Thoughts from NaNo | The Perils of Pantsing

I feel as though every NaNoWriMo blog ought to include some kind of Ron Swanson gif and, since I seem to have unwittingly started some kind of pattern, I’ll somehow have to try to drop that in the middle of this summary of Week One’s progress.

As the graph below visually shows, I was doing splendidly until Day 6/Friday, at which point I started to fall behind. Considering I was away all of Saturday enjoying a catch up with friends in Manchester, I’m not altogether surprised by this falling behind, but I had hoped to compensate for it before or after Day 7. Unfortunately I am better at making plans than I am at following through with them – story of my life, and part of why I’m trying NaNoWriMo at all!

nano stats 9

I was mildly surprised by how well the first few days of NaNo went for me. I should preface this with the reminder that, even at this point still, I don’t have a plot outlined. I don’t have a set of actions from point A to even point B. What I do have thus far is a series of random scenes and vignettes, 9926 words’ worth of them! My imagination is firmly the kind where it dreams up scenes and snippets of dialogue and a clever phrasing or two here and there, it isn’t very adept at sustained and coherent plot lines. This is most of the reason why I would never describe myself as a writer – I worry that a vague concept or idea isn’t viable as a narrative and so I never actually get around to fleshing them out into a timeline or chronology.

It was fine pantsing for Week One, but I’ve quickly realised, as the days have passed by, that this month would be so much easier on myself and my self-doubt if I did have some vague semblance of a chain of events to get me from beginning to end. Unfortunately, however, I am drastically behind – I’m meant to reach 15000 words by the end of today – so I feel like I don’t have the time to play catch up whilst also working on an outline. Of course, this is what I need to do in order to continue writing past this block I seem to have developed around the 9000 word mark.

Why, oh why, did I not decide to do NaNo earlier and so have plenty of time in October to at least cobble together some kind of outline? Curse you lack of foresight, curse you!

So, NaNoWriMo-ers, do share, do you have any tips and ticks for how to tease out a plot from a slightly anxious and overworked brain which is feeling less than creative (to say the least)? Nothing is too basic considering I don’t even have a synopsis or end-game for my novel!

Thoughts From NaNo | Quality, Quantity, and Discipline

Most of my writing thus far for NaNoWriMo feels a little lot like this. In many ways, the concept of quantity over quality which NaNoWriMo advocates is perfectly suited to my writing style which, you might have noticed, could be described as using far too many commas, lists of three, not-strictly-necessary descriptive asides, and words such as “quite” and “rather” when the sentence would function much the same without them. I tend to run-on quite a bit too. Which makes a daily goal of 1667 words sound not at all horrific to me. Still, despite the idea of disciplining yourself to meet a word count every day and so not worrying unduly over ever single word choice, some quality in writing would perhaps be advisable. I need to take more care over what I write.

However, as all great writers ever claim – the key to getting better at writing is (shock horror) to write. Writing has always been something on my periphery – something that I claim to love, and do indeed love when I get into the rhythm of it, but something which I rarely practice on a regular basis. In fact,  aside from essay writing, I don’t think I’ve ever written a solid amount of words two days in a row. Even forum rp (which I love) hasn’t seen me as disciplined as that because, due to time zone differences, I very rarely end up responding to an rp partner every day. So for all some kind of writing is involved in my day-to-day life (right now, for example, that’s a lot of job application writing) it’s never the focus of any given day in my life and I’ve certainly never sustained concentration on a single form of writing for this long, let alone what will hopefully be 30 days over the course of NaNoWriMo.

I’m finding I enjoy it though. I enjoy meeting the daily target – and that feeling is even better when I surpass it, even if it’s just by 20 words or so. What can I say, I’m a sucker for visualisations of surpassing someone’s minimum expectations, and that little daily stat graph is like a nice pat of the back after every evening word count update.

Speaking of which, it’s just gone midday on Day 3 and I haven’t written a single word today. I need to reach 5000 in the next 12 hours to meet target but since that’s 1245 words left to write, I don’t think that’s too bad. Getting ahead would be preferable, however, since tomorrow we look after a certain toddler who (unsurprisingly) doesn’t seem to care much for daily writing goals… or quiet of any kind. So we’ll see how that goes. I’m having fun just putting one word in front of the other and seeing where I end up. Sure, I’m likely to end up with shaky characterisation, mostly terrible dialogue and some convoluted plotting (confession: my plotting is non-existent at this point), but the point to this entire exercise (at least for me) is to prove to myself that I’m capable of sticking at something for 30 days without giving up because I decide my idea is terrible anyway so I might as well ditch everything and go back to doing nothing every day.

As far as the point of NaNoWriMo goes, I feel like that one will benefit more than just my writing in the longer term.

