“Can you remind me why I thought that this would be fun?”
-Kristina Horner, “The NaNoWriMo Song”
After all that hard work in the first half of October, getting to know characters better for my Cassandra novel, I’ve decided not to work on that one next month. I know, I know, what a waste! (Not really, because I did valuable work on characterization that will help me in the future when I do work on that one again.) So why did I decide to go in another direction? Well, I think a major part of it is that a big part of what makes NaNo so fun for me is the fact that I’m creating a world, and anything can happen, even with a basic outline.
Plotting a novel is great, don’t get me wrong. It’s awesome to know where I’m going and to know where in the novel I have to hit what plot points. Last year I had a pretty specific plan going into the month, which I was able to add to as I started writing and getting to know the story. When I didn’t feel like writing, it was easy to get started anyway, because at least I knew what I wanted to have happen. I wrote 20 chapters, and each chapter was around 2500 words, and I had a lot of fun writing with a plan.
But then I think back to the first NaNoWriMo I ever did, which was 2007. I had spent some days in the month doing “practice writing,” short stories and vignettes that were not intended to go anywhere. On October 17 (yes, I am looking back through my old blog posts from them to refresh my memory and get exact dates) I wrote something that I referred to in my blog as being about Talking trees and giggling fairies. I had previously come up with an idea of what I wanted to write (ironically, it was also something I had started working on in the past but abandoned), but after writing this day I realized that this idea was more exciting to me, and I said, “the possibilities are endless and I found myself wishing today was November 1 because this story sounds like it could be a lot of fun to make into a novel.” On October 21, I officially decided to take on this fairy story for NaNoWriMo. I did some basic NaNoPrep on October 27, like make lists of my (then unnamed) main character’s allies and enemies, and the next few days were minor prep things like naming my main character. But I had only outlined a bit of the beginning, not the whole thing.
And what was the result of this pantsing adventure, you ask? I finished my novel – Quest for Serentasia was 50,001 words – by midnight on November 21. Yeah, yeah, I was barely working (6 hours/week) and had tons of time, but three weeks is still my fastest win to date. Because I was coming up with things off the top of my head. I had a notebook where I would write thoughts for the future parts of the novel, and I would cross them out as I wrote them, but it was little structure and lots of fun.
Then in 2008, it was another year of total pantsing. I wrote scenes jumping back and forth, then later added in whatever was needed to connect the sections. I started writing a diary, then changed my mind on what I was doing and realized I would need to rearrange the order of the diary entries to change the timeline. I had so much FUN.
2009 doesn’t count. My husband was in the hospital half the month, so I started the Cassandra story but didn’t get far with it, maybe 2000 words. I wasn’t having fun, so I tried The Story of Disco World instead and got to 6,300. 8300 words total is still a good showing for that year, all things considered.
2010 – I returned to the Cassandra story, and I pansted the hell out of it. I mean, I still had a notebook with my novel ideas and notes, and lots of research, but overall I didn’t have a plan.
2011 – I don’t know if I wrote anything. Well, I guess I did. I started writing the sequel to my 2007 novel, Return to Serentasia, but stopped on November 3 because I had a really bad case of Lyme disease and had zero energy. I didn’t even write any blog posts about NaNo, that’s how bad it was.
2012 – I wrote Return to Serentasia, which was really writing the whole thing. I had a plan. I had a big outline, and… well, I already talked about that.
So basically, after all of that, this year I want to remember the fun I had writing my first two novels. Not that my experience hasn’t been fun since then, but it’s been a different kind of fun. This year I want to write something fun and crazy that I know will never be published but that’s not the point. I have a very basic idea of where I think the story will go, but I’m open to whatever the characters decide to do. If they decide instead of going after a job they want to hunt buried treasure or solve a mystery, that will be fine with me. I don’t want to overplan and take the fun out of this. I am going to go for it, and I won’t even worry about anachronisms. Who cares if it’s set in 1980s and I mention something that wasn’t around until the 1990s or 2000s? That doesn’t matter. What matters is having fun, and that’s my