Monday, April 4, 2016

Camp NanoWrimo Triage Center--a reblogged guest post by my favorite writing guru, Angela Ackerman

Hey folks! If you follow my Twitter feed, you'll know that I am obsessed with Angela Ackerman, the genius behind The Emotion Thesaurus and a new website called One Stop for Writers. (find links below in Angela's bio).

Angela has been gracious to allow me to repost one of her favorite NanoWrimo advice posts. She is my writing savior. *lays wreath of gratitude at her feet.*

Angela's advice is the special sauce that helped me through Nano last November --and...drumroll--that book has made it through two drafts and is ready to send to my agent for its next read through.

Oh, and one more thing--I am an official #WNDB Camp Nano camp counselor! I'll be doing a Tweet chat at #WNDBNano tomorrow at 4PM with the other counselors. You'll be getting my care packages during Week 4..and now...

Take from there, Angela!

There you are, happily pounding out words, the click and rattle of the keyboard creating a musical symphony in your writing space. Maybe you're humming along, caught up in the frenzy of creation that oozes out every pore. When the scene finishes, you stop, roll your shoulders, sip at coffee gone cold, but who cares son, because cold coffee means VICTORY in a writer's world.

A neck crack and a handful of nourishing Skittles later, you poise your fingers over the keyboard, ready to begin again.

Only...nothing comes.

You stare at the blinking cursor, then your fingers. Why aren't they moving, directing fictional lives, creating worlds?

The NaNoWriMo Boogeyman
Come on, you urge. Get to work. They remain still, splayed out in knobby hooks of rigor mortis.

A familiar feeling curls through your belly, sliding around in a slow dance before fanning through your chest and netting it tight. It is an emotion you dare not name. But deep down, you know.

It's happening, the thing you prayed would not come to pass this November: a visit from the NaNoWriMo boogeyman, The Big Blank.



The big blank, the block, the curtain that draws across your story vision. It happens, and it can happen to you. Remain calm. Breathe. This is the triage center, a place for you to come when your writing stalls and you need some help to get moving again.

Choose your blank & amp; click the link. Get the help you need and then grab your keyboard and write.



Introduce a Secret

Let's face it, sometimes our characters seem a bit blah on the page. It might be your hero, the sidekick or even the villain. And while I'd normally suggest you dig deeper into your character to develop them more, mid-novel during NaNoWriMo, a person can't always re-plan a character. So, try giving your character a secret. Not something lame-ass, but a secret with depth, birthing from a place of Guilt, Shame, Exploitation or Necessity.

Give Him or Her An Unusual Skill or Talent

To make your character stand out on the page, focus on how to make him unique. Is there a Talent or Skill that adds zing and factors into the plot? Here's a list of ideas to get you started.

ONE STOP Worthy Goals 

Make Him Worthy

Sometimes we need to work on the connection between a character and a reader, and the area to explore to create empathy is WORTHINESS.  Giving him an undeserved misfortune isn't enough. It is what a character does despite his hardship that pulls readers in.



Focus on Motivation

Ran out of steam, did you? It's okay, the middle of a story can be a tricky place. You don't want to wrap things up too quickly, but at the same time, not...much...seems to be...happening. When you get stuck and don't know where to go next, think MOTIVATION. Your hero should always be motivated to act, making decisions, choices, weighing options. Always know what is motivating your character, and you'll be able to put one foot in front of the other again.

Have Him Look In a Mirror
 If you're lost in the middle, make haste to the midpoint & mirror moment when your hero looks within, has an emotional epiphany, and that leads to change and purpose.

Seek Out an Expert
James Scott Bell knows all about writing the middle of a novel, so much that he's written a book about it. A book, I might add, you should own (and all his others).


Throw a Curve Ball
Tension makes the world go round. If your characters are stalling on what to do, it's time to amp things up and spread some pain. Follow this one-two-three punch of tension and complicate matters, forcing your hero to adapt to succeed. Remember though, when it comes to frustrating your characters, you need to make sure their reactions & ways of dealing with an upset fit the character.

Introduce a Pressure Point
If your plot is chugging like a car running on cheap gas, it might be time to utilize a pressure point. There's nothing like a temptation, a challenge, or an opportunity for redemption to push the story forward.

Poke His Wounds
Emotional wounds are a big part of the story, so if the plot trail dries up, return to Character Arc and remember your Character is on a path of CHANGE. Understanding why his wound is important to the story will help lay down some plot pieces for you to follow.


One Stop Raise The Stakes 

Raise the Stakes
If your conflict is flat-lining, it's time to raise the stakes. No, I'm not talking about throwing more monsters at your hero for him to kill, or a bigger, nastier bomb for him to diffuse. Instead, Friend-o,  let's personalize those stakes. Give your hero a compelling reason to ACT. How we do that is make sure the character sees that if he doesn't, something even worse will happen, like undeserved consequences falling in the lap of someone else.

Cross a Moral Line
If your tension is about as hardcore as limp celery, it's time to bring about a belief crisis. Force your hero to do the unthinkable and cross a moral line for the "greater good." When the lines between right and wrong grow fuzzy, everything gets complicated in a hurry, which is terrific for juicing up your story.

Friction & Fireworks
You love your cast of characters, I get it. Pass around the flowers, have everyone hold hands and let them get the job done TOGETHER. Very sweet. The problem is, when everyone is playing nicey-nice, the story gets boring fast. Add a healthy dose of tension by creating some clashing personalities who will create story friction.

Emotion Amplifiers High Res 

Amplify Emotional Reactions
Nothing adds tension and conflict like a big ol' stupid mistake. Screw ups are a story's bread and butter! So let's get your hero off his game by amplifying his emotions, piling on the stress or pain, or even distracting him with primal pull of attraction, hunger or thirst.

You pick the amplifier, apply it, and watch the emotional overreactions lead to bad judgement and rashness that creates delicious story fallout. (Oh yeah--this ebook is free, by the way.)


Sometimes the creative well empties and our brain turns to static. But it's NaNoWriMo season, and nobody's got time for that. Pull out the big guns and get going.

The Writers Helping Writers Descriptive Thesaurus Collections

Two words: Description Nirvana. When you're struggling with finding the right sensory detail for settings, check the Setting Thesaurus. Looking to add some symbolism and motif depth, describe your characters' physical features, their emotions, unique personality traits or a host of other things? We've got you covered, all accessible right here at WHW.   

One Stop For Writers: A Library Like No Other  

Like the WHW sample thesaurus collections, do you? Well then you will love One Stop, where all the grown up versions of our thesaurus collections live (including the bestselling book versions of The Emotion Thesaurus, Positive Trait Thesaurus, Negative Trait Thesaurus and the yet-to-be-released Setting Thesaurus books [Spring 2016].) Hundreds of new entries & expanded content, tutorials, tools to map out story structure, one-of-a-kind generators and innovative character and world building worksheets make this a powerhouse library for writers. It's all searchable with a click, making NaNoing that much easier. Registration is free, so you can test drive the site.



If all else fails and you can't seem to get over the Big Blank, go around him. Put in a sentence or two as a placeholder, and then move forward in the story to a point where you feel on solid ground again. Later, you can come back and fill in the blanks. Chances are if your brain has time to think about the problem without feeling pressured to perform, you'll sort it out on your own and be able to add in the missing scenes.

Happy writing, Fearless NaNo Warrior. See you at 50K!

Image 1: Currens @ Pixabay
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, as well as the bestselling duo, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. A proud indie author, her books are available in five languages, sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors and psychologists around the world. She is also the co-founder of the popular site, Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop For Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.