NaNoWriMo is almost upon us! I still haven’t decided if I will go for the win this year. I may go for the Fail again though! That’s been good to me in the past. (I explain that here at the Fictorians.)
And, Obligatory Shameless Plug: My book Blood from Your Own Pen: A Practical Guide on Self-Editing and Common Mistakes: For Beginning Authors Who Intend to Survive to Publication is in the NaNoWriMo StoryBundle this year! You can check it out here: https://storybundle.com/nano
Something I have heard from NaNo participants in the past is the worry and stress of the onset of “writer’s block” while under the pressure of the 30 days of November time limit. First let me say NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun. Don’t stress out about it. Next, I’d like to offer my theory of writer’s block.
Admittedly writer’s block is going to be different for everyone. The causes and the manifestations are going to be as numerous as there are writers. Many writers claim there is no such thing as writer’s block. I’m not sure I’ll go that far out on the limb, but I would like to say that when I am having anything resembling writer’s block it is because I am working on something that I don’t want to work on anymore.
This can be caused by a deadline I feel I have hanging over my head or something I have just lost interest in. Generally I get around this by doing other things. (Not things like laundry, dishes, or watching Game of Thrones! That way leads to not writing anymore. But at least the laundry and dishes are done…) Sometimes these are other writing projects I am excited about, sometimes editing projects, and sometimes art projects. I love playing with art programs. And I often use them to motivate me in my writing. ( More on that in Art as Inspiration, Art as Inspiration 2, Art as Inspiration 3, and Art as Inspiration 4 )
Some of the writing I have used to motivate me when I am fighting the urge to not write is writing Flash Fiction. Flash fiction is generally considered to be a story under 1,000 words. ( You can read examples of mine here: Broken (A Flash Fiction Piece) and Boutonnière (A Flash Fiction Piece) ) But I especially enjoy Micro Fiction, or stories less than 150 words or so.
Writing these really short short stories makes my writer brain work. I have to come up with an idea, I have to make it work as a story (rather than a vignette or just some notes), and I have to think about words that will let me stay inside that low word count.
Then, I am done quickly with a project, I have the “high” of having finished something, and I can jump back into the thing I really needed to be working on.
I have written “dribbles” (50 word flash fiction), “drabbles” (100 word flash fiction) and various other length stories, depending upon what a market is looking for. (Things like the Six-Word Story, or Twitterature (stories in 140 characters)) Personally I prefer doing the really short, specific word count type micro fiction. It adds to the challenge and the story becomes like a puzzle to me, wherein I have to use the right combination of words to tell the story (and still have a story) at exactly the right length. I have to make it fit.
Recently I wrote a few micro fiction stories for a venue that did not accept my submissions. I don’t mind. I’m a writer. I’m used to rejection letters and if I hadn’t wanted to write the stories anyway, I wouldn’t have without being paid first. But now I have a handful of these I have “no use” for. There aren’t very many markets for these anymore. But it was fun to write them!
And I wanted to point out the process to you in case you are having problems with writer’s block. Because doing a couple of these can kick-start your writing juices and get you back to what you wanted to be doing!
Generally the exercise went like this: They had a pool of words and I chose three of them and wrote a 45 to 55 word story using those three words.
Now, I don’t have pools of words for you, but I am sure you can find some around you somewhere. Ask the person next to you for three random words. Ask the three people next to you for a random word each. Take the 5th word of page 55 of the dictionary, and the 6th of page 66, and the 7th from page 77. There are many ways to get words. The thing is, you are stuck using them to make a story. And the story has to be very, very short.
That way you can get back to your big story quickly. Try it at least once. If it works for you, great! I’ve helped you along with your NaNoWriMo project! If it doesn’t work…well, you were just procrastinating anyway, right? No big loss of time there.
So, here are the stories I wrote. The words in bold are the words the stories were built around. I hope you enjoy them.
Teddy-bear clutched tight in one gnarled hand, the gigantic red-horned demon delivered its resignation with the other. The tips of its claws burned holes in the paper. Tears welled in fiery eyes as it waited.
With a laugh, Satan winked. “You win!”
White light flashed, bells pealed, and the newborn angel carried Teddy to Heaven.
(55 words long)
Pop-star Island opened with a spark, not the expected explosion. Metal Land boiled hellish lava for dozens instead of thousands, Reggae World was too tranquil, and Punk City was punky. Within a week it was abandoned as lifeless. Years later groupies were found living in the country, hiding in the bluegrass, far from the roadies.
(55 words long)
Mary looked at the hole in the plastic-wrap. The lipstick smeared across her mouth added to the mask of horror she wore.
“I swear, I didn’t know!” Johnny pleaded, but his words fell upon deaf ears.
All Mary could hear was the agonizing screams of her dying future.
(48 words long)
The king tipped the vessel back and drained the wine into his mouth. It was too weak, he thought as he swallowed. It needed to be bolder and less sweet.
“Sire?” the Chancellor prodded him.
The king looked at the Chancellor and then down at the peasant pleading for his life. He had nearly forgotten.
(55 words long)
Moving like a panther through the shadows, the princess hid the knife in the palm of her hand. The guests’ eyes were all on the Queen. No one was looking. No one would see. No one would know…
In one swift movement the blade slid through layers and she carved herself a slice of cake.
(55 words long)
“What’ll you have?” The barkeep wasn’t put off by the appearance of the nude cherub. People fell in love at his bar all the time.
“Zombie,” the long-faced cupid mumbled.
“Bad night?” the barkeep asked, making the drink.
“Sorry. I’ll start over.”
“No. She’s pledged to stay a virgin. No quota for me tonight.”
(55 words long)
Night wind rustling through the wheatfield set her shivering, and she felt as though someone had walked over her grave. Though the harvest moon shone brightly above, she shouldn’t have taken this shortcut. A swishing sound startled her and she jumped. Then, scythe swinging low, the reaper came into view.
“John!” She smiled with relief.
(55 words long)
Genesis wasn’t merely the beginning. It was also the end. When the rainbow was born, something else died. There is only so much room in the universe and for everything new, something old has to be removed. With the arrival of the spectrum of wonder, so was inverted the security of certainty.
(52 words long)
“I give up!” Sally stomped her foot. Billy wasn’t anywhere to be found. He’d never been good at hide and seek before. He wasn’t upstairs, in the laundry room, or the basement. “Billy!” She stomped again, turning her back to the garden. She didn’t see the giant wriggling cocoon up in the apple tree.
(54 words long)