Conveniently, these Saturday check-ins line up nicely with the end of each week in November. Lucky how that happened?
I got off to a slow but steady start on Sunday. It was another busy week of client work (and attempting to update my “business” site…CSS might just be the death of me), so fiction writing was relegated to the evenings. Most mornings I did start with some quick stream-of-consciousness typing on 750words (I almost forgot I signed up for one of their monthly challenges; if I log in and write at least 750 words every day in November I get added to their “Wall of Awesomeness” and a fun little badge for my profile. God I love Internet rewards systems). Some days that didn’t get done until late morning or afternoon, but it always got done.
Day 1, in particular, was tough. It took me over two hours to reach 2,014 words (and at least 1,990 of them are really bad). Day 2 went much quick (just over an hour). Then…I’ve already used two of my “cheat” days, and skipped Thursday entirely (in my defense, I spent nearly five straight hours on client work that day and was just spent). I got back on track Friday with one of my favorite stories so far (working title: What Would Meg Ryan Do?).
Thanks to my lack of preparation, I’ve either been scrolling through my Evernote notebook of story ideas each day until one jumps out at me. This is fine, because at least I’m writing, but I’m finally accepting that I really need to move away from my “pantser” tendencies if I want to ever finish anything worth reading.
Pantser vs. Plotter
If you’re not familiar with these terms (well known to most NaNo participants and struggling writers), “pantser” refers to a writer who writes by the seat of her pants — just starts writing, with no (or very little) sense of where the plot is going, who her characters are, what the conflict will be, etc. A “plotter” carefully outlines and plans before she begins her first draft.
I’ve already tried to be a pantser because I wanted to let my writing and my stories develop organically. Some of my favorite writing sessions have been when I’m working on a story and all of a sudden a new character jumps into the scene or something dramatic happens and I sit back like “whoa. Okay. Yeah, so that’s where this story is going!”
True story: My only successful attempt at NaNoWriMo, back in college, I was writing a pirate novel (Pirates of the Caribbean was still pretty big, don’t judge), and somewhere between a third and halfway through the month, I realized the main character’s brother (and pirate ship captain) would have to be killed in a battle. This opened up a completely new direction for the plot and some really interesting developments for my main character and it was pretty awesome.
Would that have happened if I’d tried to outline the whole story first? I don’t know. Maybe I would have realized that the brother had to die before I started the draft, maybe I would’ve written my way into it without realizing and changed my outline. But moments like that have always held me back from outlining.
The problem is I end up writing long, random, meandering scenes as I try to figure out what exactly is happening in the story and to the characters. I love the character outline worksheets I’ve been using because even if I just complete one of those, I end up with a very rough, but fairly complete idea of the story arc and general plot. So my goal for next week is to use those more and stick to them. Maybe once I get comfortable using those, I’ll start to feel comfortable with outlining in more detail.