Prepping for Nanowrimo . . .

For all of you who are brave enough to climb aboard the National Novel Writing Month, all November I’ll be posting writing tips. To warm up, here is my take on enhancing your story by clarifying the placement of your novel’s most crucial moments. 



In every great novel there are many great moments but there is always the most important moment; I call this the crosshairs of the story, like the crosshairs in a rifle sight or a camera lens, the center of the focus of your book. For me it helps the writing move along faster (and it helps the power of the writing) if I pinpoint the crosshairs of the whole novel AND the mini-crosshairs in each chapter (the most important moment in every chapter, the reason that chapter exists.)

Your whole story is leading up to the big Crosshairs Moment — that’s why this story is being told in the first place. Everything (subplots, themes, character development) is tied to this moment.


Les Miserable = When the protagonist declares, “I am Jean Valjean.”

Hamlet = When the protagonist has a chance to kill his uncle and yet he hesitates.

The Dead Zone = When the protagonist poses the question, “What if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?”

 A Certain Slant of Light = When the lovers realize they must give back the bodies they have borrowed.

        And in each chapter, you are writing towards a mini-crosshairs. Every paragraph in that chapter should be contributing to that most important moment. The tension, the action, the dialogue, are stepping-stones leading to your mini-crosshairs, the reason we need that chapter in the book.

        Pre-Nanowrimo exercise #1 = write down (describe) the crosshairs of your story as if someone has made a movie of your book and this is the clip they show at the Oscars when it’s nominated for Best Picture. (Tip: Don’t just say “John finds Mary.” Describe the setting, the mood, the action, the emotion. Write down what’s so great about that moment.)

        Pre-Nanowrimo exercise #2 = write down (describe) a series of chapter mini-crosshairs as if this is the preview of the movie of your novel. What clips spliced together give the best sampling of your story?

        Pre-Nanowrimo exercise #3 = go through your outline and mark the crosshairs, or most important, moment in each chapter. If you can’t find one, see if that chapter is really necessary; maybe it should be shortened and combined with another chapter. Clarifying the mini-crosshairs in your chapters helps you see where the outline may be lacking, where the plot might be flat. 

Halloween card

 Have a wonderful Pumpkin Day, everyone. And get your laptops juiced up — only 49 hours until November!


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