Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

Plotting from a Pantser’s Brain

I had never realized just how thoroughly I pants my way through stories.

When I began Novel #1, it was a NaNoWriMo project. I’d had the overall arc in my head for years—maybe as long as a decade—but just hadn’t ever put anything in writing. It made for an exhilarating experience when that November rolled around, and I finally spewed whatever came to mind, day after day, just to get to that final word count goal.

Revision became quite the task then, because events hadn’t been well (or at all) planned, and lots of details had to get cut or added to make sense of the damn thing. But in its own way, that was an exploratory process, too, and it’s been another painful, rewarding experience.

Before I started Novel #2, a couple of short story ideas cropped up, and so I pursued them. Trying to be more methodical about the whole thing, I decided to try outlining the shape of a story before diving in. Before I could get farther than the Big Idea of the story, though, words came to me. Desperate not to lose them, I hurried to make notes. Next thing I knew, I had half of the story drafted. “I’m new to short stories,” I told myself. “I can plot out the next one.”

Sadly, the next one evaded me. Using my inborn stubbornness to my advantage, I turned instead to Novel #2. “This one I simply can’t start without a good outline. Rewriting the whole damn thing was too hard the first time.” Duly self-instructed, I’ve been doing my damnedest to flesh out the ideas that have been floating so carelessly through my subconscious.

Much to my dismay, ideas are few and far between.

Based on the rest of my life, I’d not have pegged myself as a Pantser. It seems I always need a Plan (though I’m not as desperate for one as some in my family). So I’ve been somewhat boggled to realize just how difficult I find it to brainstorm ideas without writing out scenes. It’s been a mental adjustment to stop considering myself a Plotter, but the evidence is overwhelming; I find it much harder to plan ahead than to see where the words lead me.

Given my experience with Novel #1, though, I can’t stomach the idea of another painful slog through ground-level revisions. I refuse to let the easy road now dictate my future path. So it’s time to brew some more coffee, put in my earplugs, and get on with it. I will conquer this plot yet.

End-of-Year Whirlwind

Wow… Where did the last five weeks go?

When I last posted, I was reeling from the havoc having surgery had wreaked on my NaNoWriMo plans. Since then, I persevered and squeaked in a “win” under the wire (with four hours of editing left to do on the last day of the month, I completed them with about three-and-a-half hours to spare); written consistently for my other, almost three-year-old blog; and kept up (barely) with my family’s schedule of travel, health issues, and various extracurricular activities.

So what’s the state of my novel, you may ask? Thanks to the huge amount of work I put in during November, it’s getting much closer to the end of Round Two major revisions. No, I’m not going to make it by the end of the year like I told my Editor (oops). However, at our most recent meeting, my CPs told me that the third of my four subsections is working pretty well. There’s pacing! There’s clear motivation! There’s characterization! It was quite a rush to realize I was nearing the finish line on those chapters.

Of course, there’s still work to do. As we were leaving, one CP mentioned that the second subsection still had some more serious issues to resolve, so my Optimistic outlook was summarily downgraded back to Cautiously Optimistic. Looking over her notes, though, I don’t think there’s anything insurmountable there. In fact, the suggested changes are drastically less severe than the ones I’ve already made. I dare to hope that I’m making something akin to real progress.

Speaking of progress, those last, frantic hours of NaNoWriMo led to some conceptual breakthroughs for my finale. There’s an entire extra, interstitial chapter for me to write now, linking the end of that third subsection and the beginning of the fourth. Finding a balance between polishing what’s already there and creating new material has been a challenge, but I’ve approached it like much of the rest of the revision process: identify something that makes me want to work on it, and milk that for all it’s worth.

If I can ride this I’m-making-progress high through the end of the year, I might actually get this revision in the can by the end of January! Now I just need you readers to hold me accountable…

When the NaNo Challenge Backfires

Last year I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was awesome. Seeing that stats chart every day, with the little line to beat in order to meet the challenge was exactly what my brain needed to thrive. I pushed myself, got off to a strong start, and never looked back. I stayed ahead of the curve the whole month, even when I had to take a few days off near the end due to a family health emergency.

Well, this year’s different. First, I’m doing hours of editing instead of words written. That wasn’t really an issue, though. I got off to another strong start, averaging nearly 2.5 hours per day (my equivalent of 2500 words) for the first six days or so. But getting ahead early just wasn’t enough.

