There isn’t much time left in National Novel Writing Month and you’ve found yourself behind on your quest for 50,000 words. You’ve got to write a whole lot of words in a very short time. How are you going to make up the deficit especially when you feel completely stuck?
There’s a lot of advice for last minute “cheats” but most of it is just designed to pad your count and isn’t actually helpful to your novel as a whole. For instance, in No Plot? No Problem! Chris Baty recommends cheats such as having your characters spout long quotations from books (which, of course, you’d just have to delete later) or always referring to your character by their very long, full name (Dr. Edward Robert Smith-Jones Esquire the third) which you’d only have to undo in editing. But there are a whole bunch of ways to get your word count up fast that will actually help your novel in the long run even if they are a little… unconventional.
Have one character recap everything that happened so far to another character.
I actually find this to be very useful even when I’m writing outside of NaNoWriMo, especially when I’m stuck. Find yourself out of words? No matter what they are doing, have your characters take a break and have one character recap everything that’s happened in the book so far to another, new, character. Let’s say your MC walks into a bar and unburdens the story of all the crazy things that have happened so far to the bartender. Or the best friend that was out of town finally comes home and your MC brings him/her up to speed.
This can do two big things. The first is that it forces you to change things up by sending your characters into a situation where they meet someone that hasn’t been along for the ride and have to explain everything. Not only does the person they recap to sometimes become an important character later on, it can also be very telling to watch your character recap. What events do they emphasis and which do they downplay? You can learn a lot about your characters by how they tell the story of your novel and that can get you excited about your story again.
The second (and possibly more important) thing this does is that it helps you, the author, to crystallize what your story is about. For me, nothing helps me to understand what I’m trying to write like having a character explain it back to me. It can be very useful for getting your story back on track.
And, of course, this recap will be a big huge chunk of words to boost your word count. Will this scene appear in your final draft? Probably not. But this will still be productive writing in the long run and go a long way to helping you figure out your story.
Have your characters take surveys and quizzes.
You know those quizzes and surveys everyone sends around on Facebook, Tumblr, MySpace, etc? They can be a fun little distraction and strangely addicting. Instead of letting yourself procrastinate by taking them instead of writing, plunk the next one right down in the middle of your book and let your characters take it.
Will this riveting scene of your characters taking surveys be in the final draft? Probably not. But by forcing yourself to think about how your characters would answer the questions is a great way to learn more about them. And there will be answers that surprise you and end up telling you which way the story needs to go from there so this is still productive to the novel as a whole.
In your BOOK, people. Killing a character can be great for the word count: finding the body, planning/attending the funeral, mourning, and the aftermath of what the death means for the other characters are all very wordy prospects. It doesn’t have to be depressing, all of these can be played for comedy dark or otherwise, but it’s a great way to get your pen moving even if it feels like your book is already flat-lining.
But from a big picture standpoint, killing a character forces you to shake things up and throw your characters a curve ball. When you get them out of their rut, how do they behave? It can help you discover the path back to where you needed to be.
In general, any time you can throw your MC’s world in turmoil, the story will be better for it.
Describe your MC’s bedroom.
Take this opportunity to really describe the heck out of your MC’s bedroom down to the knickknacks on her end table, the dust bunnies in his closet. Taking the time to visualize the objects and environment your MC chooses to surround themselves with can be very telling and sometimes you realize that the fact that he kept the baseball from his first game next to his bed all these years means he really DOES love his father and the story is off and running again.
Maybe in the final draft we never see this room at all but taking the time to think it out can give you a richer sense of your character and help you to get back on track.
What do you like to do when you feel like your writing is stuck?