Craft,  Nanowrimo

10 Ways To Conquer Nanowrimo, 19th Century Russian Style

Now that we’re in the murky depths of National Novel Writing Month it kind of feels like you’ve decided to fight a land war in Russia. 

Are you committed to finishing and pushing yourself forward? Or are you ready to surrender?

If you signed up for Nanowrimo, it’s kind of like you’re Napolean and you have no idea how to face a Russian winter.  At the time,  you thought it was a good idea. You thought that you’d have the fortitude to endure the daily grind of 1667 words. You thought that the story that’s been rattling around in your brain for weeks/months/years would just flow out of your fingers.

Nope. It hasn’t, has it? 

I’m here to help you. With all the imaginary vodka I can muster, I want to give you the top 10 ways to get going on your Nanowrimo project.

1. Put your character in an actual emergency. Food allergies, car accident, flash flood, explosive plumbing, gas leak — none of these are planned. You don’t have to plan yours too. And even if it looks rather Deux et Machina -ish, don’t worry about it. You can always go back and fix it later. 

2. What does your character have in his pocket, purse or glove compartment? Candy? A gun? Drugs? A crucifix? A hundred thousand dollars in cash? Microfilm? A flash drive? A recording? An epi-pen? A switchblade?  He remembers!  And it uses it, just as the right time to get past this little problem he’s facing. Or, better still, the antagonist finds it in his possession and uses it against him!

3. Someone asks him to do something against his character and he must do it. For instance: the drug dealer has to rescue kids from a fire, the hooker with the heart of gold saves the First Lady, the victim of abuse stands up to the lady who cuts her off in the parking lot. Aha! What kind of fix can you put your main character into?

4. The paranormal sneaks in. Okay, this might not work for everyone. But what if a unicorn appears in the kitchen and tells him what to do? What if the lawn gnome knows where the treasure is? What if there is a zombie coming across the backyard and the hostas aren’t doing their job of keeping him out? 

5. Have your character take a break. Maybe if he sat down and ate something, slept and had a crazy dream, did his laundry and bumped into someone at the laundromat, maybe he would think of the solution to the problem, see a clue, meet a friend, fall in love . . . . oh, the possibilities are endless!

6. What would your favorite author do? Think about your favorite movies and steal, steal, steal! There are no new ideas. You are smart enough to disguise any dialogue, scene, or plot point from the film. Write in down now and then tweak it later. Even while I was reading War And Peace, I was thinking, Hey! These bloody battle scenes remind me of Gone With The Wind!  Wartime saga in which families lose their fortunes and the women have to do anything, anything, to survive!

July 15-17, 2021, 10 Minute Novelists is holding a Writers Conference “Spark Your Passion, Ignite Your Story” with Tex Thompson, Angela Ackerman, Eric Smith, and Steven James in the greater Cincinnati, OH area!

7. Go build up some backstory. What has propelled the bad guy to do the bad things? What makes your protagonist want what he wants? Dig a little deeper, even for a thousand words or so and that may be enough to get you on your feet. Or, if you’re Tolstoy, and thank God you’re not, you could spend 100 pages or so contemplating the purpose of one man, his conscience, the theory of free will, and the wheels that turn history and how you can compare it to bees.

8. Cupid strikes! Nothing complicates life more than romance. What if there’s a secret love connection between a supporting character and the antagonist? What if another supporting character confesses a life long crush towards the main character? What if the romantic advances that have been in the story all along were just a ruse to advance the goals of the antagonist? And in Tolstoy’s frosty Russia, all it takes to fall in love with an heiress is sitting at her feet while she mourns her broken heart. That’s it.  

9. And if you really get stuck, ask Twitter. I love some of the ideas that my followers come up with. And then when I’m done (if I ever get done) I can remind them of their help and maybe gain a reader! Or compare your setting, characters, and plot to bees. Tolstoy did it twice. Twice!

10. And then, hit the showers. No kidding. There’s something about hot water and physical touch that stimulates our brain. You may have a new idea for your story when you get out! And when you grab that towel, brush your teeth with running water and realize just how wonderful it is that you have neither lice, dysentery or gangrenous limbs, you may want to write about it.

Remember, the point of participating in Nanowrimo is quantity, not quality.

This draft is supposed to be messy, kind of like a Russian novel, but with less hype. Use these ideas to up your word count. You can clean it up, make it more plausible, omit the cliched scenes, and take out your rants about Napoleon later.

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.