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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 and the Plotter/Pantser Advantage

I signed up. 

Yup, I sure did.

And now I'm terrified.  Most of that fear stems from not knowing what my life is going to be like once fall classes resume.  And part of it, ladies and gents, is the sheer fact that 50,000 in 30 days is a whole lot of time and sweat and exhaustion waiting to happen.

I'm also pretty stoked. 

I bring this up because a) see above paragraph, and b) I've seen a number of posts in the past 24 hours discussing pantsing v. plotting (see Jessica's and Summer's posts, and, tangentially, iggi and gabi's).  They've made me consider NaNoWriMo, how it works, and who might be more successful—the pantser or the plotter.

Pros for the Plotter
These seem pretty obvious to me.  The outline is waiting for you on top of your keyboard on that fateful November morning when the race begins.  The story has been developing in your mind for some time.  Scenes already exist, though they are yet unwritten.  All you need is some time and some quiet.

Cons for the Plotter
While the outline is immaculate, you haven't plotted the exact path from point A to point B.  You get stuck.  When you resume, your story takes an unexpected turn... 

Actually, wait.  Can this happen to a plotter?  Or is each scene thoroughly outlined so no unknown plot twists can infiltrate the WiP?

Hmm... maybe it's better not to talk about the plotter, seeing as I don't conform to this category.

Pros for the Pantser
The whimsy and excitement of discovering your story drives you to go days without sleep.

Cons for the Pantser
Oh, shoot.  Wait.  What just happened?  How did the story get here?  No, no, no, this doesn't work.  It's headed for a dead end.  Go back, delete 20,000 words and start over.


I've oversimplified the categories, no doubt about it.  And such categories are never so well defined, anyway.  The continuum is vast, and most of us will fall somewhere in the middle.  I tend to lean toward the pantser side (and have found myself getting very little sleep when a story won't stop in my head), but I never start writing before my story has a solid beginning, a few key mid-way points, and a solid ending.  All of these are subject to change, of course, but a barebones outline is necessary for me to feel comfortable with the process.

I've had a story idea bouncing around in my head for close to six months now, and I've decided to hold onto it until November 1st.  I'll spend some time in the next couple of months writing a preliminary summary for it.  Before I discovered NaNoWriMo (or, I should admit, before I went to Google to figure out what all this nonsensical acronym means :) I had already written a couple of pages.  I know we're not supposed to start NaNoWriMo with anything but outlines, but I promise what I've got is nothing of consequence.  If you're interested, you can see the first 250 words here.  I wrote them because I wanted to toss them into the pool for Nathan Bransford's Monday Page Critique.  I'm still waiting, and may wait for another 279 weeks while he goes through everyone else's :)

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  Are you a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in between?  Which are you more like?  Which do you think would be better for an intensive writing competition like NaNoWriMo?  Why?

17 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

I don't know if I'll do NaNo this year. I did it the last 2 years, but it's such a crazy time for me. It's the same time period as report cards and we're having a new program introduced so I just don't see how I'll have time. :(

I'm mostly a pantster. For me it works. My characters had walked around in my head a bit, and I knew the ending scene but that was it. And I finished the challenge both times :)

lacqui said...

I'm mostly a pantser. I've never completed (personal/family issues always seem to appear), but I tend to get some good progress that way. I find that if I don't have a specific goal that NEEDS to happen, I can write more freely. I've written myself into a few corners, and usually end up taking the offending scene, putting it in a separate file, and reusing it at a different point in the story.

Also, what is this "delete" of which you speak? Even if the text is in a different file from your main project, it still counts as words written; especially if, as I do, you find a way to reuse those words.

Deletion is for NaNoEdMo

Summer said...

Yes, what lacqui said!! The whole beauty of NaNo is the frenetic pace and crazy plot turns. You should see my novel from last year--and the worst part is, I'd already been planning it, yet it still went in 2000 different directions. If you let yourself delete, then you'll never hit the 50k goal. Besides, the beauty is the chaos. :)

NaNo is so fun, and the community is awesome. I wasn't blogging during last NaNo, so I'm really excited for that extra boost of camaraderie!

RosieC said...

