Call yourself a writer? Ever tried NaNoWriMo?
The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And it starts tomorrow!
I have known about NaNoWriMo for a while now from an Antipodean friend – Elizabeth Woods – and her contributions on Daily Write, but I only registered for the challenge last year. Running 4 restaurants at the time meant I dropped out as there just wasn’t time to give to the project and I had “stage fright” – given I signed up late in October, had no idea what to write and felt ashamedly unprepared.
Well, it’s 2020 and I have rejoined the fray with the intention of getting a draft novel down. I have an outline this year – which has been sitting in my “things to do” file for ages – though I still feel unprepared. Apparently, that’s normal as a writer. NaNoWriMo can be challenging for people with day jobs as it’s estimated you need about 2 hours per day to hit your targets – though this can be spread around as you don’t have to work at it every day (so, more at weekends and less when you’re doing other work). Plus, NaNoWriMo is really there to encourage you to write. You don’t have to hit the magic 50,000 words; you don’t even have to be prepared, and you don’t even have to work on one project. Just write.
I have slowly been improving my skills in the background, reading blogs, watching videos and studying systems such as Save The Cat (as well as writing, of course). I had planned to apply the structure outlined in Save the Cat to my story but discovered the Plot Embryo model yesterday (as outlined by Rachel Stevenson and taught in her free 7-day course). I could relate to this structure more. I will try out this model with my project this month and see how it goes.
Three Types of Writer
It also suits my writing style better. According to the writers’ forums, there are three styles: pantser, plotter and plantser.
- A Pantser is somebody who has a basic idea and just writes where the story takes them, then comes back later to try to figure out the work.
- A Plotter is somebody who works out all the details of the plot, the characters, their backgrounds, world-building, etc, etc, so they know all the details before they get started. The theory here is that the story tells itself more easily after all the preparation.
- A Plantser is a hybrid of the two. Somebody with an outline or set of concepts but little detail and then just embarks on the process. Often, they may pause and do a little planning, then back to the writing.
I gave up on 2019 NaNoWriMo because I thought I should be a plotter and needed to be a plotter to write fantasy and sci-fi stories, or at least novels. I felt I needed to be prepared and do what some of the top writers espoused. And maybe one day I will.
But when I discovered it was OK to be yourself and there is no one-size-fits-all I realised my preferred style is plantser. Get some information and idea of where you are going, then get going, and course-correct along the way. I guess that’s what helps me run businesses as its the “ready fire aim” model, and it was always the style I adopted when leading role-playing games: prepare an outline for the session’s events and then see how they unfold. But, when you’re writing a story with a group of other players who are improvising on-the-fly, it pays not to be too prepared!
And, from my initial understanding of the Plot Embryo model, this feels more like plantser territory. You get the embryo of the story with key milestones outlined and then get on with the writing. I am sure as I study the model more that there will be more nuances and more options for planning, but – as with all learning – you take what works for you and apply it, discarding the rest.
My Project for 2020
So, this year I have an outline of a story which has a definite beginning, middle and end. It also has a good arc from the inciting incident through to the denouement. Plus the potential to be part of a series (thanks to inspiration from the Plot Embryo model). I have no idea if I will hit 50,000 words but I am going to do this writing thing. The story’s working title is “Vincent” and is a supernatural piece set in a small community.
You might not see many updates from me this month (though I should finish reading The Well of Ascension – Mistborn Book 2) and I hope to check-in post-November with some good news.
Whichever style of writer you are, the only way to get better at your craft is to practice. That’s why athletes train every day. So, stop procrastinating about how to write and just write!