NaNoWriMo Tips: Continuity Issues in a First Draft

Welcome to the eighth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.

Over the next few posts1Well, three of the next four. I did some poor planning when I designed my initial schedule., I want to focus on some common blocks that NaNoWriMo novelers start to hit around this time of the project. That’s not to say that you’ve hit each (or any) of these yourself at this point. You might be buzzing through your novel, gradually increasing your word count as you fall more and more in love with your amazing story. If that’s the way that you feel right now, that’s amazing. That said, even though these posts might not feel like they’re for you at this point, I would encourage you to read them anyway. You never know when one of these feelings might creep up on you.

I can say that I’ve had each of the feelings I’ll talk about in the next three posts — feeling like my book has continuity issues, like I’m out of ideas, and that I hate my story — at various points writing many items that I’ve written. Hell, I’m even personally experiencing the topic of today’s post right now with my non-NaNoWriMo work in progress. The fortunate thing is that while these topics are all big potential stressors when it comes to writing, fortunately they’re (generally) not topics that all arise at the same time.

If you’re someone that came into NaNoWriMo completely blind, you’re likely at a point where if you go back to read your story, you’ll likely have a plot path you’re following, but there’s probably some giant plot holes that have started to introduce themselves. The main storyline may be in decent shape, but your main character’s backstory could be inconsistent chapter to chapter. Side characters may pop in and out of scenes where they don’t belong. If you’re anything like I was in 2015, you might even accidentally write a character into a chapter, only to realize later that you killed them off three chapters earlier. The sad part is that 2015 was the year I was relatively prepared to do NaNoWriMo.

Granted, continuity issues aren’t the worst thing to have happen at this stage of the writing process. As I’ve talked about in previous posts, NaNoWriMo is about getting your story on paper. It is, at its very essence, as way for you to write the first draft of that novel you’ve always wanted to work on. There will be mistakes in this first draft. It’s okay to make those mistakes as long as you’re making progress towards that goal of finishing both the novel and the 50,000 word goal, right?

Well, yes. That said, I know that once I realized a giant piece of inconsistency existed in my story, it make it a lot harder to keep moving forward. For example, in the story I’m working on right now, one of my alpha readers noticed a massive point of inconsistency in the backstory of one of my two main characters. Basically I had written lead up to why this character had broken up with her high school girlfriend one way in chapter 3 of the book and another way in the initially outline I’d written. Normally, this wouldn’t be a massive issue. Just change either the outline or the chapter and move on. The problem was that by the time the reader noticed my inconsistency, I had written both scenarios into fact at various points in the next six chapters of my story. This means that at some point in the future, I have a ton of re-writing to do, which was a little disheartening to realize initially.

My advice if you have a self-inflicted bout of continuity issues in your NaNoWriMo project at this point is to do the following.

  1. Pick a way to solve that continuity issue and stick with it going forward. Write everything from this point forward with that new plan in mind. You can go back and fix previous chapters later.
  2. Know where an instance of the inconsistency is, but don’t re-read your story seeking out every
  3. If you’re writing with a writing buddy, talk through your struggles with them (or feel free to share them in the comments here). Maybe they’ll give you an idea that solves your continuity issue going forward. If nothing else, they may well be able to empathize with the same struggle you’re facing.
  4. Keep a list of continuity issues you do notice through your story. Again, you don’t need a comprehensive list at this point — just things you notice if you go back in your story for any reason. Future you — the version of you that has to edit this story — will thank you.

A commonly overlooked reality of books, television series, and other media is that if left to go on for long enough, nearly any story will have some sort of continuity error, be it unintentional2As is the case with most continuity errors. or, less commonly, intentional3Pretty much any time Kenny dies in South Park prior to the creation of the Mysterion character.. Your story likely will too, both now as well as after you edit it once. Or twice. Or multiple times. The goal is to limit those continuity errors once you’re completely finished with your book.

The reality is that you’re not totally done with your book at this point. You’re just past the halfway point. There will be holes you missed as you’re telling your story, regardless of whether you went into the month with a plan or not. Do whatever you need to in order to help yourself deal with them now. That said, don’t spend too much time on continuity errors at this juncture. I promise, they’ll still be there in December when it’s time to edit.

Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #16

Happy November! It’s one of the two best months of the year (at least in the USA), as you have fall weather, Thanksgiving, football and hockey season going strong, as well as summer and baseball mercifully ending. Of course, November isn’t perfect, as Black Friday is a thing4On one of my old blogs, I wrote a short story about how weird an alien civilization would find Black Friday to be. If I can find the post, I’ll put it up on this blog at some point in the future.. But hey, even a perfectly snowy day can have its moments of ugliness, right?

