NaNoWriMo Tips: When Passive Voice Starts Winning

As you plow through NaNoWriMo, are you finding yourself writing with conditional verbs: should, would, haven’t, could, maybe, might? It might be time to redirect your energies because this is a symptom of running out of steam and inspiration.

This isn’t about editing your work during the NaNoWriMo month of November. It is about changing your writing tune midway if you find yourself using passive voice in your writing.

This isn’t about a character who uses passive voice when they speak and in their actions.

This is about being unclear and unsure about what you are writing. It is about you losing confidence in your writing.

Switch immediately to active voice using action and active verbs. Don’t let your characters wonder through a fog of uncertainty. Put them in a place and let them thrive there with your word choices.

Still finding it difficult? Consider passive voice as a symptom. Here are some solutions.

  • Return to your original premise, the concept that sent you down this path. Has it changed? Evolved? Lost its way?
  • Have you swung off the path and meandered down a tangent? Switching to passive voice could be a sign that you are losing confidence in this story line, not the entire story. Find your way back, or start a new tangent and follow that.
  • Are you losing interest in your character(s)? Consider making another attempt at their character personality and descriptions and find what’s missing. Have you fallen out of love with them? Find a way to love them, or change them into someone you can love again.
  • Leave the story and dig into the back story, the history, the politics, the society in and around your story. It’s called worldbuilding. Like a child playing with tinker toys or legos, build the universe in and around your story to find the passion again.
  • Ask yourself why. It is that simple. Why are you using soft, cautious, careful words in your writing? Is it your story? Characters? Self-confidence? Guilt? Procrastination? Something is getting in your way and this is a symptom. Identify it sooner rather than later and get our your mental bulldozer to clear the path so you can keep writing.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.


NaNoWriMo Tips: Embrace Tangents

During NaNoWriMo, the challenge of the word count hangs over us. Take advantage of it and wander down those tangents. Explore a tickle of an idea. Flesh it out. Does it work? If so, keep meandering. If not, that’s okay, you might be able to use this as a short story or as extras for your website during the promotion of your book later.

Maybe the off-beaten path you’ve just beaten is really your story, not the one you were writing. Or a sequel. You might not have considered this as a series, but it could be. Why not?

Tangents can also help you with back story, character descriptions and personalities, worldbuilding, opportunities to expand your story and your thoughts about the story. You can slice and dice in the editing process, but if the call to deviate pulls your fingers in that direction, go with it for a while and see what happens.

Keep an open mind and let your unconscious lead you in what might be the right direction.

If it isn’t, your mind will pull you back automatically, so don’t worry. Keep writing.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Locations

Where does your story take place? Does it happen in one place or many places?

Take time in NaNoWriMo to write extensive descriptions of each location in each scene in your story. In the editing phase, you might only use a small part of this, but by exploring the surrounds around your characters fully, you have a wealth of information to choose from.

It’s difficult to write about a place you’ve never experienced, though science fiction and fantasy authors do it all the time. If you are new to writing, write about a location you are familiar with, one you know well. You can always change or rename the location later during the editing stage.

Consider the following as you describe each location:

  • Where are they?
  • When are they? What time of day? What year? What month? Which day of the week?
  • Describe the ground.
  • Describe the building(s) outside.
  • Describe the building(s) inside.
  • What is the most predominate color?
  • What do you smell? One thing or many things? Which is dominant? Which is a hint of fragrance?
  • What are the sounds? Are there many or few? Which is loudest, drowning the rest? Which is softest, heard only when paying attention or in a moment of silence from the rest of the sounds?
  • What is the temperature?
  • Is it dry, humid, wet, damp, windy, hot, cold?
  • What does the character(s) feel on their skin? Is the sensation the same on top of the head as well as the feet?
  • Where is the sun? Can it be seen?
  • Describe textures, of walls, ceilings, furniture, floor, plants.
  • Is nature here? What kind of nature? What is it, what does it look like?
  • Does anything in the scene trigger stereotype reactions?
  • Does anything in the scene trigger an emotional or memory response to one or more characters?
  • Are there doors, paths, or exits?
  • Are there windows? Open, closed? What is visible through them?
  • Does the space feel open or closed, restricted, or free?
  • Are there landmarks, statues, artwork, elements that serve as markers or direction indicators?
  • Which way are the characters facing? North, east, west, south, etc.
  • Is the sun/moon in their face or behind them? Or not anywhere?
  • Are their vehicles? Furniture? What man made objects are near them? Do they interact with them?
  • Find one element in the scene and describe it. Is it important to the scene, or an accessory? Does it help the story or help define the characters?
  • Find another element, one that might be missed. Describe it. Why is it there?

This should start a series of your own questions specific to the location. Write those down and create your own list.

You can find more writing tips and prompts and tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo: The Half-Way Point with the Tips, Tricks, Tools, and Resources to Finish

It’s the half way point in NaNoWriMo and our Prompt-a-Day project is also half way through, hopefully inspiring you to look at your writing and characters in a new way.

Writers in the Grove now has 10 members participating. One participated last year, so this is a huge leap and we are so proud of everyone.

Because our group is so diverse in writing subject matter, age, and skills, we’ve made a few adjustments to the NaNoNoWriMo guidelines. Those that are willing to stick with the word count as a score card are continuing to do so, report in to NaNoWriMo’s check in for the region. Those who are intimidated by such accounting have committed to write for a minimum of an hour a day.

The same challenges that face the word count writers face the timed writers. What to write, how to say it, self-doubt, self-worth, and the dark cloud of wonder about how this will ever amount to something. The challenge is to let all of that go and just write. Edit on December 1, but for November, just write and see what happens.

We’ve heard from several people that their goals of plotting first went by the wayside as their characters took over. Now they are pantsing it, just writing by the seat of their characters’ pants, as one described it. “I just hang onto my keyboard and hope they take this thing somewhere.”

In the Portland region, we are getting closer and closer to 16 million words for those keeping score. That’s amazing.

NaNoWriMo Day 12 Portland Regional Word Count Chart 2015

To keep the momentum going, we’ve put together some guides and helpful resources and wanted to share them with you.

Novels aren’t written by muses who come down through the ceiling and shoot magic through your fingers and out onto your laptop’s keyboard. Before NaNoWriMo, some teensy part of me still believed that because writing is a creative act, it should feel easy. But fairies don’t write novels. They’re written with one simple equation:

Time + Work = Novel

Stephanie Perkins on NaNoWriMo Blog on the rewards of not giving up on your story

NaNoWriMo Survival Resources – To Get You To the Half-Way Point

The following articles and guides should help you get to the half-way point, or help you through the rest of your month long writing experiment. It is an experiment. Sometimes you know where you are going, and sometimes you have no idea, and sometimes, both are true. Edit on December 1 but keep writing through the month and see where it takes you.

Along the way, hopefully the following will help, inspire, and motivate you.

Prompts and NaNoWriMo Ass Kickers