How to Make Sure Your NaNo Project Isn’t a Hot Mess

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Stupid.Photos

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Stupid.Photos

I LOVE NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November). It is a fantastic way to push ourselves and also for new writers to be introduced to a professional pace and a professional attitude. When we do this “writing thing” for a living, we have to write no matter what.

I’ve written books while a toddler stood whacking me with a sword. I’ve written blog posts from hospital rooms or the day after funerals. Life doesn’t stop because we want to “create.” Family gets sick, houses need to be cleaned, and bills need to be paid. Often we have to balance a day job, too.

Though I encourage you all to try NaNo, I offer a caveat. Invest in a little planning.

There are few things more defeating that to a) start off hot and heavy only to write ourselves into a corner or b) invest a month of suffering and sleep-deprivation only to end up with a derailed mess that can never be repaired short of tearing it down to the foundation and starting over.

I’ve seen a lot of first drafts that, by the end? Kinda resemble that poor baboon from the movie The Fly. The one who didn’t make it through the transporter? *shivers*.

Jami Gold is a WANA instructor and a FABULOUS teacher. She’s here to give you some tips for your NaNo journey, but her advice is sound for ANY writing. Most writers who make the good living publish more than a book a year, and they certainly don’t take five, six or TEN years to finish. I can’t tell you how many writers I see year after year at the same conference shopping the same book they’ve been trying to land an agent for since 2007.

WANA is here to prepare you for your brilliant future!

Take it away, Jami!

How to Make Sure Your NaNo Project Isn’t a Hot Mess

So, you’re thinking about doing NaNoWriMo? Great! Every writer should probably sign up to do NaNo at least once. We never know what process might work for us until we try.

But what do we do after we decide to go for it? The sheer number of words required for NaNo can be intimidating by itself. 50,000 words? To some of us, that sounds like a lot.

Maybe we’ve written mostly short stories or novellas, or maybe we get stuck at the 30,000 word mark and haven’t finished a story before. Add in the 30-day deadline and NaNo can sound like it’s geared toward gluttons for punishment. *smile*

But It’s a GOOD Kind of Punishment

No matter what—whether we “win” NaNo or not—we’re going to learn something about ourselves. We’ll learn about our ability to focus, our ability to meet deadlines, our performance under stress, our ability to crank out words (any words) when needed, and what writing processes might or might not work for us in the future.

Good stuff! All that alone makes the time and effort spent doing Nano worth it.

But what if a decent story comes out of that time and effort too? That’s a super-bonus for us.

So while time spent doing NaNo is never “wasted”—even if we end up with a hot mess at the end—finishing up with useable writing is preferred. The question now becomes, how can we prevent that “hot mess”? *smile*

Planning, Planning, Planning

Writing can feel a little like THIS...

Writing can feel a little like THIS…

I’m a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Story outlines? Blech! Scene cards? Ugh. Give me a blank page and a vague idea and I’ll write ‘til my fingers ache.

But… *sigh* But I’ve also learned that I get stuck less often if I know what direction I’m heading.

To build on an analogy Kristen used in a workshop during this past weekend’s WANACon, I might not know what roads to take (scenes) and I might not know the exact turns to make (story turning points), but I know I need to head west to get to the destination of California (the story’s end).

We all get stuck in our stories sometimes, but during the deadlines and word count pressure of NaNo, getting stuck can kill our chances of winning. So if planning can help minimize the amount or length of those “stuck points,” we’ll be better off.

What Does NaNo Planning Look Like?

This planning can look different for everyone. Stories consist of (at least) two main arcs: the story/plot arc and the character/emotional arc.

At their essence, all stories are about change. They start at Point A and things happen in a cause-and-effect, action-reaction chain to end up at Point B.

Story/plot arcs are about the “what” or the “why.” What happens to make things change? Why is the story happening now and not a year ago?

Character/emotional arcs are about the “who” and the “how.” Who is facing the obstacles and has to change to succeed? How are they changing?

