NaNoWriMo: Planner or Pantser?

Planner or Pantser?

Last week I told you that I had decided to use a 25-year-old idea for my NaNoWriMo project this year. And then I didn’t tell you what that project was.

I wanted to leave you something for this week.

In the early 1990s, I went back to school at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, California. While there, I was president of the Christian Fellowship Club for several semesters. That was an interesting time. I saw a lot of different things. I experienced a lot of different things. I learned a lot of different things while I was there, and all because of that position that I held.

My novel will be based upon my experiences with the Christian Fellowship Club at LMC. It will be a story of a maverick finding himself thrust into a position of leadership in a typically conservative organization.

And that leads me to my NaNoWriMo Topic of the Day.

Planners versus pantsers.

Like so many other endeavors, NaNoWriMo has grown its own vocabulary. One of the common dialogues you will find at NaNoWriMo groups is between Planners and Pantsers.

Some writers like to have their project planned out in advance. They have their research complete and organized. They have their book outlined. They know in advance all of the twists and turns that their stories will take. These are the Planners. 

Then you have those who prefer to Fly By the Seat of Their Pants. Hence, Pantsers. They usually have no idea where their story will go. They might not even have all of their characters in mind when they start. They like to be as surprised while writing it as their readers will be when reading it.

When I worked on my memoir project, I was definitely a Planner. It was a memoir. I knew where the story went, and how it ended. I knew all of the characters. I just needed to write those memories down in a creative way. 

This year, while my story is based upon my experiences, those experiences will be the basis for a fictionalized version of that story. My tenure as president spanned the better part of two years. I am going to compress that story into nine months, using material from the breath of my time there, plus some completely fictionalized complications.

Do I have this story outlined? Nope. Do I know all of the characters in the story yet? I know the principal characters, about five of them right now, but not all of them. Do I know how the story ends?  Roughly, yes, but I am going to include a fictional problem as a major point of the book…maybe the major point of the book…and I do not know yet how that problem will be resolved. I do have one specific event that will tie all of the others together.

Do I have any of this written down? Nope. I only have the basic ideas that have been living in my head for 25 years.

Am I terrified as I prepare to plunge into this project? Absolutely!

I believe I have joined the Pantsers this year.

Wish me luck!

Do any fellow NaNoWriMo players want to give us a snapshot of their experiences so far this year? Leave a comment!

Geo.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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Second Shot at NaNoWriMo

I decided at the last minute to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo. Over the Halloween weekend, I wrote out a few pieces that I will schedule to post over the next few weeks. Fridays with Dale have already been scheduled through Thanksgiving.

Here is my first piece for the month…

Geo. Parker


 

I’m sure I’m crazy.

I decided to take another shot at NaNoWriMo.

For most of the last few weeks, I was certain that there was no way I was participating this year. So many projects; so little time. There is the as-yet unfinished memoir. There is the stalled California Conservation Corps podcast and website that need to be jump-started. There is the poetry writing that I have recently discovered. (Thank you, Linda Boyden!) There are the ever-present Writers Forum website and newsletter that take time.

How could I park all that stuff for a month and shoot out 50,000 words on a different project? There is simply no time in my life for that sort of commitment.

Then about a week ago…

Hmm. Maybe I could finish the memoir this year. Then it wouldn’t exactly be redirecting my attention from a current project. Then I could feel like I was following through on other commitments, anyway. However, at this point, the memoir doesn’t need 50,000 new words. The only new writing it needs is an 8,000 word bridge at one point. What it needs is editing. It needs words removed in most of it. It needs words rearranged. It needs good words replaced with better words.

NaNoWriMo is not for any of these things. NaNoWriMo’s purpose is to crank out 50,000 words on a new project. No editing allowed at all. The common phrase is that NaNoWriMo is for writers to ‘puke out’ 50,000 words.

New project, huh?

Well, there is the fantasy world that I have been thinking about for about thirty years. Last year, I finally started running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in that world. I even wrote a short story set in that world to explain a background character. Yeah! That’s it! A fantasy novel!

But I’ve actually been stuck in that setting, too. Well, NaNoWriMo will help me brute through those blocks, right?

Still…it doesn’t feel ‘new’ enough for NaNoWriMo.

Then, on the last Friday of October, two days before NaNoWriMo officially starts on November 1, I had a new idea. Well, ‘new idea’ in that I have never written anything in it before.

But it’s an idea that has been stewing for 25 years.

And that will be my NaNoWriMo project for 2020.

Stay tuned for more of my 2020 NaNoWriMo journey.

I would ask for you to share your 2020 NaNoWriMo project origin stories, but since NaNoWriMo is now officially underway, you’re all probably busy with more important projects.

 

Geo.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

It’s Nearly November! Ready For NaNoWriMo?

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Yes! It is four days until to the kick off for the 2020 NaNoWriMo, which is of course, National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is the endurance race to get 50,000 words of a project down on paper. Or on your hard rive.

The writing project is usually a novel, but it doesn’t have to be. There are categories for  just about any genre you would write.

Go to the NaNoWriMo website by clicking here, create a free account for yourself, and then explore the options. Create a profile, organize a project, or search for your community. You do not have to be alone in this race.

