NaNo Update #2

November 15 marks the halfway point in the annual National Novel Writers Month competition. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, beginning on November 1. As of November 15, I was at 27,500 words. This should be cause for celebration, but I’m worried about not having enough “story” left to get to the magic 50,000 number.

I’m getting helpful advice, though. One of the great benefits of “doing NaNo” is the opportunity it provides to network and brainstorm with other writers from your region. At a recent writing session the other night at a coffee shop in Hartford, CT, I shared my dilemma with my NaNo compatriots. Our Municipal Liaison, aka Fearless Leader, made a couple of good suggestions: add a dream sequence or another murder. My brother gave me the same counsel on the dream sequence. I’m not a big fan of dream sequences. They take the reader out of the story and can often confuse or disorient the reader. But, hey, this is NaNo. This is the time to try something unconventional. If it doesn’t work, I can always cut it later. The second murder idea intrigued me. I did this in last year’s NaNo entry and it added a layer of intrigue to my story.

Other suggestions from my colleagues included adding another character and a new story line and writing out of sequence, which I did last year to great effect. These are all sound ideas, but this is where my cautionary light goes on. When considering things like new characters or story lines, the writer must be careful not to merely pile on extra character or stories just for the sake of stretching out the word count. These enhancements only work if they flow organically from the core story. For example, if a writer is contemplating adding a murder, it cannot be a gratuitous killing of a minor character, which will have little effect on the story arc and serve only to distract the reader. And the writer must also select the right character to kill off. In any case, the act must flow naturally and logically from the prior events of the story. The writer must also consider how the solving of the murder plays into the resolution of the story.

One could argue these are questions for the revision phase of the process. The great thing about NaNo, though, is that for 30 days, writers can write with reckless abandon if they choose. Or not.



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4 responses to “NaNo Update #2

  1. Congrats on the word count so far! I love how you are taking risks and trying new things for your NaNo. AND I love how you are being true to your cautionary light. My NaNo got hijacked, but the novel is still there and I am still working on it, just not in letter of the NaNoWriMo law. I have no doubt you will reach your 50,000 and have a great first draft.

    • Amy,
      Thanks for your comments. The amazing thing about NaNo is the discoveries a writer makes when he is able to free himself to look at things differently and do things he would never try without the pressure of a deadline. I made a breakthrough yesterday just by reimaginging a scene and the scene basicailly wrote itself. That is pure magic. Are you doing NaNo this year? If so, good luck to you. Thanks again.

  2. You’re right, it is magic at times and those moments are rare enough that it makes appreciating them all the better! I did begin NaNo. It is my third attempt. My first year I reached the finish line, the second year fizzled (bad year to try – lost both my parents that year) and this year, well, it got hijacked. If you’d care to read about it, here’s my blog post on what happened – all good results, just not what I’d planned!

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