5 Tips to Help You Write Killer Chapters During NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Are you ready? Are you prepared? If not, you’ve got some work to do. I’m here to help.

Last week I wrote a blog titled 5 Ways to Succeed at NaNoWriMo. Today I am going to lay out 5 things to help you writer killer chapters.

  1. Keep a list of everything included in each chapter close by. POV, characters, setting, weather, and plot points. I am sure there are other things to jot down, but do your best to remember everything so you don’t forget something really important down the line.
  1. Write a brief description of each chapter to help you understand why it is essential to your story. Before you begin writing, reread it. If you find some chapters that do not belong, eliminate them. Or, at least highlight these darlings so you know if they are worth the effort when you get to them.
  1. Intermingle subtle tension and in your face tension. Subtle tension is when your Navy Seal character winds up at the rendezvous and no one is there. What do they do next? In your face tension is the bullets that fly from enemy guns when your character is ambushed. Remember the subtle tension, this keeps your readers turning the page.
  1. Consider framing your chapters by word count. Why? It gives you a smaller goal to shoot for and helps you know when to close things down. Also, you can take a break halfway through and it will keep you healthy and sane.
  1. Make sure some of your chapters have an arc. There are certain sub-plots in novels that last a few chapters, but still encapsulate things important to the overarching plot. There are also episodes that are small one chapter arcs that give the reader a brief feeling of satisfaction or completion (usually right before you crush the character they love). Take a look at some of your favorite books. You’ll see what I mean.

In the end – good luck. I hope you are prepared. Eat well, sleep well, and have time negotiated with your schedule and/or significant other. Also, an army of friends ready to cheer you on would hurt either.





Planes, Neil Gaiman, and the Inca

I take immense pleasure in listening to author interviews and hearing about what inspires them. Occasionally, I take something significant from one of these creative soirees.

In an interview, Neil Gaiman suggested that Tolkien was able to write The Lord of the Rings because he read about Finnish philology. This might not make any sense at all, but it also might make sense absolutely. His writing was born out of what he loved to read and his reading lead him a lot of places. Of course he would invent languages, he studied them. He loved Nothernness and out of that love came Aragon and Elves and Rohan. He didn’t just read fantasy and rehash another fantasy story (I know I know he basically invented modern fantasy, but there was plenty out there).

Mr. Gaimans’ suggestion to would be authors is to read books about all sorts of things. Take a winding path through your local independent bookstore and visit genres and sections you haven’t before. You might be surprised by what you find.

While on a plane last week I read a book titled 1491 by Charles Mann, which Incahypothesizes what the Americas might have been like before Columbus bumped into them. Suddenly, without intention, all sorts of inspiration came to me.

What would it be like it one of the Inca people saw a plane? This might be a common thought, (traveling back in time to meet cavemen for example) but it might not have been as profound if I was not on an actual jetliner reading that particular book.

I’m not sure where this venture into other books and topics might take me, but it’s inspiring. I hope you don’t inbreed your writing or try to imitate an author you like but chase after what interests you. I am sure that out of this pursuit will come a book that is you. Not some cheap imitation.

Read something new today.






Do Things Differently

As a novelist I waver between the thrill of a new project and the arduous work of finishing the novel – blog – article – short story – etc. An idea strikes, I love it, test it, and it’s time to write it. But, soon, this new project becomes work and once that transition occurs, it can be very easy to give up.

If you find yourself in the blah mode about your current project there really is only one thing you can do (No, not quit, because you learn by finishing). You must change things up.

Write from 10pm to 4am.

Take a day off of work to write.

Go to a bookstore or library

Get up at 3 am and write

This could probably work for anything.

Feeling distant from your spouse? Send the kids to school, then both take the day off and spend some time together. Novels and stories are like this. They require time and dedication but also fun and spontaneity.

If you are struggling with your novel (or relationship), do something different. Write in a new place, get up at 6 am, write daily, and look for a new rhythm.













Another Week Another Chance

Ruts are life suckers. I like to avoid them. As much as you or I might try, inevitably, we wind up static, gears locked, in the mud.

For writers and entrepreneurs, even if we love whatever it is that we long to do, that extra gumption we need to perform can simply leave one day and be near impossible to get back. Have you ever wondered how you wound up so far off the track you intended to traverse?

But, this, my friends, this is what I love about a new week. Nothing has happened yet.

This week, we can choose to do anything.

We can choose to chase the things we love.

I hope you do that. Don’t waste this fertile ground.



Truth From A Nominal World

I recently read that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, said he learns more about life from fiction than nonfiction. Now, whether you like Mr. Bezos or not is not the point. The point is someone who is very powerful in the business world, a world some might consider unequivocally different from the world of writing fiction, values it – and highly so.

My good friend Andy Rogers sent me a video a while back that explores this topic. Below, Mac Barnett, a New York Times bestselling author of children’s books, discusses the bizarre overlap of truth in nominal and very real worlds.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
















5 Ways to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Before I begin I must be forthright. I’ve never attempted NaNoWriMo. But that does not disqualify me from sharing advice about a literary sprint such as this. How? I’ve done the 3 Day Novel Contest. Yes. NaNoWriMo – in three days.

