Friday, 27 October 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017: A Pantser's Journey

This year, I had... well, not exactly a plan, but a clear intention. I wanted to escape from my 'big' project of the last year or so, and I wanted to do it by reviving an old, incomplete story. I spent a week or so reading old stories and picked out a likely candidate. This was in the first week of October. Then, as writers often do, I settled down to plan out exactly what I was going to do.

Two weeks later, I realised I'd actually been using study to procrastinate from planning my novel. Yes, you read that correctly: I avoided planning my novel by studying. That was about the point where the Self-Doubt Monster re-entered my life. If I had so little enthusiasm for what I was going to write that I'd rather work on an essay about 19th century French realist authors, something must be seriously wrong. Maybe I was never really meant to be a writer, and it was time to put all this silliness behind me and... and that's where I stopped, because the nice people at NaNoWriMo invited us all to think about what would be our biggest obstacle this November.

Answer: Basically, me. I am in my way. My biggest obstacle to overcome in NaNoWriMo or any other writing is my inclination towards self-sabotage. Given the slightest opening, I know I'll be able to talk myself out of writing and probably even persuade myself I shouldn't have started in the first place. I'll convince myself I haven't got time right now, or that I shouldn't write until after I've finished today's study tasks, or that now that I've missed a couple of days there's no point continuing, or that I've made a terrible mistake 10k ago and there's no way to continue without finding and rectifying that mistake... and it goes on.

And, that's what I'd been doing all this month. By deciding to plan this novel, I'd given myself a platform for talking myself out of writing it.

So, I asked myself this: when has sitting down and planning things out ever gotten me out of trouble with something writing-related?
Answer: essay writing. There, I have notes and plans and a nice tidy skeleton to follow, and things tend to work out best if I stick to them.

Everything else, though, I just sort of throw a bunch of stuff onto a page and then repeat that until I get something that looks more or less like the expected product. I'm aware of structure as I do it, but only in the most general sense. Anything more creative than an academic essay is written and rewritten by feel, not by lists and outlines.

So, this is what I'm going to do in November. No plans, no outlines, no list of instructions for rewriting an old draft. I'll have the old story in my head, but mainly I just want to make a story-shaped space in my life and then set myself the task of filling that space.

I have a plan. My plan is to write like hell until I reach the 50k goal, and then keep going until I get to the end of the story. If the pants fit, write by the seat of them!

I'll figure the rest out later.

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