NaNo Prep: Making Time for Writing

by Jami Gold on October 11, 2012

in Writing Stuff

Hand pulling back a theater curtain with the text: What's Behind the Curtains that Keeps You Busy?

Many writers will spend the month of November dedicating every spare minute to writing as they participate in National Novel Writing Month (known as NaNoWriMo or just plain NaNo). So now is the perfect time to identify issues that could interfere with our writing goals.

(And read on below for a class on “plotting for pantsers,” which can help those of us who write by the seat of our pants get our story ready to “fast draft” during NaNo—all without actually plotting. *smile*)

My last post talked about how the craziness of life can sometimes keep us from writing. New babies, new jobs, new stresses. Those types of circumstances will make it difficult to join in the NaNo fun, but before giving up, we should make sure that it’s truly impossible.

There’s a difference between “we’re not writing because we’re legitimately unable to find the brain power even when we have writing time” and “we’re not writing because we’re looking for an excuse and this normal amount of busy will do the trick.” (*raises hand* Yeah, been there, done that.)

That difference determines the size of the mountains we have to move before participating in NaNo. Do we have to solve our external conflict (rearranging our obligations to fit in writing time)? Or do we have solve our internal conflict (fixing our lack of motivation—which the group aspect of NaNo can help with)? Either way, we won’t know what’s holding us back until we analyze our situation.

Of course, even if we don’t have major crises going on, it can still be difficult to squeeze in writing time. We walk a fine line between setting realistic goals and feeling guilty because we remember all the other times we procrastinated just because we felt like it.

To get a solid handle on our time and what we’ll be able to accomplish with it, we need to recognize all the little things that keep us busy. Those behind-the-scenes things that take up our time usually don’t even land on our “list of things to do” because they feel so normal. But that means we never acknowledge how much time and effort they suck from us, which can make it difficult to set realistic goals.

I Know What Keeps Me Busy—How about You?

I figured I’d break that habit and give you a peek at some of my behind-the-curtains projects on the writing front that have kept me busy lately. And of course, these are in addition to my usual day job, family projects, and twice-weekly blog posts.

I’m in submission mode for two of my stories. That means I’ve been giving pitches, tweaking my queries yet again (*whimper*), and entering a couple of contests. The good news is Treasured Claim is a finalist (under its former title of The Treasure of a Dragon’s Heart) in the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest sponsored by the Indiana RWA chapter—my first final. Yay!

But the bigger news is that I’ve been putting together a couple of classes that will be presented through WANA International. First up, a “plotting for pantsers” webinar-format workshop in the last week of October. I’ve been hinting about this project for a while, and it’ll be ready just in time to help those doing NaNoWriMo.

Wait…Did You Say “Plotting for Pantsers”?

Yep. Those of you who follow me regularly know that despite my pantser tendencies, I’ve done a lot of analysis on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering, and Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure. This class will pull all that information—and more—into a pantser-compliant brainstorming framework to use when we’re starting a new story.

Read on for the details…

Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story

Do you write by the seat of your pants?

Do you want to write faster?

This workshop teaches a minimalist approach to story development to accommodate “pantsers” (those who write by the seat of their pants). By the end of this class, students will have enough plot and character arc direction to make “Fast Drafting” techniques work for them.

Length:  Two 90 minute webinars in the WANA International Digital Classroom (60 minutes for lecture and 30 minutes for Q&A)

Date:  Tuesday, October 23rd and Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time/4:00 p.m. Pacific Time (on each of those dates)

Price:  $49.00

Interested? Sign up for “The Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story” here.

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Are you participating in NaNo this year? Have you analyzed how you spend your time so you’ll know how to squeeze in NaNo writing? What activities suck up your time behind the scenes? Do you have any questions for me about my workshop?

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23 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Chihuahua Zero October 11, 2012 at 7:45 am

I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the second time. Right now, I’m trying to get into the outlining stage, so that my draft has a revisable structure at the end of it. I don’t want to write pure junk. I want to write junk with bones!


