NaNo Tips for Newbies

12:01 November 1, 2015 – NaNoWriMo begins.  I’ll be asleep thank you.  But when I am able to start on my nano project I have my 30 points of light,  er 30 outline points. Trouble is,  I only have my outline thought out to about 15.  Head scratching and brainstorming have been the brunt of my nano planning for the last couple of days.  Characters are solid,  as this is a continuation of a previous story. My world building is somewhat completed as I have much of it  planned out in my mind.

I have the major story arc, the main plot points, and some key points down. As I flesh this out from the are bones skeleton,  I thought I’d share a few points for the newbies.

Whenever you get stuck, here are 5 points that can move your story forward.

  1. Someone has to die.    In National Treasure, someone had to go to prison. IN your novel,  someone has to die. The possibilities are endless.  That lady that cut you off on the interstate? Change her to a male drunk driver that crashes into a truck, hindering your protagonists progress.  The person that made you feel like not only what you said or did was wrong but who you are is wrong –  yeah,  change the sex, change the hair color, keep one letter from their name –  let’s say A – and recreate them.  If it’s a person that you have to deal with often, like a coworker, a neighbor perhaps save their death scene for a climactic scene. Andrea dies on page 37. Alex died on page 98. Aella was spared in chapter 1, chapter 5, chapter 9, and again in chapter 27. In fact he is spared for this book.  Of course, stuff happens.  I’m not going to give it away, but bad stuff, lots of bad bad stuff!  See what I did there?  I extracted my writerly revenge on the person who I borrowed the A from at least 4 times in the first book.  I call it my Phoenix Effect – how many ways/times can you kill off the person that pissed you off without going to jail?  Remember also,  that Eric is the NaNo sacrificial lamb. Be sure to  utter the worship word to the NaNo gods before ending Eric.
  2. Wrong turns can be redeemed and are usable. Let’s say the protagonist made a wrong choice, work it!  I mean really work it.  Let’s say our protagonist decides to take off in the middle of the night alone when she sees a big burly man on the surveillance cameras.  Because we think we can do anything , right ladies?  How many times has your mother told you not to go out alone at night?  It’s not just a big city thing,  there are weirdos out there!  USE IT.  USE ALL OF IT!
  3. There’s a lull in the action. Why not seize this opportunity to express the character’s internal struggles? Or have a scene where they share some of their past that explains why they react a certain way?
  4. Plot bunny! Whether it is executed in grand Monty Python style,  or  it permutates into something insidious . . .  it can be like the Easter eggs in video games. What fun! How did that cute little bunny manage to turn into a tentacled sea monster that spews acid anyway? You never know what you will find in Atlantis, right?
  5. You have absolutely no idea where to go from here . . . . Let’s say for argument sake that you made an outline, however you have deviated from said outline.  A.) Go review the outline,  and make up something  of how you can get from where you are back on track to the outline.  OR B.) throw the outline away and the world is your oyster.  Seriously.  I mean after all, if Darth Vader can go from being the prophesied Chosen One  with the highest number of midi-chlorian in his blood as a child – ever, to suddenly accepting Darth Sidious as his master –  talk about plot hole that you could shove an entire universe through! I mean come on,  he back-talked and questioned everything that Quai-Gon Jinn said, questioned Obi Wan, questioned Yoda – but  suddenly is  ‘Yes master’ to Darth Sidious, talk about your character being inconsistent!  but then again we aren’t George Lucas. Maybe you should go back to option A.

Most of all, NaNo is supposed to be a fun challenge. It’s a first draft. I’ve been known  to type in XXXXX (Need a place-name here)  instead of stressing over those details while I am in draft mode.  Get it down. There is always time to revise come December 1. It’s not the time to stress over proper grammar or whether your tense is consistent. Don’t freak out because your friend shared a passage that rocked and you can’t see  anything you’ve written yet that is half as good.  Whatever!  Keep writing. Write like the wind, at least 1667 words per day.  I myself tend to  write 2500 to 3000 the first week,  around 2000 or more the second week, and between 1500 and 2000 the remainder. I am not online on the weekends, so any weekend writing is done with pen and notebook and is then translated with Dragon on Monday. Dictation goes much faster than typing, and my Monday word counts can be 12K or more, because it’s 3 days worth of writing.  Whatever works for you!

