Plantsing NaNo Style

by Julie, juggling in Somerville

The title of this blog sounds like code, doesn’t it? Let me decode.

NaNoWriMo, NaNo for short, stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50K draft of a novel by the end of the month. The site has badges are surprisingly effective. And Sisters in Crime is offering four write-ins a day six days a week, twitter sprints and a private group for support for anyone doing NaNo. There are also a couple of webinars planned, include one next week with Hank Phillippi Ryan, “The Magic in the Middle: NaNoWriMo Style”. (You can register here if you’re interested!) I’m the executive director of SinC, so while I’m not running all the write-ins, I’m making sure the ship is running. Thank heaven for wonderful volunteers, but I digress.

Since SinC has started doing NaNo as a group, I’ve been doing NaNo as well. I did it years ago, without much success. But writing together, even virtually, and checking in has kept me on track, and the last two Garden Squad mysteries started during NaNo.

So what’s plantsing? Writers frequently talk about being a plotter or a panster, ie writing by the seat of your pants. Pantsing is also called organic writing. I am a plotter. (I am playing with a new plotting tool called Plottr, which has templates that are very interesting, but I digress again.) Plotting gives me a roadmap for my books, and I usually stick to it for the most part.

I have an idea for a book that I thought of for the first book in a new cozy series, and I decided to write that this NaNo. I plotted it a bit in October, but not up to my normal standards. I decided to tell it from the POV of a niece who lives with her Sherlockian aunt. I started writing on November 1, and then it all went off the rails.

What if, the gremlins in my imagination said, this cute shopping complex on Cape Cod used to be a spy training ground during WWII? What if some of the scenes are from the aunt’s point of view? What if there’s the cozy structure, but with spy stuff thrown in? What if–

The gremlins kept me up, so I started plantsing, which is a mixture of plotting and pantsing. This is not in my comfort zone, but perhaps that’s the point. The beauty of NaNo is that there’s no time to second guess myself. If I want to get that 50K badge, I need to keep writing. The draft will be a mess, but they all are. It may not even work. But then again, it may.

What I do know is that I’m having a blast writing, and that’s a gift to me this November.

Readers, what happens to you when you’re out of your comfort zone? Writers, are any of you doing NaNo this November? I’m cozygal on the site!

33 Thoughts

  1. Julie, I love this! I’m a plantser from the other end – mostly a panster, but a little planning ahead can help. I kind of do Nano all the time, so I don’t join in officially. But I love your imagination’s gremlins. Run with them!

  2. I’m completely out of my comfort zone doing my first NaNo, throwing into my trial version of Scrivener what’s been germinating in my head for ten years: all the craziness behind a small Chicago opera company on tour in the UK performing a musical adaptation of Persuasion. And then there’s a murder. And it’s based on my own experiences (minus the murder part). Though I’ve thought a lot about it, I’m still basically pantsing it. It’s word soup but feels good to get it out of me! So far my major takeaway is an ever deeper respect for authors.

      1. Thanks for this. And now I’m also an official member of SinC! This was the little nudge I needed to join. I went to the Midwest Mystery Conference in Chicago last Saturday and picked up the SinC materials and thought I should join. Now I can do writing sprints with my “sisters!”

  3. No NaNo for me this year. I usually take a walk in a park and go hug some trees when I feel stressed 😀

  4. I’m not a writer, but I frequently have been out of my comfort zone, many times by own choosing just for the challenge. When I get frustrated or scared, I tell myself I got myself into it, I’ll do my best and get myself out of it. T’weren’t always easy, but always rewarding.

  5. Hi Julie. I don’t do Nano. I had the privilege of acting as moderator for the Plottr presentation at the Ninc conference, and even dedicated Pantser me was very impressed with the logic and simplicity of it and have recommended it to others.

  6. Excited for this new book idea you’re developing, Julie! I’m a plantser myself, so I’m totally okay with winging it sometimes. I’ll be joining SinC sprints & write-ins and maybe aiming for a half NaNo goal.

  7. Yay, Julie! I firmly believe plotting is as organic as pantsing, just at a different point in the process. You can think of your outline as your first draft. But I also believe that sometimes you have to break out of your comfort zone. If plantsing is working for you go for it!

  8. So many things have happened over all my years that I have learned to adapt and try my best to land on my feet. Doesn’t always work, but hey I tried. 🙂 Go with the flow and enjoy the ride when possible. If it’s just too bumpy for too long, maybe it’s time to change to get off and change ships.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  9. Welcome to the dark side, Julie! You are right where I am when I start to write. Sit back and let it roll.

    I had hoped to use NaNo to start the fifth Homefront Mystery. Alas, not to be. Between commitments at the day-job abd revisions to the fourth Homefront book – The Truth We Hide, out March 2023 – I did not get revisions to the book I want to query done before November. I have to do final revisions on the sixth and final (at least last under contract) Laurel Highlands mystery – Thicker Than Water, out August 2023 – done and off to the publisher by the end of the year so I’m free to start writing in January. And this one requires a little third-party research, so I have to get my questions off to the source.

    Busy, busy, busy!

  10. Julie, I just viewed your Crime Bake presentation on Inspiration and it was inspirational! Thank you.

    I plantser but am considering using a tool like plottr. I hope you do a review of that software at some point. I’d love to learn more. I use work flowy but I like the idea of templates that do a deeper dive.

    1. Thank you so much! Plottr is interesting–maybe I’ll do a review of it somewhere and will let you know. There are templates for different types of books, and also for characters and settings. There’s a trial, and it’s well worth looking at. It also exports into Scrivener.
      Thanks again for the kind words!

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