Jami Gold October 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

Hi Chihuahua Zero,

Ooo, I like that: “junk with bones.” 🙂

Yes, that was a big takeaway I had from my post last year about fast drafting–that it worked best when the writer had a general idea of where they wanted the scene or the story to go. So that’s the big reason I started looking at this “plotters for pantsers” idea. As a pantser, I don’t want to spell everything out, but if I want to try fast drafting, NaNo, or word sprints, I’ll have better luck if I know the boundaries. Boundaries make it so drafting isn’t completely random at least. 🙂

I’m designing my class so people can see the steps of creating more defined boundaries, both from a plot and a character arc perspective, and pantsers can figure out what level works best for them–for plot and for character development. Even if they go through every step, they still wouldn’t have a full outline like a plotter would, but they would be able to fill in most of a beat sheet.

Personally, I feel most comfortable with a medium level of character development, but I don’t need as much plot development. In other words, I started off doing all this work for me–so I could find my happy point of balancing just enough development to write faster but not so much that I felt constrained. 🙂

Good luck in NaNo and thanks for the comment!


Carradee October 11, 2012 at 7:58 am

Well, I went finally bit the bullet and went public about one publisher’s breach of contract [Note from Jami: check out the horrible story here] and released the stories. I’m way behind production schedule on other stuff, but in the next week, I’ll be done with the ARC for A Fistful of Earth (story I’ve been mentioning in your comments, with the relationship breakdown and narrator whose mental condition blindsided me).

Barring any more migraines, etc., I’ll have that book out by the time November starts, and hopefully the first draft done for another behind-schedule one. If not the latter, I’ll probably have an overall goal for NaNoWriMo of writing 50k+ words, finishing that book, and getting far into the follow-up to the aforementioned A Fistful of Earth.

But that means I have to pay attention and notice when my hormone condition’s acting up and making me lethargic and overwhelmed by the simplest things—speaking of which, my laundry basket’s a warning sign, atm—and not fall ill.

At least the former’s in my control.


Carradee October 11, 2012 at 7:59 am

P.S. With my publisher in breach of contract, the publisher still has the right to publish for a bit over a year. But they no longer have the exclusive right to do that, which is why I can publish on my own.


Jami Gold October 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

Hi Carradee,

Wow, yes you have been busy. I’m sorry to hear about your contract issues. *hugs* I think you were right to share your story, and like you said, possibly warn others away from a problematic publisher.

Congratulations on being > < this close to releasing your next book. 🙂 I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that you can fit everything in and not get sick. I know what you mean about all those problems being out of your control. I get migraines once a month and I used to get terribly sick with bronchitis (and everything else going around) every fall. Luckily that sick part seems to have gone away the last couple of years.

Good luck and thanks for the comment! 🙂


Jennifer Barricklow October 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Love the idea of pantsers “losing their pants”! Also love Chihuahua Zero’s notion of “junk with bones.” May everything we write at least have bones; of such things are fossils made.


Jami Gold October 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Yes, I love the discovery aspect of pantsing a story, so I don’t want to lose that, but if I want to fast draft or participate in NaNo, my best chance of success is to create some boundaries. I know some pantsers who change the genre or the premise or the main character mid-way through a story, and those types of big changes hurt us, word-count-wise. So I really think that if we want to fast draft or NaNo–successfully–we have to get some of the big picture stuff defined a bit more (even if it’s not completed nailed down 😉 ). Thanks for the comment!


Amanda October 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Ah, NaNo…I wish I had time for you this year. Sadly, work has gotten so overwhelming (we’ve had to hire SIX temps for our current project and are looking for two more) that I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m catatonic by the end of November. So no NaNo for me 🙁 Instead, I’ll be concentrating on finishing up edits and revisions on last year’s NaNo project as my entry into the 2013 Golden Heart contest.

But if anyone needs a NaNo cheerleader, I’m available!


Jami Gold October 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Amanda,

Yikes! Yes, that’s exactly what I mean by those “out of our control” things that make writing so near-impossible.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you’ll get your ms in shape for GH though! *hugs* Thanks for the comment!


Serena October 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Nanowrimo! I’ve been looking forward to it since June!

