Planning by the Seat of Your Pants

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a phenomena I’ve followed for a few years. It takes place in November and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, which amounts to little over a 1000 words a day.

This is the first year that I’ve actually signed myself up. I haven’t actively written fiction since University, I haven’t written original fiction since high school. Writing was my passion growing up, somewhere I have the poems and short stories I wrote when I was 6. In high school I tried writing a joint fantasy novel with a friend of mine. I held up my end, doing most of the writing. My friend did most of the character sketches. I have that 100 page half-finished novel on a purple glitter floppy disk (oh yah, I was that cool)- I’m pretty sure I missed my chance to get it transferred.

But I have had an idea kicking around in my head for several years, one that I actually had started writing in university but stopped when Victorian Literature became my lord and master.

October is the prequel to NaNoWriMo and is considered National Novel Planning Month. Novel planning is something I’ve never really had to do. I am what is referred to as a “Pantser” which means that, when I write, I fly by the seat of my pants. Plus, I used to just write snippets and short fiction – usually stopping with writing became, you know, difficult.

Knowing my weakness for distraction and research (why write plot when I can spend hour figuring out the precise history of a teapot?), I resolved to spend October actively planning my novel. This way I could get the pesky details out of the way now and focus on actual writing come November.

I researched exactly what was entailed in Novel Planning. Something that, I have since learned, can become unruly when working on a fantasy novel. Creating lands from scratch also meant creating maps, towns, local history and culture etc. Creating a character suddenly meant creating a back-story and a family tree. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve started working on a character sketch only to end up working on something like… the history of the merchant ships in the area.

So, you see what I mean about getting sidetracked.

I’m not even writing Epic Fantasy – I’m not even writing about multiple locations but I’ve still become swamped with the minutiae. There’s only 2 more days of planning and I’m overwhelmed by all the little problems that keep arising. There’s a lot of second guessing and renaming and restructuring. I guess I’m getting a reoccurring case of cold feet.

Over the next little while, I’ll post what references I used for Novel Planning, what I ended up doing on my own and the programs that I’m using to keep track of it all. And, most likely, how it all imploded – because it never hurts to be realistic.

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