Eight Days In, Halfway Through — the magic of planning my NaNo-novel


You read that right. I’ve already hit 25K in my NaNoWriMo project, Stranger Skies.

The story is fleshing itself out nicely, and I’ve gone ahead and done the Smashwords NaNoWriMo promotion — you can read chapters 1 and 2 for free. Curious as to what it’s about? Here’s a short description:

Silva, Lady of the True Woods, Goddess of the Deep Furs, falls through a portal during her search for her missing friend, Etan. She lands on the planet below, suddenly mortal.

On an alien planet, she must navigate her new and strange mortal life. Soon she discovers there’s a reason for everything, and her coming to this new world was not by accident.

As war brews on the horizon, Silva goes on a journey to reclaim her godhood, find Etan, and save the wolves of Min.

I’m experimenting with several different things for this story. I’ve named chapters with things like Falling to the Future, Flesh Prison, or The Wolf in the Woods — instead of my usual practice of naming chapters with the name of the character who’s telling that particular part. (I say ‘usual practice’, but truth is I’ve only done that for one book — Bellica. The Jade Star of Athering is, so far, simply divided up by numbered chapters. So is Islands of Fire and Water. That may change.) Another, I’m not writing about Terrans, or Terra, or Terran colonies at all. The main character is original from Terra, yes, but she’s also originally a goddess — it’s not exactly the same as, say, writing about a Terran mortal traveling to a new planet. So that’s interesting.

The big experiment is that I actually planned out the story. Not every scene was decided ahead of time (and a lot in the latest chapters have changed), but the big ones were. I decided, ahead of time, what my First Plot Point was, my Second Plot Point, my pinch points, my resolution. I have Larry Brooks to thank for that — while I don’t agree with him wholly on his philosophy that planning is superior to pantsing or percolating, I do concede that planning my Nano novel is leading to an infinitely better first draft, and a higher likelihood of my hitting 50K well before the month is over. And I wouldn’t have been able to plan if I hadn’t read the majority of his posts on how to plan your Nano novel.

If you’re a pantser or percolator and you want to give planning a try, I recommend reading Larry’s posts for some ideas as to where to start.

Now, full disclosure, while planning has yielded higher word counts and better writing for me, I don’t fully like it. It’s contrary to my nature, so I may never fully like it. But I find that when I do a beat sheet and figure out the big five scenes ahead of time, I get sort of bored with the story early on. I wasn’t able to do a complete beat sheet, and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to where I’d quit planning out scenes — I wanted to “get to the good stuff”.

Which tells me something important about myself. As much as I dislike having my routine changed unexpectedly, I love the unknown when it comes to writing. I like getting stuck and having to think about it for a few weeks until it suddenly hits me, a flash of inspiration while I sit in the bath, getting pruney. Running naked down the street shouting EUREKA! appeals to me.

I also find that I’m not always sure what will take a full scene, or more than one. Some things that I had planned out as one scene took three; other things that were planned as four scenes only took two. I’m having to adjust as I get through these bits, re-numbering scenes and re-structuring chapters.

Which is fine. It’s a learning experience. I’m not knocking it. It works.

But I don’t think I’ll be planning all my stories. The NaNo ones, yes. Possibly short stories, as well. The other novels?

I’m going to keep on percolating, I think.

This, of course, means that The Jade Star of Athering will probably not be done until the end of December, and released at some point in early 2013. I’m aiming for April. Cross your fingers that that will happen (and let me know if you’re interested in being a beta reader).

What about you? If you write, do you pants, plan, or percolate? Some combo of the three? No idea what I’m talking about? Wondering where the pie you ordered is? I love hearing from my readers — leave me a comment below!

Can’t stop now! This is Nano country!


As many of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month: Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.

Some may say that phrase is quite literal, that we abandon literature. I’m sure there are NaNo novels for which that is true, but is is not true for mine, because I’m a damn good writer. (And a lot of other Wrimos are as well.)

This year, I actually planned. I wrote an outline. I figured out the First Plot Point, the Mid Plot Point, and the Second Plot Point. I wrote an overarching vision for my story. I came up with a partial Beat Sheet, outlining the scenes I would write and the missions they had. (Thanks to Larry Brooks at StoryFix.com for his 30 posts on how to outline your NaNo novel. I found many of his tips useful.)

A glazed Tim Hortons donut

This is exactly what I ordered, too.

At midnight on the first of November I started writing with my fellow Nanaimo-Wrimos at our Tim Horton’s kick-off party. In the two hours at Timmy’s and the three hours when I got home, I wrote 3,331 words of my novel. (I was planning on sleeping as soon as I got home, but someone at Timmy’s gave me a coffee instead of a hot chocolate.) I decided sleep was the better part of valor at that point, and when I woke up later that day I rounded off my day’s word count at 5,560. My goal today is 10K.

You know what happened? I followed my outline…loosely. I found as I wrote, other things cropped up, and I ended up adding them into the story quite nicely. My main character’s best friend showed up in Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 3 as I had planned. Which meant I had to actually figure out the right name for him before moving on. I had been tossing around name ideas (I’m a writer who can’t write main characters without the exact right names, because I believe your name is such an integral part of your being that to write a character without a name is like writing one without a soul) before starting, but had not been able to settle on anything. I figured, no big deal, I’m not introducing him till Chapter 3 or so, so I can figure out a name before then. Well, he had other ideas.

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