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How to Deal If You're Already So Over Your NaNoWriMo Novel

How to Deal If You're Already So Over Your NaNoWriMo Novel

By Melissa Albert

You've been living with your novel for a week now. It doesn't sound that long, but it's enough to know whether you already want to kill it by fire. Maybe you came in unprepared, maybe your characters are refusing to be as interesting as you thought they'd be, or maybe you underestimated the whole hours of writing thing behind this 50,000-word jamboree. But you're a Sparkler, and SPARKLERS DO NOT GIVE UP. (Unless it's one of those "Eat this entire human-sized waffle in order to get your picture on the restaurant wall and also a second free human-sized waffle" scenarios. In that case, you are excused.)

Because it isn't called "National Start a Bunch of Novels But Don't Finish Any Month," you and your misbehaving manuscript are stuck with each other to the bitter, bitter end of November 30. But that doesn't mean you have to stay bored for the next 22 days! Here are 6 ways you can write about something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, completely within the boundaries of your existing book:

Have your Main Character (MC) find a book. Or a stack of old letters, or a weirdo website, or an instructions manual for a device that may be a time machine. Now start writing whatever it is they're reading! Your main story will wait for you while you practice a new voice/refresh yourself/rack up major word count writing something totally new and fun.

Throw in a phone call. The phone rings, your MC picks it up, and it's a stranger. Now for an awesome dialogue exercise: what can a stranger say to keep your character on the phone—for as long as it takes to hit your word count goal? Maybe the caller will tell them something that nobody but a close friend could possibly know. Maybe they'll make a strange promise. Or maybe they're just a telemarketer—but the world's most charming telemarketer.

Switch to a different character's perspective. If you're tired of the sound of your MC's voice, try letting another character speak. Write about your MC from the perspective of their love interest. Write a chapter as the dog, or as a random passerby who happened to overhear the fight in chapter two. Or just start writing from scratch, creating an entirely new, completely different character—and then figure out how you're going to combine their story with that of the MC.

Flashback time! Is there a villain in your story? Straight-up evil is rarely interesting, but complicated evil fascinates: why not write a flashback to the traumatizing event, scary childhood accident, or general bad upbringing of your villain? As for your hero, the only thing worse than an all-bad villain is an all-good MC (see: Mary Sue). Write a flashback showing your main character at their worst.

Storyteller. Maybe your MC has a nutty older relative...who has a very interesting tale to share. Or maybe he visits a fortune teller, or asks a man he meets on the bus how he got his black eye. Stop the main action of the story for a nice long yarn about something completely different.

Dream sequence. Yeah, yeah, it's the cheesy old standby, but you only get in trouble if your entire book is the dream sequence, ending with "and then I woke up!" A dream sequence can be creepy, it can foreshadow what's to come, it can be supernatural and give your character information they need or complicate their situation—and if you're writing a non-magical book, a dream sequence can give you a chance to try out your fantasy-writing chops.

As for my novel, I'm not yet entirely discouraged with it. I've got 8,999 words, and at least 14 of them are okay! Big-time THANK YOU to Sparkler AuroraRoses, who made this killer cover for me. It makes me feel like my goofy book is almost a little bit kind of real! And props to all my Sparkler writing buddies. It's all happeniiiing!

How are you guys doing in NaNo-land?

Topics: Books, Life
Tags: writing, advice, nanowrimo, writer's block, good ideas

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About the Author
Melissa Albert

Melissa Albert reads books, worries about other people’s dogs (they look thirsty), and eats horrible candy for fun and profit. When not wearing her extremely tasteful Sparkitor hat, she’s an editor for the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. You can find her on Twitter @mimi_albert, or in the hot pretzel section of your local cafeteria.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.

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