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Finished at 40k? Oops.


Okay, NaNoWriMers should be passing the 40k mark, and hopefully most of you are on the home stretch. There is a peculiar problem I hope is isolated but I’ll bring up anyway: novellas are sometimes complete at less than 50,000 words.

Um, yeah. I got an email with just this problem. Her NaNoWriMo novel is done, finished, complete, and it’s falling about 10k short. Wow. This particular writer has done NaNoWriMo before and she knows some … tricks. She went in and replaced contractions with full words. You know, can’t became can not, won’t became will not, and so on. That’ll only get you so far. There’s actually a lot of contractions in English, so … but there is a limit. And she lengthened some names. That was an act of desperation.

There’s really no way around it, she simply needs to write more and I told her so. I suggested she add a scene or related short story and gave her some writing prompts. Some were outrageous because it was pretty late by that point, but some weren’t bad if I say so myself.

Then it occurred to me, it’s been a long time since I’d been given a writing prompt (and oddly that was during NaNo) but it might help someone out there. The ones I gave her probably wouldn’t, but sometimes a little something to get you going is helpful. If you need a kick start, there are some websites that offer prompts, but I’ll toss a few out there.

  • While two characters are sharing a meal, have one choke. Two options here: the other can debate whether to save their companion, or just immediately do it. Regardless, having your life saved changes people. Perhaps that person knows something of value, or confesses something that shouldn’t be said. A lot can happen when emotions are high.
  • If you have a character with any sort of super human abilities, have them lose those abilities for a short time while some moon crosses the orbit of the closest planet and aligns with the sun…whatever. The overall effect could be comedic or catastrophic.
  • In a world without magic, have a studious character find a book in an old bookshop that appears to be bound in a weird leather. It’s a book about dragons as far as he/she can tell, but it’s written in a language he/she can’t identify. “Look at these drawings of a dissection and dragons in flight. And I think this is supposed to show how they breath fire.” He just picked it up because it was cool. Weird that the owner let it go so cheap when it’s clearly old, but cool. “Probably a hoax. I wonder where I can get it tested…what were you saying?” (Maybe he/she sets it down while they have lunch at a restaurant and it’s left behind. He’d probably be mad about that.)
  • Have you written another book? Different genre is even better. While your characters are out and about, have a chance meeting and ‘guest appearance’ of a character from another book. A description, a few lines, nothing much. Nothing to detract from your current story, just an easter egg. King, Lee, and Tarantino make appearances in their movies…
  • Your character has a day where nothing happens. The boredom is killing him/her. And perhaps anticipation. Is he waiting for something? Is someone supposed to call? Dawn to dusk…nothing. He’s left to his own thoughts, how would those thoughts go?
  • A hang up call sparks paranoia.
  • A dead letter delivered/returned to sender twenty years later.
  • Someone makes a meal to apologize for an argument, but accidentally includes an allergen and the victim ends up in the hospital. Much more to apologize for now.

There are so many possibilities out there, most are probably less specific or twisted. Do a search in your browser for writing prompts and it’ll give you a list of websites for ideas. Pick those that suit your novel and style. Have fun, and get writing.


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