A Letter to My Friends
I haven’t done a thing lately but observe. I’ve found myself, a mental nomad, a wandering thinker, lost yet stuck.
I’ve found myself stuck in a trap of writing and working on the same things others are discussing. I know, we all have our own voices, our own perspectives, and maybe different opinions and information based on our own experiences and expertise.
But the sameness and repetition is bringing me down to a point of having too much information, too many suggestions and advice to really be able to move forward.
How many articles, blog posts, and social media posts can one read on the same topic before it begins to confuse us? How many before what we set out to do, seems impossible to do, because instead of not having enough information, we have too much?
Should we, those that write and talk about our niches, discuss the same topics? Probably, yes we should. I don’t really have an answer for the information overload on one idea with a topic or niche. Even if I did, it wouldn’t be a solution for everyone that finds themselves in a similar situation.
Anyway, what brought me to this realization of sameness was my October plans for NaNoWriMo. I had been working on some resources and information to share with everyone this October since June. Sometime in August, I became frustrated while doing some research.
In general, I’m a pantster when it comes to writing. I have some idea, maybe some notes, but I let the story, setting, characters, everything, play out on its own. I just write it down as it comes.
Where the frustration came in was in researching planning and outlining a story. I’ve outlined a few stories, especially short stories (I can get wordy, I need an outline to keep me on track or else it’s no longer a short story.), and to some extent, I do some planning before writing. But I’ve never sat down and truly outlined chapters and scenes in depth. Or anything in depth as far as stories go.
I don’t know how anyone can actually get to the point of actually writing the story. How long does it really take those of you that do extensive planning to really finish all the prep work before you begin writing? I am honestly curious. Or is all this planning and outlining, essentially your first draft?
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying it’s pointless or anything. If I tried to do half of what I found suggested or “necessary” I’d never get anything written down in the form of a story. I’d find myself stuck with “writer’s block” a lot because a scene or character won’t behave the way I had planned them to. When do you know you’re done outlining, done planning, and it’s finally time to write? How do you handle a situation that doesn’t work once you begin writing? What if that situation throws off the rest or a large portion of the story? What if a character is behaving unnaturally for him or her? Do you alter the story or the character?
I became discouraged. How could I, a not-so-much-of-an-outliner, provide information for those who are big planners and outliners? Even though I had always intended to let everyone know, this was not a strength of mine or something I did. I didn’t intend to ever say do this or do that for the best results, but I did want to provide as much information as I could for those who were searching for other options. How could I offer insight when so many comments I see from writers are questions to others regarding their own planning and outlining processes? It seemed everyone needed or was searching for information for extensive planning.
In general, I start with a simple idea. Some one thing or idea I want to see happen, or a single event, or even just a glimpse of a character. I start the story with what I have and build from there. Usually, it’s still a beginning (not necessarily, THE beginning), and sometimes it is with whatever particular moment within a scene that got me writing that story in the first place.
Sometimes my characters are relatively defined, other times they are named things like “girl 1” and “old guy” or even “creepy dude that stares” until they show me who they really are. When writing at a point when the description for the setting is important, I may throw in [define: city] or whatever it is. If you were able to get your hands on one of my real first drafts, of anything I’ve written, you’d see a lot of notes to myself in the body of the story and in the margins.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to plan more. I’ve tried multiple worksheets and such that are supposed to help me define things more clearly so, I guess, my first draft isn’t so messy. And like I mentioned before, I do somewhat outline short stories. But those outlines are very simple and broad.
But I like messy to an extent. The scenes, the people, the settings, the story itself seems to come more alive to ME when I let my imagination run with it as it develops with my fingers on the keyboard or even with a pen in my hand. I find my daily word counts for larger novels, while my sort-of outlined short stories have smaller daily word counts. Maybe I fear that by outlining, I would HAVE to stick to the outline. I would have to refer back to it constantly to be sure I haven’t moved or changed the story.
What does it mean?
It means that I’ve scrapped almost the entire NaNoWriMo prep idea I had.
Maybe these ideas and the information I share will only really help those who aren’t great planners or outliners. Or maybe even those who come into the NaNo prep a little too late to get a lot of prep work done.
It means, there is no “best way” or “right way” to write a story. It means everyone is different, everyone needs their own process. It means we all need to find our processes that work for us and we need to learn what others do sometimes to find other ideas that may aid us in creating our own processes.
What’s in store:
- Wednesday October 19th– The actual NaNoWriMo November word count calendar (you can grab here: nanowrimo-word-count-calendar). I have used for the past three years (and even use during other months when writing 30 day drafts). I prefer to have a physical tracker that I can hang on the wall above my desk to monitor my progress, so I made this back in 2014 for my first NaNo. I updated the dates for you for this November, but you can reuse it for any month just by changing the dates.
- Tuesday October 25th– In 2014, I discovered NaNoWriMo by accident a week before it began. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to write. I will be sharing my no time to plan, planning tips and what worked and didn’t work for me.
- Tuesday November 1st– Free story tracking worksheets. These are not planning worksheets; these are more for after a scene is written or an idea for another section. They are basically for quick reference when writing later scenes and such.
I don’t yet know what I’ll be doing in November, other than writing Book 2 of the Old Dawn New Dusk series: Essence of the Dark for NaNoWriMo. But I need to find a direction for Infinite Reverie, and I need your help. What is it that you want to see, read, and hear? What do you need or want that will help you get those stories out of your head and into the hands of readers? (We need your stories you know. We really do.)
Please, comment below, email me at Jen@infinitereverie, find me on social media, or contact me through the contact me page and let me know.
One last thing…
I am doing a little experiment with a novella I’ve been working on. I’ve forced myself to do extensive planning for the novella. I’m still working on all the planning and outlining, and I’ll be putting it on hold in November for NaNo, but I will resume the project in December. I hope to be able to begin actually writing the story in January. I want to see if I can actually do this and if it helps or hurts, FOR me. But either way, I plan to share how it’s going for me. Most likely through social media, probably Facebook and Twitter, and maybe a conclusion post on Infinitereverie.com.
I figure I can’t be the only one who feels they aren’t doing this right, and should be doing more pre-writing.
*One more thing. *
I’ve grown so tired of quotes and such that consistently act like writers (or authors) can’t possibly love even the hardest parts of what they do. Yes, writing is hard. But I don’t know why there are so many quotes out there that make it sound like we’re two seconds away from standing on the side of a bridge. If something isn’t working, it’s probably because it isn’t the truth and you’re trying to force it. Just my two cents anyway.
With all the negative quotes about what writing feels like or is like, I find myself wondering if that may be the impression so many non-writers have of writers. When we find ourselves ashamed or too afraid to tell even loved ones what we do because we fear the backlash or that disappointed look, I wonder if it may be because they visualize a depressed individual, broke both financially and mentally, struggling to make it through the next paragraph. Who would wish that on someone they love?
If you truly find that you must write, love it, embrace it. It isn’t something you do; it is who you are. Give me one job, one career where there isn’t ever a moment of frustration, of wanting to give up and move on, of just wanting to walk away for the day and be done with it.
Is this how we really feel collectively as writers? I’ve found some fantastic quotes that are more upbeat and positive, but just searching writing quotes brings so many more negative ones.
If we consistently attach a negative idea with something, it’s how it will be viewed. It’s how we will see it and approach it. I don’t look at it that way. I take writing like I take life. There are ups and downs, there are moments of celebration and moments of disappointments. Take them as they come, celebrate the good, enjoy as much of it as you can, and work through the problems when they present themselves.