Nanowrimo 2015: Pants, Plot or Skeleton It?

It’s three days to the kick-off of Nanowrimo 2015 and as I pull together my prep notes, agonize over which characters will live and which will get nommed by zombies, I have to ask a critical question of those taking this leap with me:

Are you a plotter, pantser… or a member of my skeleton crew?


You’ll hear a lot from Nano types about those first two options, so let’s get them out of the way:

Pantser:  someone who flies by the seat of one’s pants and writes straight from the brain.  I did this for my first Nano experience.

Plotter:  someone who outlines the entire book in advance of the wacky, sleepless world of Nano.  Last year, I wrote Waiting For A Star To Fall this way.  It was the most I’ve outlined a project prior to starting.

Usually, though, I fall somewhere in the middle of these options.  This is where I propose my third option:  the Skeletoner.  What’s that, you ask?  Chances are, some of you Plotters out there are actually skeleton-style writers.

Skeletoner:  someone who roughly outlines the general arc of their novel, but feels free to deviate, add or shift the story as the spirit moves them.  Basically, they’re Pansters who need a loose framework to support their creativity.

One of the things that frustrated me with writing Star last year was having to adjust any changes I made like a ripple throughout the outline.  Granted, Star was one of those books that came together very neatly and the Muse made very few detours.  I do have to wonder, though, if the outline threw up roadblocks.

So I’m going back to what got me through so many writing projects in the past: the skeleton system.  I outline the book, sure, but what that really amounts to is rough mile markers and key scenes.  Is it subject to change?  Absolutely.  I’m already changing it in my skull as I write this.  Could I decide to add some wild new zombie slaughters along the way?  Why not?

What I have is a loose itinerary:  introduce characters; introduce zombies; terrorize poor characters as they terrorize the people they hate serving; and maybe let them live at the end.  Maybe.

I’m not the only one to endorse less outlining and more freedom, by the way.

So tell me, fellow Nanos:  which of the three are you?  Are you maybe realizing that you don’t so much as plot as make a wishlist?  Is your November writing vacation set in stone or subject to flights of fancy?  Or are you simply going to spin the globe, point a country out and write all about it?  Let me know in the comments below!


Update: The Autumn Brody series and NaNoWriMo 2015

The leaves are crisp and colourful, the weather is no longer sweltering, and people are obsessing over pumpkin spice again.  It’s the perfect time of year to curl up in a cozy blanket and read — or, if you’re me, curl up with a laptop and write.

As I prepare for my next project, it seemed like the perfect time to do a general update on my work.

The Autumn Brody series

The prequel to the series, Pretty In Scarlet, is now completely posted on Wattpad.  Six chapters in length, it reveals the final days of Nikki Lang’s life, and how her choices shape Autumn Brody’s journey.  While it reveals some plot points of Change of Season, it doesn’t spoil the ending.  It does add a little something extra to the story, and I encourage you to check it out and review it on Goodreads.

Talk of my new project seems to have convinced some readers that Waiting For A Star To Fall is the end of the series.  Let me clear that up right now:  I fully intend to write more books for this series — two, to be specific.  There are four seasons, after all.  The new project is one I’ve been mulling over for nearly seven years, and has finally come together in my head.

Speaking of the project…

Continue reading

In Praise of NaNoWriMo

In 2003, I was a writer without a Muse.  I was, understandably, miserable.

Words had always come so readily to me from the very start.  My first stories were told in a mandatory journal my first-grade teacher insisted we keep.  Most of my classmates would complete it in the quickest fashion possible:  a drawing, accompanied by a few rudimentary sentences.  “Today we learned about math.  Then I ate dinner.  We had pizza.”  It was all she expected of us.

Born verbose, mine would go something like so:  “Today, my mommy and daddy took me out for pizza.  My daddy made me laugh by pretending to be Cookie Monster.  ‘Nomm, nomm, nomm!’ he shouted as he bit the pizza.  ‘Are you a cookie?’  I ran away laughing so he couldn’t eat me.”

I really loved setting a scene, as opposed to sharing facts.  I treasured unique moments over itemizing all of the day’s events.

Flash forward past years of short stories, poetry, novellas and novel-length fanfiction:  I was stuck.  I hadn’t written anything substantial in two years, and that last project was a horrid bastardization of Francesca Lia Block’s style.  I was also in the midst of preparing for my GRE exams when prose-loving friends of mine nudged me.  “Are you doing NaNoWriMo?” they asked.  I had no idea what they were talking about, and once I did, I knew I had no time for it.  I was writing my exams on December 13th.  My spare time in November was committed to Psychology and trying to remember Calculus.

The Muse had other plans.  On November 3rd, a nudge as I listened to a song:  “What if a group of strangers were trapped in a room?  What if they weren’t strangers at all?”  My reply:  “Hmm.  Interesting.  Get back to me after I memorize the DSM-IV.”

On November 7th, I woke up with an entire movie playing in my head.  It’s how all of my projects begin:  in fast-forward, I see it all unfold.  My job is to slow it down and capture it in prose.  With a grumbled curse, I reconsidered my stance.  Maybe the Muse would never return.  If I sat the idea aside to work on later, would I lose it, just as I had with a previous novel at age seventeen?

(That work remains unfinished, to my dismay.  I hate unfinished stories.)

NaNoWriMo was there, waiting.  Daring me to reconnect with my passion.  GRE studying shoved aside, I surrendered to the challenge.

I wrote late into the night, first thing in the morning, on breaks at work.  If I had a computer, I was writing that novel.  Outlines were scribbled on scrap paper, if necessary.  It seemed an impossible mountain to climb, but on November 30th, 2013, with ten minutes to spare, I uploaded my unfinished novel for verification and cheered at my triumph.

It took me nearly a decade to complete the final chapters and release it, but Collide would not exist without NaNoWriMo.  Consequently, I may have remained creatively stagnant, never writing Change Of Season, either.

(Trivia:  Change Of Season began as a screenplay for Script Frenzy, an offshoot of NaNo.)

From a simple group of friends, NaNoWriMo has expanded to share the gift of creation with both children and adults, nurturing the voices of the present and future.  They are cheerleaders to the over-caffeinated, organizing pep talks, word sprints and municipal events to drive new and experienced participants towards that seemingly impossible, yet utterly attainable goal:  fifty thousand words in a month.

Doing all of this work has financial ramifications.  This is where my praise turns to a pitch.

NaNoWriMo is seeking donations to fuel its artistic fire and keep its myriad of programs and resources going.  Today, in particular, is Double Up Day, where the goal is to double everything:  donations, word counts, the number of times your main character changes clothes in a chapter… Everything.

There is no price tag for reigniting a writer’s Muse.  But we can all certainly try.  As a perk, you’re in the running for some serious swag.  Isn’t giving grand?

Click here to learn how you can support the magic of NaNoWriMo.  Too broke to donate?  Share the word.  Share your story of NaNo.

(As for me… NaNoWriMo 2014 has renewed my spark once more.  Details on that project soon!)