17 October 2008


National Novel Writing Month is fast approaching. In preparation for the big event, I'm working with several writers who plan to write the first draft of their novel in a month. A couple of the writers are veterans to the event and eager to utilize their time more efficiently than they have in past years. The other writers are undertaking the challenge for the first time.

As the official NaNoWriMo site explains: "National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

This approach works best for "pantsers" or those writers who prefer to write by the seat-of-your-pants, in other words, to work things out on the page with little or no pre-plotting. Typically, these writers allow their characters the freedom to determine the direction and flow of the story. These writers are often more right-brained, creative types who abhor structure and plot (well, maybe not abhor and definitely not all of them, but I've been slammed by enough stanch "pantsers" who believe their way is the only way and that the work I do stifles the creative process -- which it might true for them, but not for all writers -- that I'm a bit touchy about the subject!)

Left-brained or more analytical writers find NaNoWriMo only works for them if they put a bit of time and thought into what they hope to write before jumping into the actual writing.

For any of you who wish to take take part in NaNoWriMo and wish to prepare ahead a time in order to make the most of the upcoming month, I recommend that you create a Plot Planner or a Scene Tracker template now for the project you wish to produce then.

Both templates -- Plot Planner for the overall story plot, and the Scene Tracker, for plot at the scene level -- allow writers to stand back from their projects in order to see the entire story as a whole. As writers we spend the majority of our time at the word level. Many writers end up drowning in their words or stuck down a dead-end dark and scary alleyway with no direction out. A Plot Planner is like a road map to help guide you on your journey throughout the story.

Yes, you have to be flexible and toss the pre-plotting if/when the characters bully you into taking a different route. However, many writers find the pre-planning structural support comforting and allows them to persevere all the way to the glorious end.

Are you a "pantser" or a "plotter'? Are you going to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo??

Great good luck to all of you who are......