…it leaves a very sour taste in your mouth. 

Due to tropical forces beyond my control, this week’s planned vacation in paradise rather resembled the considerable warmer place without the fruity umbrella drinks or even the warmth for that matter.  Our cruise was cancelled, we lost power and at least a day of paid vacation, but as the old saying about lemonade intimates, that simply means I have a better footing as NaNoWriMo gets underway.

So November 1st is staring you in the face and you’re wondering.  What the heck am I going to write?  While I beg to differ with anyone who claims creativity can be taught, I do have a few suggestions that might help you get your muse started. 

We begin by breaking your 50,000 word novel into manageable chunks.  You are going to get sick of the word speculate.  In my opinion, all fiction is speculative.  Obviously the canon interpretation applies primarily to science fiction, fantasy and horror, but fiction in general asks the question, what would happen if?


Think of someone you admire, someone you despise or even yourself.  Now imagine that person as:

  • a mailroom clerk,
  • an astronaut,
  • an ogre,
  • a dragon-slaying knight...

keep speculating until you find an idea that really captures your interest.


Place your character in a setting.  Start with the most likely and hop through genres until you find something fun.  Sure Toby the mail clerk probably works in the basement of the headquarters of some giant corporation,  but what if he worked:

  • on a space station
  • in Hell
  • in the mayor’s office of a twenties style city run by criminals,
  • in the office of a general who just staged a coup… 

Again, keep speculating until something catches your fancy.


To carry a novel, you’ll generally want to introduce at least two levels of conflict, for this discussion will use personal and global as examples. 

Toby the clerk wants to change something about his life. 

  • He’s bored of life in space and wants to go home.  
  • He can’t remember how he ended up in Hell.  
  • Perhaps he’s in love with the mob boss’ daughter or wife (or son if you want to go that route). 
  • Maybe he’s the nephew of the deposed dictator looking for revenge on the new general. 
This first conflict should be universal and easily understood: love, fear, vengeance, a desire for meaning, etc.

Toby’s story is interwoven with a global conflict.  (Global in this case is not necessarily “Earth” It could be as small as the family home in which the story is set and as large at the multiverse) 

  • The giant corporation is battling media coverage which (fairly or not) accuses the company of wrongdoing. 
  • The space station is making first contact with an alien starborne race. 
  • The devil is missing and Hell is more chaotic than usual. 
  • A mob boss is making a move to go legit or to wipe out the competition. 
  • The new general is planning to use his new power to complete a ritual sacrifice
This is the conflict where you can be as creative as you want to be.

Now what?

Now take the pieces that you’ve brainstormed and really get down to speculating.  For each detail you uncover, ask:

  • What caused this event to happen?
  • How would this impact Toby?
  • How would this impact the global environment?
  • How do the other people in Toby's life play into the two conflicts?  What are their goals?
  • What if magic/advanced tech/espionage/murder/etc is really behind this?
Keep asking questions and keep writing my friends!

10/31/2012 03:50:13 am

Oh, Wakefield!! So sorry to hear that your much needed vacation was cancelled. Blick! But I love seeing your story process notes so much that I shared this post in my facebook NaNo group!!

Cheering You On,
Bullish :)

10/31/2012 04:19:21 am

Sorry to here your holiday didn't happen, but am grateful to Ruth for sharing this post with us all. This is my first time at NaNo & what you've shared has given me good pointers if I get stuck (which I'm sure I will) over the next 31 days.


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