Pam Uphoff

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.
(D) Other.
(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:

28 thoughts on “NoMoNaNo

  1. Well I’m up to 2,927 words and quite pleased with myself. That’s only two days work, Nov is a bad month for sitting in front of the laptop.
    Once I’m ready for snow, I plan to forge ahead.

    I may get to do some more tomorrow, as it’s raining.

  2. TL;DR: Don’t pull your punches. If your story wants to do something, just DO it. Don’t beat around the bush because you’re worried about looking stupid to your readers!

  3. I’ve never NaNoWriMoed. Lately I’ve been writing more than usual, though. I guess it feels a bit arbitrary, to have one month where you do a lot of writing. I prefer to do it all the time.

  4. Yes! I will use this resource because I don’t want to look on the internet where I regularly get lost.

    If someone was shackled in iron chains (or lots of people actually) what tool would you use to break the chains? The quicker the better, please. We’re in a pseudo medieval setting, by the way, but some things are made of steel. Axe? Pickaxe? How many blows? Is it even possible or do I have to start worrying about keys?

    I’m at 32k and on track for word count, but it just occurred to me last night that I still might not be writing “the end” on November 30. If that happens, there will be great gnashing of teeth and rending of hair and otherwise carrying on in a fashion unbefitting a civilized person. I came in to NaNo with 70k and I want the d*n thing to finish, end, stop, leave me alone.

    1. Some sort of prybar. What did they use to take the tops off of crates and barrels? That thing, with enough leverage.

      If the iron’s poor enough quality, it might even work! How motivated was that smith, anyway?

      1. Better yet, insert someone complaining about the shoddy ironwork in an earlier chapter. 😉

    2. Heavy chisel and hammer. Or depending on available resources, something wedge shaped, harder than the soft steel of the chains and a heavy rock. Broken chunk of a battle axe? Shard of a shattered sword?

  5. D – Other.

    I got a fair start, then life got in the way and I was knocked totally off the rails. -sigh- I haven’t been able to sit down and do any real writing since the first weekend. I really need to look at my schedule and see what I can do to free up more time.

    But there is some interesting information here. 🙂

    1. Hey! That was MY reply. That durn life does tend to get in the way, sigh…

      I do have hopes for today, yesterday was nine solid hours of kitchen duty. I finished up a pesky (and terminally boring) bit of world-building this morning, so can finally get back to the main stream of writing.

      1. Sigh. This is just to fix the “default” over here on MGC. “Writing Observer” is not out of the closet yet – and don’t try going to the phantom blog, please. Apologies to anyone confused by the error.

    2. Yeah, I hear you. I wrote this the morning of October 30. On the 31st I was on a plane, headed for a family situation, that got piled on with worse. But I’m home now, and writing and at 2500 words a day, I can do it.

  6. Opted out this year. Which is just as well because, as Wyldkat says, life. But I’ve got ideas, and am in the process of heavy revision and rewriting on the next Cat novel. Too much angst, not enough action.

  7. Lawyers of Mars was very unexpected(*), but I liked it. I should probably spend the rest of November writing reviews.

    I’ve got too much going on in Oct, Nov, Dec (every year) for more than one side-project, so no writing this time. Great advice, though; bookmarked.

    (*) Remember I said I just buy everything else? This one was part of the “Did Pam write it?” bulk purchase. It’s very much NOT Wine of the Gods, which is not a bad thing.

  8. (A) Finished @ 39K.

    And I think I’m going to go clean the house before I tackle any revisions. Mop the floors. Fold laundry. Dust the library. Rotate the cat.

    1. Only 11K to add? Excellent! Check for telling instead of showing, and do you need to work over the chitchat with stage directions or emotional signals? See Kate’s excellent post from yesterday.

    2. If you place a cat on a turntable, the cat can be auto-rotated. Feel free to take this suggestion for a spin. 🙂

  9. Only 7K here, but I’ve actually written words every day in November so far. Maybe that’ll catch.

    1. Getting in the habit of writing every day is invaluable. Think about it. If you write 300 words a day, you can finish a 100K word novel in a year. And the words will come faster, as you write more.

    1. Trust me, I understand the house hunt. I did manage to keep getting words in every day while on the road looking at potential houses, but my word count varied from 1400 to 12. Not 1200, just 12. I got those written out of bloody-minded stubbornness, and there twelve words harder to write than some other days’ thousands.

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