National Novel Writing Month is 26 days away and this year I will be trying something new for my preparation. Apparently there is something called “plantsing” which, to my non-NaNo friends, is a mix between “pantsing” (writing without an outline) and “plotting” (writing with an outline). I just discovered there is a middle ground: of course there is—but it also has a delightfully silly name, something I mentally require for overwhelming tasks like NaNoWriMo. I love it so much I made a some graphics with my photography:
As far as defining my past NaNoWriMo stories (and CampNaNoWriMo), let’s write it out:
2011 “Horrors of the Futuregraph” – third person, female perspective, two main characters. A mysterious but ordinary woman (named X) and a police officer (named Javid). Futuristic setting.
2012 “Earth Borne” – third person, female perspective, two main characters. A girl named Meghan and a boy named Ash. Young adult genre, modern day, supernatural setting.
2013 “Six Hours Remaining” – done for CampNaNoWriMo. Third person perspective but a larger number of characters, young adult, modern day Idaho/Montana with a zombie apocalypse setting. Characters included one female (Nikki), two males (Gabriel and James), one-long-distance-female and one hapless cat.
2013 Spent working on finishing my first draft of The Trials of Blood.
2014 “Pizzamancer” – third person, female perspective, two main characters: Sunami “Suzi” and Prince Tomato (Tom). Ended at 20,000 words.
2015 – Failed or not attempted, who cares. I vaguely remember my attempt at “The Renegade Messiah” and that may even have been for a CampNaNoWriMo.
The point is that I have a clear a defined “comfort zone” with clear and defined character choices. All of my stories have a female/male pairing, a duality, usually a lot of snark or sarcasm. Typically a love sub-plot (but no full-on bodice ripping romance). An equal split among genres and time periods, favoring modern (ok, that’s not equal). It seems I reserve medieval/fantasy for my “baby” project of Trials/InGifted as if it were sacred ground or I was afraid. I only read Fantasy though—
Some things I have considered briefly for this NaNoWriMo:
- A woman and her cat (inspired by reading Sabriel and the video game Fran Bow)
- Lots of rain, running down the streets at night, reflecting light
- Neon lights and signs against a raining backdrop (something out of Bladerunner)
- A future-Egypt setting where a cultural resurgence is happening after a flood kills every family who does not own a cat; cat-worshiping returns in full force
Yeah, that’s all I’ve got, just a bit of imagery. That still drops me right into my “comfort zone” with anticipated plot-norms (such as a weak romantic sub-plot and a faux-futuristic setting). Except I don’t usually write about actual cities, especially ones I know basically nothing about. So there are fall backs and there are challenges but not enough of a contrast to convince me yet.
Some things I have never written about:
- A western, steampunk, period (ie: Victorian), mystery, horror, romance, non-heterosexual relationship varieties, slavery, genocide—that escalated quickly.
- Any actual places (versions have existed, such as Spokane in ‘Wolfsbane’ or Coeur d’Alene in ‘Six Hours Remaining’)
- Anything set in outer space
- Protagonists older than I am when writing the story
- First person male-perspective
- Any story with a dog
If I follow the ancient writing proverb of “write what you know” then it would be the boring story of an unhealthy, bitter, lazy(ish) poor white girl from Montana who makes a lot of bad relationship decisions for years on end and then runs away. No magic, not talking animals, no drug use, no dragons. I think what they really mean is “write what you’ve experienced (as long as it’s not boring)” or, in my case, “write what you’ve read.”
I love the fantasy genre but I limit myself to just my one story, my one world (Trials/InGifted). I would happily start a new fantasy, a new world, new characters, new magic (?), if I thought I could write something good. Pride or fear may be part of my problem. Proud of my current story already, unwilling to try something new, fiercely possessive of “my” default setting. Fear of all the work that goes into world-building. Fearful I may like it more than what I’ve already got years invested into already. Fear my lack of “know” will limit my options significantly.
Some things I have learned lately:
- The Objiwa and how fucking awful American history is
- The Hmong (pronounced Mung) and how fucking awful American history is
- A high (but not really surprising) rate of suicide among highly artistic figures
- Colonialism should be a curse word of the worse variety
- How weird it feels to have your teeth pulled out
- A handful of useless Geography facts (I dropped the class)
Some characters I have never written:
- A racist (to my knowledge)
- A misogynist or feminist
- A type “A” personality
- Someone who is dying or terminally ill
- A parent (just siblings)
- Anything approaching religion or beliefs
What is more compelling to me—a plot-based story or a character who changes over the pages? Do I remember the plot—or the character romances? If I think to all of my own favorite fantasy novels I don’t actually recall the “major plot twists” immediately. For me, the default is, “I remember who they loved.”
Talia and Dirk, Elspeth and Darkwind, Vanyel and Stefen (Mercedes Lackey, The Heralds of Valdemar series, various)
Sabriel and Touchstone (Garth Nix, Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen)
Richard and Kahlan (Terry Goodkind, The Sword of Truth series)
Tiger and Del (Jennifer Roberson, Sword-Dancer series)
In my own stories, my end goal looks something like “blah blah blah, Malisyn and Nox are amazing together.” The plot, therefore, be damned. It’s important, sure, but at the end of the day—I write and care about the characters, the people, not what crashes down around them, but how they change inside. I’m obviously here for the characters, so that is what I need to focus on, and let the setting and plot develop around them, like figures standing against the crashing waves.
So these are just my preliminary thoughts. I have to thank my dear friend Dana for suggesting--and then, perhaps, letting me trample the idea in my excitement--a collaborative writing idea for this November. We ran with an idea that had something to do with cats, and then I ended up running down my own path, flailing my arms like crazy and leaving her in the dust. She's a patient woman and I am thankful for that. We're still working out the details--but I know she'll be right (write?) alongside me suffering this November. So, to Dana, who inspires and pushes me when no one else notices me crying: thank you. I hope that I can inspire you to keep writing this November--and all the years to follow. At the very least, I will be nagging you and expect the same.
I'll be sure to add new ideas for November as I approach them.