Most stories are a mix of those plot-driven and character-driven questions. But we might not need to plan ahead with both. Some of us are better at winging one type of arc than the other.

That’s why everyone’s blog post about “getting ready for NaNo” looks different. Some people are focusing on the plot elements—filling out beat sheets or story outlines—because that’s what they need. Others are focusing on the character elements—filling out character sheets or writing character backgrounds—because that’s what they need.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. And part of the beauty of NaNo is discovering what kind of writer you are. Once you know, you’ll know what tools you can skip in the future.

The Basics of Planning for Plot

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

If we’re better at making up characters as we go along, we might want to plan some of the main story turning points.

  • What drags the character into the story and forces them to make a choice to get involved?
  • What raises the stakes and tension during the middle of the story?
  • What’s going to make the character lose hope before the end?
  • What’s going to push the character to change and face the obstacles at the end?

We can plan a lot more obviously, but that gives us a starting point and an ending point. That Point A and Point B will give us a direction as we write. And even if we’re the pants-iest pantser, that much planning is less likely to freak out our muse than doing a full story outline.

The Basics of Planning for Character

On the other hand, if we’re better at making up scenes and plot points as we go along, we might want to plan the character arc. That means we have to know the character’s Point A and Point B.

Some people find character arcs harder to “see” because they’re more mental than physical. But in character terms, Point A and Point B means we have to know their destination (what they want) and their beginning (what’s holding them back).

  • What does the character long for and desire? (story ending)
  • What choices are they making that keep them from their dream? (story beginning)
  • What do they learn? (how they change)
  • What are they willing to do at the end that they weren’t willing to do before? (story climax)

Those tips are the ground level of planning for plot and character arcs, and for some people, that might be all they need to get going. At some point though, even most pantsers will need to plan a bit deeper to get unstuck. That’s where my “Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story” workshop through WANA International comes in to help.

I’m offering my workshop next week (October 15th and 17th) just in time for NaNo. I teach a plotter and pantser-friendly method for planning our stories just enough to write faster and get unstuck. Kristen’s blog readers can get $10 off by using the Promo Code: gopants.

(Note: If the days/times aren’t convenient for you, everyone who signs up receives a full recording of the class and a thorough handout. I teach this class about once a year, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to sign up.)

I won’t be doing NaNo this year, as I’m not in the right spot with any of my writing projects to do it, but I had a great time last year. I’m “Jami Gold” if you want to buddy me so I can cheer you on from the sidelines. *smile*

Will you be doing NaNo this year? If not, what’s holding you back? Does this post help you know what you need to plan in advance? Can you make up the plot or character arcs as you go along, or both (or neither)? Do you have any questions about my workshop?

***

THANK YOU, JAMI!

I LOVE hearing from you! And, like always, comments for guests count DOUBLE for my contest.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

September’s Winner is: Sean T. Smith. Please send 5000 words in a WORD document (double-spaced) to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations!

Author Jami Gold

Author Jami Gold

After discovering a chemical compound that makes chocolate even more awesome, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blogTwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and Goodreads.

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  1. #1 by tam francis on October 10, 2013 - 10:58 am

    I LOVE this and it is so timely. I’ve been sitting on the fence whether I want to try this or not. I’ve got a vague outline (in my head) wasn’t sure if I could actually write it down. Would that be cheating? This is excellent advice and moving me closer to registering. Eeeeeeekkkk! Thank you!

    • #2 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:14 pm

      Hi Tam,

      Nope, that’s not cheating at all. NaNo specifies that you can’t use any old words for your word count, but you’re allowed to plan as much as you want.🙂

      Good luck in NaNo if you decide to do it–and buddy me!

  2. #3 by Melissa Lewicki on October 10, 2013 - 10:59 am

    I’m a little hesitant to do NaNo. I am three chapters away from finishing the first draft of my first mystery. It needs a lot of revision, of course. How do you balance current ms with doing NaNo?? Thanks.

