Write a story based on the picture above.
If you use this prompt, leave a link to your story in the comments below. I’d love to read it!
Another week has come and gone. That means we’re one week closer to the end of NaNoWriMo. It’s been an interesting week.
What am I working on?
The Scribe. I changed the title again, which I think I’ve already mentioned. The story turned into something much more than I anticipated. When I say that I mean the plot has completely changed from what I originally thought it would be.
What’s the easiest part of writing this novel?
I’m going to cheat and say the same thing I said for my week two update. This first draft started strong and then turned into word vomit. It’s been easy to get the words down and try to figure out how the novel works, but there will be a lot of changes made down the road.
What’s the hardest part of writing this novel?
The fact that the plot has gone off the rails. I’ve started my research and I’ve been doing pretty well with it, but there’s still a lot of loose ends to tie up.
Day 15: 2,055
Day 16: 0
Day 17: 0
Day 18: 2,091
Day 19: 5,735
Day 20: 0
Day 21: 0
Total Week Three Words: 9,881
Total Words: 50,061
As you can see, my word count for this week was a bit all over the place. I skipped a few days, one of those days was for a legit reason. I don’t remember my excuse for the other days.
I reached 50k on Sunday, November 19. I was losing steam and knew if I didn’t sit myself down and write a big chunk, I’d be struggling to reach 50k before Thanksgiving… which is tomorrow. I even wrote two different endings because the story ended before I reached 50k.
So now we’ll see how the editing goes.
The climax of a novel is this big point in the story where everything either comes together in a way or comes apart. Big things happen and keep the readers wanting to read more and turning the pages.
The climax typically happens towards the end. It’s like the big finish before the grand wrap-up of the story.
Climaxes can be tricky. You want them to be exciting like fireworks to your readers. There are multiple ways to do this.
The climax can do a number of things, but here are four we’ll talk about today:
1. Showcase the internal conflict
There should always be something going on with your protagonist. Is there a reason they’re on this specific journey? What’s their motive for wanting to complete this story? What internal troubles are they having throughout the story?
During the climax is usually when the protagonist has some sort of epiphany or moment of truth about themselves. It’s a moment of clarity for them and most likely for the readers as well.
2. Showcase the external conflict
Similar to the internal conflict, this is sort of a moment of truth for a sub-plot or even for the major plot. Something can happen between two characters or something can happen between the protagonist and the antagonist.
3. Prepare for the falling action
The falling action is, basically, what happens after the climax. Something big happens and then what? Everything has a reaction to it, what happens next? When the protagonist defeats the antagonist, what happens? What about if someone dies during the climax? What are the consequences?
4. Allowing a surprise or twist
Anything I mentioned above can happen, of course, but what if you added something a little extra to it? Throw something from left field. You can either incorporate the surprise into the climax or you can build up to one final mystery and then throw in a twist in the falling action.
Overall, the beginning and most of the middle of the story is a build-up to the climax, so you want to make it a good one. After all, what else are your readers waiting for?
I’m not writing a mystery novel for NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m sure you know how much I love mystery and that I do write a lot of it.
I run a Mystery Month on this blog and 9 times out of 10, I write a mystery for NaNo. So, if you’re writing a mystery novel this month, here are some tips.
1. Do your research.
It sounds a bit weird to research how to hide a body or how long it takes a body to start to smell if left out for too long. Still, you should fact-check. Despite it being fiction, you should always have that little bit of truth in there. Know what you’re talking about and when your characters are investigating a crime, do the real world some justice.
2. Know your genre and sub-genre.
There are so many different sub-genres of mystery. You’ve got your cozy mystery, you’re courtroom drama, whodunit stories, and much more. Which sub-genre does your mystery fall under? Sure, you can mix them up, but it always helps to define what kind of mystery you’re writing about.
3. Keep your readers always guessing.
Red herrings are a lot of fun, if they’re used in the right way. Red herrings are fake clues thrown in just to throw the detective and the readers off the hot trail. It’s great for a “wow” factor when the real clue is finally found and it certainly keeps the readers interested.
