Sunday, November 2, 2014

Challenge of the Pantser: NaNoWriMo 2014

The weirdest part about participating in NaNoWriMo is that the rest of the world only sees the next 30 days as "November." Non-writers continue to do laundry, eat, scrub the bathtub, party with friends, NOT THINK ABOUT WRITING 24/7. I don't get them. Especially when I reach the halfway point in the month, and everyone around me is too cheerful.

But for us writers, the biggest challenge of the year has arrived. Some of us get scared. Some of us live for the thrill. I'm a mixture of both.

If you didn't catch the news on Swoon Reads, then I'll say it again here. I am totally a:

Me and my fellow Swoon authors are joining together to share our NaNo journeys, tips, woes, and strategies for success! I even made a new NaNo profile - you can find me there! The winner's shirt is calling my name this year (I think it's the dragon), but I'm going to do my best and see what happens. After all, I know from experience that November throws a lot of curve balls.

When I taught college classes in grad school, it was the month when all the big papers were due. The papers I had to write for my classes, yes, but also for my students to turn theirs in for me to grade. I'm sure my "real world" job will provide some kind of equivalent.

As part of my strategy, I'm doing two new things this year. The first is writing mainly on my iPad Mini. This is my first year using it, and I'm still getting used to Pages. I'm a Word girl, through and through, but the convenience of opening my manuscript within seconds is too good to pass up. The best part is that speed. I can wake up in the middle of the night and write a paragraph. Or come home from work and write a page. My laptop is just too slow for that - and slowness can be the enemy of motivation, haha.

I've never actually done word sprints either (I just usually look for pockets of time when they come and write then), but I downloaded some apps to try. I'll let you know later in the month how that goes.

I usually participate every November, using the camaraderie and energy of the event to help me make the final push to the last chapter on whatever project I had already been working on. It's been a while since I started writing a new novel on November 1st. I love the feeling of starting a new project, one with new characters, twists and turns that surprise even me as I write them, and finding new worlds to explore. So NaNoWriMo 2014 begins with a brand-new project, unconnected to anything I've written before.

My NaNo novel is tentatively called Brightly Wound. I made one of my famous lists-of-all-the-things-between-the-pages, to give you an idea of what this novel is made of: a somewhat-villainous boy; a powerful, heartbroken girl; talking animals, rum raisin desserts, zebras, delicious kings, shadow kings, three impossible tasks, the aftermath of a love triangle, favors great and small, family heirlooms, golden hoods, lovable henchmen, hideouts, and exactly one showdown.

This was also the extent of my planning before October came to a close.

The Muppet-ish Halloween pen did not help me find a plot.

While I am usually a panster, this year, obviously, I'm an extreme panster.

Urban Dictionary gives a great definition of what a "pantser" is:

This is the way I like to write. I have to have the freedom to improvise on the page. If I plan everything out, down to the dialogue in every scene, it takes the fun out of creating. I did all the work, but the storytelling isn't there yet, on paper, unfolding like blanket still warm from the dryer. 

But I usually spend a few weeks before toying with the new novel in my head. Sometimes jotting down notes. Starting a Pinterest board. But November took me by surprise this year. It was upon us and I was stepping into uncharted territory. There was some panic, on my part, as I opened my document and wrote the first lines, hoping for the best. 

What I did have, though, was one particular character that demanded to be written. He dogged me for weeks, begging for a world to be planted in, because he came alone. His name is Jasper. He was a bully. Now he's kinda a villain. And as long as I'm concentrating on him, I've discovered that he brings the story to him. I just have to listen. 

For those of you participating this year, how did your pre-planning go? What level or panster or planner are you? 


  1. Heheh- whoops. I guess I could've just waited with my little instagram question. ^^
    I'd thought about participating, but I'm still working on the last half of another project so I didn't feel like pausing to start a second…
    I'm completely intrigued by your "lists-of-all-the-things-between-the-pages"- and your pin-board!
    I feel like I'm still trying to find if plotting or pants-ing works best for me. I think I ENJOY pantsing more (the exploration- the discovery!) but then I also go through stronger more debilitating waves of doubt… I have an outline that I've been using for my current WIP and to be honest it's felt stifled and rigid. But, I'm also still writing, so that's a good thing, I guess…? I hope to get my writer's confidence up again with practice and ease my way back into the wilds of the un-planned.
    Best wishes for another day of writing, Kim!

    1. Hi Joni, yeah, that happens to me most of the time when I outline, but sometimes it's good to try to make them in case you get stuck while pansting. Did you ever try to make mini outlines while you write? Just two or three chapters ahead of what you've written? I've discovered that that works best for me :D

  2. I'm a planner, but I didn't have a ton of time to plan before November tackled me to the ground this year! I took November 1st to outline my project, and I'm glad I did. I can wing it, but I'd be too slow for Nanowrimo. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey!

    1. I am ALWAYS impressed by your planning skills. I would plan all the time if I did it as well as you do ;)

  3. I'm a Pantser through and through, though that is due in part to my edit-as-I-go tendencies. So while I'm a Panster, I'd be a lamentable NaNo-er; my overall output, though finely polished, would be meager and certainly not novel-length. It's a wonder I managed to complete half my second manuscript (the one that reminded you of Light Princess) this past October!

    I continue to admire your dedication and prolificness, Kim. Best of luck to you on your newest endeavor.

    1. Amy, it's always great to hear from you (even if I'm behind on my blog replies, gaaaah). Yes, editing as you go is something I do too! It's helps prevent you from getting stuck later on in the MS once you make one decision or another.

      Aww, thank you! And I'm looking forward to reading your next project!