Jemi, I totally understand you wanting a break from it this year. It sounds like you've already got a lot to deal with.

lacqui, good point about the delete. I keep lots of different files, though, so for me it's a matter of remembering where I left that one scene... :)

Summer, the beauty is the chaos, huh? *shudder* Let's hope I make it through! I'm glad you're doing it, too. It will be fun to have the extra camaraderie.

KarenG said...

I plan on participating again this year, but I don't sign up. I do it unofficially. I'm afraid if I sign up I'll buckle under the pressure. And I'm a pantser all the way. I do plot of course, but not until the second draft. I'm very stoked for it. I have an idea that I can't wait to work on.

RosieC said...

Karen, I've been wondering about the pressure of it. I usually work better if I have firm deadlines (that are imposed from others), so I'm hoping it will be okay. I'm glad you've got an awesome idea to work on, too!

Stephen Tremp said...

I did Nano last year. Wrote 25,000 words. I got halfway there and was very happy for what I accomplished. It was a big push but I got a lot done.

Stephen Tremp

Jessica said...

Thanks for the mention, Rosie - we had so many good answers on this topic: http://smilefeelgood.blogspot.com/2010/08/depantsing-myself.html

It seems a journey most of us lie in the middle of, doesn't it?

Talli Roland said...

Congrats for signing up - how cool!

I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I usually plan a bit - the major turning points - and then connect the dots as I go along.

Lynda Young said...

I've joined up as well. I've not tried it before, but I'm excited about it. I plan not to plan. Scary, I know, but that's part of the excitement.

Michelle Leeds said...

I am definitely a pantser who recycles bad scenes. I signed up too... my husband will be so overjoyed. Ha! Thanks for the fun!

Hart Johnson said...

I haven't decided if I'm doing it, but know myself well enough that I'm sure I will do it anyway *shifty* What I mean by that is I have WAY too much editing on my plate to start dallying in a brand new WiP, but I also know I can't resist. I've done two WriMos and won both, yet neither has been edited to 'good' yet. They have some holes... some emotion needed (because I WriMo on my computer, and my emotional writing is much better by hand)

I even PLANNED for it. My Cozy is due to the editor Dec. 31, and I scheduled NOVEMBER to be when my AGENT will be doing her read and edits. So you can see... even though I am not ready to commit, I have already been committed.

As for the pants/plot thing--it sounds like you and I are similar... I start with a timeline that has a beginning, half dozen points to hit, and an end. I pants from point to point, but at least I have the confidence I won't write myself into a corner.... USUALLY. I've outlined my Cozy a lot more because mysteries have a much tighter structure, and the clues need to be discovered at a more steady pace. I story-boarded and think it worked pretty well.

RosieC said...

Stephen, it is a great push. Congratulations on your 25,000.

Jessica, no problem. It probably should take some balance between both, that's for sure.

Talli, thanks. If connecting the dots weren't an awesome trip, they wouldn't make those puzzles for kids, right? :)

Lynda, that's great! Another person to share the scary excitement.

Michelle, it's great that you can recycle bad scenes and make them work. I've only done it once. Mine end up in the files where scenes go to rot... It'll be great to know another person in the game :)

Hart, is it just me, or do you and I have an eerie amount in common? :) I love that you "planned" for WriMo but haven't actually signed up. That's beautiful.

Chary Johnson said...

Good luck Rosie. I have signed up for two years straight but have never been able to reach the 25,000 mark let alone the 50,000 mark.

However, it was a great motivational tool to move my writing along.

Charity Bradford said...

yay! I added you to my buddy list. This will be my 3rd year doing Nano and my 2nd year as a ML. I love it! (my user name is solstice1974--I signed up before I started using my name)

Anyway, I am a loose outliner with lots of pantsing in between. It works for me. Good luck!

Heidi said...

I fall somewhere in between. I like to plan out some of the plot so I have an idea of where I'm going, but often they don't listen to me.

On a random note, can I ask you a linguistics question? I'm minoring in Ling, and a while ago I emailed my prof a question about an odd sentence that had popped out of my mouth, but she never responded...

RosieC said...

Chary, thank you. I'm looking forward to it being a hefty push.

Charity, I'll get over to the site shortly to add you back. What's a ML?

Heidi, my characters hardly ever listen to me. I completely understand. I'm also more than happy to answer ling-related questions. Feel free to email me at rlconnolly01@gmail.com

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