Last Minute Plotting: Because I’m a wimp & can’t pants.

Alright, so I thought I was going to have to pants this year’s NaNoWriMo. My MC had only given me bits and pieces of the story, so when the calendar kindly reminded me that I had less than a week before the challenge started, I began to freak out about the in-between scenes (the stuff between the major plot points).

Here’s the thing, I am a plotter through and through. I like having a plan/map to guide me through a draft because I have an awful habit of writing non-linearly, which is a fancy way of saying I like to jump around. Last year, I wrote all my fight scenes within a week (I had a lot of tension to work out I guess). And the idea of not having that freedom scared me into finishing my beat sheet for my NaNo project.

For information on the beat sheet, you can check out my post on outlines here. And if you’d like to see what fresh hell I’ve cooked up for myself for next month, you can check out my NaNo Q&A here.

I know plotting isn’t for everyone. Some writers can just start writing and come out the other side with a finished, coherent MS. I am not one of those people, so I’ll be taking my beat sheet and expanding it to a heftier outline between now and November 1st. I know, I’m working at the last minute, but characters don’t always like to reveal their secrets. Side-glances at MC

But regardless of my inability to pants a novel (pants: write a story by the seat of your pants without any outline or plan), I’ve learned how incredibly useful having a MS’s blueprint is post-drafting.

In the past year, I wrote what is now book 1 of a [slated] 5-book series, revised it, sent it to beta-readers, demolished it then rebuilt it. During that demolition/rebuilding stage, I was able to look at my previous outline and build over it with something that may [hopefully one day] be worth reading. Having that reference point kept me anchored during the process, so I didn’t go off into crazy, hair-pulling, head:desking la la land.

Basically, this…


So instead of driving myself to insanity later (basically the equivalent of running away from cannibals), I will be last-minute outlining between now and November 1st, like that habitual little plotter that I am.

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, add me as a writing buddy here!

Happy Writing!

Inspiration vs. Dedication

As writers, we constantly struggle with productivity. We fret over our projects, sacrificing time, energy and sanity for them, but when we sit down to actually get work done, all of our notes and thoughts don’t translate to print. It’s like the muse just got up, left and took all the files with him.

For years, when I hit this brick wall of “writer’s block,” I would stare at the screen, write a sentence, rewrite said sentence, delete sentence then walk away. After all, why force it? If I force it, the writing will sound forced. Right?

But let’s be honest for a quick minute. “Writer’s Block” is really just a term we’ve put in place of procrastination to make us feel better. I know I’m guilty of it (see above “forced writing” excuse), but if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s:

  2. Polished manuscripts take numerous drafts, so you might as well pump out a vomit draft then make it gorgeous in revision.
  3. Sometimes looking at the big picture makes it difficult to identify individual small pieces. So don’t worry so much about the end product, focus on the individual plot points and eventually, your rough draft will start to look like a novel.

Basically, what I’m saying is writing a novel is a marathon. You just have to put one foot in front of the other.

A couple weeks [months] ago, Chuck Sambuchino, an editor at Writer’s Digest, tweeted the below quote:

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” ― H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’m pretty sure this tweet was the revelation that motivated me through National Novel Writing Month. There were days where I stared at my screen and tried to find the right words to write.

The day that really sticks out to me of that entire month was the moment I made the transition from linear writing to non-linear.

I was sitting in Starbucks on November 5th attempting to write a scene between my MC and her [eventual] love interest. It was supposed to be the very first time the two characters communicated and the words just weren’t coming. I knew who both my characters were. I knew their intertwining story arches, but the words just weren’t coming.

Then Mr. Sambuchino tweeted that remarkable quote.

So I pulled out my outline and looked for a scene to write. This scene just happened to be the pinnacle of the characters’ relationship arch, which helped me write the evolution of their relationship in a more natural way. It also provided me with insight into both characters that I hadn’t quite had before.

In short, keep writing. Even if the words are awful and bland, just keep writing. Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, plus your characters always find a way to throw a wrench in your perfect outline.

So stop fretting, don’t give up, and WRITE!

And follow @ChuckSambuchino on Twitter. Seriously, huge wealth of knowledge!

Happy writing, everyone!