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.