NaNoWriMo Week 3: The Importance of Tension in a Story

November is nearly over and winning has already begun for NaNoWriMo! I can’t believe how fast November went by…although I’m not ready to validate my novel and win just yet. I’m taking it slow and steady until I reach the finish line. This week was pretty good but there were some hiccups here and there.


I was able to keep my momentum going into the third week and the word count was high–I had no problem writing, I did have trouble with the plot though. As much as you can have a character-driven plot and great writing to move the plot along, your character also has to be compelling enough to move the plot along. I often felt like my main character wasn’t really doing much to affect the plot, so this was a bit of a challenge for me. I had to make her braver, bolder and less hesitant. I realized that the problem was that she was too passive.

I think I ran into this problem because I often write conflict and tension using internal conflict rather than external conflict. I realized I’m not used to writing about external conflict between characters, so it’s definitely something I have to work on. I’ve been trying to listen more carefully to  conversations and arguments, to the way people talk and often talk around things rather than about them.

This past week, I did some reflecting on my story, I was honestly starting to wonder where it was going. I didn’t have any doubts about it but I did wonder how I would slightly alter things to make it a little more interesting. I came to a point where I felt like there wasn’t much going on and knew that I needed to add in some tension between my characters. I solved this problem, surprising myself as I took some time away from my story and really thought about it. Sometimes writing is just as much creative problem-solving as it is free and spontaneous creation.

When I did add in more tension, my story took a surprising turn and revealed some character motivations to me that I wasn’t aware of before. I just love this. I had focused so much on my female protagonist that I had neglected my male protagonist and supporting character, and their character motivations. I found myself asking: What are their motivations? What’s at stake for them? Why are they behaving that way? 

The pep talk for week three was just what I needed though. It came just in time to remind me that it’s okay to re-evaluate my story and really think about where it’s going. It encouraged me that if I can get through this phase, I can write my story and finish it.

As of this week, my word count is: 34,406. I’m a little bit behind because there were about two or three days where I didn’t write but I’m determined to catch up today 🙂


How is your writing going? I’d love to hear, whether you are doing NaNoWriMo or working on some of your own projects.

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Week 3: The Importance of Tension in a Story”

  1. My novel in progress is still revealing itself to me. I’m close to the end of draft #2, and two new plot threads are taking shape in my head for draft #3. One of them involves turning an important secondary character into a viewpoint character. What you said about problem-solving has been so true for me with this project. “Well, I need to do this — how do I do it?” Usually the solution comes to me when I’m out walking with the dog, or when I’m just falling asleep.

    1. It’s amazing where writing can take you, isn’t it? That’s interesting about the secondary character possibly turning into a viewpoint character–I was considering the exact same thing during my first draft but thought I’d just write it all out and think about it when I edit after. The same happens to me too when I’m problem-solving. I’m usually lying in bed at night or taking a break doing something other than writing, and the solution comes to me. I think we’re at our most meditative at night and it allows for us to be receptive to ideas. Thanks for sharing your experience on your writing project–this is giving me an idea on what I can expect when I move into the editing/proofreading stage. Best of luck on your writing projects and happy writing 🙂

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