    • #4 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:29 pm

      Hi Melissa,

      Everyone handles fitting NaNo into their writing plans a little differently. In 2010 and 2011, I did an informal NaNoEDITMo while my friends were doing NaNoWriMo. I just took November as a time to be really focused on my writing projects, which in that case, meant editing.

      2012 was the first time I did NaNo for “real” and officially signed up. Even then, I was a NaNo Rebel (http://nanowrimo.org/forums/nano-rebels), as I wrote 60K on an already started novel. (Call those extra 10K words my “guilt tax” for being a Rebel. LOL!)

      Others will put their current work on hold and start something new for NaNo to avoid being a Rebel. The point is learning to be focused on your writing.

      I say that NaNo is all about experimenting to find what works for you. Maybe you could finish those last three chapters to get some words. And then while that’s sitting before before you start to revise, you could start something new for the rest of your words. That method falls under an “acceptable” Rebel approach.🙂

      Good luck if you decide to do NaNo, and feel free to buddy me.🙂

  3. #5 by mandyevebarnett on October 10, 2013 - 11:00 am

    Reblogged this on Mandyevebarnett's Blog and commented:
    Wise words…

  4. #6 by Lanette Kauten on October 10, 2013 - 11:10 am

    Great tips, but I’ve already started a new WIP, and I’m 12,000 words into it. But I think I’ll set a goal to have the first draft finished by the end of November, which gives me nearly two months to complete it.

    • #7 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:34 pm

      Hi Lanette,

      Yes, when I did NaNo last year, I was a NaNo Rebel (http://nanowrimo.org/forums/nano-rebels) because I was 30K words into the story at the beginning of November. (In other words, I’d gotten all the easy stuff done and was heading into that hard middle section of the story. Yeeks.)

      I ended up writing 60K NEW words during NaNo, so I called that a win!🙂

  5. #8 by Elke Feuer on October 10, 2013 - 11:11 am

    Great tips! I am aparticiping is NaNoWri this year. I use a word doc to develop some of the things you mentioned above, but I like the questions you posed. Thanks!

    • #9 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:36 pm

      Hi Elke,

      I’m happy to help.🙂 Good luck in NaNo this year!

  6. #10 by lisenminetti on October 10, 2013 - 11:12 am

    I started reading because of “Hot Mess” and read on because – as usual – great advice! For my first MS I never even considered plotting. For NaNo I decided to try it. I hated it and gave up. My “plot” is a notebook filled with various points I would like to hit. HOWEVER even with the little plotting/thinking I have done I realized I at least have the roadmap in front of me and can answer most (if not all) of those questions posed above about my story. YAY ME! Doing the happy dance now (which also looks like a hot mess!)

    • #11 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:41 pm

      Hi Lisen,

      LOL! Yep, I call myself a reformed plotter. I tried it and it didn’t work for me either. It’s a pantser’s life for me.😉

      About half the time, I don’t write anything down in advance, not even the answers to those basic questions above. But I often have them in the back of my mind. I’ve discovered that I usually write faster with just a little bit of direction.🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  7. #12 by annerallen on October 10, 2013 - 11:21 am

    Fantastic advice, Jami! I hope everybody planning to do NaNo will read it. 50K words that don’t go anywhere won’t jumpstart your book. Instead you may waste years of pointless “editing” before you realize it’s not salvageable. (Speaking from experience here.) Each character must want something. That’s the key.

    • #13 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:43 pm

      Hi Anne,

      Great to see you here!🙂 Yes, while any of us can write a hot mess, newer writers might be less likely to figure out right away whether or not a story is salvageable. Hopefully, this will help avoid some of those issues. Thanks for the comment!

  8. #14 by sharonhughson on October 10, 2013 - 11:31 am

    My plan is to write book two of my YA fantasy trilogy during NaNo. I’m doing both character arc plotting and sketching out the major an minor beats (thanks for the beat sheets that do the math, Jami) before November rolls around. The biggest caveat: I need to get book one finished by the end of this month and I’m more than 10,000 words away. There are some major holes in the story. Yikes!

