It’s the twentieth of November and my novel is [pick one]
(A) Finished. And it’s only X words!
(B) Boring. I just can’t make myself do more.
(C) Chaotic. It doesn’t make any sense.
(E) I haven’t a clue!
Welcome to the last third of NaNoWriMo, where we all despair! Let me throw out some ideas that might help you get going again.
Finished? Ha! Go back a make a searchable mark (I use ///) everyplace where you told us about something instead of showing us, instead of pulling us into the situation.
Then go back to the start and search those out. Rewrite them. Use lots of dialog. Don’t be stiff and terse. Have some fun. Have your hero call something pink. Have your heroine disagree. “Don’t be silly! It’s obviously a soft dusty salmon.” “It’s a fish?” Or flip the genders on it. He’s an artist, he sees these colors. Make the reader laugh. Or cry. Or get mad.
Then go to the next mark and rewrite that bit. Do them all.
Boring? Tell me, what is the story problem and why does it really, really matter to the main character(s)?
Oh, it doesn’t really matter? Make it matter. Or pick a different MC to whom it does. No, you don’t have to start over. _Add_ the POV of the formerly secondary character. Go to the start and see if you can insert chapters from the new POV. Give us a new angle on the problem.
How many try/fail sequences have you written? What do you mean the MC never failed? No wonder it’s boring. Make the solution harder, have him or her try and fail at least two times. Or three or four. Then have a black introspective moment. Have the MC realize he’s using the wrong technique and going about it all wrong/afraid to get hurt/afraid of the consequences of success/too damned stubborn to admit he’s part of the problem. Or whatever is appropriate to your story. Then grit his or her teeth and commit to the fight.
Chaotic? Hey it’s a first draft, coherency is not a requirement. You might think about where you want this story to wind up at. If the story has grown beyond—or sideways to—your first goal, think up a new one. It may change again, but for now it’ll give you something to aim at. If you never had a goal, now’s the time.
They say, don’t data dump, but do you have enough world building? For a first draft, large chucks of background aren’t all bad. In December, when you start editing, you can spread the info out and present it in more tasteful morsels, where needed. Sometimes in different forms, several times if the information is crucial. Then it becomes clever foreshadowing. _Don’t_ dwell on it if it isn’t majorly important. A book I just read by one of my favorite authors mentioned the city being built on the side of an active volcano over and over. Darn thing never erupted! I felt cheated by a lack of volcanic violence.
Other techniques that could help?
Add a romantic interest? Already got one? How about a rival? Maybe an old flame shows up at an awkward time?
Mess up your character’s time table with weather problems? Traffic accident? Sick child?
Speaking of accidents, if your hero is just too formidable, a leg in a cast or a summer cold with a horrible hack-up-a-lung cough dragging on . . .
Add a minor annoyance who causes just enough of a complication to mess up something.
Add a dog or cat. A parrot with a foul mouth.
Add a second (or third or forth) POV character. _If_ that would help. Is the villain of the story a POV character? If not, think about adding him or her, or perhaps his or her evil step daughter.
Add more internal thoughts, to pull the reader into the POV character’s head, it could explain a few things that would be awkward in dialog. You can give your POV character’s opinion of a person or place, or orders, while they smile on the outside and take it.
Did you give your MC some interesting quirks or hobbies? Make sure he think about them, gets interrupted while doing them and so forth.
Speaking of interruptions, what was you character doing just before the scene started? Does she hastily abandon something? Does he carefully put away all his tools, save perhaps the crowbar before he heads for the latest fight? Make them human with exasperating delays and irritations. Bad habits and good. A nagging spouse or parent.
If all you need is a relatively minor number of words, try more scene description. Do you have sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch cues in every scene? Try adding some over-done descriptions just for the practice. But don’t go back and do this until the whole story is written.
So. If you’re stuck, tell us about it. You have a ready made resource, right here, of people who can throw you twice as many suggestions as you could possibly want.
Oh, and no mater how badly the story is going, don’t kill your main character. No matter how much he or she deserves it. Humiliate him, and make him realize what a jerk he’s been to not follow your plot. Then put him back to work solving the problem. Think tough love.
And get your butt in the chair, the fingers on the keyboard, and the internet OFF!
Free for two more days:
And starting Monday, free for the week: