Tonight, I was frantically searching for my copy of No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It has become a bit of a security blanket for me during the month of November. I couldn’t find it. I cannot remember if I lent it out or left it lying around somewhere a year ago.
I suppose that is merely par for the course this month. All throughout the month of September, I reminded myself to get a head-start when October rolled around. In NaNoWriMo circles, this is known as Preptober.
Officially, November is the month of NaNoWriMo, a mad dash to write a 50,000-word rough draft of something that may one day become a novel. It’s about breaking all the rules, turning off your inner-editor, and just putting pen to paper. Or, in most cases, tapping furiously away at the keyboard to create a mess that few would recognize as a story.
But, Preptober, that’s something altogether special. That’s when you have everything figured out. You outline your plot, create characters with some spark in your notebook, and gleefully bounce around for a month with thoughts of this magical world you’ve created in your head. It’s not a time for writing. It’s a time for reminding yourself that you are a writer and gearing up for the following month’s adventure.
October has come and is mere hours from being gone.
Have I even plotted a single scene or jotted down a character note? I suppose I wouldn’t be who I am if I had.
I’ve always been known as someone who is a pantser instead of a plotter. Or, a gardener rather than an architect, as George R.R. Martin describes:
I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.
For my 2018 NaNoWriMo win, I’m pretty sure I created the foundation for that story on November 1 while sitting on the toilet. Hey, you’ve got to do something while there. I suppose most folks just scroll and swipe at the miniature computer in their hand nowadays. But, not me. I’m always creating something or another in my head pretty much 24/7. My problem is just sitting down and getting started with all those ideas.
That is why another Preptober has flown by while I have nothing to show for it but a little bit of gumption and willingness to be a pantser/gardener once again for this year’s challenge.
However, this year, I have partners in crime. With my new job comes a new social circle and new folks that I’ll be meeting during the second week of NaNoWriMo. Yes, slap in the middle of the challenge, my company has a meetup. It should be loads of fun, but did it have to be in Week 2?
See, Week 2 is the toughest week of the challenge. You get that honeymoon phase in Week 1. You haven’t created massive plot-holes or lost too many hours of sleep by then. You’re still getting to know your characters and falling in love with this new thing that’s blossoming. But that’s all over when Week 2 hits. Reality sets in. Your story is a dumpster fire and you begin wondering why you decided to torture yourself with this challenge in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all doom and gloom. Once you make it past that halfway point, it’s smooth sailing (or, at least, not quite as choppy of a ride). You start getting a grip on your story. And the realization that you could actually best this challenge sets in. You’ll win this thing. You’ll write a frickin’ novel! Well, a rough draft of a rough draft of a rough draft of a novel manuscript, but it’s something.
Here I sit, once again, on the eve of NaNoWriMo, prepping myself for the month to come. I don’t know what world my story will take place in, which characters I will fall in love with, or where the adventure will lead, but I’m eager to find out.