4. Know the crime inside and out.
Whether you like to outline or not, it never hurts to plan out the crime before you write. If you have a basic idea, know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the crime. It’ll help you keep track of what’s going on, keep a list of clues and evidence. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be to convey to your readers.
5. Should your readers be able to figure it out? Make it so, but not too easily.
I’ve read my fair share of mystery novels. Some are easy to figure out, some are hard. Some I don’t figure out at all. It’s up to you whether you want to make it so your readers can investigate and infer who the culprit is. You can let them be detectives or just keep them guessing throughout. Every reader has a preference. Either way, you should explain everything to a certain extent in the end.
6. Motive is key.
I’m sure everyone knows that motive is everything when you’re trying to charge someone for a crime. Why did they do what they did? Sometimes the motive isn’t always clear. Sometimes the motive can be a red herring for a suspect. However, there should always be some sort of connection, personal or otherwise, to the culprit and the crime.
7. Give unique and thorough backgrounds for your protagonist and antagonist.
This sort of goes along with the previous point. Why did your antagonist do what they did? And why is the case important to your protagonist? Usually, when a detective solves a crime, they have some sort of connection to it somehow, or it reminds them of something from the past. There are a lot of cliches to watch out for (such as the detective who lost his wife prematurely or something), though some of them can still work depending on how you weave it in.
8. Remember, good is not always good and bad is not always bad.
People do good things for bad reasons and bad things for good reasons. But is it really good or bad? Is your protagonist an anti-hero? Is revenge their motive? It’s up to your readers to decide.
Are you writing a mystery novel for NaNo? What other tips can you come up with? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
Nate knocked on my office door and poked his head through the crack. I didn’t bother to look up from my computer screen. I was in the middle of a sentence, so I continued to type. I was relieved that Nate knew I wasn’t ignoring him, I was just focusing. He quietly came into the room and placed another mug of coffee on the corner of my desk. To show my thanks I continued typing with one finger on my right hand and I took a sip of the freshly brewed coffee with my left hand. Then I continued to speed type with both hands again.
I heard Nate chuckle, but he remained where he was.
Okay, it was nice of him to bring me a coffee and all, but he could go now. NaNoWriMo was over in just three days and I had some serious catching up to do. I was only one day behind in my word count, but I wanted to get ahead as much as I could. I wanted to finish before November 30. I wanted to validate my word count, sit back and relax while everyone else in the world scrambled to get their own counts in at the last minute.
Nate knew this was the home stretch and he did a pretty good job just silently giving me more caffeine and sugar, but for some reason he was just standing next to my desk watching me a weird smile on his face.
When I finished the scene I was on, I allowed my fingers to rest. I took another sip of coffee and looked at my boyfriend.
“Thank you for the refill.” I said.
Nate nodded. He still smiled creepily at me.
I peered into the mug wondering what he did to my beverage. I shook my head placing it back down on my desk. Nate didn’t do anything, I was just tired. Though he was acting really suspicious.
“Can I help you with anything else?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” Nate shrugged shaking his head. “I’m here to help you, remember?”
“Sure,” I said.
I looked back to my computer screen. Maybe if he thought I was getting back to work then he would turn around and leave. I started typing the next paragraph and Nate remained staring at me.
“Okay, what are you doing?” I stopped typing in the middle of my sentence and stared at Nate exasperated.
“Are you almost done?” he asked eagerly.
“Almost,” I sighed.
“How many words do you have?”
“Is that all?” I asked, trying to keep a calm tone, but he was really annoying me.
“Are you on par for today?” he continued.
“No. I need about 45,000 words for today.” I replied.
“Don’t worry, you can do it!” Nate exclaimed fist-pumping the air.
I stared at him with a raised eyebrow, but didn’t say anything else. Yes, he had helped me when I went through my week two slump and he had encouraged me to catch up when family events got in the way and I had to skip a day or two of writing. I knew he was excited that the end was near, but I couldn’t be too sure why.
Was he happy that he would finally have my undivided attention again once this was all over? Or was he actually happy for me to accomplish something?
“Nate, do you mind?” I asked as politely as I could. Though not too polite so that he wouldn’t get that I was becoming frustrated with him.
