Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

NaNo Series Vol. 2: Planning A Writing Project

Most writers fall into one to three categories when it comes to their method of writing and novel planning. There are pantsers, plotters, and those who are a mixture of both (like me). When starting a writing project, it’s important to look ahead so you don’t wind up writing yourself off of a cliff or into a dead end. So what’s the difference?

Not Much (If Any) Planning: Pantsers

A pantser is someone who sits down with little to absolutely no idea what their story is about. They are not sure who a majority of their characters are, if they know any at all. Some say that this is the essence of creativity. Pantsers make everything up as they go and usually abhor the idea of an outline. I find that this is usually because they hear or see the word ‘outline’ and think of those horrid things we had to write in grade school. In fact, outlining a novel is a much different process.

Planning: Plotters

Plotters are your outliners. They decide ahead of time where their story takes place, who the main players are and ultimately what their story is about. I used to consider myself a plotter and if you get really technical about it, I am but being a plotter doesn’t mean that you know every single detail in advance. This is usually where people get confused or overwhelmed when they hear the word ‘plotter’ or ‘outline.’

I once had a classmate tell me, “Oh no! You should NEVER outline. It ruins the creative process.” This particular classmate was often rather bossy and enjoyed telling others what they should do and how they should do it. In my opinion, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, it doesn’t matter. You do what works best for you! Everyone is different.

A Mixture of Both?

I consider myself a mixture of both a pantser and a plotter because while I do have a plan when I sit down to write, not everything is planned or set in stone. I’m flexible. I allow my stories and characters to change and evolve. After all, some of my best ideas come while in the moment of writing but pantsing leaves me with no goal or sense of direction. I also find that I’m far more productive when I have a plan. When I know what is supposed to happen in a scene, it’s easier to get the words on paper.

My main problem- I didn’t like the format of my outlines. While I kept the door open for other things to happen, I wasn’t happy with this format. I researched ‘planning a novel‘ and stumbled upon what is known as ‘The Snowflake Method.’

What is the Snowflake Method?

A software architect named Randy Ingermanson designed The Snowflake Method. Stressing the importance of design, he combines physics and fractals with creative thinking. I made that sound more complicated than it is, but he does a better job of explaining it at his website, found here.

This method is fantastic for me. You take a simple idea and expand upon it in steps until you have a full story and a hefty outline. This is the point where you start to realize that pantsing and plotting go hand in hand. After all, there isn’t an outline for the outline. Meaning, plotters don’t plot before they plot, they have to dream up the outline too. So there is still a creative process happening. Overall, I find that this structure makes the writing process more pleasurable and the editing process less painstaking.

In the end, it’s your writing and your decision on how you want to go about it. There is nothing wrong with listening to someone else’s suggestions but you don’t have to take their advice (especially when you didn’t ask for it in the first place). What works for them may not work for you. The last person I suggested The Snowflake Method to freaked out and was convinced that I was asking them to draw a snowflake…no comment.

Photo Art © Vetkit | Dreamstime.com

NaNo Vol. 1: What is NaNoWriMo?

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month which is in November. It started out as a national event when it was created by Chris Baty in 1999. Back then I think only twenty-one people participated so “national” may have been a bit of a stretch. Flash forward to 2016 and it has become international.

People from all over the world participate and they don’t just write novels. While it was originally developed for people trying to write a novel-length project, many use it to write short story collections, screenplays or even to tackle that thesis paper or dissertation.

Why 50k words?

The length of a novel is debatable. That goes along with other lengths of fiction as well, whether it be a short story, novella or even something as small as flash fiction and micro fiction. Genres may also play into length but to keep things simple, we will just talk about length right now.

Here is the breakdown from what I understand:

Short stories= <7500

Novelettes (I didn’t know they existed either)= 7500-15000

Novellas= 15000-40000

Novel= 50000<

That hazy area between 40k and 50k I never know where to place. I’ve seen some titles marked as ‘novels’ when they are very small. It’s possible that these fall into that gap. (Ex. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears, or Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen.)

Also, most books that have a greater word count than 100k are often deemed ‘epics’ such as, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This is part of why 50,000 words became the goal; it’s the smallest length of a novel that is widely agreed upon. It can also be easily broken down over the course of a month. Many professional authors state that they write anywhere upwards from 1500 words a day. 50,000 divided by 30 days equates to roughly 1667 words per day.

The Evolution of NaNoWriMo

As you can see from some of what was mentioned above, NaNoWriMo is an ever-evolving monster. The main point that its creator was trying to drive was forming a habit of writing every day. Even if you only write 500 words a day, progress is progress and a daily routine/habit will be established.

Sitting down to write a novel can be daunting. Even if you’re doing it for pleasure (which should always be at least one of the reasons). After all, 50k words is a lot! And to think that’s just a first draft. Most popular novels are 80,000 words+ and if you write like Stephen King, he cuts 10% of his novel out during editing…so 50,000 words won’t cut it for a final draft.

The object is not to write a polished, publishable novel in 30 days. It’s just to get that first draft out. That can be the hardest part or it can be the part that’s most fun. The real writing comes in the editing process and re-writes. That is what will end up making or breaking you as a writer.

How did I first hear about NaNoWriMo?

I first heard about NaNoWriMo when I was in college. I was a member of The Writer’s Digest Book Club and one of the books I was drawn to was Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! (Grab a copy here.)

Obviously, I purchased it and low and behold, he introduced me to his creation – NaNoWriMo. I’ve been participating ever since. That means that this November (2016), will be my 9th year participating. Have I hit the 50k word goal every year? No. I’ve only reached the goal five years out of the previous eight.

Why November?

November isn’t always the ideal time of year for people. In America, we are dealing with Thanksgiving and Winter Holidays, school, and travel. Whereas I have a friend in Australia who has Christmas during her summer break.

Chris explained in a YouTube video that November was the month his group of friends settled on due to family vacations. Now that NaNo has become so popular, two other annual month-long writ-a-thons were born under the name Camp NaNoWriMo. The camps take place during April and July.

My Goals for 2016 NaNo

This year, I’m trying to set myself up for success but I’m also crazy enough to shoot for a bigger challenge. There are several projects I want to work on this time around and I have no idea how long they will all be as I’m still in the brainstorming phase. However, this year I’ve told myself that I want to double the 50k word goal. I’m shooting for 100k. Yes, I’m insane but I believe it’s possible.

Rey (She is totally a Kenobi): Is that even possible?

Han Solo: I never ask that question ’till after I’ve done it.

If NaNoWriMo sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can sign up for free at their site. And if you need a writing buddy feel free to add me, Aljinon.

Photo Art © Weerapat Wattanapichayakul | Dreamstime.com