October 11, 2012

NaNo Prep: Making Time for Writing

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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Comments — What do you think?

Click here to learn more about Lost Your Pants workshop
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Chihuahua Zero

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!


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.


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.

Jennifer Barricklow

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.


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!


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!

Todd Moody

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 also had a post this week on prepping for NaNo […]


[…] NaNo Prep: Making Time for Writing by Jami Gold. […]


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!!


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!


August McLaughlin

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!

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