Nate frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Do you mind if I keep working?”
Nate looked behind him and then back at me. What was that for?
“Uh, sure,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Thank you–” I smiled and then frowned as I watched him sit down on the couch. “—What are you doing?”
“You’re almost done, right?” Nate asked.
“Not really…” I muttered.
Nate pursed his lips together and then looked down at the ground.
I sighed. I knew this month was rough for me and Nate had been there for me to push me through every single obstacle and he was there to cheer me one with every small accomplishment. What have I done for him during the month? Not much, that’s all I can say.
“Nate, we can watch a movie or something tonight if you want. I just want to try to reach 46,000 words and then I’m all yours.” I said.
Nate grinned from ear to ear. “Great! But I think you meant 45,000 words.”
“No, 46,000 words. I want to try to get a little bit ahead for tomorrow.” I leaned back in my chair and pointed to my laptop. “That way, I’ll only need to write 4,000 words tomorrow and than I’ll win. I’ll be done for the month two days before the actual end.”
Nate cheered standing up and doing a little jig around the coffee table. I couldn’t help but laugh at him as I took another sip of my coffee. I got a small drop and then stared at the bottom of the mug with a frown.
I didn’t even realize that I was still drinking the coffee while talking to Nate.
Nate took the mug from me with a sweet smile. “I’ll get another refill for you. You get back to work.”
I grinned turning my attention back to my laptop. Nate walked out of the room and closed the door. I started typing as fast as I could go. I wanted another coffee, but I wanted to be quicker than Nate if I could. The last thing I needed was for him to be hanging around me again.
I woke up extra early the following morning. It was a Tuesday and both Nate and I had called out of work. I wanted to be sure to finish my word count and Nate wanted to celebrate with me once I reached 50,000 words.
It wasn’t until that morning that I realized just how much strain NaNo was for Nate as well, even though he wasn’t even participating in it. I had neglected him for the majority of the month, as well as the rest of the house and even work, and he had been giving me more attention that he normally did.
It was no wonder that he was bothering me the day before. He was probably eager for the month to end just as much as I was.
So, that was why I woke up at five o’clock in the morning. I knew Nate was going to end up sleeping in to at least seven, so that gave me two hours to write as much of 4,000 words as I could. The less Nate had to wait around for me to finish, the better.
I was a fast typist and if I focused hard enough I could potentially write 4,000 words in the two hours before Nate rolled out of bed. Of course, I was extremely tired. Nate and I had watched three movies the night before cuddling on the couch and we didn’t go to bed until late. I wasn’t sure how long I had before my eyes would start to cross over themselves.
I was determined, though. I was able to write about 1,500 words in the first hour. I accepted that. I wouldn’t finish before Nate woke up, but that was okay. He wouldn’t have to wait for me to write 4,000 words, which was the main thing.
I wrote for another 30 minutes. It was 6:30 in the morning and I only had 2,500 words. I took a sip of my coffee and drew in a deep breath. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to write 1,500 words in a half hour, but I was sure going to try.
But then a knock came at my door. I looked up and there was Nate.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt. Do you need a refill?” he asked sweetly.
I couldn’t help but smile. “Sure, that would be great.” I couldn’t believe he had dealt with me for this entire month waiting on me hand and foot while I sat at my computer all the time.
I knew it was going to take Nate all but five minute to refill my coffee, so I tried to type as quickly as I could before he came back into my office. I was making typos left and right, but I think that was also because I was tired, not just because I was rushing.
“How many words do you have?” Nate asked.
I jumped. I didn’t even hear him come back into the room. I took the mug with both hands brought it up to my lips. I smelled the coffee and smiled. The smell of coffee always brought me right into heaven. It was wonderful.
“I have about 1,500 words left.” I said.
“Oh, wow!” Nate exclaimed. He put his hands up as though he was surrendering and headed back towards the door. “I’ll leave you be while you finish up.”
“Thanks. I think I may only be another hour or so.” I said.
Nate gave me a thumbs-up and closed the door behind him. What I didn’t realize was that he was sitting just outside the door waiting.