The objective to to write, write, write every day in November. To meet the 50,000 word goal, one has to write just 1,667 words every day.  The trick to this is to never edit in November. Get those words down on the page! October is for editing!

Returning for a second year is a Redding Area Municipal Liaison who is coordinating events for NaNoWriMo participants in our area. This year, due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, all of the NaNoWriMo group events will be held twice a week, except Thanksgiving week, online with Zoom.

If you have never tried NaNoWriMo, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. I participated a few years ago. I did great the first two weeks, but then ran out of gas. Even though I did not reach the 50,000 word goal, I did end November with 23,856 words that I did not have on November 1. You cannot lose in this proposition.

Thanks,

Geo.

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National Poetry Month

Here it is, almost the end of April, and I have nearly missed writing about National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996 “to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters,” as we learn from the AAP website.

I know that Writers Forum has many poets in our membership. I also know that Writers Forum has many good writers who find themselves intimidated by poetry. I know, because until a short while ago, I was one of you.

Sure, I had dabbled in poetry in college. I tried my hand at free verse and sonnets. And once I didn’t have to write poetry for assignments anymore, I stopped writing it. Poetry was hard. I had a hard time reading it. I was much more comfortable writing in prose. I had been writing prose all of my life, and it worked just fine for me. Why change?

I’ll tell you why.

Writing poetry will make your prose stronger. I guarantee it.

Poetry took me by surprise. It ambushed me after a Writers Forum Read Around. I hadn’t even read any poetry. I had read a selection from my Backcountry Trails memoir. After the Read Around, a friend in Writers Forum approached me and asked me to join her poetry critique group. Just like that. I didn’t know what to say. She said that her poetry group had dwindled through attrition down to two people, and they really needed a third for it to remain a ‘group.’ I protested that I don’t even write poetry.

She said, “You are a writer. Writers write. Poetry is just another type of writing, and I am confident that your poetry is just fine.”

I thought about it for a minute. If for no other reason than to get to know these other writers better, I agreed to check out their group. I met them at a local restaurant the next week.

Did I mention that the other two people are language teachers and published authors? Do I need to tell you that I felt intimidated and way, way out of my league to be sharing poetry with them?

I also need to tell you that they did everything they could to make me feel at ease and to assure me that I am a writer, and poetry is one aspect of any writer’s craft. I had heard it said that writing poetry helps your word choice and concision in other writing.

It’s true.

After spending almost two years writing poetry, it turns out to be the single best thing I have done to improve my writing in a long time. Give it a shot!

Even after National Poetry Month ends, we will continue posting on this blog to help you build your poetry muscles. I will also be looking for poets interested in contributing articles about the craft of poetry.

Maybe we can make it a regular feature and call it Hitting the Poetry Gym. I am open to other suggestions.

If you are a poet and would like to contribute to the blog, or if you have other name suggestions for a ‘poetry workout’ feature, leave a comment, or email me at writersforumeditor@gmail.com .

Thanks for reading,

Geo.


If you would like to contribute an original piece to Writers Forum for posting on the blog, please submit to writersforumeditor@gmail.com .  Please note ‘Submission’ in the subject line. All submissions are considered, but shorter pieces of 500-1500 words are preferred. We will consider all original works–poetry, short fiction, essays, memoir. We would also love to run your short pieces on writing as well. Share your writing insights with us. Thanks!

Queen’s Letter 4: More Inspiration to Stay the Eff Home

writers forum president

We have another letter form the Queen! Today Laura shares some tricks and tools for making your social distancing fruitful for your writing projects. She references Amazon books, and I have inserted links in the titles to make them easy for you to find at Amazon. Just click on the title, and you are there! I will also have a few comments on the Amazon maze after her letter to you.

Okay, let’s try and get some work done!

First of all: what the hell are you wearing?  I don’t mean your pants.  I don’t care if you are wearing pants or not.  I mean I care/not care.  What I’m talking about is what are you wearing on your feet?

Shuffling around in your bedroom slippers at home makes you feel sloppy, unproductive, and frankly: sick.

If you are worried about bringing germs in the house with your regular shoes, wipe the bottoms of your shoes with one of those precious bleach-y wipes you’ve been hording for other reasons.

Pants/no pants, put your socks and shoes on! Doing that will literally give you the support you need to get some shit done. Writing, too. It will also facilitate Hokey Pokey-ing around the yard during your 10-minute breaks after 45 minutes of writing/planning to write.  Yup, that’s the schedule (see what I did there?).

Here’s a plan for getting some shit done:  If you have a manuscript started, re-read the whole thing.  Now.  Really, this will get your head right back where it needs to be and is more productive that looking at the blank page and nodding your head to the bouncing curser, waiting for inspiration.  It really helped me get revved up this week!

After doing that or if you haven’t started a manuscript, read something teachable and learnable.

