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Where Imagination Meets Words

Just a little more than a week left before November...and the 2016 NANO competition...is behind us. Did you know that percentage-wise, very few writers who take the NANO leap actually bring in 50,000 words within those 30 days? I mention this because, should you be at the point where the momentum has petered out and this story won't be completely told...or reach that 50,000 word mark...by 11:59pm on November 30, you need not despair. You're in good company. I've launched into NANO more than once and found the story I was attempting to spin had some really big, hidden roots for me to stumble upon along the path. I've probably pulled up short more times than I finished the run to 50,000 words.

The Fork in the Road

If the story is heading off into cliche world where readers find it possible to know what is going to happen next...and thus why should they keep turning pages to find out if it will...perhaps it is time to take the story in a new direction. Your characters have been on a set path for awhile now...actually they are nearly 10 days from the end of a 50,000 word tale in the NANOWRIMO world...so take them in a different direction. Throw something unexpected in. This doesn't have to be something as dire as George R. R. Martin killing off a major character, or Brent Weeks' finding a new way to cripple one of his. It simply means it's time to throw a monkey wrench in things and discombobulate both

The Magic of the Number 3

Three is a magic number. If something is done or mentioned or experienced by characters once, you have an opportunity to repeat it two more times. This could be three people murdered (or at least found dead) in a mystery, but it could also mean three banks get robbed. In other words, three crimes are committed. This could mean the main character lands in a dangerous situation (or at least a fight) three times in an action-adventure tale. In this case, each situation should get the ante upped -- first time he ends up in a fist fight, second time he escapes more serious injury, third time he escapes getting killed. A character who seems to be a minor one could appear three different times: fir

Character Growth

All the major characters in a story must change/grow from page one to the final page of their story (which could be more than a single manuscript away if a trilogy or series is involved). This means they have things to overcome or something in the storyline affects them in such a way that they change their mind about something for the most part. If we’re talking megalomaniac villain, the change will be for the worst probably as they think up new ways to get their own way. These changes take place over the course of the story, small bits beginning to show up by the middle but more as the end of the manuscript gets closer. Time to really look at your character to see whether the experience you

Suspense - Every Story Needs It

To keep a reader reading there must be suspense. Suspense doesn’t mean danger, though it can, but more a case of the reader wanting to know what happens next. Questions and possibilities, decisions and indecisions on the part of the characters, if you’d like to look at it this way. What the “suspense” is depends on the type of story being written. In a mystery this is obviously Whodunit, How did they do it, How can the detective prove they did it, Why did they do it. In an action-adventure it’s a case of staying ahead of whatever danger threatens as well as possibly finding a treasure, rescuing someone, etc. In a romance it is how will the couple overcome whatever is keeping them apart (as t

The Path Begins in the Backstory

The fount from which all stories – well, all the BEST stories – flow is characters. Everything that happens in a story has its birth in what happened in ALL these characters’ lives prior to page one. And the experiences, events, and people of their past all falls under one heading: it’s all BACKSTORY. Why your sleuth can solve a crime can be traced to one or more things or people from their “life” prior to the story you are telling. The reason why the victim was robbed, framed, killed – why the murderer committed the crime – goes back to a seed that was planted, grew and flowered in their past. We aren’t talking flowers, unless a flower show competition or plant genetics is involved, but the

HALF WAY -- May Story Logic Be With You!

Whether you’re right on track with the word count, over what you need right now, or have fallen behind, with half the month gone there’s still time to stay on track with the storyline…which has nothing to do with the word count, which is the goal for NANO this month. 50,000 is more of a guideline, though to be counted a winner you have to bring in at least that many words. But if words is the only goal, that’s sad. Words shouldn’t be the mark if you reach the point of babbling or telling what happens over showing your characters in action. Whether you call it plot or storyline, whether you stick strictly to a pre-planned set up or are making it up as you go, both story and word count can com

Realigning...If Necessary

The middle of the month arrives tomorrow. You may be in sync with the perigree of the Full Moon today, which makes it closer to Earth than usual, resulting in a Super Moon between 6am and 6:30am US Eastern Standard Time today. In other words, you are closer to finishing your 50,000 words than you are away from doing so. As you close down your computer, laptop, typewriter or put your pen or pencil down tomorrow (the 15th) if you’ve stayed on course, you’ll have 25,000 words, or be half way to the 50,000 word finish line. If you’ve not managed to stay on schedule…and I’ll admit, I have not, my tendency being a slow start and a strong finish…then math enters the scene. Rather than attempt to pi

Getting the Groceries

When it comes to transitions that move a story from one episode to another there are a number of things that can be used. Transitions, of course, are important because they link the main scenes together as well as provide a bit of color…or normalcy to the tale. Daily chores are one of those things. Characters are people, after all, and people have things they need to do. Just because characters are in the middle of a story doesn’t mean certain things aren’t done. The fact that they DO them makes them more realistic. That doesn’t mean a writer needs to go into detail…although it is tempting when a word count is very much on your mind as tends to happen during National Novel Writing Month, but

50,000 Words Proves You Can Do It!