Once an hour had come and gone, he asked, “Are you done, yet?” through the door every five minutes.
I wasn’t sure why, but that last 1,500 words was so hard to reach. It could have been because I was so close to the end that it was dragging on. Or it could have been that I had written so much in such a short amount of time that my brain was fried. It also didn’t help that Nate was interrupting me all the time, even though he wasn’t coming into the room anymore. I seriously regretted telling him that I may have been only another hour.
“I’m getting there…” I groaned through the door once he asked if I was finished for the fifth time.
I took me another 20 minutes, for whatever reason, but I did it. As soon as I saw my word count at the bottom of the screen say “50,000” I immediately stopped and cheered.
Nate barged into the room. “Did you do it?!”
“I did it!”
We both hugged and danced in circles in the middle of the room. If anyone happened to walk by they would think I had just won the lottery or something. I had a brand new novel to edit, though, so in a way, it was like winning the lottery.
“What do you get now?” Nate asked.
“Well, after I validate it I get a certificate!”
“That’s it?” Nate deadpanned.
I chuckled. “There are also special offers and discounts from sponsors. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but you have to remember that I now have a completed novel. That’s 50,000 more words I wouldn’t have had if this month wasn’t NaNo.”
“So the book is its own reward, pretty much.” Nate nodded.
“Well, I have something for you.” Nate ran out into the hallway and then brought in a tray of cupcakes. Was he just sitting on the floor with cupcakes in the hallway this entire time?
He put the tray down on the coffee table and each frosted cupcake had a number on them.
“I’m confused.” I shook my head.
“There are 30 cupcakes here; each one has the word count you reached at the end of each day.” Nate said proudly. “I wanted to give you something special for winning and… Well, you obviously didn’t eat enough sugar during the month.”
“This is awesome!” I clapped. Then I pointed to a blank cupcake. “What about that one?”
Nate took blue icing out of his pocket. “50,000. Would you like to do the honors?”
I squealed excitedly. I took the icing and wrote “50,000” on the cupcake. You could barely read it as the cupcake was too small to fit it and my handwriting, especially on frosting, was horrendous, but both of us knew what it meant and that was all that mattered.
“Thank you for everything, Nate. You really have no idea how much I’ve appreciated all that you’ve done and put up with this month.” I said giving him a hug.
Nate laughed and picked up a cupcake. “I got cupcakes out of it. Let’s eat!”
I picked up the 50,000 cupcake and held it up. “Cheers!”
I was tagged by the lovely Galit to participate in this tag called the Writing Ritual. I don’t participate in tags often, but I do enjoy them. I think they’re a lot of fun and it’s definitely great to see what other writers, bloggers, and readers have to answer.
I won’t be tagging anyone to do this as I don’t normally do. But if you see this, consider yourself tagged. If you post it on your blog, leave a link in the comments below. I’d love to see your answers!
When do you write? (time of day, day of week)
I typically write in the morning. I’m an early bird and the most awake during the early hours. Plus, that’s the time everyone in my house gets up and goes off to work, so I have that time to myself. As long as the dog, cat, and turtle cooperate, I can get a lot done.
I try to write every day. I haven’t stuck with it lately, though. I’m trying to get better at that!
How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?
I typically put on YouTube or Twitch in the background as I write. Sometimes it can be distracting, but for the most part, I’m alone without feeling like I am… if that makes any sense.
How do you review what you wrote the previous day?
I don’t usually. I’ll sometimes read a little bit of what I wrote to remember where I left off, but I usually just jump right back into my writing again.
What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?
I typically listen to instrumental music. This can be the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings soundtracks, violin music, or gaming soundtracks such as Pokemon, Ace Attorney, or The Legend of Zelda.
What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?
I’ll put on some of the music I listened above to get myself into the writing mode. Sometimes I’ll switch to a different project or find a writing prompt and write a quick flash fiction story. Then there are times when I just take a break altogether. I’ll walk away for the rest of the day and read or play video games.
What tools do you use when you’re writing?