As an additional quick note, there will be no mid-month short story challenge prompt in December. This is because I’d like a month off from writing a prompt and a short story, particularly with how much I’ve been posting this month. Plus people are busy during the holidays and stuff5How dare all of you…. The next story prompt will be posted on January 15, 2019.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on December 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: Maximum 2500 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Truculent, gabby, rambunctious, yellow, scared, fox, dye
  • Genre: No limitations
  • Rating/Content/Perspective Limitation: First person perspective
  • Topic: You are people watching at a public place. Tell a story where your main character begins making up a reality for those around him/her based on what he/she sees (how they look/what they’re doing/what they’re saying/etc). End your story with a paragraph or two where the people being watched by your main character shatter that reality in some way.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Halfway Done! Now What?

Note: The prompt post for this month’s Mid-Month Short Story Challenge will post tomorrow, November 16 rather than its regularly scheduled day.

Welcome to the halfway point of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the halfway point of NaNoWriMo! That’s a really big accomplishment. Even though you’ve still got quite a bit left to do prior to completing the project, you should be proud of how far you’ve come.

This leads to an obvious question — what do you do now? Aside from the fact that you should just keep writing, that is. Depending on where you are in the process of finishing, the answer to that may differ ever so slightly. In today’s post, I’m going to give some short pieces of advice for the various points in the process writers may find themselves at halfway through NaNoWriMo.

I’m Way Ahead of Schedule

Criteria: You’re over 40,000 words and/or at least 75% done with your story.

This is where I was in 2011. I was super motivated to write my story and to get it done within the time limit that I wrote my 50,000th word on the 15th day of the month. Though I still wrote another 8,000 or so words across the next few days, I was functionally done with my story by this point. If, for whatever reason, you’ve written three-quarters of your story already, I say keep that momentum up and don’t be afraid to finish the story well in advance of the end of the month.

That said, you should also do something I didn’t bother to do in 2011. Once you do finish the story (if it is early), go back through your manuscript and see how you can make your story better. Is there a small scene you can add to better flesh out one of your side characters? Are there plot holes you can patch up with an additional chapter added to your story? This is the perfect time to add them. While this isn’t formal editing of your story, think of it as a way to make your story more editing-ready.

I’m a Little Ahead of Schedule

Criteria: You’re in the 30,000-40,000 word range and/or 60-75% done with your story.

If most writers are honest with themselves, this is where you’re hoping to find yourself at the halfway point of the month. You’ve gotten past the midpoint and are building up to the climax of the story. This might be by design, as you’re trying to build up a buffer prior to the Thanksgiving holiday6If you’re an American, that is., or it might be because you’ve just gotten invested in your story. Whatever the case is, you’re ahead of schedule, but not so much that people think you’re crazy.

With the coming fifteen days, use your time to keep doing what you’re doing. Write your story. If you need a day or two off as a break, you’ve likely built yourself some leeway to take that break. So long as you budget your time accordingly, what you’ve done through this point in the month will carry you through to the finish line.

I’m On Schedule, Plus or Minus a Few Words

Criteria: You’re in the 20,000-30,000 word range and/or 40-60% done with your story.

It seems like you’re nearly directly following that little line on NaNoWriMo’s site telling you how many words you should have each day. That’s both good news and bad news.

The good news is that you’re exactly right where you should be, at least statistically. Depending on whether you’re judging ‘on schedule’ by word count or by how finished you are with your story, your stress levels are likely either relatively normal or through the roof, in that order.

The bad news is that November has the potential to be a busy month for most people. If you’re not running at least a little bit ahead of the goal word pace, you might find yourself needing to do a bit of writing on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. And if that’s your plan, awesome! If that wasn’t your plan, you might want to start adding to your daily word counts in advance of that long weekend.

The secret good news is that if you’re like me, you can sneak away and write a bit while everyone else is in a food coma.

Oh God, I’m So Behind. Halp.

Criteria: You’ve written less than 20,000 words…possibly significantly less.

I have some advice for you that I shall break down into bullet points.

  • Coffee is your best friend. You’ll need it for one of the coming points.
  • Remember that strategy I talked about a few days back about sprint writing or scheduling days where you just write for hours on end to beef up your word count? If you have the time this (or next) weekend, take a shot at that strategy.
  • Stop writing your book in a linear fashion. Write the exciting parts now and fill in the rest. If you know what the climax of the book is going to look like, but you’re struggling to slog through the world building to get there, write the climax now. It may well motivate you to write what gets you to that point7I actually did this in my 2015 NaNoWriMo project to help get me back on track..
  • If you’re writing your book anywhere that’s online (Google Docs/Wordpress/etc), stop for now. Put your story into offline mode (if using Google Docs) or add it to a Word doc, shut off your WiFi, and just write. The internet is distracting.
  • Consider following a pomodoro timer to help you write in bursts. Use Tomato Timer if you need a quick, free site to help you with this technique.
  • Finally, keep up the faith that you can do this. In the next three NaNoWriMo posts I’ll be writing over the coming days8Technically, it’s three of the next four. I wrote this point when I had my schedule originally plotted out, only to realize I had forgotten when Thanksgiving fell this year. This forced me to change my schedule just days before the start of November. I also forgot to come back and update this post until the day it published, so you get a footnote., I’ll be talking about some of the pitfalls that can cause NaNoWriMo authors to get behind in their stories, as well as what you can potentially do to fix it. We’ll begin with one I’m dealing with now in my work in progress — continuity issues — on Saturday.

Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Progress Over Perfection

Welcome to the sixth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.

Early last month, I received a piece of advice that is oddly applicable to NaNoWriMo, despite not being delivered to me in that context. Before I talk about that advice, its context, and how it applies to NaNoWriMo, I need to talk about the beauty of being a first time NaNoWriMo participant. I swear this all ties together.

The chart above is the word count trend for my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel. I will immediately admit that day 1 involved nearly 10 hours of writing non-stop with no interruptions. That said, save for a four day stretch from the 15th through the 18th, you’ll notice I made slow and steady progress from the first day of the month. I did minimal editing through the first 21 days of the month, meaning I essentially went from pen-to-paper to completed story while making next to no changes to my story.

Compare that with my 2015 novel chart that I featured a few days ago and you’ll see a different story.

While I was much busier in 2015 than I was in 2011, one thing I noticed about my 2015 attempt9As well as my failed 2012 attempt. was that I found myself editing as I went significantly more than I did in my 2011 attempt. That’s not to say you can’t edit as you go. If there’s something you’ve written in your story that you really hate or that doesn’t make sense with the direction you’ve taken your story, you certainly can go back and edit it out. That said…I’m not certain that you should. At least not immediately.

I have a semi-rhetorical question for those of you reading this post. What is the primary purpose of NaNoWriMo? Put simply, it is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. No one can agree on exactly how many words constitutes a novel. That said, your objective for this novel in this project is to write 50,000 words. More is fine, but less is not.

Let’s say that you’ve written a chapter a day to this point. Depending on when in your day you’re reading this, this means you have 12 to 13 chapters in your story, as well as somewhere in the neighborhood of 19,992-21,658 words10If you’ve hit the word count goal on the nose every day.. For sake of discussion, let’s also say that the part of your story is a scene that is half a chapter long, or about 800 words. By removing that scene completely and rewriting it — likely the most time efficient option — you’re effectively lowering your completed word count by 800 words. Said another way, by the end of your story, you’ll have written 50,800 words. That’s assuming you don’t write a single additional word above and beyond goal to complete your story.

Back in early October, I had lunch with a former co-worker who I considered to be a mentor. Her biggest impact on me was (and still is) teaching me how to conduct myself in a more composed, professional manner in anything I do in the workplace. We had gotten on the topic of a project she was working on for her current job, which she explained was very lengthy and likely more than one person could handle quickly and efficiently. Yet, she was the only person working on it, as she was a one person department. I asked her what her next steps were in moving forward with the project and she shared with me a piece of advice she had gotten from her own mentor that she viewed as her motto, both with this project and in general.

“Progress over perfection.”

When I completed NaNoWriMo in 2011, I was so naive as to how the writing process worked that I just wrote with no mind to if the novel was coherent, free of plot holes, or (frankly) good. With my 2012 attempt, I got so caught up on making the dystopian world I was trying to build so perfect that I barely wrote any of the story during November. And with my 2015 novel, I found myself having to play catchup on weekends. This was partly due to the fact that I was busier that year, but it was also because I was insistent on making my story have as few plot holes as possible in the first draft.

The only way to finish any large task — be it a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, a massive work project, or anything else that seems insurmountable because of its large scope — is to start and keep working at it. While it will seem like you’re not making much headway at first, you’ll be able to look back after time has passed and see how far you’ve come. Take a look back up a couple of paragraphs ago. If you’ve kept pace through 13 days, you’re at over 21,000 words. That’s over 40% done with a 50,000 word novel. Holy fucking shit.

Even if you’re not there, it’s okay. Just continue to make progress. Your NaNoWriMo novel doesn’t have to be perfect right now. You can edit it in the months after the project ends. You can make it closer to perfect later. That’s not what this month is about though. This month is about progress. It’ll be much harder to make that progress if you’re constantly striving for perfection at every turn.

Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

My Pokemon Gym: Ice

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post where I shared what my Pokemon gym would be if I were the gym leader of a Fighting type gym. As I mentioned in that post, Fighting isn’t a type that’s particularly high on my list of types I like, though I did want to write the post at the request of one of my blog followers. With my birthday coming up later this month, I wanted to take the opportunity to revisit this gym concept, only this time looking at my favorite Pokemon type. That type would be Ice type Pokemon.

