So, it’s day 10, and the first flush of enthusiasm is over. You had some good days at the outset and you thought the whole process was going to be a breeze. But suddenly the words have dried up. Your characters are standing there, blinking at you, waiting for you to give them something to do or say. But you’ve drawn a blank.
What do you do? Give up? No! Start something new? No! You just need an injection of new ideas. But where to find them?
Fortunately, your brain is on your side. One of the qualities that is so appealing (and useful) about the mind is its desire and ability to make links, find patterns, add new knowledge to its existing store. You will know this from when you were a kid, worrying about something. As soon as something was on your mind, that thing, or things relating to it, would be everywhere around you – your teacher would mention it in class, you’d overhear a conversation relating to it on the bus, there’d be a telly programme about it in the evening. Had the world somehow discovered your secret fear and decided to taunt you with it? No, of course not. Was it all just spooky coincidence? Maybe. But more likely it was just that because you were already thinking about the thing, your mind was tuned in to finding new bits of information relating to it.
You can harness that power now as a writer. Try to keep your novel in your head all the time, ticking over at the back of your mind while you’re going about your everyday life. And look for ideas everywhere:
1) Stick the radio on in the car on the way to work or the supermarket. Listen to the news or any random programme – chances are you’ll hear something which links to your novel, or triggers an idea in your brain. Read the paper in your lunch hour. Not the main headlines – go to the smaller articles, the more obscure items. Or read a novel – preferably unrelated to yours.
2) Ask someone to give you a random word or a setting or an event which you have to weave into your daily word count. The apparent restriction will focus the mind and you’ll be surprised how you can shoe-horn in some completely bizarre idea.
3) Get out and chat to people you don’t normally talk to. Everyone has a wealth of personal experiences – a random anecdote could take your plot in a new direction.
4) Go on a course/listen to a talk/learn a new skill. Stimulate the mind.
5) Incorporate your writers’ group task into your novel. You won’t have time to write something new, but if you can build it into your word count, you won’t have lost anything. And chances are, you’ll have an interesting new slant on the topic area.
The most important thing is to keep writing, even if you think it’s drivel, even if it’s not linear but something from later in the story – you can go back and fill in the blanks afterwards. Keep adding to that word count – that’s the only thing that matters.