Nanowrimo Guide
5 min read

A guide to Nanowrimo: 14-day plan to get through Act 2

Two writers working on a laptop overlaid with the text Act 2, an 8-day plan for writing based on the classic 3-act structure.

This is your complete guide to winning Nanowrimo. We're breaking down the classic three-act story structure across a 50 000 word novel, and giving you a clear checklist of what you should be covering each day to write a compelling story and meet your wordcount goal.

We've broken the guide into three sections, one for each act. This is Act 2. You can find Act 1 here and Act 3 here.

In the classic three-act structure, Act 2 is a full 50% of the story. This is where you deliver on the promise of the premise. It's the part where all the fun stuff happens, and you have 25 000 words to cover it. We're breaking that up over the next two weeks.

Act 2 is the rising action of your story. It builds up to the midpoint of your central conflict and then drops your characters down to their lowest point (so you can have them rally for Act 3).

Your goal

We're covering two weeks rather than one in this section, so it's good to consider what you are trying to achieve in each week:

  • From 9 Nov — 15 Nov: You are taking your characters from their decision to go after their external goal, to the highest point in the story. You'll end the week with your characters feeling like the end is in sight, that things could actually work out for the best. They are optimistic and bright-eyed. They are decking the halls with boughs of holly.
  • From 16 Nov — 22 Nov: You are taking your characters from that high point, all the way into the depths of their misery. The tree is on fire. The turkey is on fire. Everything is on fire. You'll end the week with your characters feeling that nothing else could go wrong, and then you'll still make at least one last thing go wrong.

Fun & Games

The first real battle/confrontation happens in the first half of Act 2, before the mid-point. This is one that your protagonists overcome successfully enough that it ends on a false high.
This is also where the main premise of your story happens. If you're writing a heist, this is when the heist goes down. If you're writing a romance, this is when they fall in love.

Nov 9 | Fun & Games [13,336–15,000 words]

  • Show us how your protagonist is preparing themselves to solve the problem presented by the inciting incident (the central conflict).
  • Present a minor challenge or roadblock for your protagonist to overcome. They should not be able to overcome this easily, they may even fail. Make them struggle. They are still unsure of themselves and their abilities.
  • Show us how dangerous the world the protagonist has entered is.
  • Introduce an enemy.
  • If you want to introduce a sub-plot, this is the place to do it.

Nov 10 | Fun & Games [15,000–16,670 words]

  • Bring in the rising action. Something fairly big (and connected to the central conflict) must happen at this point. This is not the main battle, just the first of three, so size it accordingly.
  • Your protagonist's preparations should shift to focus on this big thing, which needs to be overcome before they can properly address the central conflict.
  • Bring in some friends/allies who can help your protagonist answer their call to adventure.
  • Flesh out your sub-plot. How does it interact with your protagonist's internal and external goal?

Nov 11 | Fun & Games [16,670–18,337 words]

  • Battle 1 – Your protagonist and friends must actively engage with the big thing that has happened, and try to overcome it.
  • Give them a challenge that they need to address. It's call and response. You will continue to do this over the next three days.
  • Make sure that your sub-plot has an escalation, and that it supports the overall story.

Nov 12 | Fun & Games [18,337–20,000 words]

  • Battle 1 – Your protagonist and friends must continue the dance of the call and response.
  • Test your protagonist and their allies. Put them through the wringer. Maybe some of them don't cut it.

Nov 13 | Fun & Games [20,000–21,671 words]

  • Battle 1 – This is the last push your protagonist and friends do before they finally overcome the first series of obstacles and challenges.
  • Give a small nod towards the sub-plot, so that your readers don't lose sight of it

Nov 14 | Fun & Games [21,671–23,338 words]

  • Allow your characters to regroup after battle 1. Where does this leave them concerning their external goals?
  • Consider where this leaves each character in their character arc. Have they moved closer to their internal goal, or further away?
  • How does the outcome of battle 1 affect your sub-plot? Bring these consequences into play before you hit the mid-point.


Nov 15 | Mid-point [23,338–25,000 words]

  • Show us a first glimpse that things could work out for the best. This is where you show your reader how high the stakes are. What could winning actually look like? What would it mean for them?
  • Remind us about your protagonist's external goal, and raise the stakes of failure. Success must feel even more important now than it was before.
  • Give your protagonist a medium-sized setback (not minor, but not completely devastating). They still have confidence in their abilities.
  • Have your protagonist recommit to the goal in some way. They are adamant that they will go on, despite the remaining challenges.
  • End this section on a high (it's a false high, of course, but your protagonist doesn't know that yet).

Bad guys close in

Nov 16 | Bad guys close in [25,000–26,672 words]

  • Introduce your second plot point. This is the next big thing that your protagonist will have to overcome. It should be bigger than the rising action event at the start of Act 2. This is the event that will push your protagonist towards Battle 2/Confrontation 2.
  • This event should also be unsettling for your protagonist. They are no longer so sure they will reach their external goal.
  • Your protagonist's focus is now on preparing to fight this next battle.

Nov 17 | Bad guys close in [26,672–28,339 words]

  • Doubt is creeping in. Show us how this affects your protagonist and their relationships.
  • Your protagonist may need an intervention or moment of realisation to restore their confidence and conviction. You could do this by giving them a small win, or by having an ally hold them accountable/give them a pep talk.
  • Let them consider how to move forward. They should feel like they need to formulate a new plan/approach. It's not business as usual.
  • Spend some time showing where your protagonist is in their overall character arc. How close are they to their internal goal?

Nov 18 | Bad guys close in [28,339–30,000 words]

  • Battle 2 – Your protagonist and friends actively engage with the antagonist. Things begin to go awry, and may not be going according to plan.
  • Provide some insight into your antagonist's character arc.
  • Touch on your sub-plot.

Nov 19 | Bad guys close in [30,000–31,673 words]

  • Battle 2 – Things go really wrong. Your protagonist and allies may overcome some of these, but not all of them.
  • Develop the arcs of your other characters, and let them flex a bit. Give them some opportunities to be badasses.

Nov 20 | Bad guys close in [31,673–33,340 words]

  • Battle 2 – Things go really, seriously wrong.
  • Your protagonist finally makes their way through all the challenges (some of which have not gone well). Their spirit is still intact.

All is lost

Nov 21 | All is lost [33,340–35,000 words]

  • They confront the antagonist and fail. It's not enough that they lose the battle: make the worst possible thing happen to your protagonist.
  • Crush your protagonist's spirit. Take away any hope they have of ever attaining their external goal. Take everything they've ever loved away from them. Leave them in the fetal position.
  • Then kick them while they're down.

Nov 22 | All is lost [35,000–36,674 words]

  • Allow your characters to regroup. Where does this leave them concerning their external goals?
  • Consider where this leaves each character in their character arc. Have they moved closer to their internal goal, or further away?
  • How does the outcome affect your sub-plot? Bring these consequences into play.

All rules are made to be broken, so go ahead and break them! It's your story, after all. Feel free to take the advice that resonates with you and discard anything that doesn't.