Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week Two Tips

NaNoWriMo Week Two Tips

writers-block-4 Tip Zero: DON’T GIVE UP!

You started out NaNoWriMo with the world’s greatest idea, wrote furiously for a week, and now you find yourself staring at a blank page, unable to fathom a single idea to propel your book forward. If you’ve outlined, that document is now thrown out the window, a hopelessly inane piece of unimaginative tripe. If you’re pantsing, the awful mess of spaghetti prose you’ve laid out has tempted you to throw out everything you’ve written and start anew, or give up entirely. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Week Two.

The other thing that should be happening is that you’ve made the turn into the Special World of Act II. In Act I (see Week One Tips), you introduced your characters, defined their specific issues and goals, and sent them on a fruitless quest to solve and/or avoid these issues. But now it’s time for your characters to stop reacting, and start acting. They must enter a new world of excitement and danger. This Special World is far different than where they started, full of opportunity and challenges. They are now in enemy territory, trying to negotiate their way through unfamiliar terrain. No more sitting around on their keisters, they must act.

Week Two is all about rising challenges. Your characters are now on a mission, and they need to accomplish three things over the next week or so:

  1. Acquire the skills needed to tackle the mission.
  2. Identify their friends and foes, and gather their friends close (and their enemies closer?). A handy way to achieve this is through the Bar Scene or it’s equivalent, where both allies and enemies gather for refreshment, and secret knowledge is shared.
  3. Practice their skills against increasingly difficult opposition.

By the end of the week, they should be approaching the enemy’s hideout, and heading for the main crisis point of the story. Note that isn’t the Final Battle or Climax, this is just their first big encounter with the enemy which occurs about 1/2 to 2/3’s of the way into the book, depending on whose structure you follow. So by this coming weekend, they should be on their way if not actively engaged with the Enemy.

So now for my Tips for Week Two:

  1. Keep Writing. Don’t stop. Ever. This is your goal, this is your mission. You must suffer for your craft, as your characters must suffer to achieve their goals. No matter what form of bilge appears in your manuscript, you must persevere.
  2. Keep raising the stakes. Everything the character wins must be earned. The risk of failure is growing. The rewards of success are multiplying. We’re not at an extreme yet, but keep upping the tension.
  3. Help the character grow by encouraging lesson-learning setbacks. Make sure that your characters are driving the plot, making things happen, and getting into loads of trouble on their quest.
  4. Don’t place them in impossible situations. Provide them with the skills to succeed, give them mentors and allies. They will need a certain level of confidence for the Big Fight to come.
  5. Goals, goals, goals. No matter how ridiculous the goal, your characters must pursue them with bulldog-like tenacity. Once you focus on goals, then add the obvious converse—Obstacles. Higher walls, deeper moats, darker storms, better enemies.
  6. Remember, your Villains have goals and dreams too, and they pursue them with just as much, if not more tenacity than your Heroes. Who wants it more? What does your Hero learn from your Villain about life and desire? What does your Hero learn that the Villain doesn’t?

If you still get stuck, here are some helpful tricks to keep the narrative flowing:

  1. What’s the Worst Thing that can happen right now? Flat tire? Roving gang of Zombies? Meteor strike? Swarm of locusts? Make it so.
  2. What are your character’s worst fears? Afraid of heights? A failing report card? Snakes? (on a plane?) Getting fired? Make them happen.
  3. Reversals. Every scene must contain a Reversal of Fortune, either something really good or really bad, just something unexpected. Hire a maid? She steals your cash. Go out to dinner? Credit card fails. Read the newspaper? Don’t read the obits…you won’t like what’s there.
  4. Stop writing for a day and conduct an interview of your character. There are many templates of these online, but just pretend you’re conducting an interview for your blog. Heck, if it helps your word count, have your character answer a phone call from Mom and explain exactly what she’s doing in sub-Saharan Africa chasing infected monkeys while trying to avoid the looming insurrection against the local backwater dictator.
  5. When all else fails, kill off a character. Yes, it sounds trite, but it’s a stark reminder to your characters of what the ultimate price of failure is: Death. It may make them reconsider their commitment to action, and rededicate them to the cause.

Good luck, and keep writing! This is definitely the hardest week to get through, but have faith, and keep it up!


  1. Maybe you can share some of your synopsis and we can offer suggestions?

  2. Sounds like you're on the right track, and especially with you're don't give up attitude! Thanks for all the awesome tips and inspiration. :D

  3. I shouldn't be stopping to read blogs, but you have such impressive tips! Thanks.

  4. I am bookmarking this. Really awesome - even for months OTHER than November :-)

    PS If you decide to interview a character - check out this post on Carolina Valdez Miller's blog:


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