NaNo Tip no. 6: Emergency Unstucking Techniques

I know that NaNo passed, but here are some great tips by the lovely Justine: [Link]

Hi :) I need some advice... when I start to plan a book in great detail, I get bored with it and feel like I'm overanalyzing the storyline, but when I don't plan it, I get lost in the story. Any tips?
Anonymous

Try NaNo this August, because it teaches you how NOT to do those things. You might be like me, who can’t write anything if it’s too planned, but also can’t write if it’s not planned at all. You need somewhere in the middle: the characters; the backgrounds; a few event points in the story, and that’s it. The rest will come out in each of the drafts, and you don’t have to worry about making the first absolutely perfect. Almost ninety percent of the first draft will be gone by the final, I can almost promise you, but it is still absolutely necessary.

Write and don’t think (too much).

I'm a writer in my mid-teens. I'm sure you've met my kind before. I've been writing all my life and yet I've only ever managed to finish a few things. I even have trouble finishing short stories. Writing is my passion and I'm quite worried about not being able to finish anything because all these ideas I have put a lot of stress on me, even when I write them in a notebook. I just don't know what to do.

Met your kind? Plenty, but I like to think of writers as a whole, not just different factions based on which problems they face.  You are a writer, and do not forget it.

I believe you’re over thinking it, honestly. Do not get too overwhelmed with this story you’re working on. Just write, even if what’s coming out is complete and utter crap, just write it down and maybe later something else—something wonderful and creative—will stem from it. And even if it doesn’t play out like that, at least you wrote something, which is better than an over complicated and completely over thought piece. You have to remember, simple writing is not bad writing. It means you’re trying, but not trying too hard. Start off slow, and things will get gradually better.

What do you want to say with this story? What do you want to get across to the readers? Let it flow out of you instead of trying to organize and rearrange everything. Just don’t worry about it, because the more you are stressed, the less you are going to want to write it, no?

Hullo there! (Love the blog by the way) I decided to try my hand at Camp NaNoWriMo this year but I have one very big an rather awful problem. I am part of the 'procrastinator' species. I have a really good idea that I already have about two and a half pages written for (not that much, but take into account that I started yesterday) and I've already begun procrastinating. Any advice on how to avoid avoiding my work?

Hello, and thank you!

Eliminate anything that could possibly make you procrastinate. Eliminate sound, clutter, people (in a totally nonviolent/Loki way), and anything else that could possibly make you distracted. If you’re anything like me, you an hardly write when other possible factors are weaving their way into your life. Maybe change environments. Write at the high school in your town, write in the library, write at a cafe, or maybe even a different room in your home. If you work with a computer, try a notebook and pen. Personally I can only write if I have a stack of printer paper and a black sharpie. It’s weird, but it’s mandatory. 

Stop making promises to go to see a movie you’ve already watched and don’t offer to go grocery shopping when your fridge is already stocked. Stay at home for a day, sit down, and write. Other than that, there is really no other way to stop procrastinating, because it’s a completely mental thing, just a habit you need to break.

I'm extremely paranoid that, even though my plot isn't outstanding, someone is going to copy my idea on NaNo... What is your take on this situation? I couldn't find anything about copyright so I decided to ask you.
Anonymous

I don’t know much about copyright, but I can promise it won’t get stolen if you don’t tell anyone about it. And if you already have, just work on it, and make it better than anyone else could have. And if it does get stolen, the criminal is a horrible person. 

Plus, if one steals a story, the act shows a severe lack of actual morality, integrity, and overall creativity. If that lack creativity, who says they can write a decent story? You could probably do it better.

Sorry I can’t help. I don’t have much experience in this category.

Have you done Camp NaNoWriMo before? This is my first year doing it, and I'm not quite sure what to expect.
Anonymous

No, I have not. BUT I have done normal NaNoWriMo, the November one. So, in a way, I DO know what to expect. Even if you don’t though, it won’t be too much of a shock. Just expect the worse, and if you want more preparation, read some of the other asks I answer on here. I think I’ve given people plenty of advice on this topic, yeah?

