Monday, November 21

NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

NaNoWriMo is coming to an end. We can see the finish line.

If you're making your word count goal, awesome! Go you!!

If you haven't made your word count (like me), even if you are so desperately behind you don't think there's any hope you'll catch up, take heart!

How many words have you written for NaNoWriMo? Are those words you would have written if you hadn't done NaNo? If not, you're already a winner!

If you're having trouble finding the motivation to continue, or you're looking for a new direction, here are a few ideas.

A few questions that might help you decide what to do:

1. Have you changed your mind about the genre that best describes your story?

This sounds ludicrously, obnoxiously, aggressively obvious, but judging from the beginning efforts of many writers—my own included!—it isn't.

When you began writing your story on Nov 1, what genre did you think best described the story forming in your tortured writer's soul?

Is that still the genre you're writing in? If not, don't panic! Panic helps no one.

If you've genre-hopped then that means you've found out more about your story. That's awesome! You thought your book belonged in a certain category and now that you know more about it you realize that's not the case.

Sure, maybe you'll have to go back and rewrite some scenes, but so what? If you're anything like me, you'll likely end up radically revising each scene—and likely more than once!

Yes, like anything worthwhile, writing is a lot of work! There's a reason why there are SO MANY writers and are, relatively speaking, so few authors.

2. Is your protagonist still the focus?

If so, great! If not, remember that this is a zero draft, these are musings, scribblings. What you write here need only have the slightest of passing resemblances to a story. This is a chance for you to play with words and ideas and, in so doing, to discover your story's shape, its dimensions.

Discover your characters. Put them in different situations. What are their likes? Make us love them, make us identify with them, then torture them. Turn their lives inside out. What do they do next?

Actions often show a person's values much more clearly and more eloquently than words ever could.

In any case, as your story develops, as it unfolds in front of you, you might very well come to understand that the fictional person you thought was the protagonist—meaning that her goals, her desires, drive the story—isn’t. Perhaps she’s the antagonist, or the protagonist’s helper. There are all kinds of possibilities.

It could also be that you haven't met your protagonist yet. In a zero draft everything is on the table.

3. What does your protagonist want? What drives your protagonist?

Quickly! Before you look at any of the slips of paper tacked to your walls, write down your answer to these questions:

a. What does your protagonist want more than anything?
b. What does your protagonist fear more than anything?
c. How does your protagonist achieve the thing she wants?
d. How does your protagonist avoid the thing she hates?
e. What specific, concrete, goal does your protagonist have?


Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark wanted to find the Ark and bring it to the United States.

In Stranger Things, Will Byers friends’ goal was to find Will and bring him home.

In the TV Series Supernatural Dean and Sam want to rid the world of monsters. Each episode this general goal is seen through the lens of a different adventure. Either the boys are detecting, chasing and killing a specific monster—one that is actively menacing a specific person or group of people—or Sam and Dean are worried about becoming monsters, of becoming the thing they hate.

Which brings us to ...

4. What does your protagonist hate?

Often the thing we fear the most seems the most real, the most likely to happen. Perversely, the future we dread is often the one we spend the most time thinking about. What would this look like for your protagonist?

For example, if your character fears disconnection then perhaps she desperately wants to feel as though she is connected to something larger to herself. Something important. Something beautiful.

Perhaps, concretely, your character loves her business and fears she’ll lose it. Her life will be nothing without her business and so she will do anything, go to any extent, to save it, to protect it.

Or perhaps your character loves a person. He can't image life without her and, as a result, will do anything to preserve his connection to her.

I find that, often, a fear can be a more concrete thing than a love and so can be easier to start from.

Here is the link to a list of articles I’ve written for NaNoWriMo.

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I want to recommend Cruising for Murder: A Myrtle Clover Cozy Mystery by by Elizabeth Spann Craig. From the blurb: “When Myrtle and her friend Miles set out for adventure on the high sea, they assume most of the trip’s excitement will result from shore excursions to charming Alaskan villages. They feel as if their ship has come in. But when a fellow passenger disappears, Myrtle realizes she must seize the helm and find the killer...before more souls are lost.”

That’s it! I’ll talk to you again tomorrow. Until then, good writing!


  1. Helpful post. I just finished my writing for the day and I'm over 40K words. However, I'm going to be out of town for Thanksgiving and not sure how much time I'll have to write. So I'll likely be madly scrambling to finish next week!

    1. Thanks Charlotte! Over 40k, that's awesome. :-) If you want encouragement, just leave a comment and I'll slip into my cheerleader shoes and grab a couple of pom-poms. Terrific progress so far, I feel in my gut you're going to finish!

  2. I've just passed the 40k point, too, and I'm still not sure which genre I'm writing in. Is it romance? Or is it women's fiction? Actually I'll be happy if it is just finished!

    1. Gail, congrats! You're well on your way to winning NaNo! About the difference between women's fiction and romance, here's a terrific article on the subject:

      Basically, in a romance the relationship between the lovers is the central plot arc. Also, romance stories generally have a happily-ever-after ending. Women's fiction, on the other hand, is about the female journey. The central focus of the story isn't the relationship between two lovers, it is the growth of the female protagonist, her arc. The goal of women's literature is to understand the female psyche.

      Personally I wouldn't worry about the difference too much at this stage. Finish NaNo, put your manuscript in a drawer and celebrate your wonderful achievement! Time enough for these sort of questions when you write your next draft.


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