No Mo NaNo

No Mo NaNo–A blast from the past since this is the second day of nothing new . . .

It’s the twenty fourth 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 week 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!

20 Comments

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20 responses to “No Mo NaNo

  1. Yes, Ma’am! Closing the browser now. (Although to go off and make hot turkey sandwiches at the moment.)

    Then I’m afraid it’s going to be Apophysis later, not words…

  2. paladin3001

    Thanks for the tips. Didn’t do NaNoWriMo, as I was in the middle of a novel when it started (okay almost done a novel). Mind you I have the feeling it’s a little thin (in both content and size). Tried adding something in and it’s not working. Gone through and done some more polishing, and it’s still nagging me about being incomplete. Back burnered currently as I work on the sequel (yes, I started the sequel and the third one in the universe) which is plodding along currently. I have a few ideas but I needed more stuff.

    • Having three in process is not a bad thing. It’s hard, with the first book in a series, to see where the series is going. With the second and third books you’ll have a much better idea of how you want the world to work, and you can tweak a few things in the first book so the whole thing slides the direction you want it to go.

      • paladin3001

        Funny thing is that the first novel was supposed to be a short story that kinda took on a life of it’s own. Started the third and realized I needed one before it and after the first one. Put it on hold and started the second. Been an interesting month is all I can say.

        • Mary

          Happens, happens. A Diabolical Bargain snuck up on me pretending to be a short story, though at least it turned only into a novel.

          The worst part was that I twice had to put it aside for years while I worked at mastering the form of a novel — I’m a natural short-story writer. Hope it’s quicker for you!

  3. Mary

    ” In December, when you start editing”

    January would be better. Or maybe March.

    It helps to see if you’re one of those writers who needs to let it cool before you can read what you actually wrote.

    • Yes, I tend to leave the roughs sitting a lot longer.

      And sometimes, 50K or not, it’s just not done so I keep going.

    • Zsuzsa

      I tend to take December off after NaNo. I’m a bit burned out, and then there’s Christmas preparations and family visits and parties and holidays…

      January, when I make the New Year’s Resolution, is when things restart.

  4. (D) Other

    My novel is at 74117, freaking cool, and not done yet. Real Life TM is getting in the way, but not horribly and not in a bad way. Yay! I’m pretty happy about it right now, actually. I’ve seen worse.

    Luckily we are Canadians, so I can still write some this weekend. We had Turkey Day at the correct time, not in blizzard time like y’all. >:D

  5. clint02554

    47871 and I still haven’t gotten to the first act climax that kicks things into a higher gear (even though I had that climax sketched out ten or twenty thousand words ago). I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, and I won’t know until I get to the end, if there is one.

  6. (D) I actually got 3K words in yesterday (along with other writing and Stuff). The training-montage-backstory seems over and we can get on with things. And I was ambushed by a new fantasy novel very loosely based on Central and South Asia around 1,500 BC/BCE or so and some things that are implied in the Rgveda. And a short story, and a scene for what I dreadfully fear may turn from short stories to a novel. Maybe.

    • So, a couple of completely unconnected digression in the middle? No problemo, they can get yanked out _after_ the official count. Right? 🙂 The important thing is all that writing in so little time!

  7. Zsuzsa

    I’m actually pretty happy with where my NaNo project is this year. This is the first year that I’ve been working with a beginning-to-end outline, so things have stayed on track for the most part. I know where I’m going, but the outline isn’t so detailed that I haven’t been able to play around a little bit and have fun. Some of those details that I hadn’t known going in even turned out to be plot-useful. The one problem is that the story grew at least one additional chapter that I hadn’t planned on, pushing me further back from the ending.

    I have no doubt that I’ll write 50,000 words this November. The only question is whether I will write two particular words: The End. I’m currently about halfway through Chapter 17 of 22 (under the current plan), so there is at least hope if I push hard for the next week.

    • Yep, my published NaNo drafts have very often not been finished by the end of November, even though they hit the 50K goal by the 30th. After all, novels tend to run 80 to 120K, for Trad Publishers, and some of us Indies strive to match that.

  8. I’m sitting at about 25k of what is likely to be three books. (Where they divide is going to be interesting. It’s not exactly a trilogy (in that I think the books will be readable in stand-alone format, but they’re chronologically related. Hard to tell when the bones are still taking shape.) I THINK I finally figured out what I need to do to the first ‘installment’ to make it more than a ‘sit around and wait to collect’ story. The Eldest Sister’s story is currently the best developed. The Middle Sister is going to be the knottiest one. There’s also a fair bit of world building in that 25k that I”m leaving as part of the word count. Since this is bones, might as well leave those bones in and filter them out when I hit ‘real first draft’ stage.

    It seems that my stories tend to come in batches. And I seem to need to write them as such, however I decide to release them (when I get that far.)

    • World building is necessary for the writer to keep the world consistent. You may sprinkle bits of the writing around where needed, or not. But the world building is an important part of the writing.

      • Yeah, just not commonly part of nano word count for me. This go around it’s about 4k words of what I have. And likely to get longer. On the other hand, that may bode well for how many stories this world could contain.