Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: A Plotter's Guide to Pantsing

Delighted to announce my first NaNo guest poster today: romance author and writer of the super-popular blog, Sonja Foust. (Pintester is hilarious but NSFW.) Sonja gave me permission to reprint a post from her blog, on how the planners among us can cope with the chaos that comes with NaNoWriMo.

In the fiction writing world, we tend to divide ourselves up into two distinct groups: the plotters and the pantsers. The plotters, well, plot. They outline, they plan, they do all the anal-retentive things you might expect. The pantsers write by the seat of their pants, hence the term. They often say, “If I know how the book ends, I’m not interested in writing it anymore.”

Nanowrimo cometh. Inherently, Nanowrimo tends to foster the pantsing school of thought. Chris Baty’s guide to all things Nanowrimo is even called No Plot? No Problem! It’s a great book, and pantsing really does work for some people… but not all of us.

I am, by nature, a plotter. I plan pretty much every aspect of my life, including what I write. That’s not to say that everything always goes according to plan, but I’m paralyzed without some idea of where to go and what to do. So how do I swing Nanowrimo?

I plot like a pantser.

If you’re a plotter, too, and the idea of Nanowrimo scares you crapless, here are my tips for getting started:

1. Outline in October. It’s not cheating to start your outline early. In fact, it’s encouraged! You can plan as much as you want, as long as you’re not writing.

2. If you happen to get to November without a plot, go day by day. Plan what you’re going to write in the morning when you start, or plan the next day’s writing the evening before.

3. Decide how serious you’re going to be about this. If you’re doing it just for fun, give pantsing a try! You might find that you like it, and that the freedom produces an altogether different (maybe better) result. If you know you’re a plotter, and you can’t stand the thought of not having a well-plotted novel done at the end of the month, you’ll have to be more proactive about plotting ahead of time.

4. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your plot. In the fast and furious pace of banging out 50,000 words in 30 days, you will find that you don’t have time to sit and mull things over as soon as you hit a plot snag. Be creative, get through it, and get writing again! You can always modify your outline.

5. Engage the community. Nano-ers are great at helping each other out with plot problems. Try the forums or the chat room.

Thanks, Sonja! Everybody share your own tips in the comment section. 


Jessica Brockmole said...

Great advice, Sonja, especially the reassurance to just push forward through any plot snags. Sometimes I just come out and lampshade those snags when I come across them. If I don't know whether the heroine is interesting enough, maybe she doesn't either. Letting my characters question the things the author gives me a safe space to explore solutions while still pushing forward, as Sonja suggested.

Kara said...

Good tips, Sonja! I especially liked #4...and tend to deviate from my plot a lot...even when I have a good solid outline :).