With less than a week left in Preptober, NaNoWriMo is upon us. And whether you’re a proud pantser or a panicking plotter, the realization may be dawing that come November first, you have no idea what you’re going to write. There may be gaps in your outline or no outline at all. You might have run out of time to try that one plotting method that you really meant to get to. Your character profiles might only be half filled out. But I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.
Around the end of September, when I finally typed “The End” on the rewrites I’d been working on since February, after giving myself a couple of weeks to relax and relish my wide-open schedule, I started thinking about what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo. Actually, I already had a pretty good idea of the story I wanted to tackle. It had been a shiny new idea plaguing me through the entire second half of my rewrites. But it was a genre I hadn’t tackled before and I knew that I’d have to do some heavy-duty prep to stave off an all-out, “what the hell am I doing” panic attack halfway through November. So I made a checklist for myself of all the steps to take to map out this new adventure. From brainstorming to character development to outlining, I had a plan for my plan. And so far, it’s been super helpful. I feel like I know my characters pretty well, I can visualize the setting in my mind, and I know the major points I need to hit in both my main plot and subplots. But as I worked my way down the checklist, I started to feel a familiar itch: let’s get this show on the road already.
Eventually, plotting and planning can become a safety blanket. A way to feel like you’re working on your story when you’re really just procrastinating. And that’s exactly what NaNo was designed to combat. Come November first, whatever plan you’ve put in place (or lack of), will come into contact with the reality of putting words on the page. And no matter how meticulously you’ve planned, there are going to be things you don’t know. Which is what makes writing so exciting. Because even if you’ve blocked out your scenes down to the minute, your characters are still going to blurt out something unexpected. On a late night in week two, when you’re struggling to reach your daily word count, a ninja might pop out of the bushes in your contemporary romance story and shoot a blow dart into the neck of your favorite character, completely knocking the legs out from under your love triangle. (Where do these NaNo ninjas keep coming from?!) And maybe you wake up clear-eyed the next morning, shake your head and write it all off as just a dream, putting your love triangle back on track. Or maybe you run with it and have an entirely different story on your hands.
My point is this: you don’t have to know everything. In fact, you can’t know everything. Especially not when you’re about to tackle such a whirlwind rush of a writing project. You should probably know something because having at least a vague ghost of a path will be helpful when you’re bogged down in the muddy middle. But there comes a point where you have to stop planning and get on with it. If you dove hard into Preptober, I encourage you to take this last week off. Take a step back from your story so that it will still hold some surprise and excitement for you with NaNo kicks off. Maybe turn your plotting talents to meal prep or gathering enough fuzzy socks to keep you comfy all month long. Stock up on your favorite drinks and treats and meet me back here next week, ready to blaze a new story trail.
P.S. If you want to add me as a NaNo buddy, you can do that here.