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#NaNoWriMo Rescue #1 #amwriting

By now, day 21, you should be about 75% of the way through your story. If you’re at about 35,000 words you’re on target to finish on time. If you’re not, let’s take a look at what might help.

If you’re just not finding time to write, check out the last post on ways to get more words in.

If your story isn’t quite working, there are a few things you can do. I’ll address those in just a minute.

If you are pretty much on track you should know where the whole story is going. Whether you planned or pantsed this year, 75% of the way through, you really should know how it’s going to end. It’s important to make sure every single scene from now to the end of your novel moves the plot and character transformations to the conclusion. It’s not time for side trips or tangents. You need to start wrapping up subplots and set the scene for the climax of the story.

The Climax

If you used our Story Planning Worksheet and Story Skeleton Worksheet, the climax comes when the main character is forced to confront his weakness or lose his prize. The opponent is in a position to manipulate the MC through this weakness. If you’ve been avoiding making decisions about these key turning points (die-hard pantsers…) you don’t have much time left to make sure it all works out.

The Ending

I like to think about the final scene before I get there. Sometimes you want to set something up that requires leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in previous scenes so everything comes together at the right moment. That doesn’t happen accidentally. It takes some planning. You may want to write a scene summary sentence for the last 5-10 scenes in your book to get the progression of events right.


Are you bogged down in the middle and not sure why? One of these techniques might help:

Revisit the planning worksheets

If you used our worksheets, go take a look at them again. I’m guilty of filling them and never looking at them again after I start writing. I forget that I wanted Gladys to be the false ally or that the barn at Anderson’s farm is a place that is comfort zone for Thomas but Rudy hates being there. I realize I can still bring in some of those ideas by changing the location of a scene or adding in a new one between existing scenes.

This may affect what  you’ve already written. Don’t take the time right now to make adjustments unless you’re damn close to finishing. Make a comment bubble (use Track Changes) to remind yourself “Here’s where X happened, need to go back and change the rodeo scene” or “Added in Y event, make sure Jonah refers to it in kitchen argument scene.” I leave lots of notes in my manuscript. Then I work on the changes during the revision process. You may still tweak some things or insert scenes, and the best time to smooth everything over is after you have written the ending. You’ll have plenty of other adjustments to make anyway, and you’ll have better ways of doing that once everything has settled into place in the resolution and ending.

Picture the ending. If you’ve been resisting planning ahead, this can often be the right time to give it a try. If you know where you are going, it’s much easier to make sure you will get there. I’m not suggesting you outline or even know exactly how each scene will play out, but choose a specific ending. By halfway through a novel, you should have more than a vague idea how it all shakes out. If you’ve been taking the characters and reader in one direction and really want to finish somewhere else, it’s going to take some planning to get there.

Ramp up the middle

I recently heard a fantastic bit of writing advice from Dov Simens, a screenwriter. He uses a rough formula of 5 uh-ohs, 5 oh-shits, and 1 OMFG in his scripts.  The place for uh-ohs and oh-shits is in the middle. You may not need five of each, but if your middle feels like a beached whale, go back and add at least one uh-oh and an oh-shit. At the minimum, you’ll get 2-4 more scenes than you have now, and you’ll get some tension and excitement going. How your characters handle those disasters will lead you toward the end.

Envision the final scene

It’s said that the last 10 pages of a novel are the most important ones. It is in this last scene or two that you can create an indelible image for your reader to take away with him or her. Whether it’s a satisfying solution to the mystery, or a shocker ending, the last thing the reader sees and feels will stay in his mind far more than the cool scene halfway through ,or your wonderful opening

And awesome final scenes are what sends reader scrambling to leave you a good review, tell their Facebook friends to hurry and get this book ASAP, or Googling your backlist.

A “meh” final scene leaves a reader looking for something else to read right away, rather than reliving the last moments your story.

Take some time, ten minutes, even an hour, to think about what you want a reader to feel during the last few pages. If you’re inspired, write it now, even if you aren’t that far in the writing process. An amazing final scene can invigorate and motivate you too, and get your fingers itching to write all the scenes leading up to the ending.


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