Friday, August 11, 2017

Pants, Plots, and Pages.....

The last time we spoke, I told you about how Patrick Swayze my muse wouldn't leave me alone about a new idea. I thought maybe it was just a vacation thing. I jotted down some of the ideas, made a couple of notes and tucked it away for some time down the road. I figured that would quiet things down. I'd get back to my first book and follow the logical steps to completion. I completed the revision on my book and sent it off to my wonderfully kind friend who helped with the first round of edits and (God Bless her), offered to take another look.

So, the next steps would be to start researching agents and work on a query letter, and cross my fingers that my friend doesn't tell me to throw book #1 out the window. I did these things, or at least I started to do these things. But then two things happened - Mr. Muse came knocking again and Camp NaNo WriMo started. (Short for National Novel Writing Month - a contest that takes place every November. The idea is you try to write a novel in a month. It's a great tool to kick start a project and it forces you to just write and not over think what you're writing.)

So back to Camp NaNo, which is a virtual writing retreat. It's the same idea as the one in November, but more relaxed. You set your own goals (hours worked, pages written, word total, etc.) You set up virtual cabins and you and your bunk mates offer support, camaraderie, jokes, and virtual s'mores. Again, a great way to jump start a project. A writing friend sent out an invite the day before the camp started, asking if anyone wanted to join. The fact that the invite came the same week that Muse started yammering again, seemed to be a sign. So I took the challenge and jumped in.

I set my goal at 50,000 words, but honestly had no idea if I would get past 500. I've only written Women's fiction and this new idea was somewhere between Middle Grade and Young Adult - way outside of my comfort zone. I had no idea if I had the ages right, or was the topic too old, or too young, or too boring?? But Mr. Muse told me quit whining and just write. So I did and in only a couple of days I had about 5,000 words. Words that have never come so easily - I was shocked by how much fun and easy it was. I can do this....piece of riding a bike....and then the wheels fell off. I hit this wall suddenly. I listened to the wrong voices in my head (not Mr. Muse - the other ones who say I don't know what I'm doing.) I sent my WIP off to some very trusted, extremely knowledgeable friends who write MG and YA and asked for their opinion. I got amazing feedback and encouragement to go either way with it - it would just need modifications depending on my choice.

And I froze....again.

And then one of the friends emailed me some wonderful advice. She told me that all of the things I was worrying about (voice sounding the right age, content too old, etc) would all be fixable in revisions. She said for now, you should just write the story you want to write. And that unfroze me!

But, I was still a little stuck. I had the beginning, the ending and some vague ideas for the middle. It's how I typically write. I meander and wait to see what comes to me. Sometimes it works amazingly well. And sometimes I feel like I'm lost in the forest. I decided to try creating an outline just to see how it would work. I've always been more of a pantser, a term to describe writers who just write, with no outline to guide them. Previously I scoffed at outlines. I didn't want to take the time to write about what should happen - I just wanted to write! But there were too many ideas and they were swirling above my head like little cartoon birdies.

Comfort zone out the window - I wrote an outline. A very long, wordy outline. Honestly the thing could be a novella in and of itself. The whole time I kept muttering that I could just be writing instead of wasting my time and energy on this. But a funny thing happened. Normally when I write as a pantser, I sprint through the first couple of chapters. The whole time I can see the finish line; how I want the story to end and I'm impatient as hell to get there. But in order to get there I need to get through the middle. That loonnng middle. And that is where I tend to hit my wall (see forest). But now that I have my novella outline I'm able to stay on the path. I can see where I need to be every step of the way and if I get stuck, I refer to the outline and see what I need to be writing about. It's not to say that the outline is carved in stone. I can make adjustments, but it guides me from point A to point B. It says, if you want Z to happen in chapter 5, then you need to do X in chapter 3. If you want E to equal....ok you get the picture. The point is this outline idea got me to over 13,000 words for Camp NaNo. It may not sound like a lot, but remember I took time out to write that novella, so imagine how many words I could have done. 

For my writers out there....anyone else convert from being a pantser to a plotter? Anyone else try out Camp NaNo WriMo? Anyone else have a muse who won't shut up?

~ Adrienne