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NaNoWriMo - Planner, Pantser or Percolator?

Updated on October 8, 2015
Kathy Stutzman profile image

Kathy Stutzman has a passion for creating meaningful connections. Author, facilitator, leadership coach, public speaker, workshop trainer.

Get The NaNoWriMo Swag

Want to write a novel in one month? I'm all in on this one - NaNoWriMo
Want to write a novel in one month? I'm all in on this one - NaNoWriMo | Source

A Novel in One Month?

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. There I’ve said it. I am going to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. That’s what NaNoWriMo means. Every year hundreds of thousands writers come together in the comradery of doing something crazy, yeah, kind of like running a marathon or doing a triathlon…maybe that is why I am attracted to this…

According to the NaNoWriMo website www. http://nanowrimo.org 310,095 participants from 595 regions in 6 continents participated in the National Novel Writing Month contest in 2013. Some of the novels that have been written during NaNoWriMo include Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants”, Jason Hough’s “The Darwin Elevator” and Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” just to name a few…okay lest I get carried away with visions of publication… the organization behind the month long write-a-thon is anticipating 400,000 writers from 200 countries coming together in a collective frenzy, all working toward writing 50,000 words during November…and I am officially one of them!

The non-profit, National Novel Writing Month is a 501 (c)(3) whose mission is in part to support, encourage and provide structure for writers both young and old to find their creative voice. NaNoWriMo has established a great support network for participants in this year’s challenge with forums, resources, help guides and regional municipalities staffed by volunteer Municipal Liaisons who act as cheerleaders and conveners of regional participants. Today I met the Municipal Liaisons for the region in which I am registered and I am super-pumped up.

An Irrational Optimist

In a recent writers' workshop, Grant Blackwood gave us the 1st rule of writing - "Be An Irrational Optimist"
In a recent writers' workshop, Grant Blackwood gave us the 1st rule of writing - "Be An Irrational Optimist" | Source

Bookending NaNoWriMo With Caffeine

Kathy Stutzman Getting ready at the NaNoWriMo Regional Meeting - working on stocking up on caffeine
Kathy Stutzman Getting ready at the NaNoWriMo Regional Meeting - working on stocking up on caffeine | Source

Why Participate in NaNoWriMo?

I am participating in NaNoWriMo. There is something about making that statement that is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. But like running my first marathon, or birthing my first child – I am still happily naïve in my ignorance of the pain that will be involved, and I am realizing as I prepare how much I like being in that state of naivetés. At the regional meeting today, I asked the other writers for feedback and guidance and they were all so generous with their thought and suggestions. We are writing different genres, have different work schedules, different backgrounds and different levels of experience; yet the entire group assembled today obviously has a love of sharing stories through their creative voices, and in some cases, rely on their written words to express that unspoken personality.

One of my favorite things about this challenge is not only the support provided by NaNoWriMo, and the other writers and Municipal Liaisons, but I really like the accountability and challenge of the entire thing. I love the challenge of completing a marathon, of riding my bicycle across the State of Iowa, of those ultra-based challenges. When I have completed each of those activities, I have felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I can’t wait to get down and get dirty with this writing ultra.

If I can conquer this...

I conquered my fear of heights by crossing this canopy rope walk in Kakum Park in Ghana West Africa...so surely I can slay the word dragon.
I conquered my fear of heights by crossing this canopy rope walk in Kakum Park in Ghana West Africa...so surely I can slay the word dragon. | Source

How am I Possibly Going to Slay the Dragon?

So here’s what I am going to do – I am going to write that novel that has been screaming to be released from my brain and get the words out...all 50,000 of them. I am planning on using a variety of instruments to make that happen; from desktop and laptop computers, stacks and stacks of blank index cards, notebooks and a tape recorder, these words are going to find their voice. The regional group discussed strategies for working through those low moment and self-doubt and we engaged in an exercise to “put that inner editor in jail”. Mine is safely locked up and I hope to write with abandon. That was one of the pieces of advice I was given today that resonated with me, just write, don’t worry about editing, holding back or questioning the words – so my second commitment to myself (after committing to write a novel in a month) is to not second guess the words as they fall out on the pages.

One of my favorite things about this challenge is not only the support provided by NaNoWriMo, and the other writers and Municipal Liaisons, but I really like the accountability and challenge of the entire thing. I love the challenge of completing a marathon, of riding my bicycle across the State of Iowa, of those ultra-based challenges. When I have completed each of those activities, I have felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I can’t wait to get down and get dirty with this writing ultra.

Can She Do It?

Can She Do It? Write 50,000 words in the month of November?

See results

A Planner or a Pantser?