Over the past few months, I’ve told you about some of my favorite Pretend Boyfriends who don’t know I exist, and have written some great writing books. Since you forgot, I’ve made a list for you. Each book is a sentence. Because I think that makes it more dramatic, not because I think it’s grammatically correct.  It’s a list in no particular order of importance or romantic fantasy. And very little commentary. (Not “no commentary,” ‘cause, have you met me?!)  Here ya go:

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton (He wrote some of this from prison, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned something about getting hooked. And caught). The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (Helps you get noticed by an agent!). The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke (Just helps). The Elements of Storytelling by Peter Rubie.  Story Tumps Structure by Steven James (okay he’s my favorite.). Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James (see?). Secrets of Story by Matt Bird (he’s probably really cute!). The Last 50 Pages by James Scott Bell (This will change your life!  You can troubleshoot what you’ve already written to get the best ending ever. Not a “happy ending” but that’s a whole ‘nuther kind of thing. But really this is sooo good and you can read and understand it in one afternoon! He usta be a lawyer so he can, arguably, convince you to make your writing better so you can not just drive, but Arrive!).  The Art of Subtext Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter (You’ll have to re-read this a few times!).  Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer (which will make you laugh out loud a great many times!).

The above use literary and cinematic references to give you concrete examples of what the hell they are talking about.

Now for the girls!  These female authors are contemporary and also give concrete examples for you to cruise and use.

Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld (and I like the title for something to rebel against!). Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy (teaching you how to find and fix shit in your writing). 90 days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet.  It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande (I also like this one because it’s a riff on one of my family’s favorite phrases!). The Scene Book, a Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield (who proves that every scene has a pulse!).  Story Genius by Lisa Cron (Planning from idea to wired brain writer). Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (Changes the way you think about story!). Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas by Karen Wiesner.  Writing With Emotion, Tension, & Conflict by Cheryl St. John. AND DYI MFA by Gabriela Pereira (It’s more than a How To book, it gives a plan like a fun kind of classroom, and you can sign up for e-mail letters to keep you going!).

And how do you get these beauties now, in the Time of Chingona Virus?  Amazon! If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping on books and a whole bunch of new tv and movies things to watch (on your Roku or Smart Thing). A year-long subscription is $106 and now there is a monthly payment option instead of a big ol’ one-time payment.  All online! I like to have these kinds of craft books in paperback so I can (gasp!) mark them up!  These are the kind of books you want to go back to time and again and, as your skill progresses, you will need different chapters that speak to your changing needs.  It’s like learning a new language. When you have mastered some basics, you suddenly hear “new” things because you know more things, now.

Yeah, I know: Big Biz, Independent Bookstores, blah, blah, blah. But this is the time of Chingona Virus and you need to stay the eff home AND get shit done. When it’s safe to go to the Indy stores, we will. But that’s not now, so don’t think your patriotic duty is anything other than staying the eff home.

There is also Amazon’s Kindle to get these books to you right away.  There is a “note taking” function on the Kindle but I think it’s hard to use. So you can take notes like, on paper and stuff. Kindle magically gets your books to you immediately after purchase and opens them on your device when you are near wifi, and is usually cheaper by a few dollars to buy this electronic way than paper books. You will have these books forever on your Kindle.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you might want to get one online now! It’s about $50, on sale at different times. It’s as big as the old kind of paperback novel and weighs just a couple ounces. Get the little “stand” ($12) with it and you can read hands free! You will also get lots of new tv and movie things to watch on your Kindle Fire if you purchase Amazon Prime! Makes tv portable, and you can carry hundreds of books on it, too! There is a “help” telephone/online number to help you set it up (Honestly, it’s very easy, takes seconds, and much easier than setting up a computer!).

Of course, you can get Amazon Prime on your PC, too and read/watch your stuff there. It’s a much bigger screen than a Kindle, but you might be at the mercy of a cord or a laptop battery.

Which ever way you get to these books, get to them! You need to jump-start your writing again, and try to not obsess over, well, all this. And stay the eff home!


Laura referenced Amazon for purchasing your books while we cannot hit the brick-and-mortar stores that might be our favorite indy establishment. I wanted to let you know one thing to be aware of while shopping at Amazon: you easily have the ability to purchase books in multiple formats. The links above all go to the Kindle versions. You also have the option of purchasing softcover, hardcover, and all sorts of editions of the books. You can even purchase them from ‘independent sellers’ through Amazon.

You need to stay aware of exactly which version/edition you are purchasing, and be sure you look at all of your options. When I looked up Laura’s first book, the page I landed on listed the Kindle, softcover, and hardcover version. The Kindle version was $13.99, the softcover version was listed at $54.89, and the hardcover at $112.70. I went to the Kindle version for the link to provide in this post, and I saw that the softcover version here was listed at $23.99, and the hardcover for $25.00. Sometimes the links go to off-site non-Amazon sellers who are selling through Amazon. I don’t think Amazon was trying to rip anybody off, but you do need to look around at exactly what you are purchasing.

One of the books Laura mentioned was DIY MFA. I have mentioned that book on this blog before. It’s not just a book; it’s a program that you can use as little or as much of as you want. In addition to the book, which is a great one in its own right, you can follow the blog, podcasts, and many videos for free. There are also class options and different levels of engaging with DIY MFA that cost money. Look for another blog post on the DIY MFA program soon.

 

Geo.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.