My plan is, though I’m a full time university student, I will type 1 hour of my story each day. 1 hour reliably gives me at least 1700 words, since I’m not looking to be perfectionist for Nano, since it is Nano, lol.

This shouldn’t be too hard since I’m already reading / writing/ editing for 1 – 2 hrs every day already.

Can’t wait till November 1st!


Jami Gold October 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Hi Serena,

Wow, I’m jealous of you being able to get 1700 words out of an hour. Even during my word sprints, I can’t get that much. 🙂 Sounds like a great plan for you! Good luck and thanks for the comment!


Carradee October 12, 2012 at 7:27 am

@Jami, just a thought, but the word sprint rates can depend on your narrator, too. I have one in particular who is weirdly easy for me to write, though she’s bitter, inhuman, and likes her salty language—neither of which apply to me.

Other characters, including the ones that I might actually like hanging out with if they existed, aren’t so easy to write. (Well, except for a few character pairs, but that’s different. Bantering and bickering are such fun!)

Granted, I’ve only hit 1700 words in an hour once, but that was with the aforementioned easy-to-write narrator. I don’t think that’s a fluke. One story pretty regularly falls closer to 700 words written in an hour, but for most stories, my average is generally 1k ± 100 words per hour.

Just a thought about how story and narrator can affect speed. 🙂


Jami Gold October 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi Carradee,

Ooo, great point! Yes, I’ve been so discouraged at “comparing” my speeds to others that I don’t usually keep track of it, but I bet you’re right. 🙂

My writing flows faster for some characters than others, and like you said, heavy dialogue and bantering tends to flow the fastest for me too. I feel better now. LOL! Thanks for the great comment!


Todd Moody October 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Hi Jami! Good luck on your seminar!

I’m getting geared up for another Nano. I didn’t do well last year, but I had a lot on my plate. This year I am all set to start a new project and have been developing my characters and working on an outline, which is a new thing for me. I already have the “big problem” figured out and I’m excited about the premise. I’m a pantser at heart, but I recently finished doing a synopsis of my last novel, getting 448 pages down to 9. Seeing the form of the synopsis made me think it would be great to be able to do that first. The synopsis is really only a beefed up outline. I think it would really help to see where the plot holes are or if something is too contrived.

This is my third Nano and I am 1 for 2, and it will be a third different method, but I feel really good about it.

Are you doing NanoWriMo this year? I don’t remember if you ever said.


Jami Gold October 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Hi Todd,

Thank you! As for NaNo, I haven’t officially signed up yet, but this is the first year I could potentially do it, so I’m considering it. Good luck with NaNo–maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!


E.B.Pike October 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Oooh –I might need this. I’m trying to be an outliner, but it totally makes me bored with my story and want to avoid writing. It’s the exact opposite when I pants. A happy medium would be awesome.

Excited for Nano 2012!!


Jami Gold October 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Hi E.B.,

Yes, I’ve learned to trust my muse much more since my plotted novel. He’s a better judge of what should happen next than I am. 🙂

So I don’t want to get rid of any of those wonderful pantser benefits. This workshop is nothing like those that try to reform pantsers into plotters. *shudders* This is all about learning what will work for us in any situation. I hope you can make it. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!


Angela October 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm

A finalist? Jami, that’s great!! I’m so happy for you! (and not at all surprised!)

I hope your Wana course goes great! It is perfect time with Nano coming up!



Jami Gold October 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Hi Angela,

Thank you! Yes, I’ve been having fun planning my class. 🙂 I hope it will be helpful to people. Thanks for the comment!


August McLaughlin October 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm

What a great workshop idea, Jami. Good luck with it!

I’m, too, a pantser with no plotting envy. I don’t think one way is better or more “real” than the other, finding what works best for us individually is pretty vital. I’ve also heard numerous writers say they thought they were one, when really they were—or turned into—another. Regardless, I think we can all learn from others’ methods.

I hope many take your class. They’d be wise to!


Jami Gold October 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Hi August,

Thanks! Ooo, and it’s great to know you’re another “no envy” pantser. 🙂 (I knew you were awesome–LOL!) Thanks for the comment!


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