Tag Archives: author woes

The Downside of Not Planning

There are two different fields of thought in the NaNo world. Either you are a planner and plan the events of your novel before they happen, or you are known as a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants).

For years, I was a dedicated planner. I knew my world. I knew my characters. I knew the story, since I’d been replaying the events in my head for months. I would know 90% of what took place in the story before I even began it. I was baffled by the people who talked about their characters taking over the story, not knowing what was going to happen next, and trying to figure out the plot hole they had accidentally just created.

Instead of accepting that I was different than most NaNoers, I thought that I was doing it wrong. It was only my second NaNo, and it was my first time browsing the forums. I decided that the following year, I’d write without a plan with a completely new story and “do it right.”

I did manage to eke out a novel that year, but it was hard for me to do. I didn’t know the characters, had only a vague sense of the story, and had no clue what was going to happen on the next page. My main character had amnesia, so she didn’t know a great deal of what had taken place before. It was perfect, since I didn’t know what had taken place before. I had people read my first chapter and go, “It’s perfect! You can feel her confusion!” I had to laugh, since I was confused over the same thing my character was.

I was at a writer’s conference one year, and our teacher said his writing process was like walking around in a dark room. He walks in, discovers chairs and tables, discerns a path, and eventually finds a light switch that illuminates the whole room. Now that I’ve actually used such an approach, that analogy makes more sense than it did at the time.

I did learn from that NaNo that I do better writing with a bit of planning. I don’t need every little detail planned out in advance, but it helps my sanity to prepare the story before it’s penned. With that said, though, I have discovered I’m a mixture of the two groups. I generally have the story arc planned out, but the details of how the heroes journey from point A to B is usually not discovered until it’s time to write the scene. Since I tend to write pretty quickly, I think this approach is what works best for me. I have now experimented with both writing camps and am happy with my mixture. It’s who I am.

So, why have I bored you to death with my writing process? Because not everything that happens during NaNo is entirely planned. This year, I decided to write about racing squirrels. I met the characters about three weeks before November and named them the week before we began writing. I only knew their personalities. That was it. Once November hit, I started with what I knew. I kept writing, desperately hoping for the light switch to be turned on so I could figure out how to write my ending. I really, really like to know my endings before I begin.
My light switch moment occurred sometime last week. It was tough, since I was behind schedule, but I finished my first story of the NaNo season on Saturday.

Since I’ve committed to a word count, I’m starting a new story. I’ve narrowed down my subject matter, and it looks like I’ll be following the princess stories again. I thought I was done with the series. Of course, I thought that last year during the last NaNo. I ended up writing another book after the one I started in NaNo. I don’t know if this story will end up being another chapter in the series, or if it will just be something to clear my head and explore a new possibility.

Either way, I will likely have a lot of fun returning to a land I know and characters that are largely the same. My only problem is that I’m still not sure about the ending. I know what I’d like to happen, just not sure how to make that feasibly possible.

Guess there’s only one way to find out.

Fellow writers, chime in. Do you plan your stories or not?

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I Don’t Want To

I’ve reached a difficult part in my story. I’ve got my characters in two different places. After spending 10 chapters with one set, I’m switching back to the other characters. Within the next five chapters, I need to sentence dad and daughter to a life of servitude, introduce the snotty prince, get the daughter sick (introduce someone else), get the girl better, get the dad mad at the prince, and then have him thrown in the dungeons. I apparently can’t write these stories without visiting the dungeons. It’s rather depressing.

I’ve browsed my standard sites, watched my tv shows, and played all my games. I’ve run out of things to do. I must write.

Instead, I’m writing a blog entry.

I’ve been here before, you see. I don’t mind writing. But when the story gets tough, this writer gets going. I take a writing break. I check Facebook. I watch tv. I clean. You know I’m avoiding something when I’m cleaning.

Why? It’s not that I want a half finished story. I know that on a good day, it will take me half an hour sometimes to pull out a handful of paragraphs. For emotional scenes, time stands still. Think about your favorite book. Remember the part you just about cried reading? You’re not the only one who had an emotional reaction to it. For it to touch the reader, it must first touch the author. And the author not only knows what’s coming up, for a series of depressing events, the start of such scenes make them want to run for cover.

You were a wreck reading the break-up scene? Try writing the stupid scene. Try imagining both characters and rehearsing who said what. After determining you’re going to write it, then you have to figure out who’s going to talk (well, if you switch out your narrators, you do). Those scenes with all the details that made it that much more awesome? The author had to sit there and think up all those details you loved. You wanted to cry? How do you think we felt writing it?

In order for characters to have emotional depth, authors have to step ever-so-briefly into their characters’ shoes. They have to know how they feel. So if the MC feels like crying on page 38, and you’re wiping away tears by the end of the chapter, chances are the author felt like crying too.

What is the cure for getting over the difficult parts in your books? Well, eventually, you just have to do it. My current chapter needs more than two paragraphs. I should fix that. After I check Facebook.

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