Plots Points for NaNoWriMo

Need plot points for NaNoWriMo? Now that NaNoWriMo is more than half over, you may be running out of inspiration, especially when it comes to plot. For me, keeping a plot fresh is the hardest part of writing. Below are some suggestions to reignite inspiration as you head toward your goal for NaNoWriMo.

Let settings suggest plots twists.

A chase in a blizzard is different from a chase in torrential downpour. Shadowing someone in New York City is different from shadowing someone at a county fair. When you delve deep into a setting, the unique qualities of it will suggest plot points.

Let characters’ personalities suggest plot twists.

Do you have a character who doesn’t bother to filter her comments? Let that habit kick off a plot twist. An introverted character who keeps a secret could serve a similar purpose.

Fight stereotypes

If you have a cheerleader, make her a nice one. How would that change your plot? Turn your main character’s best friend–the quirky one with all the best lines– into an antagonist. Give your teen MC one parent who actually understands him. Fighting stereotypes can freshen your writing and produce potential plot points.

Have the main character lose something critical or gain something unexpected.

In my novel, A Shadow on the Snow, my teen detective Rae Riley is an amateur photographer. Shortly before her mother died, she gave Rae a camera. The camera is stolen during the story. That theft added so much to the plot.

Still need plot points for NaNoWriMo? Click here for more inspiration.

What do you do when you need fresh ideas for plot?

What If NaNoWriMo Isn’t For You?

You’ve prepared through all of October to start your novel on November 1. You’ve got your character charts, plot outline, and major settings worked out. You will reach 50,000 words by November 30. You just know it. This idea has been bubbling in your mind so long you just have to get it into print. On November 1, you exceed your word count for that day. On November 2, you do it again. But in a week you’re behind. And around the 15th, or 20th, or 23rd, you quit. You don’t know what’s wrong. You have everything so well planned. I offer a question. What if NaNoWriMo isn’t for you?

My NaNoWriMo

November is a terrible month for an American writer to attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. At a minimum, we lose one day to Thanksgiving, but most likely, it’s two or three to various family festivities. And after that holiday, we’re thrown into preparing for Christmas.

Because of those conflicts, I had never even considered tackling NaNoWriMo. When I mentioned to fellow author Theresa Van Meter that March was a much better month for me–not much happens in March–she agreed to write with me for our own personal NaNoWriMo. We would call each other once a week to see how we were doing.

I was very excited about focusing on my next novel. All the marketing I’d done for first novel had put a serious dent in the amount of time I could devote to it. So March 1, I started writing Chapter 1. I didn’t get far because three days later, I was at a state park with my family for a long weekend.

When we got home, I began again but felt my writing was stale. Pushing through the next chapter was like pushing against a mountain. I switched to writing my last chapter because I tend to think of my climax first. That helped give my story a goal, but when I returned to the first chapters, I stalled again.

My goal had been 100 pages. By the end of the month, which was interrupted by spring break for my kids, I’d written 50 and only 40 were worth anything.

Theresa had similar trouble, and we both concluded that the kind of work style demanded by NaNoWriMo just didn’t work for us.

Don’t Fight Your Working Style

This experiment taught me that I can’t blaze through a first draft from beginning to end. After I’ve written the first draft of five or six chapters, I feel like writing any more would be like climbing too far out on a thin tree limb. I just don’t feel confident that any more chapters will be any good. So I type the five or six chapters I’ve written–I handwrite my first drafts–editing as I type and see if I’ve written anything worth keeping. I’m almost always pleasantly surprised that my first draft wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought.

Now that I have a sturdy foundation, I can write the next five or six chapters. This may not be the fastest way to write, but it’s the only way I can write with confidence.

Although it may take some experimentation, find out what working style works best for you and stick with it. Does setting aside one weekend a month to crank out 10,000 make the most sense to you? Does writing every day on your lunch hour? No style is wrong except the style that dictates to only write when you feel like it. Once a writer has a deadline, he or she has to learn to write whether they feel like it or not.

