Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
National Novel Writing Month is almost over, but your writing got stuck in a…a thing that…you see?! Your novel needs a tow rope to pull you out of Writer’s Block Swamp. I’m here to throw you one.
Prepare Mind, Body, and Soul
- Eat lots of leftover Halloween candy. You never know what your brain will come up with after colossal amounts of chocolWHEEEEE!
- Take a walk to clear your head and find some inspirado. Maybe go somewhere dangerous or haunted. You can write the story in real time! Okay fine, scardeycat, you can bring a friend for strength in numbers. Make sure this friend is slower than you in the event a wild animal starts chasing you.
- Give yourself permission to write badly. Just be sure you fill out the proper BW-1593 bad-writing permission form. Don’t make the rookie mistake of forgetting to have it notarized.
Add New Story Elements
- Introduce a wacky sidekick. This is the oldest, most overused trick in the book. Because it’s awesome. With luck, you can create a character as iconic as Scrappy Doo.
- Find a change of scenery. I like to get characters out of their comfort zones by putting them in unfamiliar surroundings. For example, take your hard-case gumshoe and put him at the bottom of the ocean with no oxygen tank. See what happens.
- Write someone you hate into the story and have your protagonist beat them up. Just a good, old-fashioned curb stomping. It’s cathartic, and the harder you hit them, the more you’ll fill your word count. Use lots of detail. Don’t be ashamed by the urge to write yourself into the victim’s role here. You’re not alone.
- Add a guest appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters.
- Remind your characters, in the booming voice of God, that you can kill them at any time, so they better make with the drama. Let them know you mean business by causing a passerby to suddenly drop dead.
- Hey, you now have a dead body! This can jumpstart lots of stories ranging from murder mysteries to Weekend-at-Bernie’s-style hijinks.
- Add a gun. This is metaphorical, as you can’t add a gun to your medieval fantasy (or can you? That would certainly be a fun plot twist!). The important thing is to add something that can instantly destabilize the situation. If you’re writing sci-fi, it can be a blaster. Thriller? A bomb. Horror? Add a Dracula. Literary? A Frankenstein.
- Reveal that your antagonist was really Rollerblade Rob, owner of the abandoned roller rink. And he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for the fact that you control his every action and thought.
Break Glass in Case of Emergency
- Talk through your plot with a friend, loved one, or coworker. No, wait, it’s a safe bet you’ve already exhausted these resources. Talk about it with your therapist. You say you don’t need one? Oh, bless your heart.
- Think about when and where you did your best work. Were you outlining at the coffee shop? Did you skip your lunch break to finish a chapter? Did you set your alarm for 5 am and work till the sun came up? Reminisce fondly about those days. They were a good times. Simpler times. Well, those days are never coming back, and tomorrow will be worse than today. Channel this newfound existential crisis into your work.
- Road trip! Have your characters ditch work and head to the beach. Along the way, they’ll learn that the greatest journey of all is one of self-discovery. The road trip also works for authors. Your epiphany may be that you should just get in the car and keep on driving, leaving your novel, your cares, your old life behind. Miserable-author you is gone. You can’t fail if you no longer exist.
How do you get your novel unstuck? Share your ideas in the comments!