Thursday, October 29, 2009

30 Days of Write: Pre-November Planning and the Allure of the New Notebook

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about how NaNo can benefit me if I treat it as a serious writing exercise. As I've said before, my goals are to ignore my inner editor-- as in, don't get it right, get it written-- and to focus on my perceived weaknesses in craft and characterization. It seems as though a lot of people who participate in NaNo are changing their writing habits, whether out of desire or necessity.

A strange phenomenon is the planning that occurs in the time leading up to November, before any of the actual novel can be put down. Ordinarily, I'd love this time, plotting and writing character bios and researching. But since I'm also scrambling to finish up my WiP-- don't get it right, get it written!!-- I have very little time to devote to pre-November planning. Another reason I'm glad I chose a project that already has an established story/plot arc I'll be more or less following.

But does this expectation in October turn pantsers into plotters? How many self-proclaimed "fly by the seat of my pants" writers give in to creating plot arcs or storylines, or-- Heaven forbid-- even the dreaded outline before they're allowed to type that first sentence? There's nothing I'd love more than to snuggle into a chair tonight with a notebook and some cocoa and flesh out my characters for NaNo. Instead, I'm going to be forcing myself to finish my WiP's first draft. The end is in sight for Mara's story. Which is good, because we need some space. So you can understand the allure of Hans and Greta and a new notebook right now.

In my world, there's nothing more promising than a blank notebook. I have a bit of an addiction to adorable notebooks about 5 by 7. When I first started writing, I was afraid to write in anything other than an old, half-used Mead from my grad school days, 8.5 by 11. I didn't trust myself to break in a new notebook. As if what I wrote wouldn't be worth the paper it was inked on. It actually took quite a while for me to believe in myself enough to know my ideas were worthy.

It's a little thing, but now a get a distinct thrill of expectation when I start a new notebook. A new notebook means a new story, new characters to love and torture and dream about... well, you get the picture. Nothing promotes creativity for me, and helps me get the characters and the story straight in my head like writing it all out longhand. There's no way I can sit and stare at a blank screen and wait for the story to come drizzling out one line at a time, so I applaud those who can. Instead, the smaller the notebook, the easier I find it is to face those blank pages, to fill them with worlds of words and exciting detailed character backstory.

So if any of you pantsers feel the need to get your story started before November gets going, don't forget about the allure of the new notebook. ;)


Abby said...

I LOVE new notebooks. And writing in them with orange and green pens. :) I'm definitely a pantser. I'm trying to do some planning before NaNo, but I haven't had much success. Maybe I'll try your notebook method. Guess I'll have to buy a new one today. Darn it. :D

Tere Kirkland said...

Abby, do it! The prettier the better. I actually stalk the sales aisle at Border's to find cheap ones. Urban Outfitters also has a great inexpensive selection.

Cute notebooks are inspirational. I promise! And it will make you feel like your writing is worth more than a $5 notebook, lol!

Susan R. Mills said...

I love new notebooks, too. That blank paper is such an inspiration. When I was planning on doing NaNo, I became a plotter. I'm usually a pantster, but NaNo forced me into doing a little pre-writing planning. I think it does that to most people.

Jade said...

Nah, I'm still winging it. I have a few central characters and a premise and that's about it. I honestly can't plan the characters because they won't talk to me until I start writing, especially the minor ones. I can't wait to meet them all!

Tere Kirkland said...

Susan, thanks for confirming my hypothesis. Maybe a little plotting will be good for you, lol!
My sinister plan to make plotters out of pantsers is working! Mwah ha ha! Guess I'll stop production on the pantser to plotter evil genius-type death ray...

Jade, I really admire that ability, since I need to know how the story ends before I write the first chapter. I hope you and your characters enjoy each others' company. ;)

DTB said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who still uses a notebook, or has a strange obession with them. But I don't care their size, I just love buying a new one (whether or not I need it).

Tere Kirkland said...

Oh, Delayne, you're in good company here. I'm about to open an online chapter of Office Depot Addicts Anonymous. ;)

There's just something about writing everything out that helps me make sense of the story bit by bit... I think it's a habit gleaned from *hmrphl* years studying art history. Writing it down helps me memorize the important stuff. And that way I have a hard copy of my brainstorming sessions on hand for reference if I forget it.

Amy Saia said...

New notebooks are the best! My problem is whenever I start one, my daughter gets a hold of it and starts drawing on every page.

Good to hear someone else out there writes longhand. I always think of Anne Shirley or Jo March, writing out their manuscripts then sending them in "as is" to the publishers.

Well, keep writing!