National Novel Writing Month: Plotting in the Dark

Fresh Ribbon

I‘ve made the commitment, and sworn to do my duty as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison. No going back now – I’m writing a novel in “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” Why am I doing this to myself? Because last year I wrote over 50,000 words in thirty days and it made me happy.

  1. It was the finest writing experience of my life.
  2. I found out just how far I could push myself despite grading and conference-hopping and other general must-do business.
  3. The mad month redefined me as a writer and forced this poet to sling out a story that held together.
  4. At the end of the month, I had a novel in hand and the giddiness of it floated me until, well, just now.

I‘m exactly where I was last October – no plot, no plan. Just a character I’ve been carrying around with me for a while. My strategy is simple: Start writing and let the character tell you the story.

I do tend, as I slam the thing out, to have an idea for a direction or scene. In order to keep those handy, I create a file, name it, then close it and get back to writing. When I open up the Novel Folder each day, the scenes are listed right there. I simply click on one of them and begin. At the end of the month, I piece the puzzle back together and it’s ready for rewrite.

That’s it. No note cards or agonizing character outlines. No plotting maze. I let the characters be and they go where they wish, committing all manner of lovely and unlovely acts. The critters walk around with me and whisper in my ear all day. By the morning write, there’s story.

I can’t wait to see this year’s novel roll out from under my fingers. I’m not sure I have the muscular fortitude of the Typewriter Brigade, a stealthy group of miscreants who manage to produce their NaNoWriMo Novels purely on typewriters. I’m going to slam out part of it on the old manual machines, though, as long as my fingers hold out. We’ll see how that little experiment works.

If you feel you can join us, do. If you can’t, grab some pom-poms and start cheering on November 1st.

11 thoughts on “National Novel Writing Month: Plotting in the Dark

  1. I'm lazily filling out character sheets to pin down the details of my protagonists while I plotbunny back and forth with somebody I just converted to typewriters…it's all just feeding a series of horrible Luddite addictions. There's no 12-step program, but somebody should bring donuts and coffee anyway.Woohoo, good luck! everybody's gonna need it.

  2. I think I'm with you, Monda. I initially planned to plan, but the more I try, the more I realize the plot (such as it is, what there is of it) is bound to veer off course by about November 2nd.My story is kind of a character driven thing anyway. I figure I'll spend the next few weeks wandering around with my characters, getting to know them and what makes them tick. Then on the 1st, I'll set 'em down at the starting line, remove the barriers so they can start interacting, and let 'er rip!

  3. Both the cover and title of your fake book is actually rather intriguing. And, you **must** release this year's Nano product to the masses. I would love to read it. I agree, Nano is one of life's great writing experiences. People who criticize the exercise just don't get it.

  4. Pish and tosh on you non-planners. Also: fie. My characters don't want to play in November, after chattering to me for six months. They're tired. They want to sleep in, and maybe lounge around with cocoa and a stack of People magazines and chat, instead of actually doing something.I need big literary carrots in reserve, ready to dangle before them, and a mighty stick to urge them along. Otherwise my Rollicking Adventure Yarn will come out like Waiting for Godot.

  5. It sounds like everyone needs a different set of pre-NaNo rituals and non-rituals. Viva la diversity! I fully expect to write another 50,000 word prose-poem. We are who we are. And yes, Strikethru, I'm going to rework this one to unloose upon you all. Last year's effort is almost finished, so you may get a two-fer.In lieu of plotting, I may instead resort to amulets and charms. This one needs a little abracadabra.

  6. So pleased that you're doing this, Monda. And when you check in with, and link up to, the Typewriter Brigade, it lends us a certain amount of literary bonafides that we just wouldn't have otherwise.Mark me down in the Would Read Anything You Put Out column.

  7. I've just stumbled accross your blog and become your newest fan.I've been meaning to take part in NaNoWriMo for a few years now. Seeing as you've just reminded me of why I've been meaning to do it, this year might be the one!Katie @

  8. I've tried to give myself the challenge in off months and failed ridiculously twice so far. I'm doing it officially this year for the first time. I'm looking forward to procrastinating by reading your amazing blog instead.

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