NaNo Now: A Guest Post from Frederick Fuller

I did NaNo this year and won (50,664 words). It was a blast; enjoyed every moment. Got up at 6 a.m. everyday and wrote until I made my daily word count, usually going well over in around three hours.

Read Story Engineering and planned carefully during October. Wrote an outline, character study, backstory, theme, premise–everything. The idea for the story had rattled around my brain for at least 35 years, and I did attempt to write in once but quit because of circumstances beyond my control.

In October I created a concept and began planning, following your suggestions. It worked. I struggled very little with the writing because I was sure of where I was going.

Having said that, I know I did not plan enough. Could have spent more time planning scenes, refining plot, but overall the product I ended with was not bad. Now, about that product. I see it as a precise of my outline and plans. Thinking back, I recall your touching on that in Story Engineering, except you didn’t refer to it as “précis” (a summary or abstract of a text or speech). With the précis I will do more planning, revise my outline, and refine my scenes. My characters will lie on the couch for analysis. What I hope I produce is a tighter novel with dazzling characters.

But, I do contend a first draft, planned well, is still a précis.

I found gems popping up all the time that I did not expect. Some of them had to be explored right then, so I “pantsed.” Had to. I do believe, however, I stumbled upon to the gems because I HAD planned. They emerged kind of naturally from the grist of my mill, which I had developed via planning.

I’ve written two novels.

Both concepts came from ideas I had thought about for years, but I did not plan them carefully. I placed the seat of my pants on the seat of a chair and went to it. The first For the Heart’s Treasure took me five years, a lot of that time in research. Actual writing took about six months to get a first draft. My rewrites were many, and now I know it was because I hadn’t planned and was searching for the story in each draft. I think it’s a good story, not best-seller quality, but alright for a rank beginner.

My second was planned a bit. It’s called Children of Bast, and it is a memoir of a cat told by the cat. I was a year writing it, and I drafted twice after the first. I was lucky. I think it’s a great story, interesting — I’ve been told so by members of the Cat Writers Association — and unusual. It is not a children’s story or a YA; I aimed it at adults who love cats.

I will do NaNo next year for sure. And I will plan my pants off.

You can read the first two chapters of Frederick’s novel, “For the Heart’s Treasure,” on the Storyfix Peer Review section HERE.  Please enjoy offer feedback… that’s the idea.


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Editor’s note: the word précis is a new one on me.  I challenged Frederick on it — I thought he was saying “premise,” which sort of works as used here — but he explained.  Have you encountered this cool word before?  You almost can’t say it without a nifty French accent.


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7 Responses to NaNo Now: A Guest Post from Frederick Fuller

  1. Fredrick. Thank you for your post. For clarification. You see your 50,000 plus words as an abstract/ summary of your outline/planning.

    Help me with this. I thought a “précis” was considered a much smaller version ( as in executive summary) of a larger and complete work. Are you saying your outline / planning was considerably more than 50,000 words? Thank you.

  2. Thanks for this post. And Larry, at high school (thousands of years ago in England) we were taught a subject called precis. And we hated it. But I realized some time later that what we were actually being taught was how to edit. We had to reduce some thing from 500 words to 250. Not bad training for a writer.

  3. Curtis, you’re correct about précis, and Gabi I feel your pain (that’s a Clintonism, isn’t it?). I, too, hated précis, and, like you, I see it now as a teaching tool for editing. I’ve always liked Mark Twain’s advice to writers: Pick a worthy subject, stick to that subject, and say what you have to say in as few words as possible. He may have had précise in mind. Dunno.

    Curtis, as to the length of my planning, I did not count, but it did take me 30 days to compile. So maybe 50,000 or close. Dunno, again.

    Thanks to you, Larry, for honoring me by using my post.

  4. Martha

    Noun 1. precis – a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory
    synopsis, abstract, outline
    sum-up, summary – a brief statement that presents the main points in a concise form; “he gave a summary of the conclusions”
    brief – a condensed written summary or abstract
    apercu – a short synopsis
    epitome – a brief abstract (as of an article or book)
    Verb 1. precis – make a summary (of)
    sum up, summarize, summarise, resume – give a summary (of); “he summed up his results”; “I will now summarize”

  5. I think the planning and character defining is so important when trying NaNo – two things I did not do. 🙂

    Next time.

  6. My father uses that word. He is a professor at a university and is extremely particular about proper use of language and vocabulary.

    Of course, he also calls it cutting the “lard factor.”

  7. “I found gems popping up all the time that I did not expect. Some of them had to be explored right then, so I “pantsed.” Had to. I do believe, however, I stumbled upon to the gems because I HAD planned. They emerged kind of naturally from the grist of my mill, which I had developed via planning.”


    I will have a scene ‘mapped’ with a single sentence (like: Ellie make her exit from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre without being noticed) and blow it out to a thousand words.

    “Planned Pantsing” combines the necessary (and not evil) requirement of needing to know ow your story is going to play out with the joy of winging it. Keeping it within the walls of the story, but allowing it the freedom of expression.

    Congrats on the win. My advice, should you care to hear it, is to keep writing, keep practicing and don’t stop.