  9. #16 by lindseypogue on October 10, 2013 - 11:38 am

    I really, really appreciate this post. Even though this will be my third book project I’ll be working on, this is my first year as a NaNoWriMo participant and I’m both excited and anxious. I want my outline to be as fleshed out as possible so that I can make sure I’m ready to go and as prepared as possible–working a day job on top of NaNoWriMo is a little daunting. However, this post has helped me consider important questions I hadn’t thought of as well as put me at ease as I take a step back and appreciate the work I’ve already put into my outline and character development. So, I think it’s safe to say I’m feeling better about the process and that makes me happy. Thank you!

    • #17 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:47 pm

      Hi Lindsey,

      Yay! I’m happy to help.🙂 Good luck in NaNo and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader from the sidelines!

  10. #18 by Gry Ranfelt on October 10, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Yeah, Nanowrimo!😀 Great points for planning.

    • #19 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:48 pm

      Hi Gry,

      Yep, I *love* NaNo. I’m hoping my brain comes up with a way for me to do it this year. *sigh* Thanks for the comment!🙂

  11. #20 by chemistken on October 10, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    Jami, you seem to be everywhere these days. I hope you’re leaving plenty of time for writing.

    No Nano for me this year. I’m still cleaning up the mess I created during last year’s Nano!

    • #21 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:50 pm

      Hi ChemistKen,

      LOL! Yeah, things have been a little crazier than usual for my schedule lately, but I just finished writing my secret project last night, so I’m happy.🙂

      Let me know if you have any questions about that clean up process. You know I’m happy to share my thoughts.🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  12. #22 by Topaz on October 10, 2013 - 12:07 pm

    NaNoWriMo is incredible! I recommend that all writers go for it. 50,000 words is a good start; I spend the following month writing another 50,000 words.

    • #23 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:51 pm

      Hi Topaz,

      Yep, I ended up doing 60K in NaNo last year–about double what I thought I was capable of. We really don’t know until we try.🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      • #24 by Topaz on October 10, 2013 - 2:29 pm

        No problem!

        Yeah, I usually barely make my 50,000 word count, so I continue the same pace during the following month. It’s my little method, and it seems to work for me.

        • #25 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:34 pm

          That’s fantastic! Last year, I had to take December off to catch up and deal with the holidays. But when January came, I was able to get in a good chunk of words and finish my NaNo story in the first week.🙂

          I hope your method continues working for you!

        • #26 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:43 pm

          Oh! And feel free to buddy me on NaNo if you want a cheerleader from the sidelines.🙂

          • #27 by Topaz on October 10, 2013 - 3:56 pm

            Thank you! I may take you up on that.🙂

  13. #28 by getskinnywithjill on October 10, 2013 - 12:18 pm

    yikes!!!! WOW that was a hot mess lol

    • #29 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:04 pm

      “hot mess” is just fun to say, isn’t it?🙂

  14. #30 by Alison Doherty on October 10, 2013 - 12:29 pm

    Great tips. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before but I signed up this year. I have the characters figured out because I’ll be writing a sequel, but I definitely want to use some of these tips to get some plot points figured out before hand.

    • #31 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:05 pm

      Hi Alison,

      Great! Let me know if you have any questions.🙂 Good luck in NaNo and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader.

  15. #34 by melorajohnson on October 10, 2013 - 12:41 pm

    Reblogged this on Melora Johnson's Muse and commented:
    Here’s another sound way of looking at the planning for NaNoWriMo. If you want to get the most out of your Nano experience, and hopefully end up with something worth editing, a little planning is essential.

  16. #35 by melorajohnson on October 10, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Reblogged and commented, “Here’s another sound way of looking at the planning for NaNoWriMo. If you want to get the most out of your Nano experience, and hopefully end up with something worth editing, a little planning is essential.”

