The last time I attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is honestly more of an International thing now, but that’s beside the point) I didn’t complete. I had learned about the whole thing right at the beginning of November 2008 and decided to do it on the fly. I had no story in mind, so I just sat down and started writing. I wrote a sentence, that became a scene, which became a story. I reached 20K of the 50K before I psyched myself out. I had reached a point where I needed to reveal some world-building lore and realized I knew nothing of my world. I felt completely unprepared. Instead of making a note and writing past it, I focused on it so much that I let it defeat me. I still have that manuscript sitting at 20K, waiting for me to figure it out.
This was seven years ago, before I started the job that ended up sucking all of the creativity out of me. While I haven’t been writing consistently since I left the job in June, I do already feel more creative. More creative, in fact, than I was seven years ago. I feel more prepared.
Well, I’m prepared for a pantser.
Pantser = someone who writes by the “seat of their pants”
I haven’t outlined. I don’t have chapters and scenes planned out. I don’t have detailed character sketches. Or detailed setting sketches. I don’t even know how my story is going to end.
No, I’d guess that my “preparation” was different than most. Two weeks ago, I started watching Brandon Sanderson’s lectures that are posted on YouTube. In the very first lecture he says, “Ideas are cheap”. I had spent so long waiting to write because I didn’t feel like I had a story to tell. I’ve been telling people for months that I was going to do NaNoWriMo, but had no idea what I was going to write. I figured I would just sit down and start writing on day one like I did the first time. After watching Brandon’s lectures, I decided to give up on my muse. Instead, I followed some of his brainstorming methods that he used with the class.
I sat down with my husband Jason (who is also doing NaNoWriMo this year to be a supportive husband, and because he has a story he wants to tell) for a brainstorming session. We came up with five possible stories, three of which I’m more drawn to. In fact, I’d say that one of the top two will be what I start writing about in just a few hours. I just haven’t completely decided which. Maybe both.
I then took another week off from prep (kinda like my sister does a week of deload before a lifting competition) to let my mind rest before really putting it to work. Overthinking is where I get myself in trouble. I found out that Jason is more of an architect than a gardener when it comes to writing. He’s been focused, especially the last few days, on world-building (he’s literally drawing a map right now), his magic system, plotting, etc. Every time we start talking about my story, though, and he tries to get into the details, I start to shut down creatively. I just don’t write that way.
And I suppose that’s the point of this post. Not everyone writes the same way. Not everyone outlines. Not everyone knows how their story is going to end. Not everyone creates as they go. But everyone can find their way.
I’m more prepared this year, not because of any outlining, plotting, or world-building I’ve done, but because I feel more creative. I’m more prepared because I have several ideas jostling around in my brain. I’m more prepared because I’m itching to write, to search, to discover what story is ready to be told.