Rule of Thumb:
ANYTHING that does not immediately advance the plot can be relegated to the second draft. DON’T GET STUCK ON IT!
How To Write When Your Mind Is a Blur:
Sometimes, you could be so sleep deprived and tired (or drunk), you don’t even know what you are writing. This could really be a drag when you are writing a financial report or doing your homework. But if you are writing a creative novel, writing in a blur can sometimes help. I once recorded my drunken ramblings to see what awesome wisdom I was available to me under the influence of alcohol. It was actually a more ridiculous version of my usual ridiculous trope. Still, just jotting down your stream of consciousness can give you some surprising results at times.
One thing can be interesting and that is word mixes. When your mind is in a blur, you mix the strangest words. So try typing the word butterfly, then write the word that the word “butterfly” reminds you of in your blurry state of mind. Then write the word or phrase that the second word reminds you of. Don’t try to write a coherent sentence. You will come up with something like “Butterfly Magnum whore with a feather boom bum boo Walmart voodoo”. 99% will be utter nonsense. But sometimes you can produce a truly ominous and scary string or words, or a hilarious combination you could use someplace in your story, like in an uncontrolled angry rant of one of your characters.
You can also leave that in your word count. It’s raw material to be edited later.
When your mind is fuzzy and you cannot write coherently, don’t even try. Just let the mind flow. Veer off the story and leave in text whatever hallucination that comes to your mind. And edit it later.
The 12 Hour Novel:
With 10 days left until the end of NaNoWriMo, some of you have already reached your goal of 50K words. Congratulations. A great many more of you are still in the running, the majority probably seeing almost no chance in reaching 50K words. If you belong to the latter group, I am here to help. I present you The 12 Hour Novel Trick.
First off, some of you can finish a novel by Nov 30 without my help. God bless you. Read no further and get writing. But some of you may have 30K or more left to go. You really need a trick to speed up your writing. There are sprints, crawls and word wars to help you, but if you have employed them all and still have 30K or more words left to go, You might want to use this trick.
If you were to write 30K words in 12 hours, you will need to write 2500 words per hour. I hope you will agree that it is pretty much impossible to do that for 12 consecutive hours. If it is not impossible for you, bless you. You don’t need my help. Assuming that you do need my help, what if we could reduce that to 250 words per hour? You will be able to finish just the bare skeleton of the book in 12 hours and you will have the rest of November to fill in the blanks, using sprints, crawls and word wars. Here is how:
I once wrote a first draft for a story and took the first few pages, and extracted one sentence from each paragraph. I left the dialog as they were. The original passage was 1432 words. The extracted version was only 367 words. It was not better writing, but you could still follow the story pretty well. Which meant that about 1065 words were redundant. Almost 75%. More strikingly, the first four paragraphs, that included no dialog, with 997 words had been reduced to just 74 words and you could still follow the story. 923 words, roughly 92.6% of the words were redundant.
When I first discovered this, I thought this would be useful in doing some quick-and-dirty editing. You extract only one sentence per paragraph to create a bare bones outline, then fill in the spaces, putting the words back in, until you have just enough words for the manuscript.
But the principle can also be used in writing the first draft. Divide the page into four or five paragraphs and write one sentence per paragraph. Assuming you can see the scene in your head, you should know what you want to write, but the words are not coming. So just write one representative sentence for each paragraph. If you cannot see the scene in your head, talk about the scene. Talk to walls if you have to, but talk like a stage performer practicing his delivery. Use the Icon Trick as well.
As for dialog, write one or two lines per character. That’s just two or four lines, if you have two characters in the scene. Just write the lines you want them most to say. Then move on. Skip all the tags. (“she said, as she looked around the room.”)
Do this and you would have eliminated 90% of the words in your story and you still would get a coherent story that reaches the end of your book. If you have 30K words left to go, your bare bones outline would be 3000 words long. Which is quite doable in 12 hours. Now you can use the remainder of your 10 days to fill in the blanks.
The Dimension Crosser Trick:
Are you stuck? Really stuck? Is nothing coming out?
Have you read my previous posts and tried all my writer’s block busting tricks? Still stuck?
If you are absolutely sure that you are stuck and none of the previous tricks I posted is doing anything to help, try this.
List at least ten of your favorite books and movies, preferably on a note pad at five line intervals. Now, for each title, list five scenes you remember.
For example, if it is “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, you might list, 1. booby traps in a cave, 2. bar fight in the Himalayas, 3. big man with a sword, 4. fist fight near a plane, 5. the enormous storage hangar. (You might choose other scenes.)
With ten titles you have fifty scenes.
Try to imagine your main character, your secondary character and your villain in each scene. That is 150 scenes. See what will happen in each instance. Scribble whatever comes to mind on the note pad.
You don’t have to worry about plagiarizing. You are just mixing possibilities and this is just the first draft.
If these scenes are not enough, list some more scenes, more titles. If the scenes that come to your mind are disjointed and do not compose a coherent story line, don’t worry, write it anyway. You can shift them around later. Just put them down.
Just throw your characters into situations from books and movies you like. Imagine how they would react to those situations. Jot down those ideas and string them together.
With Nine Days Left:
If you still have 15000 words to go, you are not a single day behind.
If you still have 20000 words to go, you need only two good days to catch up.
If you still have 30000 words to go, I already posted how to catch up.
If you still have 40000 words to go, take some extra coffee. You can do it.
If you still have 50000 words to go, my kinda guy. Let’s pull some magic!