I have put together a list of commitments I have made to myself to get to December 1st successfully with 50,000 under my belt, here they are…

My NaNoWriMo Commitments:

  • Write 1,750 words each day in November
  • Do not second guess myself
  • Write with abandon and just do it
  • Stay focused
  • Connect with other writers or my writing buddy if I get stuck or feel low
  • Don’t look back
  • Let go
  • Drink a lot of water
  • When I am scheduled to write, I will not engage with e-mail, the phone nor the internet
  • Take 20 minutes each day to meditate or relax
  • Have fun
  • Be certain to upload and verify the work accomplished at the end

At the regional municipal meeting today there was quite a bit of discussion about whether to have an outline or not, whether to write in Word, by hand or in a writing program (I am going to try Scrivner), whether we are “Planners” or “Pantsers” and I learned so much today, Thank you to my regional writing buddies! I got some great ideas and realized that some of my strategies were really going to work.

Locking Away My Inner Editor - Be Fearless

A Percolator

Here’s what I am doing to prepare:

  • I have cleared my calendar as much as I possibly can
  • I have scheduled my writing time using a calendar supplied by another NaNoWriMo participant
  • I have done quite a bit of research and am chomping at the bit to write
  • I have an outline in my head and may commit it to index cards before November 1st
  • I have gathered a ton of material for color commentary about my story
  • I cleaned my office, finished some large projects and ended some others
  • I am visualizing the last day with the finished product
  • I am reaching out and engaging with other participants (which is really really hard for me to do)
  • I have downloaded a NaNoWriMo trial copy of Scrivner
  • I will actually sit through the tutorial for Scrivner, even though it is over two hours long – with such a short writing schedule I can’t absorb the learning curve I would usually put myself through by not reading the instructions.
  • I attended a writers’ workshop
  • I am asking questions and absorbing everything
  • I am getting super excited, yet staying calm
  • And finally I am owning the fact that I am an in-betweener; both a planner and a pantser and am going to claim the title of “percolator”; stewing and thinking and planning in my head and yet flying by the seat of my pants when I sit at the computer and let the outline and words in my brain flow.

Well, wish me luck. I am hoping to write updates as palate cleansers – so look for updates. I am still working and my consulting business keeps me busy, so I will not be fully immersing myself every moment of the day during November and so will try to write updates when I am pulled from the mystery that is at hand…or is it afoot? You will have to read the book to find out!

Daily Progress

The NaNoWriMo site keeps a great tally of your daily word count and then provides you with statistics each day. I kept track of my daily progress in the chart below and on my NaNoWriMo calendar - provided on line when I signed up for the challenge.

Whatever you decide - do something that is fun and that works for you - these ideas were great for me.

I've Passed The Half-way Mark 26,000 Words

Writing for NaNoWriMo has been really great. Today I passed the half-way mark and have completed 26,000 words so far...in 13 days.
Writing for NaNoWriMo has been really great. Today I passed the half-way mark and have completed 26,000 words so far...in 13 days. | Source

Ode to a NaNoWriMo Win

Writer’s Lament or Ode to a NaNoWriMo Win

Words are absent from this writer’s head

Even in sleep, nothing in bed

“Out Spot Out”, “See Dick Run”

It’s a good thing I’ve already won.

Winning #NaNoWriMo

Slaying the word dragon - winning NaNoWriMo feels pretty good wrote 50,000 words in November
Slaying the word dragon - winning NaNoWriMo feels pretty good wrote 50,000 words in November

YEP - I did it

Tonight I slayed the dragon. I wrote 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo 2014 and I am super stoked. I will post some hints for success in the prep article, but need to share 3 highlights here:

  • Be fearless
  • Just write and have fun
  • Access great cheerleaders

All three of those components made a difference and I am pretty excited to be 50,000 words into a pretty great book. While I have gotten the winner designation - there are still a few more scenes to write and then come the edits. Because I followed the preceding advice, I did not edit as I wrote so I am looking forward to reading how this all came together. Stay tuned for updates as the edits move "You Are The Answer" one step closer to my readers - I know you will find the novel filled with suspense and thrills.

Now what are you waiting for - go and write, you can do it, everyone has a story.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Writing Updates

Day
Words Written
Comments
1
2818
Super fun
2
1956
Got the abstract done today and am loving my characters, they are so wonderfully flawed
3
2072
Wrote a dark scene today...glad that's over
4
1836
Too many distractions today
5
1858
I was planning on taking a break today and a flurry of words hit, I am exhausted
6
2048
Got into a really dark place today...ohhh this one is bad
7
1711
Really tired, the emotion of the scenes and stories are taking their toll
8
2105
Brain is mush
9
1882
Tough day again
10
2037
On a roll
11
1846
Loving life today
12
1962
The scenes are flowing
13
1888
Tough getting started but it is great to hit the half-way mark!
14
2324
Several fluffy scenes
15
2005
I had to be dragged away from the computer
16
1991
I need to stop this is draining me emotionally
17
1967
Really hard stuff today
18
2908
I could have written all night
19
1802
Where did the time go?
20
1003
Almost didn't write today but made it happen
21
3646
Filling in a lot of scenes today
22
3689
Oh glad those awful scenes are done, so evil, yet so good
23
2906
Master plot scene done
24
 
I got so wrapped up in writing I stopped tracking here - but continued on the calendar and on the website
My daily writing tally to achieve a 50,000 word novel in the month of November

What story do you have waiting to be written?

