November, in the midst of NaNoWriMo, is the perfect time for some extra ideas about staying motivated and getting un-stuck with your writing. I'm thrilled that Tanya Lloyd Kyi offered to stop by and give her thoughts on the subject--and she has some awesome ideas!
Shake It All About
by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Every November, I read Denise’s NaNoWriMo updates with awe. How can she create so many scenes in so little time?
As soon as I think too hard about word counts – and that overwhelming number that signifies a finished manuscript – I stop writing altogether. I can’t take the pressure! When that happens, I have to shake things up. Jump around a little, do the hokey pokey, and turn my brain in a new direction.
So for those who have joined Denise on November’s crazy writing ride, or for those plodding along like I am, here are my five favorite strategies for getting unstuck.
1. Let a secondary character take the spotlight.
When you need a break from the emotional angst of your protagonist, take the opportunity to delve deeper into a minor player. Too often, especially when we’re writing quickly, we treat our secondary characters as props instead of people. But here’s an opportunity for a best friend to spill his heart, a girlfriend to reveal her dreams, or a mom to offer a story from her past and a quiet word of advice.
2. Write an imagined scene.
What would happen if your main character told her deepest secrets to the panhandler on the corner? What would happen if she stole her dad’s car and drove into the sunset? Or if she chained herself to the school doors and declared a hunger strike? An imagined scene is a great way to reveal interiority without resorting to long emotional descriptions. Plus, you can get a little crazy without being accountable later!
3. Force your character to multi-task.
Don’t give your protagonist too long to ponder his place in the universe. Make him figure it out while his mother’s nagging him about homework and his girlfriend’s sexting him and his dog’s peeing on the shoes in the front hall. If his best friend’s going to dump him, make it happen at work, where he has to deal with customers at the same time. What do you want to happen next in your character’s world? Make it happen at the most inconvenient time, in the most inconvenient place. After all, isn’t that the way real life works?
4. Set your scene in an emotional place.
Where was your first break-up? Or your first sexual encounter? What’s your most embarrassing moment? Use one of those settings for your next scene. Even if your characters do something completely different than you did in the back of that Ford pick-up, you might find the baggage you associate with the place lends a new emotional power to your writing.
5. Throw a party.
Too often, we think in baby steps. Character A needs to get information from Character B, then confront Character C before going home with D. Well, speed things up and throw yourself a shindig. Or send everyone to the same restaurant or the same school dance. Give your characters a chance to collide off one another in tight confines and see what melds and what explodes.
Good luck to everyone with today’s writing. And thanks for having me stop by, Denise!
Tanya Lloyd Kyi has written more than a dozen books for middle-grade and young-adult readers. Her most recent novel is Anywhere But Here (Simon & Schuster). She's also the author of the 50 Questions series and Seeing Red (Annick). Tanya lives in Vancouver, BC.
Cole’s small town is a trap he’s determined to escape in this fresh and moving debut novel that balances loss with humor.
Ever since his mom died, Cole just feels stuck. His dad acts like a stranger, and Lauren, his picture-perfect girlfriend of two years, doesn’t understand him anymore. He can’t ditch his dad, so Cole breaks up with Lauren. She doesn’t take the news very well, and Cole’s best friend won’t get off his case about it.
Now more than ever, Cole wants to graduate and leave his small, suffocating town. And everything is going according to plan—until Cole discovers the one secret that could keep him there…forever.