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 for NaNo part 2

The last time I wrote about NaNoWriMo,  I talked about my journey as a writer. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about my NaNo experiences in particular.

The first year I attempt to the competition was 2011. As it goes, I heard about NaNo 6 days in and decided to give it an attempt. I think I made it about three thousand words. That was pretty good considering I hadn’t written in possibly a decade. I had characters, and names, and a setting. I had nothing else. Those three thousand words were a floundering mess. I’m sure I still have the file hidden in my Google Drive, but I never want to look at it again. Basically my characters met, walked around, and talked. I had no idea what their problem was, much less how to fix it. Still, I don’t consider this attempt a complete disaster. It was the seed that got me started. I didn’t write again until the next November, but at least I had thought about it, and given it a good try.

November 2012 rolled around, and somebody reminded me about “that NaNo thing.” remembering how unsuccessful I had been there before, I took to the NaNo forums to get advice. There I found a form called the adoptables forum. People go there to post plots, characters, settings, anything you can think of. Things they won’t be using in their stores, but they still think may be valuable to other writers. That’s where I found a plot for that year’s NaNo attempt. The plot was all I needed, as it turned out.

After that, I was a NaNo devotee. I’ve since participated and won two years running, as well as participated in and won “Camp NaNo” (a looser, more free-form version) twice. I’ve got my outline ready for this year, a nearly complete manuscript from past years’ NaNos to finish, and the manuscript I’m hoping to sell came out of Camp.

Are you participating, and if so, how is the prep going?

Thinking, thinking

Where do writers get their ideas? Mostly blogs about this don’t really  cover new ground. They talk about stealing, people watching, that kind of thing. I do that too. We all do. I also trawl the internet for prompts I like, anything that inspires me. “Plot bunnies” as some people call them. I even visit some writing forums that have “adopt me” lists and pull from what other people can’t use.

My favorite places to get ideas are what I call “snippets.” There’s probably a better word, but I’m going with it. Photos that set a spark, a person whose hair or from whom flash of blue-green in a wink leaves me desperate to write about the experience of going weak at those things. A single image can captivate me for weeks or months until I’m haunted enough to make something out of it. But mostly, I adore getting ideas from songs, usually just a line or two. When I write for a song I’ll listen to it over and over for an hour or more, whatever it takes to get the feel for the story. I’ll scribble out the lines on a notepad and see what else lives in the song. I’ll make a playlist for the story after that, let it carry me away. Typically by the time I’m done, the story has almost no resemblance to the original song except in my heart, but I know it’s there.

Speaking of inspiration, I have an image haunting me. I’ll see you guys next time!