Any tips for starting Camp Nano? Please? Outlines? ANYTHING?!
Anonymous

Just everything that I’ve told the people before you:

-don’t get discouraged by seemingly “horrible” writing.

-young doesn’t mean unable.

-if you’re ahead on word count, don’t take it as an oppportunity to slack off. that’s one of the worst things you could do.

-no writing is wasted. just keep moving on.

-stupid grammar and spelling mistakes are trivial. if you can tell by rereading the sentence what you actually meant, just skip it. maybe highlight it. the main point is to get going.

-don’t be worried if you suddenly want to change your entire plot in the middle of the story. the point is to get past all those things that stop the average nano-goer in novel writing. just continue as if you knew it all along.

-get stuck? send you character to the circus. it works EVERY time.

and just try not to suck too much. you know, it happens.

HI, I'm absolutely in love with your blog, and you seem like such an amazing person. I was hoping you could give me advice. I'm 13, and writing is my passion. I was thinking about joining Camp NaNoWriMo but, I'm afraid. Afraid that I'll give up on it, I'm afraid I might be judged, I'm just unsure about it all. Do you have any advice at all? Writing's what I've always wanted to do but I'm afraid to be judged.
Anonymous

What! No! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Don’t think you’re going to be judged for writing. Who would you be judged by? Writers are very appreciative of others joining in. You age doesn’t matter one bit. Being thirteen isn’t really that young. Compared to a forty-year-old, you’re young. Compared to my mother and grandparents, you are young. Compared to the president, or to my doctor, and to my sisters, you are young, but you are not young in general. You’ve lived long enough to know things about the world some grown adults don’t understand, and those experiences you’ve had will help you. And even if you are young, you are not unable or naive at everything. One of the hardest things people of your age have to deal with is adults thinking that you are stupid or incompetent, when in fact you know a lot more than given credit for. I used to think I was too intellectually inept to do certain things—like NaNo— and now I wish I hadn’t had that mindset. You are very able to write the NaNoWriMo this summer, no one is doubting your ability or angry that someone is trying to intrude. It is the outside forces that will stop you: procrastination; friends; family; special events; lack of time. Still, if writing is to you what you say, it should not be a problem. Just try. No one’s judging you.

And if you don’t make it, there’s always next year. There are thousands of people that don’t complete the task, and it’s not because they were unable, but because they had other things to do, or they didn’t focus. Please don’t be unsure.

Thirteen, fourteen, and even sometimes twelve and eleven-year-olds participate every year, and some of them complete. “Young” writers make up a significant portion of the writing community. It just wouldn’t be the same without you guys, and to some extent, me.  

Listen, if you want to be a writer, there is always something that you need to learn: you will always be judged—not just in writing, but in life. Writers need to adapt to rejection, to being a maverick in the crowd, but doing NaNoWriMo… that’s not something we’ll judge you for. That’s something we’ll  applaud you for. It shows amazing ambition, character, and drive in your benefit, and it can only help. Even if you don’t make it to fifty thousand in one month, maybe you’ll make it in two, or maybe three, or maybe twenty-four. The point is, at some point you will make it. And say you never finish the story at all—any written word is not wasted. It should be saved into he computer or printed out, or stuffed into a shoe box to be looked at again with fresh eyes. It is practice, is it not? And what does practice make? Perfect. And what is failure? F.A.I.L - First Attempt In Learning. You are learning, either way.

Still, I’m unsure of why you are scared. If it’s not other writer’s you’re scared of being judged by, would it be your peers? If so, ignore them. Ignore everyone. This here is a wonderful thing, and if you want to do something, do it. I grew up in a big family, and being   one of the biggest black sheeps I’ve seen, it was hard to ask for a type writer for my birthday, and it was strange and uncomfortable for me to want to spend a day reading when my sisters were going to parties, hanging with friends, and shopping, but it’s what I wanted, so I did it. Sure, I was considered weird for a bit, but they got used to it, and I ended up doing something I really enjoyed, and it paid off in the end, yeah? Don’t be afraid of anything, take it with open arms.

