Are You Over Halfway? Or …50 yard and 3rd Down

Nov 16, 2018 | Writing

If not, no worries. Believe me, the second half of a book is always quicker to write, especially with that shining light of “The End” glowing ever closer.

And if you have absolutely no clue what I am talking about then you aren’t neck deep in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been dabbling in it this year, but only from the sidelines as a coach and teacher. No offense, but it is a lot more fun to watch from the sidelines like some NFL coach.

Here’s me:

“Yeah, Writer, I know that hit must have hurt like hell — who would have thought your characters would just sit down and go on strike. Now remember, you’re the author. You control their destiny. Now shake them up and get back out there.”

Insert high five here, and watch me nod my head in encouragement as I send the tired NaNoWriMo writer back out into the darkness that is the middle of a 50,000 word quest for glory.

Oh, you’ve got to love the view from the sidelines.

So as I stand here, mid-month, mega-phone in hand, (Good God, no one in their right mind would ever give me a megaphone) I offer these three pieces of advice for all you caffeine addicted, hopped up writers who have made it thus far:

1) Conflict – If you are stalled out, then most likely you’ve run out of conflict. Either your characters have solved all their problems, or you haven’t made the stakes high enough, challenging enough to last through the entire book. Go back and revisit the impetuous, the problem that is/or was the grease that moves your story along and see where it ran thin. Think of conflict as Two Dogs, One Bone. What is the bone between your protagonist and their goal? Gnaw on that and see what comes of it.

2) Change – Your characters should be changing throughout your story, but most notably they will go through these four stages: Denial, Resistance, Exploration, and Manifestation. (If you time, go give this episode of Writing Excuses a listen wherein Mary Robinette Kowal presents DREAM in a clear and easy 15 minute lesson)

Then ask yourself, where are your characters on this continuum? What are the lessons and skills your character is going to have to have to solve the problems they are facing. Your job as the author is to guide them through the specific events you’ve handpicked to teach them those lessons. Get them working!

3) Plotting— When you get stuck and can’t find your way out of the darkness of your story with a flashlight and a map, then take a blank piece of paper and write down 20 things that could happen in your book. Then write 20 more. Keep writing down everything you think of, no matter how crazy or ridiculous. Just keep brainstorming. The pieces of your story are there inside your head, you just need to root around and find them. I talked about this last month in in this blog, 3 Tips to Crush NaNoWriMo.

And remember, when you get to Thanksgiving and there are only a few days in November left, pumpkin pie is considered to be quite the creative impetuous. I’m quite sure of that.

Would Coach Elizabeth ever lie?

If you have any questions, please add them to the comments or shoot me a tweet!


  1. Amy

    Very glad to be on the sidelines this year, too. VERY glad.

    • Elizabeth

      Not every year works. It is a BIG commitment. Some years are meant to be done from the sidelines.

  2. Erin E.

    I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but this is still great advice. Thanks Elizabeth.

    • Elizabeth

      You are welcome!

  3. Kelli Estes

    You gave me the number 3 advice (about listing 20 things) years ago and I am a true believer! That list has gotten me out of many plot jams. Thank you, Elizabeth!

    You make a great coach!

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Kelli! Your writing is so amazing. I can’t wait for the new book.

  4. Shannon McKelden

    I’m not Nanoing, but my daughter Jessie is, and she hit 30,000 words last night! I’m sooo proud of her. She’s used your 20 things technique, which I told her about a while ago, and I just printed out the above advice to give her for any other help she may need.

    I’d have done it this year with her if I’d been in the right spot in my WIP to do so. Maybe next year!

    • Elizabeth

      Hey, Shannon! Great to see you. Tell Jessie she is rocking it! Can’t wait to see what comes of her efforts. And yes, to next year. Should we start a January Writing Club?



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