NaNoWriMo 2010 Day 20 (morning session)

I managed a rather unexpected 2,508 words this morning in a mere 90 minutes, which surprised me, but which I think is due in part to a mid-course correction I made yesterday, which I will discuss in due course below.  This morning’s session brought me to a 20-day total of 49,050 words.  When I wrapped up this morning and saw that I was within 950 words of “winning”, I was tempted to press on, but I held back, deciding that I had a good session and didn’t want to press my luck.  There’s always this afternoon.

After yesterday morning’s session, I really felt that my Part 2 outline was not nearly in the shape it needed to be for me to continue without a constant daily struggle.  So I decided to address that by fleshing out all of the issues during my lunch hour yesterday.  Part 2 is more complex than Part 1, but that doesn’t mean it needed to be structured in a more complex way.  Part of my goal was to see if I could find some kind of simpler structure–like I have in Part 1–that would work in Part 2.  So I cleaned off the large whiteboard in my office and began to map out what happens in Part 2.  I tried identifying all of the key plot points, and how those points added tension to the plot, what characters were involved, when in the timeline they took place, and what forces were acting against them.  The result was the following:


It might be hard read (which is good, I suppose, since it doesn’t give anything away), but the diagram I ended up with listed all of the events on the timeline, and in relationship to a barely visible narrative arc line that curves its way up through the center of the diagram. The items in black are major plot points and the red lines that seem to criss-cross between them are items of tension, things that push against the plot point to add tension to the storyline.  I started with a simple, “How do I get from A to B in an exciting way?” and worked from there.  It turned out to be very helpful.  And John, my next door office neighbor pointed out that what I had done was have positive plot points one side and opposite plot points on the other.  It was completely unintentional, but it gave me the simple framework that I was looking for and that I’d already achieved in Part 1.

It made filling in the rest of the outline for Part 2 much easier.  But it also means there is a fair amount of reworking that will be required in the first 5 chapters of Part 2.  I say “will be required” because I’m not going back to rework them now.  NaNoWriMo is not about rewriting, but  have the outline marked up in such a way as to identify what needs reworking so I can attend to that in the second draft.  Meanwhile, I think the results of this “mid-course correction” were apparent in my work this morning.  I wrote Chapters 21 and 22 and managed to get through 2,500 words in the space of 90 minutes.  A pretty remarkable pace for me.

The reworking isn’t quite complete yet and I expect I will spend some time this afternoon (thus, the “morning session”) fixing up what remains to be fixed (without deleting or rewriting) and at that point, I may try and squeeze in one more scene to push me over the 50,000 word mark.  I received my winner’s T-shirt yesterday and as soon as I pass that mark, I’ll post a photo of me wearing that shirt.

Here are my stats for today:



  1. Hey Jamie,

    I’ve been looking for ideas for how to plot chart and timeline stories like you did above. Are you just coming up with your own way or is this something you learned from another source?



    1. Guerry, this method is something I white-boarded on my own but which I borrowed ideas from several places. David B. Coe wrote a post on narrative arc and the line of rising tension that I used in my brainstorming came from what I learned in those posts. This is all new to me and the workshops I’ve attended have been entirely short-fiction-based. This novel-writing stuff is all new to me. I’ve seen Joe Haldeman write about diagrams that he draws for his novels but I’ve never actually seen one of his diagrams so I don’t know if there is a common thread that runs through these or not.

  2. I’ll definitely check out the article. If I find anything else, I’ll share back. David Wolverton/Farland wrote about this on his daily kicks emails last year, but he only gave a textual description of it, and I couldn’t visualize what he described. In retrospect, it might be close to what you did. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get him to show a sample.


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