Sorry if I didn’t answer you question properly, and thank you for that compliment. Honestly, I think every one of my followers are amazing people, too, including  you for asking this. I just don’t want you to be hesitant in any way, and if you need help during NaNo, come to me. I’ll always help. 

Good luck!

xAllison 

I'm not sure if you give advice, and if you don't, I'll completely understand. But I'm going to ask anyway. Feel free to ignore this. I have self esteem issues and it really affects my writing. I try to practise everyday, but sometimes I don't because I know that my writing will never be good enough. What should I do to get better or at least get over this hurdle with my confidence?
Anonymous

I’m am so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so SO SO apologetic for not seeing this in my ask box sooner. I may not have the best advice, but if someone were to ask, I would never deny them advice.

Now, I’m not someone who knows much about helping people, or forming sentences that are encouraging, or, you know, cheering people up. In fact, I find myself saying the wrong things constantly, causing more damage than should be helpful, a wanton trait, really… but still… I’ll try. 

I used to suffer (and still do a bit) from low self esteem. It is truly terrible, the way it feels like you’ll never prosper, that you’ll never move forward or get better because you don’t deserve it. I know how you feel, but you have to understand that though it may seem so, your world doesn’t have to be like that.

Writing is very dependent on mood. If I wrote in the mood I’m in right now, everyone would be bitter, and cranky, and frankly, frighteningly upset with the world, and that’s because it’s exactly how I’m feeling. Now, I’m not trying to say that you can blame writing quality on mood. For some people, if you’re a beginner at writing (and when I say beginner, I mean many years), even if you’re in the best of moods, sometimes the sentences don’t flow right. In those cases, it’s obvious that, once again, continuing to write will be the only way to solve the problem, and to not get discouraged.

You’re never going to get better at writing if you don’t try, even if you hate every word you’re writing. If you think your writing sucks, that’s not going to make you want to write more, and that’s going to set you back farther. You are not a bad writer. I’ve seen bad writers. You write with proper spelling and punctuation, you can form sentences, and even from this ask, I know you are at the very least decent. It’s not like you were abbreviating words and misspelling the simplest of them, which some people on other websites might have done (*cough*facebook*cough*). Sometimes I don’t even believe there is such a thing as a “bad writer”. There are just the 1) wise, experienced, and well-written ones, 2) the ones that are willing to become them, and 3) the ones that will give up half way through. If you cannot be the first, be the second, and one day you will move up. If you are the third, don’t be, because you won’t ever move up. 

There is no ifs, ands or buts about it. If you write and practice, you will become better at writing that is positive. It’s like when you grow. You don’t notice how far you’ve come until you look back and think, well would you look at that?

You don’t need to have low self confidence because there is no need for it. One day, you will be great. One day you will be able to put sentences together that can take the breath right out of even you, even me. It’s entirely possible, you just need to change your perspective a bit and turn the tables. You know, the whole the grass is greener on the other side thing. You might think, “what’s the point?” except for the fact that the point is perseverance. The point is if you don’t write, you are neglecting the world your voice. You are neglecting the world imagination, originality, personal thoughts, and the opportunity to change someone’s life forever. You will never ever know what you can become until you do, but you will never become anything if you don’t try, and even if you don’t like what you hear when you read it back to yourself, one day you will.

Please write something. It would make my day if you did, and it may not seem like much, but it would really hurt me to see someone stop writing over something so insignificant. 

Best of luck,

xAllison.

The story I did for NaNoWriMo fell off my list of priorities for a few months and I've just recently gotten back to it. Only problem is, I think it's terrible, what I wrote before. So I've restarted it. And suggestions on how to really stay with it?
Anonymous

I tell you what I tell to everyone: writers are editing machines. If it were up to us, we would never hand over a book for publishing because there is always something we’re going to want to edit. If it weren’t for deadlines, there would be a lot less novels in the world. You’re always going to think you suck at writing, but at some point it will stop being true (going under the impression that you suck right now. I have nothing to go on otherwise, so I’ll take your word for it). Now, I’m not trying to discourage you from ever writing again, but you need to grasp the concept that no matter what you do, writer’s are never fully satisfied with a story. They can be proud, oh yes, but never satisfied. We crave more. More emotion, more depth, more …everything. So to help you really stay with it, accept the fact that what you’ve written is (again, I don’t know this is true, but I’m just going by what you say) terrible, and continue to write, because that’s the only way to get better.

