I have recently learned the terms “plotter/pantster”, in reference to those who either plot out a story before writing it, or those who take it as it comes.
I believe that if you are writing a mystery, then you, (in my mind), have no choice but to carefully plot it out. There are too many details and threads to keep track of, and too many fibers to weave into the final fabric of the story. So plot on…
Personally, I consider myself to be more of a pantster…with some exceptions. I research everything to death. If I use something, I want to know it is possible and exists, or is at least realistic and believable. I keep detailed charts of characters, from physical traits, to relationships, character traits, (habits and quirks), and whatever else might be pertinent. If I drop something into my story, I intend to follow up on it somewhere down the line. I have technological charts and food and drink charts, to name a few more.
That said…let me share my June Camp NaNoWriMo experience. As an incentive to write, I think Nano is great. Being at “Camp Nano” is an experience, and my cabin mates, at least this time, are fun, (with the exception of one. She’s writing “Lost and Confused” but since we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of her since the start, she must really be lost). Nano can help keep you motivated. HOWEVER, and this is not pleasant, although I did complete the 50K word count, I find my story some 80-100 pages short of what I had originally planned. In my mind I would write progressively, and after Nano, complete my story.
That’s not what happened. I wrote and wrapped up my story. I did not take the time to add background for those who had not read the previous novel, figuring I’d do it later. I did not get into in-depth descriptions of characters and setting because again, if you had read the first, you knew what they/it looked like. I was aware at the time that I was passing over these details, and told myself I’d go back and add them in. Well…easier said than done.
In real life, when I write, I go back and reread the last chapter or pages. I do a quick edit of whatever I catch, and this puts me back into the groove of the storyline. I continue writing, the flow relaxed and natural, not forced in any way. With Nano, I couldn’t afford to reread, I didn’t have the time, and so I simply kept on. For me, that’s not good (as I now know). After the whole Nano experience I went back and reread my story for the first time. I did like it, very much, and I even came across a scene or two that I had no memory of writing. But now the issue of missing background and details must be addressed. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
I felt totally lost and confused wading through my story. My mind wasn’t able to figure the nitty-gritty details of my timeline and I wasn’t able to place myself to get an overview of the whole. I think wading through a swamp, trying to make sense of the floating pieces was how I felt.
So how come I am once again participating in Camp Nano? To write, laugh and exchange with the others. My pace is more laid back and I am aware of the “traps”. As you may know, I am home during the day with a 4 year old. I work part-time, evenings and weekends as an officer with army cadets. So basically, unless you count the time wasted between midnight and 3:00 AM, trying to sleep, I have no free time. None. But hey, it’s a life and I don’t regret it. I try and enjoy it because kids grow too fast, and things change unexpectedly. I do get to write, though not alone and undisturbed, at least not yet.
I have not had the chance to try or use Scrivener, the writing app the Nano group raves about. It’s supposed to help structure and organize, but I didn’t have the time while in Nano to go through the tutorials, and it’s not a user-friendly app. I might take the time after Nano…but I have submissions to tend to, final edits, book trailers, writing homework and more. So maybe one day I will get to try or even use it.
So if you’re considering November Nano, take a few minutes to plot out your stuff, even if it's a very rough draft. Scrivener is supposed to help with all that, and it offers a free trial. If you meet the 50K challenge, you get a 50% discount of the purchase of the $40 program, so that’s quite reasonable. There is also a Nano template you can use.
You should also get in on the FB Nano page…they have word sprints often and it helps. It’s also fun.
Just make sure you know what you’re in for, and write on. I shared a few pics...writing in my front yard is almost like being at camp, my Nano cup and t-shirt (love them), and the certificate they give you when you're done.