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.