NaNoWriMo – Halfway Point

Halfway to the finish line of NaNoWriMo. To date, I have written over 35,000 words. I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with my 2,000-word/hour pace. I needed to get down that many words per writing session because my weekends are unpredictable. I never really know if I’ll have uninterrupted time to write, so I had to assume I wouldn’t have it. Then, of course, there is Thanksgiving. I travel to spend two and a half days with my beloved 😉 family. So that’s more time I figured I wouldn’t have for my NaNo novel.

Your protagonist needs to have a story goal. This is above and beyond an urge or desire or hope. A story goal is concrete, and it requires steps that will lead the character into the story’s conflict. Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn five steps you can take to figure out your protagonist’s story goal.

Getting 50,000 words down in thirty days is our primary goal, but it’s a useless goal if what we end up with is a tangled mess.

I want to share two of my tricks to “winning” NaNoWriMo.  NaNo Notes and Master Scene Lists.


The biggest reason my early NaNo novels were so chaotic and confusing was because I put everything in my draft that my imagination served up. Since I implemented pre-NaNo strategies, I learned that writing a story from a plan works far better than writing directly from a jumbled mix of possible scenes.

But that jumbled mix of possible scenes still has to be dealt with, right? I mean, it’s not like our brains come up with, right out of the gate, a straightforward, logical three-act structure with each scene laid out in sequential and engaging form. With every character an intriguing and enticing figure.

No. When we first get going with our story idea, it’s a jumbled mix. Better to pour that chaos into a separate document that can act like a funnel to your NaNo draft (or any rough draft for that matter).

I create a Master Scene List and pull scenes from there and plug them in to my draft as I need them. My preference is to work with index cards and sticky notes because they are easy to move around and try out different scenarios. But I’ve created Master Scene Lists using Scrivener, Google, and Word. I do this to prevent my draft from getting cluttered from too many scenes that “may or may not” work.

I often have more than one Master List running. I’ll do one up for scenes, characters, settings, props, etc. As I’m writing my NaNo draft, more ideas for characters or props (for example) will come to me. Rather than just throw them straight into my NaNo draft, I add them to my Master List. This helps me stay organized. Any time I use an idea, I check it off the Master List.

TIP: Always be sure to add up the words that you write in your Master Lists because they will count toward your total word count for NaNo. Just because they might be words that are in a separate document doesn’t matter. You wrote them for your NaNo novel, so they count!


After most of my NaNo sessions, I spend a few minutes to write down notes about my story. The things that feel good, the questions I have, the new ideas I want to try, characters who are agreeable (or not). Basically, I write down anything that feels important but can wait to be dealt with until after November 30.

This journaling I do is also really helpful for my mindset. If I am feeling like I’m behind or I’m not capturing the feel of the story, then I journal through those doubts. That extra time spent on my own inner story 😉 is a big help in keeping me motivated and positive.


If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, let me know how it’s going! If you’re not doing the challenge, tell me what you’re writing instead. Do you have any tricks to help you stay organized or motivated with your writing?

Have a writerly day!

16 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo – Halfway Point”

  1. I’m not participating this year Kate, but I love your organizational skills. I know when I give it a whirl next year, I’ll definitely be outlining first – and counting my words on my other documents too! 🙂 Good luck!

  2. I am writing a children’s novel with my 12 year old. I have the opposite problem. I cannot seems to come up with enough words or scenes. I have gone from start to finish and now he and I are going bavk and beefing it up. What do you siggest that I do?

    • When you say “children’s novel” are you referring to a Middle Grade or Young Adult? The word count total for MG is about 60,000 words, and for young MG, it’s fewer than that. YA will run about 70,000 words. Knowing this–you want to first make sure you’re writing for the correct genre.

      Have you looked at your three-act structure and made sure that you have all the plot points figured out? Once those are good to go, then you need to fill in the scenes between the plot points, as you have to basically have stepping stones that lead from one incident to the next.

      In among the scenes, you’ll want to include narrative and some description to help ground your readers. Make sure you take your time explaining the world (don’t get too wordy, just enough to keep us from getting confused) and going into some description so we feel like we’re there.

      Don’t forget to dive into character arc. That goes hand in hand with three-act structure. Fully fleshed-out characters are so important, and not just the protagonist. All your major characters. Character development helps readers believe what is happening to your character (and why he/she is responding a certain way).

      Other things to look at which will help you fill in gaps are transitions, dialogue, and loose threads.

      Hopefully this will help give you some ideas to bring more words to your story!

      I’m offering story assessments in January 2019, so if you’re interested in learning more about that, just leave me a message below!

  3. Fabulous tips! I’d love to get back into creative writing because I haven’t done it in years and I really miss it. I definitely want my third book to be a novel. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Comment