Friday, November 09, 2007

NaNo Tips - really this time

Many of you know my background in writing, and specifically that I have a BA in creative writing from a college with a well-known writing program which has produced more Pulitzer Prize winners per capita than any other college in the country. While I am relatively certain I will not soon be added to that list, I do happen to know a thing or two about writing. So today, I'm going to offer some actual tips on getting through NaNoWriMo.

The problem I keep seeing all over the blogosphere is that people get stuck. You reach a point in your story and have no idea what should happen next. Assuming you didn't write an outline before beginning, the first thing you should do is sketch a quick outline showing where you want things to go. Skip the next step in the plot (since if you knew that, you'd be writing it!) and pick up the story somewhere down the line. Then brainstorm different ways to get your character over that gap in the plot to where he/she needs to be.

And while we're doing that, here's an essential tip that really helped me the first year: no one says you have to write these 50,000 words in order. If you already know how a particularly dramatic scene is going to happen, go ahead and write it. You can cut and paste later, but for now you're writing, and writing something that is presumably exciting is a great way to kick-start your novel again.

A fun thing to do if you can't figure out the next scene is to introduce your character to someone he/she has never met before and have him/her reveal his deepest secret, either on purpose or by accident. Then imagine what might happen because of it.

Another good way to get back in the groove is to figure out what your character's lowest point is going to be. When is he/she going to be closest to giving up? Then make a list of things he/she will need to get back out of that hole. Does he need to learn a lesson first? Will he need some vital piece of information? Is there a prop she's going to use to escape? Whatever it is, write the scene in which he gets it.

And finally, if you know where your novel is going to end, go ahead and write the ending. Sometimes your characters will surprise you and reveal their own stories, and then all you have to do is go back and write it. Happy writing!


  1. I have seen many of you having struggles with this project. Good luck to you all!

  2. I *LOVE* these tips! Thanks, Jana!

    I was stuck in my plot (I'm anti-outline, whether that's a bad thing or not) - and finally got unstuck and moved past it.

    Now I know where I'm going for the next few thousand words but I've been procrastinating something awful. I will need to disconnect internet tomorrow and try to catch up.