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Stumped on NaNoWriMo? Here are 9 Writing Exercises to Finish Strong

November and NaNoWriMo (aka National Novel Writing Month) are in full swing—but is your writing? If you’re feeling stuck mid-month, try some of the tips below from the book Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner, executive director of NaNoWriMo. Each exercise is aimed to help inspire your creativity, keep you motivated, and increase your productivity.

Don’t despair, there’s still time to hit the 50,000 word count goal! Here are nine tips to help get you past your writer’s block.

1. An Inspiration Invitation

Write about what inspires you to write—whether it’s the desire to create lyrical prose, escape this world, or explore your inner world. Think about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. After you’ve written this short piece, focus on the things that inspire you to sit down and write on even the worst days. Your big inspiration can open a pathway back to writing.

2. Writing Sprints

Explore the creative power of limitations. Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and push yourself to simply dive into your novel wherever you can. This strategy is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that breaks down work into intervals separated by short breaks. Bursts of focus with frequent breaks can improve your mental agility.

3. Notice

You might think you know the world around you, but challenge yourself to find the unusual in the usual. Make it a goal to notice one arresting detail each day and write it down. Go on a sound walk, and pay attention only to sounds to see how sounds tell a different story of the world than sights. Or, when you meet someone, observe everything about him or her, and then choose a telling detail that encompasses who that person is.

4. Give Your Conflict to Another

This is a moment to explore who you are. Write down a list of different conflicts you’ve had in life, whether it’s unrequited love or a time where a parent or teacher punished you unfairly. Now, conceive of a character who is decidedly not you—make the character a different gender or race, taller or shorter, more slovenly or tidier. Write a scene with your character placed in your conflict.

5. Decorate for Creativity

What spaces inspire you? What items are charged with creativity? Decorate your desk for the characters you’d like to invite onto the page, the memories you’d like to kindle.

6. Remix

Take a favorite line, phrase, or motif from a story, poem, or song and use it in whatever you’re working on. Feel free to edit it as appropriate, and build on its rhythms and themes. After you’re done, ask this question: How did the introduction of this outside element affect your piece? Does it represent your expression? Did it become part of your story?

7. Storm Your Ideas

Spend an entire writing session jotting down new ideas for your novel. It can be anything: a character detail, a new plot angle. Be daring, be extravagant. Don’t write the scene or chapter, just explore possibilities, and let yourself go wild.

8. Get Surreal

Write down words—not sentences, just words. Write them as quickly and spontaneously as you can because you want to make wild associative leaps, to think in a surreal way. Combine disjointed parings: blue cow, dancing tree, constipated stone, muscular poodle. Do this for 15 minutes. Are your notions of language enlivened? Did such odd word matching spark any new thoughts?

9. Become Someone Else

Choose a name and create a character background for this new author—this new version of you. Write a story, a poem, even just a scene by inhabiting this new self, and see what different words emerge. If you want to take it one step further, create a Twitter account for your new authorial self. Who does your nom de plume follow? How does he or she comment on the world? Become someone different.

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For more writerly tips, check out Pep Talks for Writers.

Pep Talks for Writers

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