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.
Vote for your favorite writing website HERE.
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.