Got NaNo Writer’s Block? Welcome to the club!

PrintI signed up for NaNo out of desperation. Yes, many of my writing friends were doing it, but for me it was a matter of survival. (I would say it was “write-or-die,” but having almost done that this last spring, I kind of can’t use the expression anymore.) I have no time, no time for NaNo!

Unless I train myself to write consistently and in larger amounts, my career as a writer is toast. This year’s NaNo is about resurrecting a novella that was hastily begun without a plan. It’s a fun story, but it has no real structure. The supporting characters are undefined, almost cardboard-like caricatures. Can’t have that!

Bogged-down writers are not always rational. You saw me panic when NaNo began–I was lost! I had no direction! The pirate story wasn’t fun anymore! But NaNo is about word count, about putting thoughts on the page. As I’ve persevered this week–writing stuff in an exploratory way–story elements have dropped into place. Ideas have been bubbling up.

I’m making progress because I called in the “Marines” of storytelling, Pixar. The infographic (below) is new to me, but I bet you’ve seen this information floating around the Internet. I stumbled on it in 2012 and immediately shared it with my fiction writing class. To quote Wile E. Coyote, “It’s genius!”

What’s good for the student is good for the teacher.  So in my NaNo manuscript–yes, right in the middle of my poor blocked story–I have pasted in Emma Coats’ 22 Tweets, one by one. I’ve bolded them and have been using them as writing prompts. Taking two or three a day, I’ve let my creative mind spin ideas into bulleted lists. And sentences. And paragraphs. And dialog. (When dialog shows up, I know I’m hitting gold.)

So far I’m on #9, and new thoughts are flying. Want to give it a try? Here’s Emma Coats’ tweeted list. A storyboard artist for Pixar, she knows her stuff:




As the coyote says, “It’s sheer, unadultered genius.” For a text version–or to download a high-resolution, poster-sized version of the infographic–visit Joshua Vardanega’s Pixar Fansite.

10 thoughts on “Got NaNo Writer’s Block? Welcome to the club!

  1. You know how I struggle with writing endings to stories. What bailed me out with Darcy? Emma’s “Make a list of what wouldn’t happen.” I did that–a long one. And then I asked myself, “Dang! Why not? Why wouldn’t this happen?” And then I made that unlikely idea work.


  2. Well, Laura, I too signed up for Nano, but since I was in the middle of a critical chapter for Darcy’s Melody I couldn’t put that aside. I’ve been working like crazy on that as if that was my Nano project. There is always next year. AND your career is not toast as a writer. WHO almost died? You are doing Great so don’t diminish your efforts. Jen

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Girl, can’t your NaNo characters write those Darcy’s Melody chapters? And then get back to their story? 🙂

      Shamefully, I reworked the ending of my Darcy story for one day’s NaNo work. I struggle with endings, so why not have Captain O’Manly, buccaneer, write it for me?

      I had to cut out all the “Yarr!” stuff. Along with O’Manly’s suggestion that Darcy toss Elizabeth over one shoulder and carry her off like a sack of potatoes. He was itching to make Collins walk the plank…


  3. Laura, These are great. So is writing for NaNo. Thanks for talking about it. I didn’t know it existed. The idea of 50,000 words in a month is wild, but for a good change, my hubby is behind me. The short story I’ve started is beginning to look like something a lot longer. I’d love to think that this is what I needed to get out of the leaves/weeds. I expect when this is finished, I’ll have some serious cutting down to do, and I’ll come back to these then. Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, multiply those words any way you can. Forget using contractions. Use first and last names… 🙂

      What I will do is write a scene from one character’s point of view, and then swing around and write the same scene from the other person’s perspective. It’s all about exploration and thinking and getting ideas out of your creative mind so that more can bubble up.

      Plus, you are becoming limber with words. That’s a gift past price. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the experience.

      And…hold on to your hat, because there are two Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, one in April and another in July. (You get to choose your own word count for these.) Your NaNo identity and password will work and everything. Look for emails in March and June. Link: Camp NaNoWriMo


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