Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Week One Tips

NaNoWriMo: Week One Tips

img-nanowrimo-typewriter For those of you doing NaNoWriMo, welcome! Here are some tips for working through Week One, especially for the pantsers among us (writing by the seat of our pants).

You’ve had a day or two with your new novel. You’ve created some characters, a scene or two, and maybe some plot. Week One is all about Character Development, more or less the “Act One” of your novel. You’re introducing your characters, your world, and it’s all interesting and new. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Show your character in some ordinary situations. Show their goals and dreams, and how they can’t immediately achieve them. Show how they’re miserable failures who really don’t deserve to star in a story. Everything they touch turns to crap. Even Superman blows it with Lois Lane. But don’t overload them right away. Act One is about showing them trying to solve their problems with the same old approaches, which of course doesn’t work. They’re essentially in a rut.
  • Conflict is essential at every stage of your novel. To create conflict, you might want to consider Plot Reversals. Nothing your character expects can occur. If they go for a coffee, they don’t have enough money, or the store is closed, or they don’t have the right brand, or the Evil Barista messes up their order. If they are walking the dog, then the dog runs away, or chases a squirrel, or bites another dog, or poops on the neighbor’s lawn right in front of him. Or something can go well, like a feared blind date where the guy or girl is actually nice and attractive. Reversals. Use them.
  • Set up the Adventure. Examples: A letter in the mail promising a prize if they do X, Y, and Z. A mysterious message on the answering machine talking about inheritances. A want ad in the paper for an exciting job. A random stranger on the bus who tells them how they lost 70 lbs in 3 days. Define your character’s problem, and then entice them to go out and find a solution.
  • What is the problem? Seriously. Why is your character single? Why can’t she excel at work? Why does his brother always outperform him? Why do the Aliens find her so interesting? Why are vampires always hanging around? Why are the Voices so irritating?
  • Who does your character listen to for advice? Who can they trust? Is there someone out there to help guide them, someone who may have BTDT in the past? Is there someone out there who will steer them wrong? What skills will they need on their Journey, and who will help them learn these skills?
  • What is your character afraid of? Why won’t he run for Congress? Why doesn’t she go out on dates? Why can’t he just assault the enemy’s fortress? Why can’t she just tell her mom the truth for once? What is keeping them trapped in their own miserable lives with their tired circle of friends, and what is it going to take to for them to get moving? They don’t have to get moving, not quite yet, but the more uncomfortable you make it, they more impetus they will have for change.

If you can cover all this in a week, and in 12-25K words, you’re doing great! Just keep putting your character through more and more situations until you find what they really need to get going. Then next week, your character will start actively working on their problems, start encounter resistance and Enemies, and will take the conflict to the next level.



  1. Good tips! I'm working on the conflict thing, got to make their lives difficult!

  2. Great tips! I especially love the last one - we forget that sometimes :)

    Hope NaNo is going well!

  3. LOL! You're right- there's no way I'm going to keep up with these :) These are some great tips! Thank you. Oh BTW- I gave you an award on my blog :)

    Good Luck!

  4. Forget, NaNo! This is awesome advice period. I'm going to print it and frame it and hang it on my wall:)

  5. Praise is only going to go to my head.
    Now everybody get writing! :)

    (and thanks for the award)

  6. Funny I like reading blogs and will not stop but I did finish the outline of Act 1 today along with my Character bios. So I guess I am on the write track. Tomorrow will tell the tale. Thanks for the advice.

  7. I've just popped a little something on my blog for you. Check it out :)

    Good post by the way.

  8. This is amazing! While this post was done in 2009 and I am doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year (2011) so this post really does help!!

  9. Glad this is still useful.
    I'm adding my NaNo link to this blog.


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