    • #36 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing my post!🙂

  17. #37 by Phillip McCollum on October 10, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Yup, doing NaNoWriMo for the second time. I plan to win this year. Great advice on the little bit of planning that will go a long way.

    • #38 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:18 pm

      Hi Phillip,

      Yes, I’m a pantser, so I definitely don’t want to do *too* much planning. A little bit for me *does* go a long way.🙂 Good luck this year and thanks for the comment!

  18. #39 by Aaron Brown on October 10, 2013 - 1:09 pm

    Great tips! Thank you for this. As a (hopefully recovering) pantser planning for NaNo, I’m eager for all the help I can get.

    • #40 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:21 pm

      Hi Aaron,

      Yep, I successfully pantsed my first novel, plotted my second (because that’s what I thought “real” authors had to do), and ended up breaking everything. Every story since then has been some variety of pantsing–all successfully.🙂 Good luck in NaNo and feel free to buddy me!

  19. #41 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 1:16 pm

    Thanks for having me here, Kristen! I love NaNo too, and I keep trying to think of ways to make it work for my writing schedule this year. If I end up doing it, I’ll probably be a NaNo Rebel (finishing an existing story and/or a couple of shorter stories). I have trouble following rules.😉

  20. #42 by L.S. Engler on October 10, 2013 - 1:22 pm

    …wait, isn’t a Hot Mess the whole point of NaNo?

    I say that, but, more often than not, I definitely go in with a plan and an endgame. Not that it does me any good, because I’ve yet to “win,” but it does provide a lot of good material for later. Granted, I haven’t figured out what my “plan” will be this year, since I’m already balancing a lot of projects, but I think the spontaneity and the rush is part of the excitement and fun.

    Best of luck, everyone participating!

    • #43 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:24 pm

      Hi L.S.,

      LOL! Well, I definitely believe in using NaNo to try things we haven’t tried before, so a hot mess can certainly be the result.😉

      Then again, I pants all my stories now (after a not-so-successful attempt at plotting), so NaNo is a great fit for me–planned in advance or not.🙂 Thanks for the comment and good luck in NaNo!

  21. #44 by TLJeffcoat on October 10, 2013 - 2:04 pm

    I’m more ready for Nanowrimo than I’ve ever been. I’ve got everything ready. I’m going to print this post so I can double check everything the week before November.🙂

  22. #46 by Maryann Miller (@maryannwrites) on October 10, 2013 - 2:07 pm

    I’ve been toying with a sequel to my suspense novel, One Small Victory, so maybe I will get brave and try NaNo this year. Thanks so much for the tips. I am a panster, too, with no plans to recover. (smile)

    • #47 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:31 pm

      Hi Maryann,

      NaNo is a great time to experiment. If the experiment doesn’t work? Eh, it’s only a month and you learned what *doesn’t* work for you. If the experiment *does* work, you have a good chunk of a book ready for revisions.🙂

      Yay! Another no-plotter-envy pantser. I wrote a post on my blog last year about how so many pantsers seemed to want to be plotters. *sigh* I’m so glad my experimenting proved that plotting doesn’t work for me and now I have no plotting envy. LOL!

      Good luck if you decide to do NaNo–and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader!🙂

  23. #48 by saralitchfield on October 10, 2013 - 2:26 pm

    Hi Jami! Awesome advice, I’m facing my first NaNo with excitement but trepidation!! I’ve shared this post with my new writers’ group – went to my first meeting last night and like me before last weekend, they’d not heard of NaNo yet.. Have just begged you to be a buddy and help me through🙂 Sara

    • #49 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 2:38 pm

      Hi Sara!

      Thanks for sharing, and let me know if you have any questions. I *love* NaNo and keep trying to figure out how I can do it this year. Good luck and yes, I just buddy-ed you back!🙂

  24. #50 by Katie Cross on October 10, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    Hilarious! I just posted on this on my blog yesterday. This will be my first NaNoWriMo, and I”m trying to be a patient person and plan for it. I’m also using this time to just ‘think’ my story out, which I’ve never done, so I was glad to read this advice. Awesome, thanks!

