Monday, October 24, 2011

My Life as a Plotter: Project Fun Update

I'm still going strong with Project Fun. I managed to write a scene every day this week and by Sunday was up to 18K (boy do I love watching those words add up!). Special thanks to Sharon Jones and Deanna Carlyle for all their support on Twitter (we're using the tag #fauxnano, if anyone would like to join in).

Most importantly, of course, I'm still having fun. Though I'm far enough along that I'm plagued with the never-ending novelist questions: Is this any good? Did I dig deep enough? What if my character is too weird? What if this only makes sense in my head? And on and on and on. I try to fix what I can, but otherwise just keep writing. It's all I can do.

However, my biggest fear was that writing a scene-by-scene outline in advance would ruin everything. Tons of novelists swear against outlines; they find joy in the writing, in discovering their story as they go. But strangely, at least so far, that hasn't been a problem.

As I get to know my characters better, they're doing unexpected, even surprising things. So while part of me knows what's coming, another part of me is enjoying the ride, looking ahead to the big loop-de-loop and wondering what that's going to feel like, and what new twist my car might take. Very exciting.

I've also discovered an unexpected benefit to advance-plotting. Obviously there's the benefit of having a sentence jotted down for each scene, so I'm avoiding the dreaded blank page. But that structure also gives me the freedom to skip pointless paragraphs where I try to move my character from point A to point B.

For example, say a scene starts over breakfast, with a young girl arguing with her mom. She slams the door as she heads off to school. The next scene happens that evening, when the girl and her mom confront each other again over dinner.

If I were writing this story as I created it, I'd tell you about school that day, how crummy and boring it was, how noisy, how many kids there were in the halls, pushing and shoving... but you don't care. You want to know what's going to happen with the girl and her mom.

Having an outline in front of me gives me permission to jump to the next scene. It saves me lots of pointless paragraphs that will just be cut later anyway.

Pretty neat, huh? Course, next week I might be bemoaning the evil outline. We'll see.

How are your Nano or Nano Lite or Faux Nano goals coming along?


  1. Saw this on Twitter. Great stuff. The key is to allow yourself to keep changing the plan as you go along.

  2. Candy: Thanks for stopping by! That's exactly it with plotting... I feel like if I just stay flexible and move with my story and characters, it's such a gift to have a backbone to my story already figured out. Didn't realise you were a plotter!

  3. Plotting is going slowly for me. Lots of interesting but incompatible ideas--and not sure which story I want to write! Come Nov 1, I'll just have to dive in, ready or not. Your method sounds like a good one.

  4. I planned a novel chapter by chapter in a lot of detail. It was so much easier to write. I never stared at a blank screen. I had a plan every time I sat down to write and the drafting went quickly. Having said that, don't lock yourself in to your planning. If your characters want to take you somewhere you didn't predict, go with them. They know best. Don't be afraid to stray from your planning. You might come back to it, or you might not. That's okay.

  5. Ruth: Ugh, plotting is like that for me, too! Better to discover that before a draft than afterwards, I suppose, but my ideas are always all over place and need to be beaten down into some kind of streamlined story. Anyway, I hope it will somehow all magically come together for you in the next few days. Or even better, as you write!

    Kelly: Interesting that you've had such good experiences with outlining, Kelly. That's good to hear! So far I've strayed from the plan a bit, but nothing too drastically... hopefully that's because it's a good plan, not because I'm being too rigid, but I guess time will tell!

  6. Wow! sounds like you're making great progress. I like outlines too. I do like to keep them flexible, but without an outline I usually don't like what I end up with. I also end up forgetting to put important stuff in.

    Congrats on your progress!

    I started out doing great with Nano, I didn't get the full 50K, but I did manage to get a lot out of it. I've been in a funk since then. I need to get my butt back in the chair.

  7. CR: It's hard to find a sustainable system, isn't it? I've done that before, too, where I pushed myself really hard to finish something, and then for weeks afterwards didn't have the energy to keep writing. Anyways, congrats on doing well with Nano and good luck getting back to the writing!


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