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    • BigBlue54 profile image

      BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

      Hi Kathy.

      Well if you substitute tea for coffee then that is how we plan to do it. That's tea for her, I'm the coffee drinker. Thinking about it I am going to have to switch to French coffee as I will need something stronger. What I call Death Star coffee. Gigantic, on the darkside and capable of destroying entire planets.

      I am okay with the cheerleading as long as it does not involve all the jumping up and down. I think she will find that distracting. And also I don't think I should wear one of those little outfits they wear. I have a feeling her rolling around on the floor in fits of hysterical laughter will not aid her in her writing. And I am definatelly not shaving my legs. For one thing the drains would not be able to deal with it.

      Of course with my writing being 20,000 words I only need to reach 666+ words per day but in my case you are supposed to have the finished article, or ebook in my case, by the end. But I am looking forward to it.

      My partner is still thinking about what to write. She has also mentioned about rewriting an existing story but I think that is still not decided. Just to show solidarity I am also trying to thing about what to write. So at the moment there is much head scratching and looks of puzzlement between us.

      I will definitely keep you posted and I look forward to hearing about your writing as well.

      Happy trails. :)

    • Kathy Stutzman profile image
      Author

      Kathy Stutzman 2 years ago from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota

      Thanks for the feedback BigBlue54.

      I think it would be very interesting to have two people writing intensely at the same time and I would love to hear how it goes and also get tips for how you each supported each other. The most important way that my family supported me was by giving me the space to let the words flow and of course, re-filling my coffee mug when it got low. Of course cheer leading was appreciated too.

      I am percolating whether to write this year or not - I loved every minute of the experience and am considering tearing my last book apart and using it as an outline and re-writing it (that is "allowed" at NaNoWriMo)

      I will certainly register because I found the NaNo community to be incredible - helping with plot lines, research and just being willing to give feedback or bounce ideas off of - it really was a valuable learning experience. I want to be part of that.

      Please keep me posted - I would enjoy hearing how the process is coming along. Have fun cheer-leading, writing and making tea!

    • BigBlue54 profile image

      BigBlue54 2 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

      Okay, belatedly, well done Kathy.

      My partner is taking part this year so I am supporting her. So I will be supplying her with cups of tea and making so forth. Generally being her cheerleader.

      Actually we are both writing. I came across an article on Copyblogger about writing a factual ebook in 30 days so I am writing that while she is writing for NaNo. I thought it would be good as a shared experience.

      Are you writing this year?

    • Kathy Stutzman profile image
      Author

      Kathy Stutzman 3 years ago from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota

      Elsie - Thanks for the well wishes! I will go over to your site and read your story, can't wait - I have found HubPages to be a great palate cleanser when I need to take myself out of my novel. NaNoWriMo kind of snuck up on me, I have been thinking about the story I am writing for several years and then just a few weeks ago learned about NaNo and the stars became aligned, it was just perfect timing - you'll know when the time is right too. It is super, super fun. you'll have to let me know when you do decide to do it and I will be one of your cheerleaders.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Wishing you all the best it's a big task to undertake.

      I just wrote my first short story on HubPages a couple of days ago. Maybe next year I will be ready for the NaNoWriMo.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Oh, wow, Kathy-- I get to be an actual cheerleader-- something I was too knock-kneed and tongue-tied to achieve in high school! But please make sure that I don't get accidentally locked away with your inner editor, since I suffer from psychoclaustrophobia, a fairly rare mental health disorder with symptoms stemming from always trying to get into other people's heads, pick their brains, see how they tick, and that sort of schtick. I'm delighted to be on your affirmation wall! Go Kathy Go!

    • Kathy Stutzman profile image
      Author

      Kathy Stutzman 3 years ago from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota

      Cynthia - Thank you so much for your kind words! The aspiring NaNo writers from my region met and we did an exercise that "locked away our inner editor". I am going to do a different kind of exercise today and print your words, add pom-poms to the corner of the paper and place your cheer squarely in the center of my affirmation wall - Thanks again. Stay tuned for updates. ~Kathy

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      This is very exciting Kathy! I don't know you well yet, but from what I see I absolutely believe you will pull off this 50,000-word book and have a whale of a time doing it! I love how you describe yourself as a Percolator: "...super-excited, yet remaining calm" and " ...stewing and thinking and planning in my head and yet flying by the seat of my pants..." I would say you have the Zen, Girl-- Go! I look forward to reading more! ~Cynthia (voted up, shared and pinned!)