    • #51 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 3:54 pm

      Hi Katie,

      LOL! Yes, that’s one of the “problems” with NaNo–we get so excited about our project that we can’t wait to start.🙂

      Good luck in NaNo and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader!

  25. #52 by emeraldmunchkin on October 10, 2013 - 4:23 pm

    Loved the title of the article (and the pictures which were included). I believe that the linked worksheets may give me some help and guidence on my characters and story plot. Thank you for this wonderful post and helpful tips.

  26. #53 by Jen Connelly on October 10, 2013 - 4:35 pm

    I’ve been doing NaNo since 2005 and I’ve won some and lost some. And all by the seat of my pants. This year I’m outlining for the first time to see how that goes.
    What I learned from NaNo is that I’m a linear writer and when I can’t figure out what comes exactly next I get lost so I taught myself to skip ahead, to find a scene I do know I want and write that instead, worry about filling in the rest later. Just as long as I get those 1667 words each day.

    • #54 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 4:48 pm

      Hi Jen,

      Great tip! I’ve tried writing that way (jumping around), but that doesn’t work for me. I know other authors who write that way all the time though, so it really is all about finding what works for us.🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      • #55 by Jen Connelly on October 10, 2013 - 10:56 pm

        It was extremely difficult to do at first. I had to convince myself it was okay. It’s how I won my first NaNo in 2008.

        • #56 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 11:21 pm

          Hi Jen,

          I’m all for doing whatever works.🙂

  27. #57 by conniecockrell on October 10, 2013 - 4:53 pm

    I am doing NaNo this year, my third one and I plot. Not massive outlines, sketches and such but simple one liners for each scene. That way I know in advance how I’m getting to the end of the story but it’s not so constrictive that I can’t create each scene as necessary. Thanks for the tips and the offer.

    • #58 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 6:47 pm

      Hi Connie,

      That sounds like a great middle ground.🙂 I hope it works well for you this year. Good luck in NaNo and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader!

  28. #59 by Lina on October 10, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    This is yummy advice! My only issue is that when I actually started planning for NANO, I started turning all of my ideas into short stories. I suppose I’m just in a short mood. I AM only 5 feet tall–although I suppose that’s no excuse. My best bet is to start with characters, develop, and come up with a few conflicts that I can piece together as a collection of shorts that mold into a novel (with a major conflict of course). It’s so strange. I’ve never written this way before.

    • #60 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 8:03 pm

      Hi Lina,

      LOL! Yes, short stories definitely have a different approach. I’ve written only a couple, but I never plan a thing and I’m even more pantser than usual with them. So it’s interesting that your *planning* keeps going that way.🙂

      Good luck with it and thanks for the comment!

  29. #61 by Kylie Betzner on October 10, 2013 - 8:24 pm

    Great advice! My first NaNo project was a hot mess. It had no direction because it had no planning. To be honest, I had not written in almost three years so it was my first jump back into writing, and thanks to NaNoWrimo I havn’t stopped since.

    • #62 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 8:48 pm

      Hi Kylie,

      Ooo, now that’s a *great* testimonial for how awesome NaNo can be. Keep writing and thanks for the comment!🙂

      • #63 by Kylie Betzner on October 10, 2013 - 9:07 pm

        Hi Jami,

        I strongly promote NaNoWrimo to anyone who struggles to write, loves to write, or who needs to write, because that’s what it forces you to do. I’m so looking forward to it this year and am excited to see so many new participants this year.

        • #64 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 11:20 pm

          It’s great to hear that, Kylie! All this talk about NaNo really makes me want to find a way to do it this year even though it makes no sense for my schedule. LOL!

  30. #65 by Matthew Randall on October 10, 2013 - 8:45 pm

    Hey Jami. Thanks, that’s some of the clearest advice on planning I’ve found. I now understand I’m a pantser, especially for character arcs (its nice to have a diagnosis/definition!).

