Sunday, October 15, 2006

Preparing for NaNo, or, How to write successfully

Lately, as NaNo approaches, I've been talking to friends and reading writers' blog posts about their own preparation for NaNo. I've noticed that many are trying to be plan ahead so that they wouldn't get stuck or something of the sort come November. Usually, this getting ready includes creating outlines, organize scenes, think thoroughly of their characters etc.

Talking to or reading about what other writers do in order to prepare for NaNo tends to almost always make me feel awful. See, I never do these things, I never prepare and when I read how many have their outlines ready or what not, it makes me feel guilty as I'm sure I should too. But it's not me. I sort of write from the hip -- if you'd allow me to tweak the expression -- seat-of-the-pants method, just let it flow, organically. (Maybe that's why I don't like books about writing, none of their methods ever worked for me).

Oh, I know that we've been through this a million times before probably, and if you recall, I always say the same thing - each writer should do what's good for him/her. Writers should use the tools they feel make their writing better. These tools just happen to not work for me.

So, I'm sorry to bring this up again, but NaNo preparation made me do it.
By the way, don't get me wrong, I do prepare an outline, but usually after I've started writing and after I'm done a few chapters. I also write notes about my characters, but again, not before, only while I write; things I want to remember about my characters -- either things I've already mentioned, or things I want to later mention and so on.

I even remembered reading a post Tambo wrote from a few months ago because I agreed with it so very much. Tools, not rules, she calls them. Editors don't care how writers write and writers are the only ones who know what works for them. Hear, Hear!

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rdl said...

I used to think you had to go the outline route but I like your method better!! Go Melly!!

redchurch said...

I wrote from the hip last year, and it didn't work for me. Writing from the hip got me exactly that--writing that seemed like it came from the hip. :)

So I perfectly understand what you mean by use the tools that work for you!

Trée said...

The way of no way is the only way, but only as long as you know the way of way first. Sounds like you do Melly, so full steam ahead and don't look back. :-D

Patry Francis said...

"Tools, not rules." I like that phrase. I wasn't sure if I was going to nano this year or not, but now it seems like a great way to jump start my current project. Glad to know you're in!

jlb said...

Yes, Tambo offers a lot of good wisdom. ;) I've never tried the NaNoWriMo, but I'm giving it some consideration this month. That's about the most preparation I'll allow myself... consideration. My other projects keep me way too busy to side step and make elaborate plans for an exercise which will be fundamentally for fun and bulk quantity (at least this time around).

Good luck to you!

Jean said...

I was reading this and thinking, "But you're not an outlining writer, so of course you're not going to outline in preparation for NaNo."

Then I got to your point -- Do what works for YOU. Good advice.

And you're right. Editors (or agents either, for that matter) don't care how you write. They only care that your write arresting prose (without, of course, getting arrested in the process, but maybe they don't care so much about that either, as long as you still meet your deadline).

Melly said...

Thanks rdl dear :)

Eric, LOL, good humour. Of course, I know outlines work for you. Sometimes I wish they did for me too...

Trée, that's really good :) Thanks.

Patry, I hope I'm in (still not sure), but you're right, that's exactly what I'm doing it for, to advance the current WIP.

JLB, thanks. The quantity is indeed the point in NaNo, but sometimes, just get over my inner critic I need this.

Jean, oh goodness, I can't believe how well we know each other by now from just from blogging.
Re getting arrested, that might be a good experience, I'm sure editors wouldn't mind :)

Jennifer said...

I usually know/plan (whatever we want to call it) what each chapter will be about. However I don't know what will ACTUALLY be in each chapter till before I sit down to write it. Everything depends on the earlier chapters.

If I outlined in too much detail, I'd waste my time. What comes next is always dictated by what I just wrote, but what I just wrote -- 90% of the time -- never matches what my initial outline said :D

So I guess you could call me a half planner. I know the basic events...I stick to them (most of the time) and then everything else fills itself in as I get to the point...

marta said...

This is my third NaNoWriMo, and if all goes "well" it will be my fourth book (all unpublished, thank you!) and I don't plan anything except for the first line. I have no idea where it will go, who the person is in it, but I've got the sentence in my head...and I'm ready for midnight Halloween!

redchurch said...

I think the reason I need constraints, plotting, outlining, is it's hard for me to work without a framework. It's hard to start at zero, with nothing--no starting point.

I'm also not a big believer in the muse, so far as the 'divine inspiration' element goes. What am I waiting for? The time is NOW, not some indefinite point in the future when the muse may or may not strike.

Once I've picked a high concept, I have to start structuring it, sorting it out, making notes. Just diving in and wandering in random directions seems like a waste of time to me. But that's just me.

redchurch said...

I thought I should ask... Melly, if outlines and any form of structure or planning don't work for you, then what does?

Or you just don't use much at all in the way of tools?

Cavan said...

I wrote from an outline during last year's NaNo, but my productivity dried up as soon as my writing outstripped my outline.

I'm not participating this year (well, not quite), but if I was I think I'd take a shot at going entirely plan-free.

Melly said...

Jennifer, you actually sounds very confident about your 'method' or 'plan' or whatever name we call it, which is the whole point, right?
So many ways methods...

Marta, first sentence? Now, that's sounds intriguing. Interesting you could build something from that. Great actually :)

Eric, like I told Jennifer, you sound very confident (always have) about what works for you, which is really the point.
As for me, you're right, no tools. Sometimes I think about a story for a while and turn it over in my head some time. Sometimes I'll write little notes, sometimes I'll write scenes. I do have the basic idea/premise if you will, and a basic idea of the story and where it's heading, but rarely is anything planned structurally in advance, probably also because I tend not to write sequentially/chronologically.

Cavan, we'll have to start a "plan free" club ;)
I ran into exactly the same problem when I tried outlines, btw, or I'd want to go one way but the outline was going another and then either I was too rigid or it just didn't fit anymore. Either way - doesn't do it for me.

Jen(nifer) said...

Include me in that plan free club, oh the plans and ideas aer verywhere, just mnot in any organized form.

Good luck! I'm over at Nano under allthingsjennifer


Deborah said...

I'm definitely a "write from the hip" kind of gal. Outlines have given me the bare basis for writing my stories, but I've never been able to follow them.

As for NaNoWriMo, it's a great exercise to practice banishing your inner critic. At least it was for me. I look forward to hearing about your experience. :)

Yzabel said...

I wanted to go with a proper outline for this year's NaNo, but of course, between work, college and homework, it'd have been a miracle if I had managed to pull that out!

Working totaly from the hip doesn't work well for me, much to my dismay, but then, complete, detailed outlines don't do the job either. Jotting down a few lines for each chapter, to know where I'm gong to, seems to be the most important part--the one that will prevent me from falling short in the middle of the novel, thinking "now I need my muse to strike to be able to go on" (like this would happen exactly when I need it).

So, indeed, we have to go with what works for us.

And gosh, this picture with the hundred of post-its freaks me out. That's a method that wouldn't work for me. ;)