I use Word Document on my laptop. That’s pretty much it. I’ll write the old fashioned way on occasion with a notebook and pen, but it’s usually just Word that I save to Dropbox.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?
My notes and a timer. 9 out of 10 times, I outline before writing. I also set a timer for one hour. That way I stay focused and I can write up to 2,000 words in that time.
How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?
Coffee or soda water. I try not to eat during my writing sessions only because I like the kinds of snacks that get your fingers all cheesy or the like.
How do you know when you’re done writing?
I’m done when the story is finished being told. Sometimes I’ll think the story is going to go to 200k words and then it ends up being 70k or something. I usually stop when I get a strange sense of satisfaction. I guess that means my mind is happy with what I wrote.
We have completed week two of NaNoWriMo! Time flies when you’re having fun… we’re having fun, right?
What am I working on?
I’m still hanging onto The Librarian. The title is definitely going to change, but I’m keeping it as is for now.
What’s the easiest part of writing this novel?
The fact that this is the first draft. That may be a dumb reason to have this be “easy,” but I’m going without an outline here. Each scene I write I realize is going to end up getting cut… but I’m still writing. So there’s that.
What’s the hardest part of writing this novel?
The middle. I need a lot of research. I’m pretty much at the climax of my novel right now and I have to say that it’s pretty anti-climactic because I have no idea what I’m doing… editing this thing is going to be fun.
Also, I reached 10k words on November 10th. According to my NaNo stats, my wordiest day was 10,096 words on November 10, 2016. So I beat my record by getting 10,103 words on November 10, 2017. Yay!
The reason I’m saying this was the hardest because while the 10k was fine, it was the afterward that was hard. The following day I wrote 1,000 out of my 2,000-word goal. Then I skipped a day of writing and then barely made it to 2,000 words the day after. I’m not complaining, I’m happy with my word count. But I clearly burnt myself out after writing for 5+ hours of 10,000 words.
Day 8: 2,043
Day 9: 3,022
Day 10: 10,103
Day 11: 1,087
Day 12: 0
Day 13: 1,535
Day 14: 2,315
Total Week Two Words: 20,105
Total Words: 40,180
Still hanging in there.
I have 10,000 more words left to write to hit 50,000 words. I don’t know if my story is going to end before then or not. Still, I want to complete the story (not just hit the word count) by Thanksgiving. This means I have a week to complete this first draft, to write at least another 10,000 words.
Here’s to week three.
I’m no expert on writing fantasy. But I have written my fair share of the fantasy genre. I’ve written a couple of (totally not flushed out) short stories and I have written a novel or two with a few other ideas.
And when I say fantasy I mean I’ve written about mages. I’ve written about wizards and elves. I’ve written about superheroes. I’m all over the place with it.
I’m giving these tips because this is what I’ve learned along the way (and we can pretend I’m some sort of expert on writing fantasy), but also because I’m writing fantasy for NaNoWriMo.
So, here we go!
1. Keep it “real”
Fiction is fake, fantasy is out of this world. Still, there’s a little bit of truth in everything we write. Sometimes we base characters off of ourselves or someone we know. Sometimes we take places and warp them just a little bit to fit in a fictional land or some stories are based on real-life places.
You can always create and base elements of your story on real-life people or places. Take a myth or lore into your hands and add a twist to it. Research is your friend.
2. Mythical creatures
Like I said in the above point, you can do a lot with real-life people or places or even creatures. Unicorns and dragons don’t exist, but they can in the fantasy world. Dragons especially usually have big parts in the fantasy world. However, while you can make them your own in your world, you can also do research on them.
It took me a long time to realize that mermaids are not in fact like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. They are, supposedly, not nice creatures. It shattered my childhood, but I used that information to my advantage in one of my fantasy novels.
J.K. Rowling created the spells in Harry Potter using the Latin language. It’s not Latin exactly, but she twisted it around so that the spells were her own and they could kind of be “translated.”
I’m not saying you have to create a magic system just like Rowling did, but it should still make a little bit of sense.
4. Know your world inside and out
If you’re writing the kind of fantasy where you need your own Middle Earth area, you have to know the world as though you’ve been there in real life… as though you’ve lived there all your life.
