Got Writer's Block? Senior English Major Offers Some Helpful Tips

Ever have an idea for a book that you can’t seem to get on paper? Maybe you don’t have the time, or maybe the first draft seems daunting. Whatever your reason, NaNoWriMo is here to help you get over that very important first hurdle.

Paige Schindler

You might have even already heard of NaNoWriMo. Maybe you are currently writing something, or maybe you already finished it! Or maybe your struggling to finish or catch back up after a few off days. To help you get over that finish line, this article is here to help struggling beginners.

First, some history.

National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to NaNoWriMo, is a challenge centered around writing a book draft in one month. It was created by a non-profit of the same name, and they have fostered a community of writers who come together each year to participate. NaNoWriMo officially takes place in November, but people have been known to take the structure and apply it to other months of the year. So, if you feel down for missing this month and don’t want to wait for next year, you don’t need to worry. Established in 1999, it has continued to gain popularity with writers posting their progress across various social media sites, such as YouTube. Several well-known authors have also participated in the challenge and have successfully published books that started as NaNoWriMo drafts. Authors such as Hank Green, Sara Gruen, Erin Morgenstern, Marissa Meyer to name a few.

What exactly is the challenge?

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to make a draft that is 50,000 words long, about 200 pages, which is the minimum word count needed for a project to be considered a book. However, book drafts can go over the limit if the writer deems it necessary. To reach this goal, writers must produce around 1,667 words every day. Some writers participate in Preptober, dedicating October to planning and preparing for NaNoWriMo, but it isn’t a requirement. 

Writing 1,667 words a day is quite a challenge, especially for students juggling assignments and extracurriculars. Which is why this article aims to alleviate that stress when it comes to drafting during NaNoWriMo, even by just the tiniest bit.

1. Sign up at the official NaNoWriMo website.
If you are new to NaNoWriMo and are just following the requirements listed above because you heard it from a participating friend or already published author, then you might not know about the official website. As stated previously, NaNoWriMo is not just a challenge, but a non-profit organization. They have resources not just for experienced writers, but younger writers as well, such as the Young Writers Program. One popular aspect is the word tracker, which documents your progress and predicts when you will reach your word count goal. For more information on the history of NaNoWriMo, programs, and tools to use for your writing, you can visit the website directly:  

2. Block out time in the day.
Some students have already cultivated this habit when handling schoolwork or chores, but this can also apply to creative writing. Writers can block out sections of their day for certain tasks and focus solely on that task for that time slot. Simply portioning out a part of the day where you don’t have to think about essays, dishes, or other tasks can help writers make a dent in their NaNoWriMo project. This can also help develop time management skills that can apply to anything. 

3. Type in white text.
This tip is meant to prioritize speed, which is vital for completing NaNoWriMo. It is difficult for some writers to not edit their work as they go, and some even consider it their favorite part. However, while the rules of NaNoWriMo can be bent, the main goal of the month is to come out the other end with a draft to edit later. The first draft is always the worst, but you must make it over that first hill. Editing is not off-limits, but the main focus should be getting words on a page. Typing in white text allows writers to pump out words and simply let their imagination run wild without having to worry about the current quality. When the word goal is met, they can turn the text black and edit it. 

4. Don’t be afraid to change direction halfway through. 
Some writers jump into NaNoWriMo without a plan, or the plan they come up with gets derailed. Maybe they come up with a plot twist that they didn’t set up, realize that the character dynamics aren’t working, or want to change their worldbuilding completely. It might seem disheartening to delete everything that you have just created, so don’t. Remember, this is the first draft, which is always the worst version of your story. Change or add what you want from where you are in your story, and then fix it later when you go back through. Just get your ideas out of your head and test out what works. Inconsistent character traits, plot holes, and other errors aren’t the end of the world.

5. Write with friends. 
Staying in your room every day can become discouraging to some, so you could invite friends over or go out to change things up. Writers can take this time to bounce ideas off each other, complain about progress, or simply be in each other’s company. Even just writing in the library surrounded by other people can help improve your mood. Some writers even go on trips with their writer friends to dedicate a few days to completing their projects. If you don’t have any writer friends, there are plenty of people who do streams on YouTube, Twitch, etc. who invite their viewers to write alongside them for the duration of their stream.

Remember to have fun and don’t be stressed about the end product. If you don’t make your word count for the day, you can always catch up the next day, or the day after that. Even if you don’t finish, it’s not like your computer is going to explode the instant it turns to December. This month is meant to foster creativity and help writers get over the first major hurdle in novel writing. 

Your creativity is worth the time and effort. Have fun writing!

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POSTED: Monday, November 20, 2023 12:41 PM
Updated: Monday, November 20, 2023 01:11 PM
Paige Schindler