NaNo is on the horizon

As you probably know, I participated last year in an exercise in group insanity called NaNoWriMo. This is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every year. I’ve participated three years in a row, as well as a handful of “Camp NaNo” sessions, which are mini versions of the event that take place in April and July, typically.

For the past three years, I have written a novel during each iteration of NaNo. (Vernacular time: NaNo is both the month and the project one is working on, WriMo is the person participating… At least, these are true in my world.) My books have been varied – a young adult dystopia, a redraft of that same YA dystopia, and a sequel to Falling Apart (it does exist!). For camp, I have written a variety of things, including the very first early stages of Falling Apart, and several short stories.

There are two ways to participate in NaNo. There’s the traditional way, in which one writes 50,000 words (ideally 1667 per day or more), that all collectively “go together” and become a single novel, and then there’s the rebellious way, in which one does whatever one wants. I plan to rebel this year. Now, rebelling doesn’t come without its rules – you still must write 50,000 words. My second year of NaNo, the year I rewrote the dystopia (that will never see the light of day), I was a rebel, because the 50k are meant to be new words on a new work. Last year, writing “The Sequel” as it’s fondly titled, I rebelled because it’s under 50k, so I made up the difference by working on a few side projects, including a short story and a fanfic that never got off the ground. (Speaking of which, I should dust that thing off… I really liked it.)

This year, I will be rebelling once again. Someone told me recently that she feels like I’m always rebelling, and that’s because it’s true! I hardly ever fit inside the NaNo box, but I still have three WINNER t-shirts to show for my concerted efforts (and successes). This year’s rebellion will be different from the others in that I’ll exclusively be working on my sexy shorts. My plan is to write an anthology of ten shorts, at least 5,000 words each. That’ll net me at least 50k, and I’ll hopefully once again earn myself a WINNER t-shirt.

There are two other categories that separate NaNo participants from one another. Planners plan out their novels, however carefully, and head into November with an idea of what they’re writing. Pantsers on the other hand fly by the seat of their pants, go in without a plan, sometimes without a plot at all. There are, of course, varying degrees of planner and pantser – some planners are meticulously planned to the last detail, some just have a general idea of plot points. Some pantsers have no idea what they’re even going to write about, some have a solid plot in mind with little else planned. I am a hybrid. I used to be a strict pantser, but last year I planned and found it both easier and harder to write. This year I think I may go in with a handful of general plots in mind, but nothing very detailed.

I’m curious if any of my readers are participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Let’s hear what your experiences have been like, and what your plan is for this year!

Preparing for NaNo part 4 (Planning vs Pantsing)

What is planning? What is pantsing? Which is better? What do they have to do with NaNoWriMo?

Well, everything.

Planning is the obvious one, and you probably all know what it means for a writer. Just in case you don’t, typically when a writer identifies as a “planner” he or she is the kind of person who has some sort of outline prepared before starting a story. For me, that means following one of several methods (I like the Snowflake method the most, up through step 5 or 6 usually) to outline a novel. For some, it’s note cards. For most writers who plan, it means having a concrete idea about the beginning, middle, and end, the major plot points one plans to hit, and a list or idea of important scenes or subplots. Nearly everyone who is a planner asserts that they write better, more efficently, and more quickly with a plan, and that their work is stronger for it.

Pantsing means “flying by the seat of your pants.” Typical pantsers have at least a vague idea about where their story is going, but not always. I’ve always been a pantser, and for me, I start with a spark – an idea of some sort, whether it’s a song, a prompt, or a plot thread – and just write. I let the characters reveal themselves to me, tell me what they need, and show me the way. That sounds a bit on the crazy side, but what writer is fully sane anyway? The story often takes me somewhere fun and unexpected. Pantsers often say that their writing flows more smoothly this way, and they don’t get bogged down by “required” plot points, so much as uncover the story as they go.

The longer I write, the more of a planner I become. When I’m writing flash fiction, since I only have 500 words to use up, I typically know what’s going to happen at the end (ahem… I am a writer of erotic fiction after all). When I write longer stories, I still know where I’m going, but character relationships start to unfold, sometimes without my full control. Sometimes the story just pulls me in one direction or another. (I recognize that in the real world, this is my intuition calling, not the actual characters actually talking to me or anything).

