Friday, 7 October 2011

By the seat of my pants...


NaNo is kind of annoying me at the moment. Every time I go there, everyone seems to be saying "YOU MUST PLAN" and "PANTSERS ARE MORONS". Of course it's impossible to write 50k in a month without spending eleven months of the year planning it, right? What kind of crazy person would try to write 50k in a month without planning the whole thing down to the positioning of the toadstool MMC accidentally crushes at the end of chapter 17?

Yeah, you can imagine how die-hard pantser Siana Blackwood feels about that...

So of course I keep trying to present the other point of view, the idea that you can write 50k (or even a fair bit more) in a month without having a plan. Only then I get irritated and start second-guessing myself...

I mean, I write the first draft in a full-screen text editor. Then I paste it into a word processor for spell-checking, read it a few times and then start making a list of what really should have happened. The list is just on a piece of paper or sometimes in a text file. I don't see the point of all the fancy writing software because I just never use all those features. If I'm happy with this basic list of software (just a text editor and a word processor), does this mean I'm not a 'real writer'? Ye Gods, I've never even written a single word while sitting in a coffee shop...

But then, so far thais year I've written:

  1. No Light in the Dark - 95k

  2. Dispersion - 120k

  3. Blade's Edge - 65k

  4. Night Without Stars - 75k

  5. Hope - 85k

  6. Dark Star - 100k

  7. Broken Mirror - 66k

  8. Crystals and Moonlight - 60k

... and started How to Nuke Your Enemies (currently 24k)

Eight completed first drafts, none of them written with expensive software, in a cafe or with months of planning in advance. I stand by my pants and by my 'write it anyway' philosophy.


To tell the truth, that's not stuff I expected to be able to say during my 12th month of wrimo-ing. The same people and the same advice were on NaNo last year and I consciously decided to disregard it and believe Chris Baty (No plot? No problem!). I haven't made the expected progression from pantsing a bad story to becoming a planner, though. I guess it's because I really do like the stories I've written. I still can't imagine editing Dispersion or Night Without Stars, because every time I start reading them the characters take over my head and I'm just living through the events along with them. Some tiny part of me knows they're the wrong events, but I really do love them anyway :).

Okay, I feel better now. Maybe I'll go and write something.

By the seat of my pants.


  1. Yay, I win an award! ;)

    Also, I do want to comment. I think that you should ignore almost everyone on Nano. The thing about Nano is that it's fun because you have thousands of writers writing all at once, but at the same time it sucks because you have a thousand people talking at you and voicing their opinions. Write the way that you want to write if that gives you results. It's as simple as that. If you can win Nano and write an awesome novel by your pants, then let your pants do the typing. (I will resist the urge to sidetrack at this point...)

    I've found myself outlining, but that is only because I have also found that outlining the beginning, middle, and end means that I end up with a finished novel. Of course, I also over achieve because if I only write 50K in a novel, it also won't be finished. And, more importantly, this is how I succeed in writing and I am not you. :)

    The boards will be resetting in about a day, so try to ignore all of the stupid heads out there. ;)

  2. That put it perfectly and I am so glad someone feels the same annoyance at the other NaNoWriMo 'PLANNERS.' I can't tell you how many WriMos I have *tried* to plan for. Day one comes and I end up tossing the idea within the first few paragraphs. If the plan lasts that long :)

    I have fun exploring a new world with my characters. If they and I had to follow a set course we might miss out on some wild adventures together. Sure sometimes I have to steer onto the right path to keep the story in the right direction, but most of the time it ends up there all by itself.

    Without the extra year planning characters, scenery, plot sequence....

    And I have all the rest of that time to 'pants' a handful of other novels. :)

  3. I got into NaNo long ago, as a die-hard pantser. Never planned a story, long or short, in my life (30 yrs of writing). Then again, I've managed to publish no fiction. I write to please me, for release from writing other stuff. Mostly technical stuff.

    OTOH, I've always planned the technical projects. Extensively. Never flew by the seat on those.

    Maybe I'm a split personality? (No, I'm not trying to change the subject here.)

    This year, I finally had a "plan" of sorts. A list of plot points. Not even in order. Stuff I wanted to have in the novel; changing as I thought of things, on the fly. So even my plots are generated "Pantser" style, eh? Then I built a spreadsheet where I tracked Chapter/Scene/Thread, with light notes. Suddenly my writing got better. More productive.

    So while I'm a confirmed Pantser for my fiction, maybe I'll give a tight, little nod to the Planners. And even give a few hours' thought to the plot and details for NaNo 2012. We'll see...

  4. I'm sorry so many people on the forums annoyed you. :( NaNo is supposed to be fun.

    It's funny....I've always thought of myself as a planner, but recently I've realized that I usually only have the first few scenes planned. Sometimes I have a scene or two for later in the story planned, but I never have a full outline - and the one time I did have one for NaNo, I didn't use it.

    I like to think of myself as a planner, but really I just get to know my characters really well before hand. I make lists of what happened to them before, but there's always at least half (if not three quarters) of my novel that I know I'm going to discover as I write. Then I do actual outlining for draft 2, when I know more about what I want my story to be like.

    I have my own way of doing things, and if asked I will share what works for me, but I would never presume that my way of doing things is the only way. I've never understood people like that. I plan more than some and way less than others - but we're all writers. That's the important part. I wish more people would understand that.