Create a map. Do they speak another language? Do they have a different currency? What kinds of food do they eat? What are the seasons like? You may not need to know all of that, but it’s helpful to know anyway.
5. Use a map
Maps are important. Your fantasy novel may not need a map necessarily, unless it’s Middle Earth, but creating a map for yourself won’t hurt. It’ll help you keep track of all the areas which in turn will help you write it and allow your readers to understand.
6. Create character names that can be easily read and pronounced
Yeah. I don’t know what Flbergsted is. There are plenty of fantasy name generators out there on the Internet. Use your vowels wisely.
Sometimes I take names of people I know and spell them backward. For example, Rachel would be Lehcar. Even then you still have to mix some letters around to make them comprehensible, but most names work backward.
7. Do your research
There’s no wrong way to write a book, but research never hurts. There are so many sub-genres of fantasy. Some are way more complicated than others.
There’s a lot on the Internet and there is so many fantasy writing craft books out there. Not to mention fantasy novels in general that you can read. Just brush up on your fantasy knowledge.
8. Know your fantasy genre and subgenre
This kind of goes along with the point above. Fantasy is a vast genre and there are so many sub-genres to it. Like I said earlier in the post I’ve written many different kinds of fantasy. I go from Lord of the Rings style to X-Men style. Both are fantasy, but that’s just about all they have in common.
Ever hear of the sagging middle? It’s when you get to that point in your novel that just seems to go on and on and on… yet nothing seems to be happening.
I think everyone, at some point or another, has a problem with the sagging middle. Even I, as an outliner, have trouble with it at times. Sometimes you don’t know where to go next in your outline or the outline changes so much that the middle gets deformed somehow.
In a way, it’s kind of like week two of NaNoWriMo. You end up in some sort of slump.
Either way, here are some tips to avoid that sagging middle. Or, at the very least, you can throw something in to keep the story going. There’s always editing later.
1. Make it short and sweet
Quality over quantity, right? Listen, if you get stuck in your middle, skip it. Don’t worry about it. If that bothers you, write anything there. If you have any thoughts, write it out and see how it goes.
This is what editing is for. I know editing typically takes words out, but there’s nothing wrong with adding something in. After all, you usually have multiple drafts of novels. You can add something in, take it out, add something else in just to take that out as well. You have to play around with it.
First drafts are supposed to be all over the place.
2. Question your protagonist’s or your antagonist’s goals
Everyone has second doubts. Everyone worries. Everyone regrets something at some point in their life. What has happened in your novel before the middle? Is there anything that you can use to make any of your characters have an internal conflict? Or maybe they can have tension with other characters?
Bring the antagonist around, have them run into the protagonist. What happens? How do they handle the situation?
3. Play with your characters
Introduce someone new. Have someone leave the group due to a fight or they have something else to take care of. Kill someone off, whether it’s an important character or a side character.
Anything can happen, especially if tension is high.
4. Change location or POV
Where are your characters and what are they doing? Did they finish what they needed to do? Let them leave. Have something else happen and they need to move on as soon as possible.
Changing POV is harder, of course. Unless you’re writing in that kind of style where you switch POV characters for each chapter or some other way. Still, you might be able to make it work somehow. You just have to be careful with it.
5. Throw a curve ball at your characters
This is the point of novel writing. You’re supposed to constantly throw lemons at your characters, especially your protagonist.
Depending on the situation you put before your characters, anything can happen. Something as simple as changing the weather can throw your characters off.
6. Start writing in the middle
Are you nervous about your middle sagging before you even start? Start in the middle. Throw your characters into something that you think may help get your novel to the end and go with it. This may be easier to do if you have an outline in mind, but it’s doable either way.
At the very least, you may get to know your characters a little better. You’ll figure out what you want the plot to accomplish.
7. Throw in a red herring
Red herrings are fun. They’re fake clues handed out for the mere sake of throwing your characters (and your readers) off the trail. Send your characters on a wild goose chase. As long as it leads to something else that will advance the plot or bring tension, it’s a great way to keep those pages turning.