Write on my friends, write on!



Lemon Pie, Anyone?

Quotidiandose does not own rights to this clipart.

Quotidiandose does not own rights to this clip art.

Isn’t it amazing  when you get an idea and a plan, you can almost certainly count on a detour up ahead?

*Enter Hurricane force winds to wreck your best laid plans*

I was on a roll, was working hard, head down and focused which in and of itself was close to a miracle. And then . . . life happens.  LIFE ENTERS STAGE RIGHT.

A writer’s ego is a very delicate and fragile thing. Which is ironic because we are also egotistical, thinking that what we have to say is so important that everyone needs to read it!  Conflicted much?  Yeah, I would say so!

Battle hardened veterans become tougher with each new battle.  We may not always win the battles, but we gain experience and training with each new interaction in the arena.  At some point battle hardened can turn into battle weary.

When life gives you lemons. . . . but what do you do if it’s hurling them at you at  the speed of 120 mph breaking ball in rapid secession?

You protect yourself of course! Sometimes that means taking cover, ducking, or running out-of-the-way. Sometimes it means curling up into a tight ball and just crying until it passes.

I was on a roll typing away on the latest WIP when the Seven Things To Know mentioned in Confessions of a Writer post came up.  As I mentioned I did some real soul-searching based on the friend’s comments.  In that searching I made a list of pros and cons about myself as a writer and a person.  So I took the abundance of lemons thrown at me and made lemon pie! 

One of the ingredients in my pie  is my editing skills. I’ve only had two people out of twenty-three that didn’t care for my editing.  One was of the opinion that their rough draft was golden as is. I refer to Stephen King on this one – All first drafts are crap!  The second one was more of a clash of personalities and lack of handholding on my part. Sorry,  but I’m not a coddler. Just ask my kids on that point.

So in that vein,  I am doing a new feature on Thursdays.  Instead of the ‘throwback’ pictures and such which seems to be the phase going on that book of Face, my Thursday feature will be From the Editor’s Desk.  I tried for some alliterative cuteness  but couldn’t come up with anything clever.

In a previous post Reading and Writing, I addressed key elements of writing.

  •  PLOT – what happens, the structure of the story.  There are twenty basic plots, and beyond that are variations on those basic twenty.
  • CHARACTERIZATION – the way that the characters act or are portrayed to convey the plot.
  • POV – the point of view, or perspective that the story is told from.  I have written in first person and in third,  the current one being in third person omniscient.
  • SETTING –  the time, place, or even atmosphere in which the story is set.This is the world building that is crucial to your story.
  • STYLE –   the language used  by the narrator to convey the story. The style of Mark Twain is a more casual laid back manner than that of Jane Austin. You know that Twain’s characters are poor folk, where as many of Austin’s works are about an aristocratic class.
  • THEME –  a universal meaning that your readers will connect to, or most readers will connect to.

My plan is to address each of these  in more depth over the next six weeks.  Then after that, will be common mistakes that newbies made.  (I can speak from the voice of experience here, I think I’ve made them all.) Stay tuned for some tasty tidbits!

Write on my friends, write on!

Tick Tock – NaNo O’clock!

I thought this bit of nano advice was  intersting and could really help  novices and seasoned alike.  In order to  put this method into practice though I will have to expand my index cards from 13 to 30.  Therefore I am off, and I leave you in the hands of my guest – Lazette Gifford!


Welcome to the madness.

In my part of the world, November used to be a quiet month known for holidays, family and the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere.  That’s no longer true for a lot of people.  Some people have been preparing for months and still aren’t ready for the fated 12:01 AM on November 1, 2014; the closer we get to that time, the more crazy they (okay, we) become.  The shoppers of Black Friday have nothing on the rush of writers to their computers, tablets or paper as NaNo begins.