    I’ve had a few years off from NaNo and wasn’t planning to do it this year. Your post has inspired me to re-think … I have the inkling of a plot idea and a half chance of squeezing in the time. So, with the battle cry of ‘Pantsers Unite!’ I’m going to sign up.

    Cheers.

    • #66 by Jami Gold on October 10, 2013 - 8:51 pm

      Hi Matthew,

      Aww, thanks! Yes, most people don’t think about the two arcs and how they require different thinking. Most beat sheets cover only the plot arc, for example.

      LOL! Yay! Pantsers Unite! *fist bump* Good luck if you decide to go for it and feel free to buddy me if you want a fellow pantser cheerleader.🙂

  31. #67 by Sinistra Inksteyne on October 11, 2013 - 1:47 am

    I must admit I’ve never NaNo’d, but in planning for my First Full Draft for my current WIP I had an insight: the days I spent planning structure & narrative just flew by, but the hours I spent labouring over the character development crawled.
    Guess where my greatest weakness as a writer lies? Yup – character. Sigh.
    Any tips for developing my flabby writerly muscles in that area? Or do you pants your characters too? (oo, that came out wrong…)

    • #68 by Jami Gold on October 11, 2013 - 1:58 am

      Hi Sinistra,

      LOL! *banishes images of pantsing my characters from my mind* Er, well, *some* of those images can stay.😉

      Check out my posts about the workshop I attended with Michael Hauge. He’s *brilliant* with character development. (http://jamigold.com/tag/michael-hauge/) Let me know if you have any questions.🙂

      I hope that helps. Thanks for the comment!

  32. #70 by moxeyns on October 11, 2013 - 5:00 am

    Love that definition of the character arc. Crystallises it for me nicely, thank you.

    • #71 by Jami Gold on October 11, 2013 - 9:46 am

      Hi Moxeyns,

      I’m happy to help.🙂 Good luck applying that for your stories!

  33. #72 by Linda M Au on October 11, 2013 - 1:34 pm

    This is going to be my 10th NaNo (yes, 10!), and I’m sure it’ll be my 10th win too (yes, 10!). My first NaNo in 2004 was an epiphany for me. It had taken me 15 years to finish my first novel (!!), so I finally learned how to crush the inner editor and write consistently. I went into that first NaNo with nothing more than a tagline and a character in my head. And that novel went on to place as a top 4 runner-up in Jerry Jenkins’s Operation First Novel contest in 2006. So, although I love to plot things out, I’m apparently fairly good at being a pantser… and I think that’s why I love NaNo. Anything can happen, and it usually does.

    Your bullet lists of questions (for plot and character) are extremely helpful even to this pantser, though. I’m going to answer those questions before November 1 and see where it leads. It’ll feel like planning but won’t feel constricting.

    Great post!

    • #73 by Jami Gold on October 11, 2013 - 2:19 pm

      Hi Linda,

      Wow! That’s fantastic! And I love your insight about NaNo: Anything can happen.🙂

      That’s a big part of why I love it too. The possibilities are endless, so we have a great opportunity to learn about ourselves.🙂

      Yep, my muse starts getting antsy if I plan too much, and let’s not even talk about plotting. My workshop grew out of finding a graduated process that allows writers to do as much–or as little–planning as they need. So I definitely understand that line. LOL! Good luck in NaNo and thanks for the comment!

      • #74 by Linda M Au on October 11, 2013 - 3:22 pm

        I’ll definitely look into that workshop! I still feel like I could use all the help I can get. 🙂

        • #75 by Jami Gold on October 11, 2013 - 4:13 pm

          I know how that is! Every story seems to unfold in a different way.🙂

          Let me know if you have any questions about the workshop.🙂

  34. #76 by Andromeda Edison on October 11, 2013 - 5:39 pm

    I am like many others here, I have an idea and want to try it (gearing myself up for it with a little bit of outlining and planning). The longest thing I have ever written is in the 15,000 word range (short stories) so I am a little scared but I really want to figure it out.

