Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 26•16

It’s here: the final days to finish your NaNoWriMo novel and hit your word count.  Your rewards are within reach. You can do this. The weekend is  sprawling before you with time and space and granting permission to write.

In case your story is stalling or thin here are a few idea for you:

Introduce a new character: every new character enters the story with a mystery attached to him or her. Because readers don’t know a darn thing about them.

godfather-sonny-shotAdd a Plot Point: A plot point spins the story in a new direction, often forcing the protagonist to act or decide or react. After it happens there is no going back to the way things were. An example of a major plot point from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is when the son-in-law Carlos sets up Sonny, the oldest Corleone son for an assassination. Once Sonny is dead it’s clear that the Five Families must find a way to stop the war, end the bloodshed. Vito Corleone calls for a major meeting where terms are put into place.

Add a twist: This can be a complication or even a solution  readers didn’t see coming, but shifts the situation in a new direction. In The Hunger Games sponsors back in the Capitol can send gifts–food, medicine, tools, supplies to the tributes while they’re fighting it out in the Arena. The gift can be life saving. This factor was foreshadowed earlier when Katniss and Peeta were training for the fray.  Some water, a knife or even matches can mean the difference between life and death. And those things only come from sponsors. And to get sponsors, you have to make people like you.Haymitch Abernathyhunger-games-gift-from-sponsors

Speaking of Foreshadowing: Can you add a payoff at this point for something you foreshadowed earlier in the story? Foreshadowing is such a primo literary device, don’t overlook it in your repertoire. I lean toward subtle methods rather than Chekov’s gun in Act 1.

“The term “Chekhov’s gun” comes from a bit of advice Chekhov shared with other writers. In an 1889 letter to playwright Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev, Chekhov wrote:

One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it….

Chekhov is warning against extraneous detail. A gun is a looming image. It’s full of meaning; it has the potential for danger and death. To give it attention is a signal to readers that they should pay attention. If nothing comes of it, readers can feel duped. Every detail must have purpose. If you give something significance early in the story, follow through on it.” from Gotham Writers

Return to your outline: What scenes or ideas are you leaving out or can you flesh out? Your outline should lay out:

  1. Who the story is about.
  2. Where it takes place.
  3. What is at stake/the central conflict.
  4. What obstacles will thwart your protagonist.
  5. How it will all turn out.

Aim hard for that ending. At a good clip, but not a gallop. Make a  quick list of questions that need answering, problems that need to be resolved. All the consequences of what has come before are in play now. Are all the main characters going to survive? Will there be a comeuppance, a hard lesson, a battle royale?

Caffeine. Lots of it.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart.

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