And a fully completed suckish draft is better than a decent half-finished one.

I'm trying to write this story but I can't even tart. I feel like I'm explaining to much and not letting the action play out but when I switch it around I don't know how to describe the action. So I'm screwed all around.

Surprisingly, this happens a lot. I never know what exactly went wrong when it occurs to me, though. Almost like everything kind of slipped out of my focus and got out of control without permission. Very irritating. When this happens, you’re probably overthinking it.

I’m sorry I didn’t answer this earlier, considering it has been sitting in my ask box for months. I have good advice, I think, I just have a hard time explaining the ideas I want to share.

One of the most effective strategies for me is to start over. Just think of what you want to accomplish in writing this story. What is the theme? What are the character’s backgrounds? You don’t have to shove a bunch of information into the first chapter. In fact, I finished a book last night, and even in the last chapter I was learning things that could have just as easily been put in the first. Spread your information out. Use simple sentences when you’re stuck. Don’t over complicate it with analogies and adverbs and metaphors, because although fun and nice, when you’re in a gunk such as this, they are the last of your worries. Just get the point across and, as you say, let the action play out. It will come naturally if you don’t worry as much. Stress is not good for your story.

Just plain-old write. I can’t help you much with this, because there could be a plethora of reasons why you aren’t writing the way you wish to. Maybe a change in scene will help. Write at a cafe or a park. Switch the room in your home so that instead of writing in the parlor, you write in the kitchen, or your bedroom, or in the computer room (as I like to call it; kind of an area term). 

Maybe you feel as though nothing is really happening of interest in your novel. Introduce a new, exciting character, bring in a long lost friend, or maybe hurdle your characters back the Victorian London era. It’s all exciting.

Or you could work on a different story instead to get your mind off of things. Write a fanfiction, enter a contest, a short story. Try out a new genre, or, if you think it will work, read an inspiring and well written book. I always find it helps me, particularly anything by John Green. Or, you know, then second book in the Divergent series came out, Insurgent. They’re by Veronica Roth, in case you want to check that out.

In any case, I wish you luck, and sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

xAllison

I have a story idea that I want to use for NaNoWriMo and I think I could make it to 50K words- but I'm only 13 so this will be my first year and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to survive? Yes, I know it's only May, but I am really excited!!
Anonymous

It’s hard to do something like this at such a young age. You may not like it to hear that you are “young”, but please do not confuse being “young” with being “stupid,” “ignorant,” or “unable.” I was thirteen once, too, and I absolutely hated it when people underestimated me. I wrote all the time to prove to people I could do what most grown ups could, to prove I wasn’t just some tag-along sidekick that people had to babysit. I had to persevere, to be resilient, which is what I want to tell you about. NaNoWriMo takes resilience and acceptance. I’m friends with many writers of your age, and most have completed NaNoWriMo, but that doesn’t mean you should feel bad about not completing it. Still, those two things are what I believe it’s about.

I like to think of NaNo as, I don’t know, one big lesson. It teaches you about writing that no one can really tell you, or at least brings what people say into realization. Doing NaNo puts constant pressure on your shoulders in knowing you’re being timed, to the point where mistakes and misspellings are totally fine. Just leave ‘em. You can fix it later, and if you change the entire background of you main character in the middle, go ahead! You don’t need to rewrite the beginning of the story so that it won’t contradict anymore, because that will only slow you down, and if you can just make a small note as to what to fix, that’s perfect. If you’re in some kind of a gunk, send them somewhere. Make your character fight off a bear, throw in an armed robber, make a character fall through the apartment ceiling, because they’re the upstairs neighbor and too poor to fix the floor damage. Anything, even if it’s completely random. Nothing in NaNoWriMo is well written. Don’t feel like it needs to be. It’s where the acceptance comes in.

