I’ve hit a wall. The images are repetitive. The metaphors are hackneyed. The words dismiss my every effort to juxtapose them into their proper places.
I’ve hit a wall. I can’t make my characters move. They refuse to talk. They don’t even want to tell me what’s around them.
I’ve hit a wall. My writing hand in bruised and cut at the knuckles.
The Writing Struggle Is Real
Lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed with my writing. I’ve constructed a pretty good summer routine, but I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m supposed to be writing about 2,000 words a day for Camp NaNoWriMo, a novel writing competition this July. Yet I’ve barely eked out 800 words a day. I’m supposed to be revising my old chapbook of poems and working on a new one. Yet, none of the scratchy poetry I’ve written this summer will work for either collection. I have a couple poems in mid-revision for a literary magazine that’s due at the end of the month. I honestly haven’t even opened that document since mid-June. Then of course I have blog writing, and I should be starting to get things together for the new school year.
I’ve hit the point in the summer where I feel time is slipping away. All my remaining weekends are full to the brim with plans (to be fair, these are all fun, glorious plans). All my lazy June days are long gone, and I already feel July slipping away from me and gearing up to become desperate August nights. All my writing goals seem unrealistic and idealistic, and it’s seemed to have blocked my writing flow.
Yesterday, Sarah gave us some amazing ways to keep writing even when writing feels like work-which is honestly the majority of the time. So, today I want to share with you my best resource for unblocking writer’s block in order to get back to writing.
I’m so fortunate to have found the NaNoWriMo community. For those of you that do not know, NaNoWriMo is short for Nation Novel Writing Month. This is an international online-writing contest that challenges writers to write 50,000 words in 30 days every November. Since its creation in 1999, NaNoWriMo has expanded to include two Camp NaNoWriMo months (March and July) to continue to encourage people’s writing.
I’m currently participating in the my first Camp NaNoWriMo right now, and I couldn’t be more pleased with all the resources available to me. Every morning I wake up to encouragement from my cabinmates, 11 other writers who have taken on this daunting task for July. I also check my in-box and find a Camp Care Package with writing advice from a notable author and a writing dare for the day. Every Thursday during July, I participate in their virtual write-ins on YouTube, and even scour the channel to use some of their old ones to keep me writing.
However, my absolute favorite aspect of Camp NaNoWriMo is their word sprints. Word sprints are simply writing prompts that are provided by a NaNoWriMo community member via twitter. The goal of the word sprints is to write as much as you can within the time they allot you. They usually give you a series of words, a quote, or some situation as your prompt. The sprints can last anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Here’s an example of a great one:
After you write for that amount of time, you tweet back @NanoWordSprints your word count and favorite line. It’s a really fun way to get your word count up, and I’ve found that it often takes my writing and stories to many different places that I never would have thought of on my own. I’ve mostly used their word sprints for my novel writing, but I have also used their prompts to write quick poems as well. Usually, these sprints will go on for an hour, sometimes two, and I’ve written over 2,000 words in just one session.
The only downside to the word sprints is that they are not totally consistent. They don’t have a set time and time zones can get in the way, so really you just have to have twitter open and be ready to start writing. They usually have a few sprints a day, but they are kind of at the whim of the NaNoWriMo gods. They tend to have more of them in the morning, and definitely are more prevalent on the weekend.
So, my challenge to you this week is to participate in a word sprint at some point today, and share your best lines below. If you can’t get on twitter today or there isn’t one that’s convenient for you, I’ve listed some of their old ones below. Don’t need the prompts? Then simply set a timer for yourself and write in incriminates of 10-15 minutes, giving yourself 5 minute breaks. The goal is to get yourself out of whatever rut you are in and get those words down on paper (or computer) today.
Example Sprint #1:
WARM-UP PROMPT (5 minutes): The straw that broke the camel’s back. What happens when your character reaches their tipping point?
PROMPT 1 (10 minutes): Write a eulogy.
PROMPT 2: (10 minutes) Flip perspective! Is something that seems like a small deal to one character a major problem to another? Or vice versa!
PROMPT 3 (10 minutes): What is the worst possible ending your story could reasonably achieve? What lives, or lack of them, do your characters lead in it?
PROMPT 4 (10 minutes): The sacrifice- most characters are called upon to sacrifice something that they care deeply about. What would have happened it that sacrifice never occurred? (Ex: Peter Parker’s social life, Batman’s parents)
Example Sprint #2:
WARM-UP PROMPT (5 minutes): Incorporate the phrase “the first time” into your next scene.
PROMPT 1 (10 minutes): Set a scene! Close your eyes and put yourself in a character’s shoes. Describe where they are… and how they feel about it.
PROMPT 2 (10 minutes): Tell us a little bit about a character’s first words. Or, tell us about a classic story that their loved ones tell about them.
PROMPT 3 (10 minutes): Set a ticking clock in motion.
Some of my favorite lines I’ve written using Word Sprints:
“Somehow she always felt freer this time of year, when all was dying, but she was still so vibrantly alive.”
“The verbs were stubborn today and refused to conjugate, the adverbs were trying to modify the nouns instead of the verbs, the adjectives were running willy-nilly all over the page. Don’t even get her started on the gerunds who were trying to stick to their roots as verbs instead of working properly as nouns. It was a mess. These ancient symbols on the page refused to do what Arcadia wanted today.
“This room isn’t for spell work. This room is for magic.”
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? Are you participating now? What other ways do you try to keep yourself writing?
Lit & Love,