There you are, happily pounding out words, the click and rattle of the keyboard creating a musical symphony in your writing space. And then…it happens.
Your mind goes blank.
At first, you don’t understand. You stare at your fingers. Why aren’t they moving, directing fictional lives, creating worlds?
Come on, you urge. Get to work. They remain still, splayed out in knobby hooks of rigor mortis.
A familiar feeling curls through your belly, sliding around in a slow dance before fanning through your chest and netting it tight.
It’s happening, the thing you prayed would not come to pass this November: a visit from the NaNoWriMo boogeyman, The Big Blank.
DON’T PANIC. I REPEAT, DON’T PANIC.
The big blank, the block, the curtain that draws across your story vision. It happens. Remain calm. Breathe. This is the triage center, a place for you to come when your writing stalls and you need some help to get moving again.
Choose your “blank” & click the links. Get the help you need so the words flow again and you’re back on track.
Introduce a Secret
Let’s face it, sometimes our characters seem a bit blah on the page. It might be your hero, the sidekick or even the villain. And while I’d normally suggest you dig deeper into your character to develop them more, mid-novel during NaNoWriMo, a person can’t always re-plan a character. So, try giving your character a secret. Not something lame-ass, but a secret with depth, birthing from a place of Guilt, Shame, Exploitation or Necessity.
Give Him or Her An Unusual Skill or Talent
Sometimes we need to work on the connection between a character and a reader, and the area to explore to create empathy is WORTHINESS. Giving him an undeserved misfortune isn’t enough. It is what a character does despite his hardship that pulls readers in.
If triage isn’t cutting it…
…and you need to do an overhaul to find out what’s wrong, it’s well worth your time to activate THIS FREE TRIAL so you can use One Stop for Writers’ Character Builder to diagnose what’s wrong and fix their Character Arc (the tool will create an accurate Character Arc Blueprint from your character’s details).
STORY MIDDLE BLANKS
Focus on Motivation
Ran out of steam, did you? It’s okay, the middle of a story can be a tricky place. You don’t want to wrap things up too quickly, but at the same time, not…much…seems to be…happening. When you get stuck and don’t know where to go next, think MOTIVATION. Your hero should always be motivated to act, making decisions, choices, weighing options. Always know what is motivating your character, and you’ll be able to put one foot in front of the other again. If you are stuck for ideas on what be motivating your character, visit this list.
Have Him Look In a Mirror
If you’re lost in the middle, make haste to the midpoint & mirror moment when your hero looks within, has an emotional epiphany, and that leads to change and purpose.
Seek Out an Expert
Throw a Curve Ball
Tension makes the world go round. If your characters are stalling on what to do, it’s time to amp things up and spread some pain. Follow this one-two-three punch of tension and complicate matters, forcing your hero to adapt to succeed. Remember though, when it comes to frustrating your characters, you need to make sure their reactions & ways of dealing with an upset fit the character.
Introduce a Pressure Point
If your plot is chugging like a car running on cheap gas, it might be time to utilize a pressure point. There’s nothing like a temptation, a challenge, or an opportunity for redemption to push the story forward.
Poke His Wounds
Emotional wounds are a big part of the story, so if the plot trail dries up, return to Character Arc and remember your Character is on a path of CHANGE. Understanding why his wound is important to the story will help lay down some plot pieces for you to follow. Here’s a massive lists of EMOTIONAL WOUNDS and a resource to show you how to write the character’s actions, choices, and behavior as a result.
If your conflict is flat-lining, it’s time to raise the stakes. No, I’m not talking about throwing more monsters at your hero for him to kill, or a bigger, nastier bomb for him to diffuse. Instead, Friend-o, let’s personalize those stakes. Give your hero a compelling reason to ACT.
How we do that is make sure the character sees that if he doesn’t, something even worse will happen, like undeserved consequences falling in the lap of someone else. Here’s a generator for Story Stakes (TIP: there’s a free trial).
Cross a Moral Line
If your tension is about as hardcore as limp celery, it’s time to bring about a belief crisis. Force your hero to do the unthinkable and cross a moral line for the “greater good.” When the lines between right and wrong grow fuzzy, everything gets complicated in a hurry, which is terrific for juicing up your story.
Friction & Fireworks
You love your cast of characters, I get it. Pass around the flowers, have everyone hold hands and let them get the job done TOGETHER. Very sweet. The problem is, when everyone is playing nicey-nice, the story gets boring fast. Add a healthy dose of tension by creating some clashing personalities who will create story friction.
Nothing adds tension and conflict like a big ol’ stupid mistake. Screw ups are a story’s bread and butter! So let’s get your hero off his game by amplifying his emotions, piling on the stress or pain, or even distracting him with primal pull of attraction, hunger or thirst. You pick the amplifier, apply it, and watch the emotional overreactions lead to bad judgement and rashness that creates delicious story fallout.
Sometimes our brain turns to static. But during an event like NaNoWriMo, nobody’s got time for that. Pull out the big guns and get going.
One Stop For Writers: Your Portal to Unlimited Creativity
Two words, friends: Description Nirvana. When you’re struggling with finding the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures for a scene, check the Setting Thesaurus. Want to build mood? Try the Weather Thesaurus, or use the Symbolism and Motif to add depth.
Our Story Map, Scene Maps, & Timeline Tools, plus a hyper-intelligent Character Builder, and many other resources make this a true powerhouse library for writers.
NOW, KEEP WRITING
If all else fails and you can’t seem to get over the Big Blank, go around him. Put in a sentence or two as a placeholder, and then move forward in the story to a point where you feel on solid ground again. Later, you can come back and fill in the blanks.
Chances are, if your brain has time to think about the problem without feeling pressured to perform, you’ll sort it out on your own and be able to come back and add in the missing scenes.