Ice type Pokemon are a much maligned type in the Pokemon universe. While it’s a great attacking type, dealing super effective damage to some of the most frightening offensive types, Ice types are defensive liabilities. Defensively, Ice types are weak to Fire, Fighting, Rock, and Steel Pokemon, nearly all of which feature on most common Pokemon teams in some capacity. This is what makes trainers like Lorelei, Wulfric, and Candice much easier to battle than other gym leaders or Elite Four members. Even with that in mind, my goal is to do my best to represent my favorite Pokemon typing well as a gym leader for it.

As I’ve done on previous Pokemon team/gym style posts, I’ll be sharing the six Pokemon on my team, along with their held items and moves. I’ll also be giving a little additional background into why I’ve chosen each of these Pokemon. I won’t be using legendary Pokemon on my team, despite the fact that the very first Ice type I loved is the original Ice type legendary, Articuno. I’ve tried to limit the number of Pokemon I’ve taken from any single generation, however, since Ice types have a fairly limited pool to pull from — and many of those Pokemon get evolutions in later generations randomly — I have a team that’s largely comprised of Gen I and Gen IV Pokemon.

Alolan Ninetales

Alolan Ninetales courtesy Bulbapedia

One of the critical components of getting any Ice type team to work is setting up Hail for sake of Aurora Veil and residual damage. Enter Alolan Ninetales, which combines both of these into one easy package. I chose to make Alolan Ninetales my lead Pokemon rather than my ace for this reason, as its primary purpose is to protect the rest of my team the best it can. I really wish I had five move slots on this set, as I’d love to run the Toxic/Hex combo that amuses me so much. But alas, that’s not Alolan Ninetales’ job with this set.

Ability: Snow Warning
Item: Icy Rock
Moves: Aurora Veil, Mist, Blizzard, Toxic


Lapras courtesy Bulbapedia

Because Ice types have so many weaknesses, part of my strategy as a leader is that I need to have specific counters to those weaknesses. This means that as much as I wanted to bring Cloyster on the team, Lapras is the much smarter choice as my anti-Fire counter. Lapras can be a shockingly good mixed attacker with the right moveset, though I’ve chosen to boost its survivability over attacking power, as it is one of the bulkier creatures on my team.

Ability: Shell Armor
Item: Assault Vest
Moves: Whirlpool, Perish Song, Curse, Protect


Froslass courtesy Bulbapedia

Can you tell I like troll-y Ice type Pokemon? Between a screen setting Ninetales, a trapping Perish Song Lapras, and now the queen of Destiny Bond in Froslass, my first three Pokemon on this list are meant to take out major threats to the three Pokemon that end this list. I’ve used Froslass as a lead when I’ve battled online, however her purpose on this team is to cripple the other team’s hard hitters, as well as to take them out with self-sacrifice if needed.

Ability: Cursed Body
Item: Focus Sash
Moves: Destiny Bond, Confuse Ray, Will-O-Wisp, Ominous Wind


Weavile courtesy Bulbapedia

And thus begins the hard hitters of my team. Weavile hopes that any Fighting Pokemon are dealt with before it comes in, however it’s set up to start wrecking the other team if that’s the case. As much as I want to justify using Pickpocket on Weavile, there’s no good reason to do so when Pressure exists. Not that anything will live long enough for Pressure to truly matter if all goes well.

Ability: Pressure
Item: Darkium-Z
Moves: Snatch, Icicle Crash, Bite, Dark Pulse


Mamoswine courtesy Bulbapedia

While Weavile is meant to take advantage of its speed and flinching capabilities, Mamoswine is my glacier. Sure, it doesn’t move as fast as my other Pokemon11Though Mamoswine has shockingly good speed., but it’s going to hit like a truck when it does. I considered putting Mega Glalie in this spot to give me a mega Pokemon, but then I remembered how much I detest Glalie. So no.

Ability: Thick Fat
Item: Muscle Band
Moves: Thrash, Earthquake, Superpower, Avalanche


Jynx courtesy Bulbapedia

My ace for this team is a much-maligned Pokemon that I’ve found I’m one of the few people who loves. Jynx is one of my favorite Pokemon to use, both in the mainline games and in Pokemon Go. Yes, it has horribly frail defenses, but the hope is that most of its threats are taken out early by the first few Pokemon on my team — or by Weavile and Mamoswine if not. While I was tempted to do a full kiss moves team with Jynx12As it can learn Draining Kiss, Lovely Kiss, and Sweet Kiss., only one of those made my final moveset. Jynx is oblivious to your team’s wiles, and is the anchor of my Ice type gym because of it.

Ability: Oblivious
Item: Wide Lens
Moves: Lovely Kiss, Blizzard, Dream Eater, Hyper Voice