Accept that you won’t come out of the fire with a novel, because you won’t. It’s impossible to write a novel in a month, or at least a decent one. The most you’ll have is some very crappy, sometimes partial, draft, but you’ll be happy about it. It is probably the first novel you have ever written, correct? If so, it’ll be an excellent experience. If it’s not your first novel, well you’ll have another start, won’t you? The first time I tried NaNo, I was so caught up in other parts of my life like work and friends and the fact I was so amateur, I nearly couldn’t continue. I’m still pretty terrible at stringing together sentences, at making comfortably fitting scenes… the whole lot, but I feel more confident in what I do now because of that experience.

I’ve never read your writing, so I’m not going to tell you you’re a great writer, or you have potential, or that I’m sure you can do it. I’ve never met you, and chances are, I probably never will. If you think you suck, maybe you do, but that’s not anything to get discouraged on. I suck, too. We can be terrible writers together, and one day, we won’t have to. NaNo pushes you to be something better, and it molds you to see what many inexperienced writers have never fully understood before, but you won’t see that at first. When participating in NaNo, most want to tear their hair out strand by strand. They want to run away, live in the woods, and to have not started it in the first place. It’s going to seem impossible, but that’s where the resilience comes in, because even if it’s the night before ending and you have one hundred words, if you know it’s not physically possible to finish on time, try anyway. It’s shows courage, character, and it shows that you want it. No words written are wasted, and none are necessarily bad. They may not sound good, but still. Never ever ever think “what’s the point?” 

It’s hard to teach someone how to write. Some even say it can’t be done, which is kind of a blow below the belt to any ELA or Writing teacher out there, but it is something to consider. Can the love of literature, and ink, and parchment be taught? Can you really teach someone the beauty of words, of how a sentence can sound on your lips, and can you really tell someone how to write well without writing it yourself? In retrospect, you can’t. The only way one can get better at writing is to read and write. Practice makes perfect; they weren’t lying when they told you that. The fact that you have come to me for help in NaNo, the fact that you are attempting, the fact that you have been apart of the writing community for long enough to have even heard about it at least shows me you care, and many people don’t. It’s weird to say, but I’m almost proud of you. Not many people your age care so much for something so seemingly insignificant. 

Now that that is said and done— and hopefully you understand the heaviness of those two qualities —here are some “tips”:

-Set a time for writing each night and stick to it. Soon enough, your brain will recognize the time and it will come naturally. Even if on the third night you sit there with pen/hand poised over a keyboard/paper and nothing is coming, write anyway. Write about the boy who runs by your house every morning while you water the plants, and somehow work that in. Write about anything, just make sure that you never leave a day where you did not hit the 1,667 words, because even if you miss one day, it is so hard to catch up. I would know.

-Even if you’re ahead of the game, do not take it as an excuse to slack off. No, keep doing your 1,667 words a day. Hell, even if you’ve passed the 50,000 mark, if the novel is not tied together and the pretty little ending sentence isn’t there yet, keep doing the 1,667 words.

-Clean out your writing space. A clean space is a clean mind. Right now my writing desk is filled with open letters, other mail, text books, the bowl that had my cereal from this morning, a note from a friend, and my phone/iPod nearly falling off the edge of the table. I cannot focus writing to you right now because of it. In fact, I don’t even know if I’m fully answering your question, or if what I’m saying makes sense, or if I’ve been using the right “there,” “their,” and “they’re”s. I usually can’t focus when other people’s clutter is suffocating me. Unless it is the stuff you need to write (ex. outlines, sticky notes and a pen, working food like tea, cherries, ice cream, whatever), throw it out of the room. Make it easy.

-IF WORKING ON A COMPUTER, ALWAYS SAVE YOUR WORK. It caused me a lot of trouble last time.

But really, if you just remember resilience and acceptance, I’m sure everything will be just fine, and if anyone needs help along the way, they can chat me up. Say it’s urgent in the ask, and I will answer it as fast as I can. I hope I’ve helped, and I wish you the best.

xAllison