At this point, November has started and hopefully we’ve all decided whether we’re planners, pantsers, some kind of plan/pants hybrid, or if we’re throwing out all the rules and creating a new category.

Preparing for NaNo part 3

My last post talked a bit about my past NaNo experiences. I’ve also mentioned to you (not to sound pretentious) my writing process, or at least a portion of it. That brings me to this year’s NaNo. Here’s the problem: until last week, I knew exactly what I was going to write for NaNo.

I wish I had the synopsis handy so that I could paste it here, but I’ll give you as much as I can off the top of my head, without spoiling anything. I had intended this NaNo project to be a sequel to the book I’ve been shopping around, Falling Apart. Falling Apart is a m/m erotic romance about a rock singer who falls in love with a(n ostensibly straight) country boy. Country boy falls in love right back, but since he’s always been straight, chaos ensues. Right? Right. Of course, who can resist a rock star in tight jeans? Certainly not me, and definitely not Billy, our country boy. I mean, obviously. So that said, this year’s NaNo was going to be a sequel. What happens after the fall? Well, more chaos, as per usual. I won’t say much more because I don’t want to spoil FA for all of you who are dying to read it.

The plan was all laid out. I have character sheets, summaries, pages and pages written about the major and minor plot points. I’ve got descriptions of what the story looks like from other characters’ POVs, a new man in the mix, ex-partners, angry parents, pushy bosses, all sorts of things going on. I must have 10 pages, maybe more, of notes, plans, and ideas. So of course…

Now I’m second guessing myself. Should I work on the sweet love story that came to me in a dream a few weeks ago? Pick up the sci-fi that I’ve been playing with for several years? Finally get on that story about two twentysomethings that meet on a train that’s been bugging me for almost nine months? Should I stop everything and skip NaNo to edit this year? Maybe I should get back to flash fiction instead, let myself just write 500 words a day. Or three pieces of flash a day! Or, or, or…

See my problem? This is why I’m a “pantser.” Planning too much paralyzes me. Which means next blog will be all about planning vs pantsing!

Preparing to NaNo part 1

My writing past is patchwork at best. We all have our journeys, and mine is perhaps not that uncommon, but it felt like a revelation to me at the time.

As a child, I loved to write. I loved to create. Making up stories was a pastime, and as an only child, it was a necessity. I lost myself in reading and I wanted nothing more than to help others lose themselves in their writing. It was generally dismissed as a silly diversion by teachers, and uncool by my friends (see my previous posts to know that I’ve mostly let go of worrying about looking cool), and that’s where it ended. In a fizzle.

When I was in college, studying something unsatisfying, I heard about NaNoWriMo for the first time. That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated, and is a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words in November. (Didn’t know? Don’t worry – I’ve been doing it for three years and my mother still doesn’t know what I’m talking about.) I thought that it sounded cool, but I was way too busy, and besides, I wasn’t a writer. What would I write about?

The writing bug teased me a bit when I heard about “that NaNo thing” again in 2011. I toyed with the idea and started six days into November with no plot, just a character. It took me places, but not farther than a few thousand words. It died out there. Another fizzle.

Finally, November 2, 2012, I ran across the term NaNoWriMo a third time. I browsed through the forums at NaNoWriMo.org. I found a plot someone was “giving away” that I thought I could do something with, and I took off running. I wrote almost every day, and by the end of November, I had over 50,000 very messy words. They were a mess, but they were mine. And with that, my love for writing was rekindled. I was on fire.

NaNo is coming up again and I’m already preparing. For the first time, not only do I have a concrete idea of what I want to write about, but I’m fully planned out. I’ve got characters, a setting, a story arc, I know what terrible things await my characters (oh, the pain they will suffer… haha), and I know where it is supposed to end. (I say “supposed to” because my characters always teach me things I didn’t know before, and I’m never certain if they’re going to do what I tell them to do.) Now all that’s left to do is put the book on “paper,” and I’ve never been more excited for NaNo!