Whether you’re a pantser or a planner, whether you’ve got a story about to spill out of you or are dearly hoping that one springs to life as you put pen to page November 1st, there are going to be moments throughout NaNoWriMo where you feel stuck. Uninspired. Unmotivated. Like every word written is another plodding footstep in a trudge through thick mud. Fight it. Get excited! When you’re telling a story, you’re not just entertaining your readers — you’re entertaining yourself! Here are 5 ways to keep writing fun and keep yourself interested in your NaNo novel:
1. Look At the Scene From A New Perspective
If a scene’s getting boring, write it from a different point of view. Or, for Expert Mode, write it from a completely random point of view.
Try telling your scene from the perspective of an old man on the street corner, watching your main characters argue. Or maybe show the turns of action by following a dog wending through legs and under tables and straight through the scene. You could even write a whole scene from the perspective of a pen on the table — how it keeps getting passed around as your character makes notes, handled roughly as they scribble in the margins with frustration, thrown back on the table with a clatter as the character shoves back his chair and storms outside. If a scene’s giving you trouble looking at it straight on, screw it! Look at it sideways or upside down! Who says you have to be in your main character’s head all the time? Be creative, and have fun!
2. Change Your Mind — And Your Character’s.
If your character has a set point of view and you know they’re going to make a decision in a certain way, because it makes sense, because it fits their character — have them make the opposite choice. Now you’ve got to look inside them, dissect and explore, and figure out why they went the other way. Give yourself a challenge!
Speaking of that…
3. Give Yourself Random Restrictions
You ever notice that, the night before a deadline, or the hour before someone’s set to come over, or the ten minutes before a test or a project is due, when you’re panicked, and sweat’s slipping down your brow, and one eye keeps flicking over to the clock, you do the best writing, cleaning, studying, or cutting-and-pasting of your entire life? As much as we want to balk at constraints and bask in freedom, a great way to jumpstart creativity is actually to force yourself to write according to a set rule. Like a time limit (you have to meet your word goal in one hour), or a word limit (this scene can only be 500 words long), or even a usage limit. For instance, that you can’t use the word “was” for the rest of the page, or “had”, or “felt” (all words we should be using sparingly anyway. See Clean Up Your Draft By Eliminating Crutch Words.)
Decide that you can’t use any word that starts with the letter R, or you have to describe the scene without ever mentioning what your characters are physically doing — no “he looked at her” or “she drew back from the window.” Forcing yourself to work in the confines of some random restraint may get you frustrated, sweaty, and wriggly — and you might find yourself coming up with something really creative and unique to sidestep the limitation.
This also applies to the physical act of writing. For some reason, I write the best when I write in random, tight columns on my notebook page. Actually, I write best when I’m scrambling into the margins of a page to fit everything in, and end up with a page so scattered I have to add numerical signs to the start of every paragraph so I know in what order to read the scribblings. Try limiting yourself to one page for an entire scene; I promise you, there’s some kind of magic in those moments when you’re writing as tiny as you can, skating through the margins to cram in every last word.
4. Write Somewhere You’re Not Supposed To
You know on TV how new couples always sneak around for a while at first, kissing in secret, whispering sweet nothings, pulling apart the moment someone opens the door — and then once they’re found out, their actual relationship isn’t nearly so fun as their clandestine hook-ups? Well, that’s probably an issue with TV’s chronic inability and disinterest in writing established couples, BUT we can still use that principle to make our writing more exciting.
Bring your notebook or even just your phone along to a trip to the mall, or a visit to grandma’s, to school, even to the doctor’s waiting room and see if you can sneak a few paragraphs in without anyone noticing what you’re doing. If you get caught and someone asks “what’re you writing?” you’ve LOST and you weren’t SNEAKY ENOUGH. Make a game out of it; if anyone finds out your writing, a bomb’s going to explode and kill all your characters. (Or, you know. Something equally dire.) Take it from the cladenstine kissers, the staples of primetime TV, and treat your novel as something special and urgent, something you need desperately and can’t go a moment without — but also something that’s private (for this fleeting moment) and delightfully yours and yours only.
5. Bring the Funny
No matter how scary, suspenseful, or melodramatic your story might be, I promise you, you will have more fun writing it if you add a vein of humor. If a story can make a reader laugh, especially in an unexpected way, they’ll remember it — and if a writer can make themselves laugh, they’ll want to keep writing. Have fun with your characters. Bring them down to earth, make them tease each other, make them do silly things to cheer each other up; make the narrator sarcastic and endearingly annoyed with your main character’s buffoonery, or make the setting silly and joyous and an active part of your comedic relief. Take a look at this example, in the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
The first casualties of the battle were already strewn across the passage ahead: The two stone gargoyles that usually guarded the entrance to the staffroom had been smashed apart by a jinx that had sailed through another broken window. Their remains stirred feebly on the floor, and as Harry leapt over one of their disembodied heads, it moaned faintly. “Oh, don’t mind me . . . I’ll just be here and crumble. . . .”
Keep in mind, Harry is hunting after the final Horcrux, Hogwarts is under attack by Voldemort’s army; it’s a super intense battle scene, plot revelations are flying back and forth, we’re about to have major death, destruction, and mayhem, and yet JKR still takes time out to give us a delightfully silly picture in the middle of all this chaos. Because she knows not to take the scene too seriously, she knows the reader wants to have fun, even when they’re hurting.
That’s the biggest takeaway here. Have fun. Challenge yourself. Surprise yourself. Don’t go into writing as though it’s an interminably slog you have to plod through. It’s bouncy and vibrant and smells good. It’s goofy and spontaneous and silly. Love your characters, love your words, and love your time spent writing. It’s not a waste, it’s never a waste, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing.
Got any more tips for keeping your writing exciting this November? Or, when was a time you’ve been caught sneaking a paragraph in public? Leave a comment below!