NaNoCoDo #7 One-Hour Sprint

My favourite cure for so-called writers’ block. And it’s a useful technique to master, even though you haven’t started writing your NaNo book yet!

Can’t decide what your baddie’s motivation is? Unsure what your characters are meant to be doing? Spending too much time staring out the window and hardly any time pressing letter keys (except the ones you immediately delete)?

You need a way to tap your unconscious. Let’s face it, if the answers are ever going to find their way onto paper, that’s where you’re going to find them. But your type-ready conscious mind and creative unconscious aren’t speaking to each other. So how do you dredge ideas out of one part of your brain so they can be processed by the part you have control (*) over?
This is my answer – connect your creative mind directly to your typing fingers without going through the tiresome business of your conscious brain. Kind of like the automatic writing at Victorian Spiritualist meetings, only higher-tech.

You will need:
About an hour and ten minutes (including preparation time).
Kitchen timer (or similar).
Your computer.
Drink of your choice (I like herbal teas for this).
Small heavy objects for throwing at family members who try to interrupt.

Gather all ingredients together.
Switch off phone.
Open file on computer.
Make sure auto-backups are run every few minutes (if using computer).
Banish your inner editor to the pub.
Set timer for one hour.
Disconnect internet.
Start typing and don’t stop until the timer pings.

I begin these sessions by typing what I’m sure about, then letting the rest come out on the screen. Let’s take an example:

There’s this baddie who’s based on a mythological character. But I wasn’t sure why he wanted to stop my good guys from achieving their aims. And I don’t accept “because it helps the plot” as an answer. Bad guys need their motivation, too!

So, I began by typing what I know about the relevant myths, what this guy’s function was in the myths and extrapolated these to fit the setting of my novel-in-progress.

I found myself typing that he wasn’t actually trying to stop them achieve anything, just to maintain a balance they were threatening by their actions. So he didn’t have anything against them, as such.
Light bulb moment!

Then I continued, finding out that what I’d thought was a minor trait in this baddie is actually a very significant one. I don’t want to give too much away, as this is central to my next novel, but the way he kills people has repercussions on the way he operates with his minions.

And yes, all of this came about in a one-hour session.

It’s kind of taking the principle of NaNoWriMo to the extreme – although it isn’t about the number of words you write so much as giving yourself permission to type garbage for an hour. I find that the garbage spontaneously ignites due to the speed of your typing and the resultant ash compacts to form one or two tiny diamonds. (Not a bad metaphor – I’ll remember that one!)

We all spend too much of our writing time trying to make things sensible, coherent, realistic. Which gets in the way of the creation process. Is an hour too much time to spend on the problem?

So go on, next time you aren’t sure where to go next, see if you can find the answer in one hour!

NanoWriMo: <<– Sign up here.

(*) This is untrue. A writer has even less control over their mind than normal people do. We just learn to fake it.

One Response

  1. Good idea. When I’ve done spontaneous writing in the past I’ve just written complete rubbish, the stuff sprouting from my brain, but using the time to write down ideas/problems and let them flow is a much better suggestion.

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