When you come down to it, 50,000 words is not a complete story in a number of genres. Quite a lot of the “contestants” doing National Novel Writing Month will still have a long way to go (if when all told the story will need to be 100,000 or more, as some fantasy and action-adventure tales are) or be within sight of the finish line, a true goal of 65,000 or 85,000 words for possibly a mystery or longer romance novel. I’ve done NANO more than once where, while hitting the 50,000 word mark, or more likely going over it, I was still barely half way through the storyline. Sad to say, a couple of those stories then languished where I left them. There is something about the holiday season that mak

Keep Moving One Step at a Time

There is something about approaching the exact middle of a story that tends to slow me down. That’s where we all are here on the 11th day of NANO where, if sticking strictly to the 1667 words per day goal, should mean we also hit the 18337 mark today. Because I’ll be gone over the Thanksgiving weekend and not writing while doing the family and friend visits, I’d figured out that today meant I needed to hit 21154 words today and that was doable a couple days ago. I’d written 3100 words on the 8th but brain and body decided a vacation from that high was needed and in the past two days I’ve barely brought in 2000 for two days worth of work. Not only are catch up words needed, inspiration is nee

When Characters Get Bossy

There is a point in any story when no matter what you had planned, it seems like the characters decide they know better. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is bad. If one of them gets the bit between their teeth and runs in the wrong direction, it’s not good. Sure, it adds words to your count, but if it takes the story into Never Never Land, where it should not be, that isn’t such a good thing. It could destroy the tale you wanted to tell and no amount of editing after NANO is going to cure that. I’ve had secondary characters attempt to take over a story. One in particular wanted to be the hero when he was supposed to be the sidekick. Mentally, we had a meeting. I promised him his own bo

Readjusting the Word Count for Success

Time management is more than just carving out a few hours from your day to write 1667 words this month. It’s thinking ahead to what else is on your schedule that could rip that time away from this project and distribute it elsewhere. It could be a work-related thing – overtime or a conference or presentation that takes you out of town. It could be sports related – following your favorite team via outings with like-minded friends, or attending a variety of kids games…which, if you have more than one child looking for you to be at their game, is a real time thief. But since this is November and more than one place in the world celebrates Thanksgiving Day, or has a series of religious days with

The Steps and PERCENTAGES Along the Way

It’s day 8 of NANO which means, to stay on track a total of 13336 words is the end goal. That’s not thirteen thousand new words, it’s simply 1667 words added to the 11669 you hopefully already had. Looks like an awfully lot of words, doesn’t it? But what 13336 words really equates to is that you’re 26.67% of the way to the 50,000 word goal. You’re past the one-forth mark! Congratulations! Now for that other 73.33% of the story. Yikes! The trick today is to look forward, not backward. Sure it’s nice to know you’ve pounded out a good solid proportion of this tale but within seven more days you can be at the 50% mark…that comes due on November 15th. You can do it! All it takes is 1667 words a d

On Point of View (POV)

Some writers latch on to what Point of View is immediately. Others aren't quite sure what it is or how to deal with it. Actually, they're probably overthinking what it should be, which is simply the writer being in the mind of just one character. It can be done in various ways in the text. For instance, it's easy to stay in one character's head if the presentation is in 1st person, that is, the character is telling the story himself or herself. The reader doesn't know anything that the character doesn't. Not what others are thinking or what they are doing if the character telling the story can't physically see them or hear them. An example of 1st person presentation is Jim Butcher's Dresden

Action and Reaction: Moving Ahead Logically

One of the easiest ways to move ahead in your novel is to present an ACTION and then have the characters REACT to it. An action early on can be the introduction of a new character. An action can be something said. An action can be information given or discovered. An action can be physical movement -- taking a swing at someone, kissing them, turning away from them. An action can be destructive -- shooting someone, blowing something up, slapping someone, rejecting something (such as a suggestion) or a person. The reaction is how the character reacts to that action. They could be interested in the new character or hate them on sight, or be suspicious of them. They could respond to whatever is s

Entering a New Point in Your Novel

It's the 5th day of NANO and to stay on point with the goal, by the end of today the 8335 word mark needs to be reached. If the entire novel will be 50,000 words, you're at the 16.6% mark. Of course, if the finished book will have far more words when completed (like 90,000, 100,000 or more) this percent point to the true end will be smaller. We're talking today about being at least 15% of the way into the story though. This is where some of the things are out of the way, the major characters have been introduced and the goal or quest has been presented and the first steps toward that goal might already have been taken. If they haven't been, it's time to do so now. And just as important, some

Don't Forget the Stage Directions

A writer either finds writing dialogue easy or a real pain...something they sweat out. Either way, if you don't tell your reader how your character is acting while speaking, you don't make it easy for them to truly start the movie in their mind as you see it in yours. This goes beyond dialogue tags that indicate who is saying what. It also shows what they might be doing. Let's face it, when you're talking on the phone, are you perfectly still, not moving at all? Not responding in facial expression to what the person at the other -- and unseen -- end of the conversation is doing? When you are speaking, this is your point of view (POV), isn't it? But to a friend or family member who happens to