo is a great cure for writer’s block

NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month

It’s no secret. I’m a HUGE fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo). The event takes place in the month of November. Participants commit to writing a 50,000 new words of a novel in 30 days. In those 30 days, literary madness ensues, fast friendships are forged, barriers are broken, dreams are made realities.

As we get closer to November, more and more posts begin to pop up giving you advice on how to get the most out of your NaNo experience, how to plot or pants with the best of them. (Don’t know what I mean by plotting or pantsing? Click here.)

Some posts, however, argue that NaNo makes worse literature, that NaNo is bad for writing, that it’s a fad diet that won’t keep the pounds off when you get back to daily life.

To those people I say, get out of the way and let people create in whatever way they choose. It’s fine if NaNo doesn’t fit your process. If you need to create in a different way from NaNo, you go right ahead. You do you. But don’t rain on our parade!

Now I agree that 50,000 words does not a novel make, but who ever said that the draft you create during NaNo was supposed to be perfect and publishable? Sure there will be problems with sentence structure, plot holes galore, and overused adverbs in those “winning” NaNo manuscripts. That’s what revision is for!

NaNo provides inspiration and opportunity for all. People who have always wanted to try writing a novel find motivation, encouragement, moral support, and success through NaNo. You can’t edit what you haven’t written yet, right?

Why NaNo is a great cure for writer’s block

I think it’s easy for some people to get so hung up on choosing the right words or expressing their idea in the perfect way that they freeze and can’t write a thing. NaNo can fix that problem. If you have to write 1,667 words a day, you can’t freeze and worry about finding the right words, you just have to write. And spending 30 days regularly meeting a certain word count, whether or not your muse wants to come with you, can unlock your voice in a way that no Creative Writing course could ever do.

What better way to get past writer’s block? So you can’t think of what should happen next in your story, but you have 1,667 words to write that day? Grab a writing prompt, a weird little plot bunny that takes you in a completely different direction for the day. Even if you end up not using that day’s words in your final draft, you will have shown that writer’s block that you’re the boss of your writing.

NaNo is the perfect time to tell your internal editor to take a hike and make yourself sit down and write every day. The best part is, when you get to the end, you can decide whether the NaNo process does or does not work for you and adjust your writing habits accordingly. But if you’ve been telling yourself that there’s no way you could write every day, much less 1,667 words or more a day, NaNoWriMo is your chance to challenge yourself.

At the end of November you might decide to pursue the manuscript and keep working on it, or you might decide to shelve those words and never look at them again. But no words are wasted words! It takes a lot of bad writing to get to the good writing. So pour it all out onto the page and don’t worry. You can edit in December.

Writing Tips: 3 ways to fight writer’s block

writer's block; writing; how do you write?; Neil Gaiman

Writer’s block. The old foe of creative minds everywhere. Standing in the way of completed manuscripts since… well since people began writing, probably!

If you’ve ever felt writer’s block, you know it’s a horrible experience. There you are, chugging along on your manuscript when suddenly you freeze. You can’t think of what to write next. Maybe you perceive a problem or plot hole and you can’t think of a way around it. Maybe you woke up, sat down to write, and no words came.

I’ve been there. And I still end up there regularly. Usually it’s because I’m afraid of messing up my project, and I want to get it right. Well, newsflash, self. I can’t get it right all the time. And first drafts are supposed to be messy.

Still, just telling yourself to buck up doesn’t always get the words flowing. So what can you do instead?

Three ways to fight writers block

  1. Write something else for a while
    Walk away from the manuscript for a little while. Write a blog post. Or work on a different project for a few hours/days. Give yourself some time away and then come back and see if you have any new perspective or ideas.
  2. Pick a writing prompt
    The other week I had been dealing with the stress and frustration of writer’s block with a current project. So I went to a prompt generator site (two of my favorites are Writer Igniter and Seventh Sanctum) and picked a prompt that would lead me into writing about my characters again. I probably won’t use much from that writing session, but the point is to grease the wheels, to get the fingers flying across the keys again, and to get your brain back into that world and thinking about those characters again.
  3. Do something completely different
    Occasionally it makes sense to put down the pen or walk away from the keyboard altogether for a short time. Try painting, or take a long walk. Give your brain time to be creative in a different way so that whatever problem you’re working through in the manuscript has time to marinate. You’ll come back to the page with a better perspective and more ideas.
No matter what you have to remember to do what works for you. And when it stops working, try something different. Writer’s block is not a “forever disease.” So give yourself time and space to work out the puzzle that has presented itself. You’ll be pleased with the results when you finally get back to it.

7 Reasons You Should Attend a Writing Conference

Utopiacon Writing Conference
My favorite conference to date

I’m gonna start this week with a fun post. Writing conferences may not directly relate to the nuts and bolts of your writing practice, although frankly they should!

If you’ve been toying with the idea but you’ve never actually made the leap to attend a writing conference, I want to give you seven reasons why you should seriously stop stalling and attend a writing conference.

Seven reasons you should attend a writing conference

  1. The People
    Seriously. The people are the best thing about a writing conference. We writers can tend to get isolated. Writing is a solitary practice and it can leave you feeling cut off from the rest of the world. A good writing conference will reconnect you with all the other wonderful, weird people like you! Trust me on this.
  2. The Confidence Boost
    Part of connecting with other writers at conferences is that you’ll recognize that there are plenty of other people who are struggling with the same problems that you are. Others have actually found a way to beat those problems! And they’re there to cheer you on and help you get the most out of your writing. You’ll leave feeling much better about yourself.
  3. The Ideas!
    Oh, the ideas! What happens when you put a bunch of creative people in a room together? The creative sparks do fly. Just five minutes brainstorming with other writers and you’ll come away with more story or post ideas than you could ever have time to write.
  4. The People
    Did I mention the people? Because… connections! You’ll expand your platform and your professional network like crazy if you take the time to talk to people, develop relationships with them, and geek out over the same things. Totally worth it.
  5. The Experience
    Depending on the type of conference you attend, the panels and/or critique sessions will really boost your knowledge and experience in the publishing world. And let’s face it, that plus your professional network are the two most important and valuable things you’ll get out of attending a writing conference.
  6. The Motivation
    Not to mention the amount of ass kicking you’ll get when it comes to completing, submitting, and publishing your writing. If you have confidence issues (no one will like my writing) or procrastination issues (I’ll finish that WIP later) you’re bound to find a group of writing friends at a conference who are willing to push you to get your writing out into the world.
  7. The People
    Seriously, the people you meet at writing conferences are amazing. If you take the time to research the events and find your perfect conference you will most certainly find your tribe, those particularly weird and unique writers who geek out over the same awesome stuff you love and who will be your cheerleaders for life
All of these reasons add up to why your writing practice can only benefit from attending a writing conference.
We’ll talk about the types of writing conferences in another post (Utopia Con is my favorite), but just know that there are plenty of options out there, so you’re bound to find one that fits your particular personality, writing needs, and genre preference.
Sign up for my email list to keep up with the conferences I’ll be attending next year! Maybe we’ll meet face to face at one of them!