Well, my friends, November is on the horizon again which, for those of us who are so inclined, means only one thing – National Novel Writing Month. Yes, it’s that time of year when tens of thousands of writers get together online, all in the name of the ambitious task of writing 50,000 words – 1,667 words per day. It doesn’t sound like that many words, when you put it like that – after all, every great novel started with an author just putting one word in front of another, bit by bit, until they had told the story they set out to tell. In theory, it’s a very logical process; in practice, it feels like anything but.
Once again, I have decided (probably foolishly) to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo despite not having planned out anything of my novel. Well, that’s a lie – I am now on my third attempt of writing what I have tentatively called ‘The Upper Deep’ for the last two years, a story inspired by Tennyson’s poem ‘The Kraken’, so I have some ideas by this point. (Check out my Beautiful Books 2016 post if you’re curious!) But I have no plot, really. I have a concept and I have characters and you’d think that would be enough to be getting on with but, as previous years have proven, it really isn’t enough. Roughly speaking, NaNoWriMo participants describe themselves as ‘pansters’ or ‘plotters’, with the latter (lucky) group plotting out their novel ahead of November, probably with detailed chapter summaries and planned characters arcs and all sorts of snazzy things, and the former group winging it all the way and seeing what story comes out when they sit down to write on 1st November. Of course, as is so often the case in this world, there are also those who don’t fit neatly into either label – they are ‘plantsers’, a hybrid mix of the two camps and I suppose, to some extent, that’s what I must be.
So, what is my plan come 1st November? I will be writing, for the third time, my ‘The Upper Deep’ story but, as I wasn’t organised enough to do Preptober, November will basically (hopefully) be a mix of prepping my story and then writing some of it. I plan to properly invest time into prepping my novel, rather than just getting by on little snatches here and there when I remember in October, as I ordinarily do. So, every word I write of plot ideas, brain dumps, character profiles, and so on will count towards my total. Am I doing NaNoWriMo correctly? I don’t know, but at this point, I don’t really care – for me, NaNo stops being fun when I feel undue pressure to keep writing even though my writing isn’t going anywhere, and I want so badly to keep the fun up for the entire month, rather than throwing in the towel halfway through the second week.
With that in mind, fellow writers and/or NaNoWriMo participants – if you are reading this and have ANY kind of planning or plotting techniques or advice, please do share them in the comments below because I’m struggling to tease out a plot structure from my overall, overarching idea. I have the big picture, but none of the necessary little bits that will get my story from beginning to end. If you have resources or techniques or books that would help me to help myself work out this idea then I would be immensely grateful if you shared them with me. And in the meantime, I’ll be getting ready for properly working on my novel come 1st November because, in the end, that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about – allowing yourself the time every single day to work on a project you’re passionate about.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Please do say hi in the comments if so, and we can help cheer each other on throughout the month, or why not add me as a buddy on the site? Are you a plotter or a panster? And do you have any winning techniques to plot and outline novels?