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.