Planning Ahead vs. Letting It Flow: NaNoWriMo Edition


Image via Wikipedia

Just like the Pisces symbol I was born under (if astrology means anything to you; it doesn’t to me), I’m in two minds when it comes to life: usually, I like to plan ahead for things and know what to expect (what I call my Against the Current Fish–ACF), but at other times I like to go with the flow (my Downstream Fish (DSF), alternately known as OK Player (OKP) when I’ve lost the will to care :D). Most of the time, the areas of my life are clearly ruled by one or the other facet of my complex personality:

Work: ACF     Bill Paying: OKP (bad, I know)     What I wear to work: DSF

Chores: ACF    Cooking: DSF

But there are some areas in life where the fish  battle for supremacy:

romantic relationship            packing

Nowhere is this more true than in the case of my writing, particularly my NaNoWriMo novel.

I planned very little in advance with this novel. Even though I lifted the idea from a little piece I wrote my senior year of high school for a writing workshop class. I planned out what the catalyst would be, the major dramatic question (MDQ), when it would all come to a head and who the major players were. I decided on a time line and how to split up the story: the call that is the catalyst for recent events, for example, occurs one year before everything comes to a head, but there are some important things that happened nine and ten years before the crisis point as well. I thought that I could plan out when to introduce characters before I wrote each day. Other than that, I would let the writing flow.

This seems to have been a bad idea. It works some days, but other days, I am almost in tears for lack of inspiration. I curse myself that I didn’t plan ahead better. My characters surprise me (the best friend being pregnant was not what I originally had in mind), real people creep in (my boyfriend as my MC’s boyfriend), and many of the things I planned go to crap (or are DOA).

But then, when everything clicks, it really clicks. Like my description of where she meets Nathan for their blind date, or how well the prologue came out. I had a one line description of one of my MC’s aunt’s that captured her character so perfectly, I could not write another word about her personality and you’d get it.

I worry that planning ahead too much can kill the anticipation I feel sitting down to write. It’s like a soap opera or Dexter: what’s going to happen when I sit down today? Is my MC going to go from frying pan to fire? Is she going to have a spot of good luck? What craziness will her pregnant best friend pull? Will the men inadvertently ruin everything?

So what I need to figure out is how to strike a balance between letting the work flow and planning ahead enough so that I at least have SOMEWHERE to begin each day.

How do you write? Are you someone who plans ahead, lets it flow, or both? How do you balance it out and keep writing?

Note: Balance is one of my favorite words these days.


3 thoughts on “Planning Ahead vs. Letting It Flow: NaNoWriMo Edition

  1. As a fellow Pisces, I completely understand where you’re coming from with this. I struggle to balance myself a lot of the time; I can be ridiculously neurotic one minute and way too laid-back the next!

    Usually, I attack writing like I attack life — without a plan. I hate to plan. I find it takes all the fun out of things, especially writing. I very rarely have an outline in mind when I set out on a new story because I like to let the characters control their own actions: I once read somewhere that you should write what your characters are doing, not have your characters do what you are writing. I like the idea of that, so I try to stick to it and not reign them in too much.

    Having said that, I don’t think I’ll ever really get anywhere with my writing until I find a happy medium, so that I can plan the whole thing in advance and not spend hours staring at my computer screen waiting for my characters to make their next move!

    Have you tried any methods to find a balance?

    • Yay for Pisces! 😀

      The best things that work for me is kinda hard to explain. It’s how I view God. See, we as humans have free will, but God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent…any other omni- words I’ve missed, right? So if we are the God’s of our characters, they are free to do and say whatever they want…but we know what will happen to them. So I plan the major plot points or things that have to happen in order for them to end up where I want them to be, but I let them have their own reactions.

      I also spend time with the characters and learn them. I try to know as much as possible about them before I write, so I can anticipate what I can put them through, *evil laugh* It all depends on what you “get” first, the plot, the setting, or the characters–which I ask about in The Chicken or the Egg?

      In other words, I still have no idea how to strike a balance, LOL. 😀

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 😀

  2. Pingback: The Bad Beginnings Blues « Copywrite1985

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s