Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

On the Home Stretch


NaNo Week 4 is here. Seven days left to hit 50,000 words. I can see the finish line, and it’s not that far away. How have you been doing? Will you hit your 50k before next Sunday?

After almost 2 weeks of hiding from the #@&!$ cold (Yes, I live in MN, but it’s still not supposed to be below freezing in November. It just isn’t.), we are getting a two-day respite. There’s nothing as refreshing as a walk in relatively balmy 40 degree weather, even if the sun is still playing behind the clouds.  Reminded me of spring, with the damp air and brown grass exposed after the snow melts. Except I know it isn’t spring; this is just the warning shot over the bow.

I’m within a few days of hitting the NaNo finish line. I’ll have my word count, but I’m nowhere near the end of the story. In fact, I’m just reaching the midpoint. This is a first draft/rough draft, so I can make notes and fast-forward to the major scenes, but the idea is to write the whole novel: beginning, middle, end. I’m sure I’m not the only writer who runs into this. My problem is this year I’m rewriting a novel I wrote a couple years ago, and because of real life chaos, I never got a solid story arc set up for the reboot.

Some writers are “pantsers”: they sit down and just write. That’s it. And it works for them. Some are planners: they have an outline, rough or detailed, and use that as a road map for the story. I like the idea of an outline, and I use one if only to make sure I stay within sight of the road. I brainstormed the story, but failed to build any sort of guiding outline. My muse is tsking, and I know he’s thinking “I told you so.”

Are you a pantser? What do you do when the story road suddenly disappears, and what you thought might happen won’t? Do you change your vision?

Sometimes planners have detailed outlines that guide their story like train tracks. The story can’t veer off the path without risking derailment. But what happens when the characters decide they want to get off the train? That’s why my idea of an outline is just as a guide. I’ve learned the characters know what they want to do, and they’ll do it, or risk becoming less real and more like cardboard cutouts. That’s the beauty of rough drafts; write it no matter where the story goes, and wrangle things into order later.

Kick your muse into high gear for the sprint to the finish line. Offer her extra-strong coffee or promise those fine European chocolates as a reward, but you can do it. See you at the finish line!


Author: Julie Holmes, author

Pen names: J. M. Holmes, J. M. Goebel A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I've been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. In real life, I am a technical writer with a family of two teens, a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, two chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

6 thoughts on “On the Home Stretch

  1. It’s my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I simply make the story up as I go along. I had some sort of idea what’s supposed to happen, but I’m very willing to discard it if it doesn’t fit the story anymore. While it can be fun venturing into the unknown with your writing, it’s very easy to get stuck. Writing prompts, Twitter words sprints or motivational messages helped me though. I found it doesn’t really matter what I write as long as I’m not bored with my story, the reader hopefully won’t be either. So, sometimes I let my characters do something crazy, the “What If”-game always works and lately I just sent them on a road trip. Whatever comes to mind mostly works in some way.


    • Congrats on your first NaNo! Yes, it is easy to get stuck; I’m about there myself. I usually have some scenes played out in my mind, so if I get stuck, I’ll just fast forward to the next scene I’ve run through in my head. I know it’s a first draft, and I know I’ll be going back to clean it up, so I just try to keep moving. Letting the characters do something crazy is so much fun! Good luck, and see you at the finish line!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t have that many scenes thought out beforehand, so I mainly can’t skip forward. But I’m just writing whatever I can think of and hope it turns out alright in the end. I think the most important thing is to finish it either way. I never finished any writing project and just the thought of having a finished novel, however imperfect it may be, gets me excited and motivated to reach the end
        Good luck to you too! We can do this!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m the same way–I have an outline, but my characters never want to follow it. I always end up far away from where I originally planned, but it’s usually a lot better than what I originally planned as well. There’s something to be said for letting the story grow on its own.

    Good luck as you sprint to the end of NaNo!


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