30 Ways to Resuscitate a Dying NaNoWriMo Novel

novelIf you’ve done National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) you know there sometimes comes a point when you think, “Why in the hell am I doing this?”

This is a normal feeling albeit a demoralizing one. You’ve been tap-tapping away when suddenly the juice runs out, the muse falls off her glittery pegasus, or writer’s block smashes you square in the face.

You need a pick-me-up, something to keep you moving along towards you goals, whether that be 50,000 words or some other suitably insane feat of writerly badassery. Even if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, maybe you can find a nugget of wisdom buried underneath my sagely ramblings.

So here are some ways to breathe new life into that drag-assing novel.

1. Write or Die

The Write or Die app is a fantastic way to get you writing again. It blares annoying music in your ears and turns the screen red if you stop typing. You cannot stop typing. You don’t want to die, do you?

2. NaNoWriMo Forums

There is so much information and inspiration to be siphoned from the fine folks at the NaNoWriMo forums. Find some suitable partners and soul-trap, um, I mean ask them for some tips that can boot your novel in the keester.

3. Mythic Scribes Forum

Hey, did you know Mythic Scribes has forums? It does and it’s one of the most awesome forums on the interwebs. If you’re looking for prompts, challenges, feedback, or whatever else, you can find the friendly denizens of Mythic Scribes can help you.

4. Twitter

NaNoWrimo has word wars, word sprints, word explosions, word pizzas and all manner of wordly things to zap your novel back to consciousness. You can try @NaNoWordSprints, @NaNoPals, or @NaNoWriMo.

5. Facebook/Google+

Facebook and Google+ also have lots of groups and communities that can help tease words out of your cramping, coffee-stained fingers.

6. Tablo

Tablo is a newish site that has partnered up with NaNoWriMo that markets itself as the Youtube of Writing. One way to keep yourself motivated is that if you’re writing, people may be expecting to see your next chapters. You don’t want to disappoint your readers, right? Then smash your keyboard until squiggly marks come out! (And you can follow along with my descent into mad–, um, novel The Bloody Unicorn.)

7. Youtube

You’ve done that whole “surf Youtube until your eyes bleed and you’re watching videos of people cobbling shoes inside necropolises.” Try that. You may find an idea sparks.

8. I’d like to use a Lifeline, Regis

Call on one of your writer friends. Do a Skype session, chat, send pigeons, whatever your method of communication. You can work out problems by letting someone else hear them (and thus burdening them instead of you!)

9. Flash Fiction

A bit of flash can be a good warm-up to get you going again. It can be something mildly related to your novel or a story about the time you got lost in some caves and found a sewer troll.

10. Something horrific

If your characters are numbly stumbling around talking about tuna melts or whatever, have a swamp hag burst out of one of their stomachs. That will definitely change the course of a faltering novel.

11. Something wonderful

A sad birthday clown is sitting in a chair too small for his butt, crying about losing his job. But wait! He finally gets that call from Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. Joy!

12. Something weird

Your MC is finally bringing home his new girlfriend. She just happens to be an eldritch horror from beyond the veil of time and space. Mom’s going to flip!

13. Explosions

Michael Bay can’t be wrong. Blow up something. A cake, a coffin, a goblin, a Martian birth sac. Your choice.

14. Cats

People like cats. Have a cat fight some ninjas or something.

15. “Holy S#@!” moment

If you have a big moment you’ve been saving for later in the novel, why not move it up? Mr. Wilkins the 6th grade math teacher is actually the Wyrm Slayer of Tallabachus? I can’t believe it!

16. Skip the boring bits

If you want to write fun stuff, write fun stuff. Save anything that you find boring for after November. You can cram all that in later. Or better yet, don’t write anything boring if it bores you.

17. Sentence prompting

Sit at your desk and write the first sentence that comes to your mind. For example, “Where did you put my ogre-skin pants?” Make that the beginning of a bit of dialogue. See what bizarre rabbit hole it takes you down.

18. Word prompting

Choose some random amalgamation of words and jam them together. “Jack-o-lantern rocket launcher sidewinder Tahitian doom squad.” Yeah, see what that does for you.

19. Change of scenery

Have your characters been sitting in a coffee shop talking? Then have them move to the sweltering gym that holds underground chess boxing tournaments. (Yes, that’s a real thing.)

20. Longhand

Sometimes not using a computer can split that writer’s block in half like a laser sword. Give it a try. Vice-versa if you mostly write longhand. Dust off the ole HP laptop and give it a go.

21. Annoying characters

Nothing can motivate writers more than an annoying character they can’t wait to kill off or humiliate somehow. Dismember a rabid leprechaun (Also the name of my death metal band).

22. Head-turning characters

This can be a beautiful or handsome character or someone’s whose head spins around like a manic top. Your choice.

