Michille: Planning for NaNo

nanoWith NaNoWriMo fast approaching, I am trying to plan out the rest of my story so I have lots of writing fodder to meet the 1,667 words-per-day goal. Just looking at that number doesn’t seem that hard to do, but I’ve done NaNo a couple times, and it is tough. I made the goal once, but only got to 35,000 the other time. Both times, I was starting from scratch. This time I have 40,000 and just want to finish the darned book.

In a very timely fashion, I got an email from a writing site I subscribe to called Creative Writing Now. The subject of the email was “How to plan a novel.” It starts off with the basics: come up with a main character and a problem facing that character. Then write down the scene ideas for the character and the problem. This is often how I start. Although, I tend to start more the main character’s goal, and then have difficulty with the conflict lock. Nancy goes on into a description of a plot outline. I don’t usually get this far in the early stages. I tend to just start writing and then have to do the outline later when I’m figuring out where I am and where I’m going.

The post included several genre specific plots that focus on the structure, action, scene order, speed, rhythm, etc. Popular story structures she used were women’s fiction, mystery novels, and hero’s journeys. She had some specifics on what those books contained, but they all can be divided in the scenes and acts with tension ramping up and something big changing in the middle with the final climactic scene(s).

Here is a quote from author Ken Follett describing his process: “I rewrite the outline – and this may happen several times. Typically there will be a first draft outline, a second draft outline and a final outline, so it would twice go through the process of being shown to a number of people. The whole process of coming up with idea, fleshing it out, doing the research, drafting the outline and rewriting the outline comes to about a year all told. There are quite often a couple of false starts within this. I may spend a month working on an idea before I realize that it isn’t going to work and abandon it. But after this whole process, I’m ready to write the first draft.”

Looks like Follett is a planner/plotter, too. Where are all the pantsers? Are any of you folks getting ready to NaNo?

11 thoughts on “Michille: Planning for NaNo

  1. I’m not cut out for NaNo. I’m just too slow. In September, I added 27,000 words to my WIP and I think that’s my personal best. When I try to rush, I wind up with crap I just have to throw away.

    NaNo is for hares–and I’m a tortoise.

  2. I did NaNo one year when I thought I might be able to “win,” because I knew where my book was going. I hate that NaNo is in November, a month that I’m reliably out of town for at least a week. But I didn’t “win” that year, and I found all the “support” emails super annoying. So it was a slog, and I didn’t get the 50K words written. Evidently even when I know where the book is headed, I’m not a fast writer, either (hi, Jeanne!)

    One of Chuck Wendig’s posts a while back was about NaNo and word count. He said NaNo doesn’t faze him because he always writes 50K words a month. Eek. You prolific guys are awesome.

    • Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a slow writer, too. You and Jeanne are in good company. I don’t sign up for any of the emails so all I get are weekly ones, which is fine with me. One year, the year I made it, I met up with some local groups who were getting together to write. They were a weird bunch. One always had a fake iguana on his shoulder.

      • I think I’ve met that bunch. Fabulously and productively creative, which they’ve got in spades, well over my efforts. I don’t think I’ll be doing NaNo this year. I won my first year, but not the second, and I didn’t try the next couple of years. I’m in the McD program this year, so I don’t need the added pressure to produce drivel just to meet a word count when I’ll have different and more important priorities for McD.

        I was a total pantser until this first course in the McD series. The exercises we had to do with the novels we read or with our own WIPs have been a game changer for me. I’m writing character arcs due Saturday, and my characters have been talking to me again. At the most inopportune times, of course, like in the shower or while I’m driving, because that’s how characters roll. Looking forward to more!

        • Is this Donna M. from my McD MLA classes? If so, I’m so glad the McD classes are happening again. We had Jenny (Smith) Crusie who was AWESOME! A spectacular craft maven. (And a much better instructor/professor than the one we had to suffer through for 2 semesters [no syllabus, no structure, litigation-worthy diatribes, didn’t read the papers we wrote].) The work load for the 5 courses (and the ladies here completed all 5) was a killer. I lost a year of my life, but gained so much in the writing realm that it was definitely worth it. Prioritize Donna! NaNO would add way too much. That Thanksgiving was catered by Giant. That Christmas, I told the family, “Each of you gets to pick one or two things that you must have to make it seem like Christmas to you. The rest of it stays in the the attic or doesn’t get baked.” You know, though, you could count the BlackBoard substantive post requirements/papers, writer’s cafe posts, etc, that you write for class. You will probably be writing enough to “win” anyway.

  3. I’m a total pantster, and I love NaNo to bits because I’m not very hung up on the rules. I don’t care if I “win” — I care if I produce and finish, though. The years that I’ve given up because my story was too “precious” to ruin with a bunch of random mucking around writing have been bitter. I have my successes when I don’t know where I am going, and there are no stakes or predetermined ending.

    And that definition of success is really only my own . . . sure, finishing a first draft is great. But I never do anything with my NaNos. There are two that I might like to go back and turn into something “done” someday. I sure didn’t get too far with Perz and Hadiz, though.

    So . . . I want to do NaNo with my second novella in my series. So much wrong in this situation this year, though. I haven’t finished the first novella, and the impending NaNo is just making me feel guilty, not inspired to finish. The second novella will be the crown of the series of stories, so if I’m fucking up the story (pardon my language, but I’m afraid that’s what will happen), I won’t be motivated to put words down on the page. And, I’ve got some direction. I know where I want to go, and that never seems to work out when I do a NaNo.

    But, we’ll see what happens. Might work. I could also look on it as a trial run, and that I’ll write the “real” novel topper next January.

  4. Pingback: Elizabeth: Pre-NaNoWriMo Recharge – Eight Ladies Writing

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