Friday, November 25, 2011

The Third Option

Novel writing is sometimes like this.
I wanted to write something here about Fridays in general and the shopping mayhem of Black Friday in particular. I really did.

But it's just a diatribe on the commercialization of holidays that should be about family first. I've done that enough and I don't need to do it any more. You've all seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, probably grew up watching it. You know what I'm talking about.

Instead, let's talk about planning. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. If you're a semi-regular here you may have heard about it or even somewhere else. There are two camps of people: planners and pantsers. Friend of the blog R.L. Naquin is a planner with a cool index card system that really works for her. I'm not a planner like that. I'm not quite a pantser, either, which means that one starts writing without any idea of what the story is going to be until you get there. I've done that and it's hard. I mean REALLY difficult. Then again, planning my stories is difficult for me, too.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. This year's novel, Juggy & the Duchess, has quite a bit of planning and quite a bit of room for improvising and going with the flow of writing. I have quite a few notes that I took in October but it's more along the lines of research. Pre-writing things. Things like names of planets or the kinds of jobs that have to happen on those planets. Knowing that super-compressed dark matter is going to be a major item later on and what could happen with it, or how salons worked in 18th century France and some of the people that were famous for their salons. (I'm not talking about hair dressers, by the way.) Little notes that 'there has to be a HUGE row between Juggy & Dee' though I didn't know exactly where that would happen when I jotted it down.

I have more notes this year than I do for any of my three previous NaNovels. I'm having more fun this year than any of the previous years. It may have something to do with being more a part of the local writer community and attending the write-ins and events. It may have something to do with my overall confidence level about my writing.

I read this because of someone
in my writer's group.
One thing that I don't really consider when I'm writing the Zero Draft is the audience. NaNoWriMo is about pleasing me and me alone. That's certainly true of the first three novels I wrote; they're all about me. This year I'm definitely writing to please myself first but I'm considering the potential commercial aspect of the work, too. I've told a couple of people J&tD may be the 'best thing I've written yet'. I don't mean it's Thomas Pynchon-level writing, not by a long stretch. What I mean is that it may be the novel that I finally finish and then think about trying to sell.

No, really. I thought that about last year's novel (and I need to get back to that one because I've finally solved some of the things that bugged me about it) but this is different. This year's novel is convincing me that I might just know what I'm doing when it comes to writing. Does that mean the more planning I do the better I get? I don't know. Will I get to the point of using the index cards the way others do? I don't know.

I do know that doing a bunch of pre-writing makes the job of actual writing a lot more enjoyable and that's what I like. I know that having a group of fantastic and enthusiastic writers who are the best supporters a writer could ask for makes the process a lot more enjoyable, too.

So while millions of people are out there jostling one another for the latest gew-gaw that they could have bought earlier in the week and then had time to spend with something or someone else way more important instead of standing on line to pay for said gew-gaw for thirty minutes or more, I'm home writing. And planning. And writing.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you have a group that you can rely on to push you when you need it? How confident (on a scale of one to ten) are you that you're a decent to good writer? Let me know.

1 comment:

SmearySoapboxPress said...

I probably straddle the line much like you do. When I worked on my long Watusi webcomic (the equivalent of an 80-page graphic novel), I did more of a plot outline than I ever had before. But since I also didn't have a firm page count in mind, it left me plenty of room for expansion/elaboration as the opportunity arose ... including suggestions provided by readers of the strip!

And in answer to your third question, completing that story helped me feel more confident that I can successfully pull off a longer work.