    • #77 by Jami Gold on October 11, 2013 - 8:10 pm

      Hi Andromeda,

      NaNo is the perfect time to try something new. Between NaNo Buddies, the NaNo forums, blog posts about NaNo, and using the NaNo hashtag, you’ll never have such widespread support of people cheering you on. That alone can be a great confidence boost and motivator.🙂

      Good luck and feel free to buddy me if you want another cheerleader!🙂

  35. #78 by Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) on October 12, 2013 - 3:43 am

    This post really excited me. First, I am definitely that person who writes several scenes in a row where things happen but the transitions aren’t cohesive — and yes, it’s because I am a pantser and I seldom have a clue where my story is going. On the other hand, I deal with character development really well — my dialogue is pretty impressive, to toot my own horn. It had never, ever occurred to me that I could quasi-plot a story arc without plotting the characters, or vice versa. This was quite a revelation, and I am really motivated to get some plot points jotted down. I really think this will help me figure out how to move the story along much more smoothly. So thanks for that!

    Second, I had never heard the term “NaNo Rebel” and will gladly apply it to myself this year. This will be my third time running — no wins for me, yet, but “some” words are better than none, and I believe the third try is the charm. However, I’m coming in this year with a story for which I already have 10k+ words written. And if you guessed that this is the same story I started during LAST year’s NaNoWriMo, you would be correct! I don’t care. The writing’s the thing, and I am determined to complete even just ONE novel in my lifetime. If that means I come back every year to add another 10k, so be it. That’s a win for me… which I believe is the point of the activity.

    All this to say, thank you for the wonderful revelation and the permission to take my own path. More excited for this than I have ever been, thanks to YOU!🙂

    • #79 by Jami Gold on October 12, 2013 - 11:16 am

      Hi Andi-Roo,

      I’m happy to help! We all know that the best stakes and obstacles are personal (meaning that the story wouldn’t be the same with different characters because they wouldn’t care as much and/or would react differently), but we can also trust our muse to make that aspect happen, especially if we’re pantsers and have an instinctive feel for characters. In that case, our subconscious will instinctively gravitate toward worst scenarios for *this* character.🙂

      Yes, NaNo Rebels are great because as you said, the writing’s the thing.🙂 I *do* believe that as long as we try and learn something about ourselves and/or our writing, it *is* a win.

      I hope you have a great time this year and feel free to buddy me if you want a cheerleader!🙂

  36. #80 by SwordBearer on October 14, 2013 - 4:24 am

    Reblogged this on moniquerockliffe and commented:
    Hi guys, I thought I’d share this with you as NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and Kristen Lamb is the queen of NaNo with tons of fantastic and very helpful advice. In this post she’s also invited Jami Gold to share her strategies and hints and guidelines with you. I thought it a fantastic post worth sharing with my writer friends. Enjoy!

    • #81 by Jami Gold on October 21, 2013 - 11:39 am

      Thanks so much for sharing!🙂

  37. #82 by Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) on October 21, 2013 - 9:25 am

    Jami, I loved this tip. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone encourage writers to concentrate their energy where they need more help. Since my character development is pretty decent, I get kinda snarky when the pros say we should do character sketches prior to diving in. I feel bogged down, working on an outline {which I hate, and thus tend to avoid} AND character backgrounds {which tend to develop during the writing process, so it feels like I’m doing double-duty}. This advice really freed me up to work where I feel my time will be most fruitful.Thanks so much for the suggestion, Jami! I mentioned {and linked to} this in my NaNo Prep post – hopefully it helps others as well as it helped me!

    {http://www.theworld4realz.com/nano-prep-tips-nanowrimo-nanoprep-row80/}

    • #83 by Jami Gold on October 21, 2013 - 11:41 am

      Yay! Thanks so much for letting me know you found this helpful (enough to share!).🙂

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