23. Pug-punk

My sub-genre hasn’t taken off yet. You need to get on that. Pug Apocalypse 2055 isn’t going to write itself. Or invent a sub-genre of your own. (I did with Splatter-Elf and now it’s become more of a world than a sub-genre. Whatever works!)

24. Listen to music

Find some music that really gets you pumped. Like “Eye of the Tiger” or “I Dreamed a Dream” or “The Macarena.” Let that music chi flow through you.

25. Exercise

What? Exercise? Yes, exercise. Your brain needs blood to work. Blood has midichlorians in it or something.

26. Marathon something else

Marathon writing can be difficult to sustain. Sometimes marathoning a different activity can get you in the right mindset. Binge watch a season of “Friends,” rearrange your bookshelf, or make a bonfire of failed manuscripts to sacrifice to Mulgog the Muse-Eater. If Mulgog ate your muse already, sorry.

27. Experience feelings

I’m not even sure what this means. However, if malaise has taken hold of you, do something you like that is fun or exciting, especially if it’s related to your novel. Ride a roller-coaster, go skydiving, or hunt warlocks. That exhilaration may wake you up a bit and give you insight into what you’re writing.

28. Maps

I like maps. Do you like maps? Draw a map. Don’t spend too much time on it though. Do just enough to get that spark going. “So that’s where the butterfly vampires live. Eureka!”

29. Stop caring

This sounds like crap advice, but not caring about where your novel is going (at least for a little while) can be liberating. If you’re following an outline, let it go for a bit. No, not like the Frozen song. Please, no.

30. Just write

I personally don’t like this advice because it’s pretty obvious. But so is the nose on my face. And the were-zebra watching me from the darkest corner of my room. Obvious advice exists because it’s obvious. Obviously.

And if you can’t just write, do something super, super boring. Read junk mail or go shopping for belts. You might become so bored, you’ll crave the warm embrace of your novel.

That’s it! 30 bits of advice for each day of NaNoWrimo. If none of these things work for you, then make a list of things you like about your novel and things you don’t like about it. If the negatives outweigh the positives, well, you may need to hit eject and start working on a project that gets your heart racing.

Your Techniques

Now it’s your turn to dispense with the words of wisdom. What do you do when you hit that invisible wall or that third week slump?

Please share your NaNoWriMo CPR techniques below. Oh, and happy writing!

For discussion of all things fantasy-related, check out Philip Overby’s Fantasy Free-for-All.

Latest posts by Philip Overby (see all)
Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
P Hayward
P Hayward
6 years ago

When I’m setting the whole atmosphere for the next scene, I will stop whenever I get bored of it. If you’re bored by your own story, how would any reader be hooked to it!

6 years ago

What a great collection of tips. I had never heard of the app that blares loud music and a scary red screen at you. This sounds terrifying yet effective. You certainly won’t nod off at the computer. My inspiration is to read writer’s magazines, or books like Stephen King’s “On Writing”. I also like explosions – there was a great one in my last book – and bears jumping out.

Heather Smith
Heather Smith
6 years ago

What a fantastic list! Next time I have writer’s block, this’ll be my go-to list. Still can’t get over how hilarious the “Write or Die” app sounds!

Philip Overby
Reply to  Heather Smith
6 years ago

Glad you liked it, Heather. Spread the word! Write or Die is pretty awesome. If you like something screeching in your air to keep you writing it’s perfect.

Skip Knox
6 years ago

Then a bear jumps out.

I can’t recall who said this one. Your characters are walking along. The story is boring.

Then a bear jumps out.

Chances are, you’ll throw that passage out, but it can shake things loose enough for you to get going again.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Skip Knox
6 years ago

I usually have Yagaloth the Blood Bear of Zalapar jump out. I never take Yagaloth out though. Yagaloth stays.

6 years ago

I look for two different works in progress I stopped midway on, and find out how to merge the two. Keep in mind, I’m not officially doing nano.^^

Philip Overby
Reply to  Sarah
6 years ago

That’s a good idea, Sarah, and something I do as well. I often scavenge ideas from older works I’ll probably never do anything with.

Annie Marie Peters
6 years ago

Ooh! I’ve never heard of the Write or Die app. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I’m going to love this!

Philip Overby
Reply to  Annie Marie Peters
6 years ago

Glad you found something new. I use Write or Die now and again, but usually only if I’m pantsing something.

Antonio del Drago
6 years ago

When I hit a slump with a story, I sometimes ask myself this: “What is the most off-the-wall, unexpected turn that the story could take at this juncture?”

Sometimes the answer to this question is exactly what the story needs, but often it isn’t. But exploring the possibilities posed by this question is usually enough to get me writing again.

Philip Overby
Reply to  Antonio del Drago
6 years ago

Yes, I think sometime thinking of a completely different direction the story can take can sometimes make me think, “Well, that wouldn’t work. What else can I do?”

This site uses XenWord.