Listlessness

Listless:
adjective (of a person or their manner) lacking energy or enthusiasm.
e.g. “bouts of listless depression”
synonyms: lethargic, enervated, lackadaisical, spiritless, unenergetic, lifeless, vigourless, lacking energy, limp, effete

So… I’m particularly terrible at updating, it seems. Perhaps the prospect of writing 50,000 words next month was enough to make me consider conserving my words for them. Or maybe not. Maybe I just haven’t been doing a lot of reading or writing or anything resembling either. Maybe I have fallen into the listlessness of being alone in the house until 4 o clock every day. That sounds much more on the mark, to be perfectly honest.

Yet again I have been falling into the familiar trap of starting lots of little things but not actually finishing much. I have started applying for all manner of jobs (from administration stuff to digital marketing), started watching Netflix shows (Archer and How To Get Away With Murder, so good for such different reasons), wrote long overdue reviews for Harry’s Last Stand and The Rest of Us Just Live Hereset up a Pinterest board for my NaNoWriMo idea (though “idea” seems much too hopeful of a word for that vague concept), saw a film that quickly made me obsessed (Crimson Peak, no one is surprised to hear this), and started a few books (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and The Name of the Wind, both excellent). However, I haven’t finished any of these things – except from watching Crimson Peak, but I wish I could just watch it on loop for the next month or so to be honest! Instead, I have half-assed everything and I really need to follow the wisdom of Ron Swanson on this one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

See, Ron-fucking-Swanson at his motivational best. (It also reminds me of how much I miss Parks and Recreation, season 5 needs to hurry up and air in the UK.)

There is certainly something to be said about finishing – about being able to tick off a completed item on a to-do list. Although I am very good at writing out to-do lists, as of the past week or so, I seem to be very inept at actually completing them. Considering NaNoWriMo is just around the corner I definitely need to get back on track with consistently completing what I set out to do for the day instead of listlessly pushing it back to tomorrow as I seem to have done all of this week. I’ve been in an odd mood in that way and I just hope NaNo will help me to discipline myself better on a day-to-day basis because something’s got to give!

NaNoWriMo 2015: Yay or Nay?

Well it’s that time of year when the one question on my own lips is: Am I doing NaNoWriMo this year? I certainly want to and I certainly have the time (hello unemployed graduate life), more so than I did last year when I tried and failed after one day, but I’m just never sure I have enough creativity. This has always been a problem for me sustaining any creative project – I worry my idea isn’t big enough or decent enough to see followed through to the very end.

I have forum roleplayed in the past (a lot at some points in my life) which means that the thought of writing 1666 words a day really doesn’t faze me at all because that’s like not even 3 posts and I know I can knock out a 600-word post in about 15 minutes. So timing-wise, I’m fine. But as I’m sure everyone knows forum rp is a very different beast to actually writing solo. With NaNo I won’t have someone to bounce ideas off, I won’t have someone else’s post to respond to and write back to, I won’t be able to message someone saying “I feel like making my character suffer a little today, do you want in?”. No, this all has to come from me and me alone – and I think that is what always concerns me, despite the fact I know I can create characters and voices and brainstorm plot ideas on the fly.

So this post is me tentatively stating my intention to participate in NaNoWriMo 2015. I will learn from my disastrous attempt in 2014. Last year I didn’t plot or really have any ideas fleshed out in the slightest so I ended up writing 1590 words during a word sprint in which I barely knew my characters or where I was going with the story, all I know is it was a story set in Whitby. I don’t even really recall how I managed to get to 1590 words before I failed quite spectacularly. I can only assume I wrote a conversation between two characters in the hope of getting to know them better, before I realised I had no clue where I was going or even wanted to go with the novel.

However, this year I will do better – this year, I will at least make it to 5000 words! (Yes, it’s the little goals that really count for me). At the moment I have two very vague ideas, I’m more at working out the tones of the two stories, I haven’t plotted or outlined at all and I’m just really hoping that in these remaining days of October I’ll sit down and work out what story I want to tell. After all, it’s all very well having characters and settings in mind but it’s something different entirely to figure out what story you want to tell with them! Still, starting 1st November with something is better than nothing so I’ve followed Elisabeth’s excellent process of creating Pinterest boards for reference, for idea 1 and idea 2. Not sure which genre/period or story I’m wanting to tell but hopefully I’ll settle on one in this coming week in time to get excited and energised for NaNoWriMo.

In the mean time I’m back to watch Lainey, Kat, Kristina, and Elisabeth‘s writing vlogs in the hope of picking up some tips and tricks ready for November. Speaking of which, if you’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year or have any tips for a not so confident writer like myself, please please please share in the comments below! Or, if you’re participating, just say hey; I’d love to find some writing buddies to help keep accountable and to keep me accountable too!