We are halfway through NaNoWriMo, and you're fighting off the last of the second-week slump. Or, if your creative process is anything like mine, you're entering it late. Either way, the words are flowing slower than molasses and you're starting to wonder why you ever agreed to this thing. You've come down with a terrible case of the dreaded writer's block.
What is writer's block?
Writer's block is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece." It is the mental block stopping you from finishing that book.
Some writers don't believe in writer's block. They think it's simply an excuse people use to get out of writing, and sometimes they're right. If you decide to passively wait around until the block disappears, it becomes an excuse. And some writers say they have writer's block when the simple truth is they don't want to do the work.
For most of us, however, writer's block is a catch-all term for a variety of real problems we encounter in our work. It's the plot hole stopping us from moving forward, the character we can't stand writing about anymore, the world-building details we lack to immerse ourselves in our stories. Sometimes it's a symptom of burnout. The term "writer's block" might be something of a misnomer, but the struggles we face are all too real.
How to deal with writer's block
The key to conquering writer's block is identifying the root cause. Ask yourself the following questions:
Has your story deviated from your outline? If so, how? Sometimes a change to the plan is exactly what your novel needs. Other times it can stop you in your tracks and leave you wondering what to do next. If your story's gone off course, you might need to re-outline the rest of the book based on the changes you made before moving forward.
Are you still interested in your story? Last month we walked you through how to determine if your idea is novel-worthy, but sometimes you can't know until you start writing. If you're following your outline but growing bored with your story, consider a new direction for the story. And if that doesn't excite you, maybe you need to be writing a different book altogether.
Are you burning out? Burnout is a real problem, and in today's workaholic culture many of us don't recognize the warning signs until they're full-blown symptoms. Exhaustion is not conducive to creativity. Don't be afraid to take a break or even to aim for a lower goal than 50,000 words this November. Your health is more important than your novel.
With any luck, answering these three questions will help you discover the true cause of your writer's block and get back into your NaNoWriMo novel.
Want to write an amazing NaNoWriMo novel? Don't know where to start? Download our Novel-Planning Checklist today!
The Novel-Planning Checklist is a resource designed to help new writers create the most important aspects of their characters, world-building, and plot before they dive into a first draft. It includes both mandatory tasks for basic novel-building and optional tasks for writers who want to dive even deeper into their stories. To download your checklist, subscribe to our mailing list using the form at the bottom of this page.
Dianna Gunn is the author of YA fantasy novella “Keeper of the Dawn” and the Write Plan content writer. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.
There's no comments section here, but you can always continue the conversation on our social media pages.