Because of the demands of my family, I’ve found working in short spurts works best for me. As friend and author Bettie Boswell said, if I make myself to sit down and write one page, chances are I’ll write more and accomplish more than I thought.

For more posts on NaNoWriMo, click here.

What writing schedule works best for you?

Settings for NaNoWriMo

As you tackle your novel for NaNoWriMo, you may run into writer’s block. One way to overcome it is to find fresh settings. Setting as a source of inspiration is often overlooked. But a new setting can provide the spark for new characters and fresh plot twists. Let’s say your city police detective needs to question a suspect. Sending him to a location where he feels uncomfortable is a perfect way to create tension. Where could that be? A rural location could work, like a farm. A farm suggests a farmer. Who could this farmer be? Would he or she want to take to the detective or not? So the right setting can be just the first step in a new creative process. Take a look at the photos below as settings for NaNoWriMo if you need inspiration to break down a writer’s block.

For more photo prompts for settings, click here.

I find this photo fascinating. Where is the house built? It could be a setting now or in the future.

Let me know if any of these photos inspire you!

My Author Interview

My tip for this week appears on another author’s site as my author interview. I met fantasy author Madisyn Carlin online when she agreed to write a guest blog for me. To read her post about advice for beginning writers, click here.

In my author interview, I answer such burning questions as which do I prefer: tea or coffee. But, seriously, Madisyn posed some great questions, like how I incorporate my faith in my writing, what message do I want to tell through my writing, and what advice would I give new writers.

Click here to read the interview and please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Stockingful of Books Giveaway!

It’s giveaway time! I am thrilled to announce my mystery novel, A Shadow on the Snow, and the short story prequel to it, “A Rose from the Ashes,” in Christmas fiction off the beaten path are part of “Stockingful of Books Giveaway”. This giveaway runs 11/6 through 11/12, and the prize consists of ten Christian fiction books. The 1st place winner will receive all ten books (authors’ choice of format) and the 2nd place winner will receive three books (authors’ choice of format) of their choosing. A variety of genres, from fantasy to historical romance to suspense and more, are featured.

You can enter to win here:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bfce54d312/?

Here are the opening lines from both of my stories. I hope I’ve written them well enough to intrigue you to enter the contest so you can read the whole mysteries!

Glancing left and right, I crunched across the frozen weeds to the abandoned children’s home. I could not afford to be spotted now. If only I could take a few seconds and snap some pictures. The light from the early December sunset was perfect. Gashes of blood-red light seeped through the clotted clouds, creating an ominous background for the gray stone building that was rumored to be the scene of a murder.

At the back wall of the home, I slung the strap for my camera across my chest and climbed through an opening that once held a window. I dropped to the bare ground, my long, dark gold braid catching on a loose nail in the sill. I disentangled myself and crossed the dirt floor. The fired had burned the wooden floor away. And the roof and the whole interior. The four stone walls loomed above me like a medieval fortress as the sunset’s rays spotlighted sections of the garbage-strewn floor.

I knelt by a large fireplace, straining to detect any sound of the psychics, ghost hunters, or thrill-seeking high school kids who had come to catch sight of the ghost of Bella Rydell.

from “A Rose from the Ashes” in Christmas fiction off the beaten path

I’M NOT FOOLED, RAE. YOU’RE JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER.

I stared at the sheet of copier paper in my hand as the note fluttered in a gust of January wind.

Really? It had only taken three weeks for someone to hate me and my mom enough to leave an anonymous insult.

Turning over the envelope, I saw my address was written in the same marker, same all-caps style. It was postmarked. I must have missed it when I grabbed my mail last night.

Shivering on the minuscule landing to my apartment, I blew out a sigh, which formed a little cloud in the freezing air. At least the idiot hadn’t crept up to my mailbox in the dead of night. I shivered again, and it wasn’t from another gust.

People could hold a grudge in Marlin County, Ohio.

from A Shadow on the Snow

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