Some people think that writing a novel in 30 days means a TON of planning. I know plenty of planners that do just that too. They spend the whole of October getting their desk ready, figuring out outlines, and mapping out character profiles for their NaNo book. Personally I’m not quite so careful, and while I do some planning I enjoy the freedom of pantsing. I love it when a novel takes a surprising left turn. The NaNo Blog had an interesting post about how folks plan out their novels for the November writing marathon, including describing the well-known pantsing and planner methods. They also added a new method though, the percolator.
Per Sarah’s definition of being a planner, though, I realized I’m not the pure pantser I thought I was. I don’t wake up to a blank sheet of paper and dive in. It’s more like I’m a percolator. I let the drips of a story filter through my mind over a long period of time, letting it steam and swirl about without determining it.
I think it takes a mixture of all three to do a novel justice. Even while I’m writing this blog post, I’m churning over ideas in the back of my mind for the upcoming book. Personally I start out with a very loose bit of structure, because I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by a blank page. The concept of knowing how much I want to put down on paper, and the long road ahead of me, can freak me out before I’ve even begun. It’s nice to have a bit of a structure to refer back to in order to get the mental juices flowing, a lifeline in an wide, expansive ocean.
Pantsing is a requirement too, and despite the best of plans, storylines can and do go off on their own tangents. Really that’s what writing under a strict deadline is all about though. You can plan yourself into a corner far too easily, and having a looming deadline can be just the momentum you need in order to knock out the story that’s been collecting dust in the back of your mind for too long.
How do you all prepare for NaNoWriMo? Do you think a mixture of all three methods is necessary, or do you stick with your outline from beginning to end? I have to say, I’ll be astonished if someone comes on saying that they never have a percolating stage when writing. That’s what helps me get through the work day!
I tend to be a planner, but percolating is a big part of that. Pantsing it is exciting and can be a blast, but for me I get stuck way more often and much too easily when I don’t have a good idea of where I’m going.
I prefer to have an outline, even if it’s just the first part of the novel at the time I start writing. The outline comes from days and months of percolating. But my outlines are fluid. I use the Storyboard feature in the Liquid Story Binder writing software for my outlines. Each scene is in its own little box. So at any point I can delete, add, or even move the order of the boxes around to accommodate what I’ve actually written as opposed to what I thought I was going to write.
I have to agree with the benefits of a fluid outline, I don’t know how folks are able to use strict outlines and actually stick to them throughout, that would drive me nuts! I like having the guideline there if I’m unable to come up with where to go next.
It’s amazing how long you end up percolating (I’m beginning to like this word) before you sit down to write your novel. Sounds like it’s a requirement of both camps, planners and pantsers alike. 🙂
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I’ve always thought of myself as a planner, but maybe percolater is better. I find the happy medium for me involves spending a lot of time on worldbuilding notes and character notes–I write dark fantasy and building worlds is so much fun–but very little on an actual outline.
Of course, for me it’s more dependent on the novel I’m writing. Last year my novel came to me in a dream; I had the whole thing outlined months in advance. This year, all I know is where my characters live, who they are and that they’re going to escape their little mountain town. I’m satisfied with that–what I do want to know before I get started is what my male main character’s name is!
You know I hardly ever get the full gist of my novels in dreams, only a few scenes that I find a way to incorporate into stories. It’s amazing to see how much dreams influence major writers too. I think I wrote a while back about Tolkien and how much his dreams influenced his Lord of the Rings series.
That’s a good point about the genre affecting your writing method. I’m finding that it’s taking a lot more research and preparation to build my world around an existing city in this upcoming novel than it was to drop the characters into a made-up town. I’m still not really outlining per se, but I’m definitely having to put more research in this time around.