Last week, I went in for surgery. It was a scheduled surgery, something I knew was coming, and shouldn’t involve an arduous recovery. It was still surgery. And it kept me from doing any novel editing for two days. I only got in a half an hour on the third day, none again on the fourth, and only an hour on the fifth. Needless to say, I’m now quite a way behind the curve.

This is where that little motivational progress line backfires. “I’m already so far behind; how will I ever catch up now?” my jerkbrain asks.

“Well, you’ll never even have a chance if you don’t sit down and do something,” practical brain replies.

They go at it back and forth, bringing in points about other things that need to be done around NaNoWriMo, too: grocery shopping, a book review, bill paying… I still don’t know which one of them is going to win by the end of the day.

For  now, though, they’re both losers. “Nap. Now!” bellows recuperation brain.

If you need me, I’ll be huddled under my down comforter.

Individual WriMo Challenges

A lot of folks who participate in NaNoWriMo (“WriMos,” for short) look forward to the weekends so they can pound out a lot of words. They’re finally off work for a couple of days, and can dedicate more time to the challenge. Personally, I dread NaNo weekends.

You see, I don’t currently “work outside the home.” Writing is my day job, even though it’s never paid me a penny, nor is likely to any time in the foreseeable future. So when my kids go off to school and my hubby off to work, the only ones left in the house are the dog and me.

I’m not saying that makes it easy to get my writing done. Just like other WriMos, I have distractions. Social media, usually my primary link to the outside world, sing their siren songs, tempting me to waste hours catching up on the minutiae of my friends’ lives and developments in my fandom. Then there are the piddly things that always pull at the from-home worker: laundry, dishes, paying bills, grocery shopping… A typical day is not actually the lovely seven-hour stretch of uninterrupted writing time it might appear from the outside.

That is, of course, why I need NaNoWriMo in the first place. I need a way to hold myself publicly accountable, to force me to make the most of those hours, in between the chores and distractions. Having a specific goal makes it more likely that I’ll make time, shoving aside the things that can wait.

While a great many WriMos may be fitting their time in around full-time work, I’m fitting it in around young kids. That’s why weekends kind of suck for me. On Saturdays and Sundays, rather than hours of a one-canine-and-me household, the majority of my day is filled with energetic seven-year-olds desperate for some new craft project, bike ride, or other activity to occupy their time. Writing is hard enough for me when I only have to combat my own jumpy brain; it’s practically impossible to concentrate when two or three other people’s activities are competing for my attention, too.

I know I’m extremely fortunate to have the option not to hold down a regular job, and I count my blessings daily. On NaNoWriMo weekends, though, sometimes those blessings get on my nerves.

To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

I’ve really been wanting to find a way to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Initially, I’d thought—extremely naïvely, in retrospect—that I could draft Book #2 this November. (It’s a sure sign you’re a n00b when  you think you can get from a NaNoWriMo draft to a query-ready manuscript in a couple of months.)

As NaNoWriMo 2013 has crept up on us, it’s become ever clearer to me that drafting a new book at this stage would be a fool’s errand. The one I have in mind is a sequel to my current work in progress; beginning it before this one’s done is risky at best, and disastrous at worst. No new NaNo draft this time!

Yet I got so much out of it last year, I really wanted to participate again. I thought perhaps I could find a way to count words of my revisions instead, but I don’t expect to completely rewrite everything I’ve got, and there’s no way I’ll be adding another 50k words to the current count.

Then it hit me: editing hours!

I don’t recall where I’d seen the idea, but I know it wasn’t my own. Since mature artists steal, I thought I was well within my rights to use it (even if I’m not a mature artist yet). So this year, I’m not going to measure the success of my NaNo month by whether or not I reach 50k words, but whether or not I reach 50 hours of editing.

Keeping track on the site will require a brief daily calculation, using the conversion rate of 1 hour editing time = 1000 words written. Each day I’ll have to add onto the previous total to get my running total for the month, rather than just reading a word count off my document, but I think it’ll be worth it. If I can actually dedicate that much time to the revisions which so desperately need to be done, I have a real chance of getting Round Two of major revisions done before December.

Now that’s an exciting prospect!