Monday, November 16, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week Three Tips

NaNoWriMo Week Three Tips

drawning-vader-vs-luke-in-dagobah For those doing NaNoWriMo, one of two things has happened: you’ve either forged ahead, or lost interest and motivation. Either way, congratulations for hitting the halfway point! Believe it or not, everything is downhill from here. Why? Here’s what you should have accomplished by now:

  • Introduced all the main characters, good and bad, and gotten to know them.
  • Figured out things like the Story Question, the main conflict, separated your characters into good guys/bad guys, and made your hero face increasing challenges.
  • Included foreshadowing as to what to expect in the second half. We understand the dilemmas facing the Hero, but it still may not be clear how to solve them.

That’s a lot to have accomplished in 15 days! Pat yourself on the back, take a deep breath, because this is when the “real” writing begins. Those of you who have abandoned NaNoWriMo are missing the thrill of the Crisis and Climax, where everything is put on the line, and your main character makes the most wonderful transformation. Now, onto the details.

We’re now into the meat of Act II. Your Hero has a goal, and only one thing stands in the way. The Villain. He must confront the villain, enter their lair, and retrieve something incredibly valuable. This is known as the Crisis, but it isn’t the ultimate Climax of the story. Here is where he’s entered foreign land, learned all the curious rules about it and gathered Allies, now attempts to take on the Villain on the Villain’s home turf. Generally, this is not a good idea, but your Hero must be so committed to the journey that he will face any risk to achieve his goal.

So he’s off to face the Villain, who is kind of “huh?” right now. The Villain is not really focused on some insignificant bug that’s buzzing around. He’s off doing his dastardly deeds, heedless of the consequences. By the end of this week, that all changes. He now will see the Hero as his main threat, so he’ll come after the Hero with everything in his arsenal. Week Three is when you separate the men from the boys, the Heroes from the Wannabe’s. So here is a general outline:

  1. The Hero approaches the Villain’s Inner Sanctum. The Villain is safe and secure in his world, not really worried about pesky Heroes showing up. He may have even tried to befriend or recruit the Hero, but it’s becoming clear that they are diametrically opposed on certain key elements.
  2. The Hero engages the Villain in a preliminary scuffle. Not an all out war, not a duel to the death. More like a shoving match. There may be lesser cohorts that he does defeat on the way to facing the Villain, but he’s still unprepared for a final showdown.
  3. The Hero steals something valuable from the Villain (knowledge, power, influence, allies, money, love, secrets, clues, etc). The Villain has underestimated his foe, but won’t make that mistake again.
  4. The Villain is really pissed off and pursues the Hero. “It’s On” as they say. The Hero must flee back to relative safety. He about to be on his way back to his Ordinary World, but everything has changed, and he can’t return until the Enemy is defeated.

So now onto the Tips for Week Three:wickedwitch2

  • Raise the stakes. Raise the stakes. Raise the stakes. The story’s no longer about finding a hamburger joint. It’s now a life-and-death struggle to find a hamburger joint, and this hairy dude holding your girlfriend hostage.
  • The Hero must be willing to face death to confront the Villain. This is a perfect time to kill off a couple characters, to remind the Hero what the ultimate price of failure is. If not actual death, then show those characters fighting the Villain…and losing so badly they abandon the journey. Either way, they’re martyrs who remind the Hero what he’s fighting for.
  • The Hero will end the week with everything he needs to defeat the Villain…except for one thing: the ability to defeat his own inner demons. This is the focus of Week Four, so hold off on major transformations.
  • A Hero’s allies can not be trusted. They have their own agendas. They are lured by the Villain and may fall prey to their baser needs. The Villain has agents everywhere, ready to snatch away unwary travelers in his kingdom.
  • Reward the Hero for his efforts after he faces the Villain. You could call this the “final breather” before the very end of the story, because after this week, it’s a frantic race to the finish.

If you still get stuck, here are some thoughts to keep you going:

  • What is the villain’s agenda? How does he react when some usurper dares invade his territory?
  • Put more things on the line, more lives in jeopardy, more things the Hero holds dear in the balance.
  • Your Hero must cling to his original goals through thick and thin, despite all the evidence that they be on the wrong path. Is saving the world really worth the sacrifice? All he wants is a burger, but now he has to save the world? WTF?? Can’t he just have a burger and call it a day? No, he can’t. Drill that through his head. You’re in Act II buddy, no turning back now.
  • There are no easy victories at this point. Everything is earned with a steep price. The Call to Quit is strong here. Both for you as a writer and the Hero. But you both can’t.
  • Everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Here. Make it so. Deal with it.
  • Don’t give up. I mean you, as the writer. You can get through this rough week where your characters are beat up and flailing against a seemingly invincible enemy. But this week will expose the enemy’s weaknesses, and hopefully illustrate your strengths as a writer. Now you know how to defeat the enemy, and Week Four will be a breeze.

Good luck!


  1. Great post! Wow! Your word count is impressive. Thanks for the great ideas... forging on :o)

  2. Great post! Thanks for breaking it down. I feel like I'm plodding next to your numbers at 32,700.


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