I am about to enter my fourteenth run at the November NaNoWriMo fun.  What makes a person leap into this insanity for so many years in a row?  It’s fun. No really, it is.  Once you get over the idea that there is a ‘fail’ component, then you can join in without the unnecessary angst.  There is absolutely nothing like the joy of knowing you are taking part in an intellectual marathon, and that there are thousands of others, all around the world, are leaping into the creative chaos with you.

But what if you don’t reach 50K?

If you reached a word count higher than you would normally get, then good for you — you win.   If you didn’t reach that fabled 50,000 word mark, it is not the end of the world, the end of your writing career or anything else dire and unforgiveable.  Not reaching the goal might mean this kind of ‘fun’ is not the nudge you need, or it might mean you aren’t ready for it this year.  Just remember that these are only words and this is only one month out of the year.

Me?  I’ve reached 50k and more every year, but that’s because I write every day (even outside of NaNo) and I love the creation of stories.  I’m also not afraid to make mistakes in the writing since I know I’ll be editing later.  I’ve done some novels as a panster, some with short outlines and some with every long, complicated outlines.  The trick is to find what works for you and what works for this particular book.  The approach often changes with different novels.  I will say, though, that writing is not easy — not for me or anyone else.  Some aspects may come easier for some people, but in the end, writing is about hard work, editing, facing your creativity and you shortcomings and pushing on through.

During NaNo, there are two things that can help even a pantser.  One is to write down thirty events that happen in your story.  This gives you one subject to write about every day.  These have to be fairly big events in order to get the 1667 words a day you will need.  ‘Jane has a party’ will work while ‘Jane decides to wear the blue dress to the party’ is going to have a far harder time.  There are a lot of possibilities with ‘has a party’ that you can expand on.  Choosing the dress is a much smaller field to work from and might be harder to expand.

Once you get your words for the day, look at your next 30 day entry and try writing out a list of five smaller steps that will happen for the next day’s writing.  If you write 350 words for each of those steps, you’ll easily make your word count.  Some will go over and some under that number of words, but it will give you a little nudge so that you aren’t stuck with the dreaded ‘What happens next?’ problem.  These are kind of like little cue cards to keep you going.

How long it takes you to write those words is going to vary from day-to-day, depending on how much time you have and how ready you are to write.  There are days when I have several hours free and write like a madman — but mostly because it’s fun.  There are other days when I have to fit the words between work and other obligations.  Being freelance and working from home is a bonus because if I am waiting for a work-related email I can sneak a few paragraphs in.  Generally, I do better in long stretches, though.  I love the feel of dropping into a story world and living there for a while.

You must remember one important fact, though:  This is a first draft marathon.  The story will need editing later.  Even if you edit as you go (a bad habit for NaNo), you will still have to go over it at least one more time before you consider submission or publication.  The best thing you can do is plan to put the novel aside for weeks, even months, before you look at it again.  This will allow you to stop seeing what you expect to be there.  You can also try your luck at finding beta readers to go over the work, but the more you learn to do for yourself, the better your first drafts will become.

That work is for the future, though.  In November all you need do is throw yourself into your story and have fun.  Go write the story you want to tell.  You may not get it right the first time, but that doesn’t matter.  We have the joy of first drafts.  Nothing has to be perfect the first time we write it.

Have fun!


Author Bio:

Lazette is an avid writer as well as the owner of Forward Motion for Writers ( and the owner/editor of Vision: A Resource for Writers (

It’s possible she spends too much time with writers.

And cats.

You can connect with her on:


Joyously Prolific Blog:

And if you are interested in the books written in previous NaNo’s and now published, they are on a special page at Smashwords:

Lazette NaNo Bookssmall



























Lazette Gifford, Author –

Editor, Vision: A Resource for Writers –

Owner, Forward Motion for Writers –


Science fiction, fantasy, young adult mystery novels and more!