Friday, November 08, 2019

Day 8: NaNoWriMo 19

Day 8 of NaNo WriMo

I set out this NaNoWriMo with the intention of trying something totally new—working off of an outline. So back in September I spent a month using The Snowflake Method, which helps writers to organize every aspect of their novel, especially character and scene development and plot structure. I actually enjoyed this more linear process of writing and felt like it would make writing this very different and very complicated novel easier (it involves time travel—way outside my writing comfort zone!).

I was TOTALLY wrong about this making writing a novel easier.

I’m a “pantser” by nature, so NaNoWriMo has always been my jam, since the rules and goals are totally in line with the “panster” approach: Sit your pants down in your chair and write and write until you reach 50k.

But...the problem I have been having over the last few NaNos is that I have this mess of a manuscript that requires at least a year's worth of editing. The idea of not having such a tangle of words this time was very appealing. 

So, I thought that I could go against my natural inclination and attack this project with a blueprint in hand.

However, instead of making the process easier, it’s made me stay way in my head and agonize over each and every detail. Am I following the plot outline? Am I using all those details  I wrote in the character inventory? It also interrupts my natural inclination to improv as I write, meaning throw in and develop details about my characters and their lives in the moment that I am writing their scenes. I just can't do that when working off of an outline.

So today as I was working slowly and painfully through a particular scene (and bored to death from agonizing over details in my outline) I decided that I wasn’t going to obsess over those things and that I would loosely follow the outline (at least plot-wise) and that the goal needed to get the words on the page, even if they are shitty words….and this led me to actually rethink my whole goal, which was to write a much neater draft than I normally do. 

Instead, I’m going to set the goal of write shitty but write a lot and write fast—fix later. Who cares if it takes me a year to clean up the book? It's not like I'm on a hard and fast deadline.

Forget any level of perfection or even good…I’m settling for done. I’m settling for words on page, all of them.

Happy writing everyone!

Friday, November 01, 2019

Diary of a NaNo-er: Day 1

It's Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, something I've successfully participated in 4 other times. What does "successfully complete" mean in the world of NaNo? It means finish 50,000 words Yep. That's it. Not edit. Not even write the whole thing. Just 50k—getter done!

This approach has never been a chore for me. I'm a "pantser" by nature (definition: one who goes by the seat of one's pants when writing, ie. doesn't plan), so this has always been fun for me. But what it hasn't been is...well...successful. Here's what I mean by that: Yes, I can finish 50k words. Not a problem. BUT those manuscripts from the 4 other times of NaNo-ing are still sitting unfinished (except for one, which is totally done and at one time was in the hands of well-known editors for consideration but that didn't work out so it is sitting in the proverbial drawer waiting for me to resurrect it again). It all boils down to this: I want to try a new approach to this whole process.

I'm also going to keep a diary of the experience this time. Another thing I notice is that NaNo is always this crazy blur, and I really want to be present to the experience. This goes back to my days as an MFA student, where I wasn't always in such a rush to get a certain number of words. I was far more deliberate with my writing. I miss that.

So, today, Day 1, I’m at the library because my original plan—what do they say about making those?—was foiled, so instead of going up finally to What Cheer Press and use their shared worked space like I thought a real writer would do for the first day of NaNo, I am here at the library, and, well, this isn’t ideal. I am in a cubical with the sunlight pouring in (not a bad thing), but it’s very noisy because it appears that someone is helping another individual VERY loudly, and also I am way too close to the check-out desk where the idea of quiet seems to have eluded them all…

Title page of my WIP for NaNo

It’s 12:07 and I am not spending a lot of time on this diary entry. The point of it is to keep me accountable during this month. I don’t have the hard and fast goals that I have had in the past, the same ones you all have, the whole premise of NaNo—to complete an entire draft in that messy and pantser-y way. Not this time. I want to go slow and steady and try something different: my goal is simply to get a few chapters out of this new novel…chapters that I feel good about, which means edit as I go. Since all I ever do in my approach is pants my way through things, I need to change it up.

In all the years I’ve been a writer of novels that’s how each one was approached, and since I’m not exactly on the best sellers list (yet?), I figured I’d try the opposite (it’s kind of what they say in this mode of therapy called DBT, do the opposite as in if what you have been doing isn’t making things better, let’s try the opposite, as in the thing most likely that you are afraid to do because you are afraid you will fail.


No pantsing this time. In fact, I spent all of September using the snowflake method to prep for this NaNo. I’ve never in my life outlined an entire novel BEFORE even writing the opening scene.

It’s 12:10. So I am stopping this diary entry now. I’ll publish this later and add to it how much I actually got done, and since I basically only have until 1:30, I better get going! Or as I tell my husband, I better get fishing…that’s what we are calling my writing time this month—going fishing—because that’s what he does with whatever free time he can carve out, and in case you don’t know, it’s been fishing season since June. Now that it’s November, it’s MY fishing season.

Goin’ fishing!

It’s now 3:10. I managed to get 2000 not terrible words in. This is a shock to me. I edited as I went—not obsessively—and I didn’t write in that frantic way I typically do for NaNo. I feel good!

Let’s see what tomorrow brings! Hopefully, a lot of fish!