That contest produced a 25,000 word novella with a wide cast of characters, weaving plot, and horrendous grammar, just like your NaNoWriMo project will.

Know you can do it! Super cliché right? Removing this mental hurdle is key. How do you know you can do it? Break it down. 2,500 words a day = a 75,000 word novel. This is more than adequate for any market.

Remove distractions. Turn off the wifi connector on your writing device. barricade yourself in your room or garage. Whatever you need to do to ensure you have absolute focus. One of my friends listens to music. Another requires silence. Do whatever it is that makes you dial in.

Be healthy. Take breaks. Get proper sleep. Go on walks. Spend time not writing. Spend time reading. Maybe choose one day a week where you don’t write. Don’t avoid it but don’t let your creative well run dry. This is paramount. Write 1,000 words and then go stretch your legs.

Don’t edit. This might be hard or not. But consider this – have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who interrupts you all of the time? Annoying yes? Let your inner artist out. This is not the final draft anyway. If you were a sculptor, your finished draft would be like finding the precise stone to chisel. Believe me, this is an essential ingredient to ensure you do not fall behind and win the competition.

Have your ending in mind. Plot all you want or not at all but have a solid ending. This will keep you going and make sure it will not be a chore to finish, because it can be. And also having your destination in mind will ensure you do not spend 30 hours and 30,000 words on something that does not work or does not interest even you.

I hope you are prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally.

If you have ideas for how you are going to get through this, share them below.



On Writing Characters Your Readers Will Love to Hate

I like most real people. I don’t often have day dreams of killing anyone. But if you asked me about Thomas from Downton Abbey or Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter or The Governor from the Walking Dead, my blood boils.

I keep waiting for them to get hit by a car or a spell or turned into a zombie! I mean come on already!

I know I’m a horrible person. But aren’t the writers of these books and shows genius?

There you are, hoping for something to happen to the character you love and cherish, and suddenly so and so knows your character’s dark secret or shady past and they can use it to their advantage. Your audience groans (maybe even throws your book! That would be grand, eh?).

This is the power of good fiction. This is the unfortunately life of the characters your readers will love. Inevitably, maybe even for reasons beyond their favorite character’s control, a bad dude gets to have power over them or even have their day.

This is the fun part. This is why your readers will keep reading. What will happen next? Will this greasy or terrible person use this nugget of power now or will they hold onto it and use it when the moment is best for them and worst for the character your audience roots for?

This is why I keep reading and watching.

This is why your audience will too.

Write these villains well.




Excuses – And Why They’re Your Fault

I can think of a billion reasons why I have not sold a novel or taken over the literary world. Is it because I am bad? Lazy? I don’t think so. It’s because I constantly throw stupid hurdles in my path just like you.

They’re called excuses.

  • I’m too tired.
  • The yard needs raking.
  • I don’t have a good idea yet.
  • I’m waiting for inspiration to strike!
  • I have to do laundry.
  • I can never been like xyz writer. So why bother?
  • I’m bad at grammar.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • My novel is terrible.
  • I just don’t have enough/adequate time.
A picture of someone else’s backyard. I’m too ashamed to show my own.

Some of these are responsibilities. You should see my yard. It needs raking.

But why is it so easy to create this list?

I believe, if we are honest, we are the ones permitting ourselves to stop pursing our dreams. Whether you want to be a novelist or news anchor, it’s so much easier making excuses or finding other things to do.

But if it is the thing we love, the thing we long for and maybe even hold inside because we are too worried about what people with think or say if we uttered it aloud, we must stop this excuse business. Stop it now.

It’s up to you my friend. Are you going to keep making excuses or go and get the life you want?


I’m going to publish books.



Short Bursts – Not Burned Out

Hemingway used to be one my least favorite writers. Now, he’s one of my favorites. I thank him and his advice in his book – A Moveable Feast, for my current progress.

His advice is simple and genius.

Write the scene in your mind and then stop when you think of the next one. Sounds silly, right? Why stop?

The simplicity of this advice is that you never come to the page empty. You always bring something with you, and are ready when a spare moment presents itself.

This is how I’ve written lately and it has allowed me to have a consistent flow of words and I’ve not had to sit and think where I am going next.

I am never empty.

Never lost.

This is genius because then the well of creativity never runs dry. You always leave a little in there. A little sip to keep you going.

If your well is dry. Try to do things that fill it. Then don’t drain the tankard in one gulp.




Great tips! Best of luck to all who attempt NaNoWriMo.

Scribbling In The Storage Room

With Nanowrimo coming up in a few weeks, I thought I’d share some tools I’ve been playing with to keep track of a novel’s timeline. One of my works-in-progress involves multiple generations and interwoven plot lines, so a chart was just not going to cut it this time. Have you tried either of these systems? Opinions? Additions?

Aeon Timeline – So far, this is my favorite. If you already use Scrivener, this program makes Scrivener an even more powerful writing platform because it syncs with your Scrivener files. I can’t impress upon you enough how awesome that is. When I add an event in Aeon, it asks me if I want to create a corresponding file in Scrivener. When I write a new scene in Scrivener, I can put the date and time of the action and Aeon will create a new event on the timeline when the projects sync. It’s like magic.


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