Pep Talk from Marie Lu
You’re past the halfway mark. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and you can see the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. But you can barely breathe. Your brain feels sore. Things might be getting a little rough, right?
I’m not going to give you inspirational words. I’m not going to tell you how hard it is to be a writer or how courageous you are to be doing this (which you are, by the way, didn’t you know that already?). You don’t have time for all that—you’re trying to finish a novel! Today, I’m going to give you some practical tips on how to make it through the third week. The dark swamp. The mines of writer’s block.
Pull your favorite, tattered, dog-eared book off the shelves. Find a chapter that leaves you breathless. Start typing it out in a new document, word for word. Don’t just type blindly; think about what you’re writing. For me, something about this exercise helps me see the genius in the other writer’s storytelling, and will stimulate my own writing and thoughts. Be careful, of course, that you don’t end up plagiarizing it right into your novel… but there’s something to be said for drawing inspiration from another.
Write a long list of all your characters. Then, start drawing random lines connecting random characters to each other. Don’t think—just connect. Afterward, look down at your page. Try to figure out a connection between each of the two random characters you just linked—something scandalous, maybe, or something sweet. Something three-dimensional and unexpected. Some explosive scene that throws the two together.
Turn to a different creative venture. This is the point in NaNoWriMo when you start feeling exhausted, which makes you lazy, which makes your storytelling lazy. Words might not be inspiring you anymore. So turn to writing’s creative cousins. Art. Music. Games. And so on. I personally will draw my characters. You can do the same, even if you don’t usually draw or you don’t want to draw your characters. Take 10 minutes and make a map of your world, even if you’re writing contemporary. Where’s the post office? What’s the layout of this house? What places do your characters love to visit? Draw a random box in the corner. Make that a secret/forbidden/abandoned place. A love hotel. A bar with a hidden basement.
Turn to music: make a playlist of music that matches the mood of your story. Don’t just play it back, either—plug in some good headphones, close your eyes, sit back, crank the volume, and get lost. Play the scenes of your story out in your head. Imagine the lyrics matching your story. Listen to the story arc inherent in the song. Go to where your characters are. Somewhere in the darkness, you might see the spark of a scene.
Of course, none of this can trump the ultimate, time-worn advice:
Just Keep Going.
Write an entire monologue with your main character if you have to. Spend a chapter just exploring the life story of an antagonist. Write a scene with nothing but dialogue between your hero and your villain. Write a steamy love scene between your favorite couple. They don’t have to be scenes in chronological order. They don’t even have to end up in your book. But they will help you to keep going.
So keep going. You’re almost there. Just a little more. You are stubborn. You are exhausted. You are determined. You are a Writer.