NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is soon approaching. In a week and a half, after a long night of watching Halloween movies and making scary Halloween treats, the clock will turn midnight. The clock will indicate with finality that October is over and November has begun. For writers, that means their hands will be poised over the keyboard, ready to type that first word, that first sentence, that first paragraph, once the clock hits midnight.
But until the clock hits 12:01 AM on November 1st, we have a week and a half to prepare. Or, don’t we? Are you a plotter? Will you use this last week and a half to extensively plan out your NaNoWriMo novel? Will you have a detailed outline for each chapter? Will you have a plan on how to cross the plot holes and overcome the character conflicts?
Or, are you a pantser? Will you use this last week and a half to have fun and relax before the real work comes in a week and a half?
In this blog post, I will discuss three reasons why you should not plan out your NaNoWriMo novel. Contrary to what your English teachers have told you, I’m sure, there are some very good reasons why you should scrap the outline and the brainstorming sessions. Forget about those complex character maps. Put away your notebook and pencil. All you need is your brain and something to write with, when that clock strikes twelve on November 1st.
3 Reasons Why You Should NOT Plan Your NaNoWriMo Novel
1–Writing is more fun than outlining
In middle school, I was taught the writing process. You know, there’s the prewriting, outline, first draft, revision, and then the final draft. My teachers didn’t know it, but I usually just skipped the first two stages. I just couldn’t wait until I could put pen to paper (this was the early 2000s after all) and write. I didn’t want to waste any time planning, but wanted to start right away.
During NaNoWriMo, it’s about writing with wild abandon. It’s about letting the very act of writing consume your very soul. It’s about just enjoying writing as it is without any constrictions or restrictions. It is about the very act of feeling your hands cramp up with pain from so much writing. It is about your fingers typing as fast as they can, trying to keep up with your imagination and your brain. NaNoWriMo is about writing, not outlining.
2–Sometimes it’s better to just go with the flow
NaNoWriMo is about starting with a word, and then adding another word, and another, and another. NaNoWriMo is about letting all of these words, sentences, and paragraphs build up, leading to something. It is about letting the character jump out of your brain and take control of your fingers. It is about letting the character choose the direction that they want to go. The writer is merely the vehicle and the character the driver.
The rest of the year, we are often constrained by these rules that we have to follow. During NaNoWriMo, must we follow these time-consuming rules? Can’t we just forget about these rules during just one month out of the year?
In November, let’s just forget about having a plan. Think of a place that you’ve always wanted to write about. Or, that character that you had to get rid of in a previous story. Bring that character back to life and let it live another life that it never before imagined. This November, don’t worry about what you are supposed to do, but instead just go with the flow and do what feels right to you and your characters.
3–You can easily change the direction of your novel
One thing that is frustrating when you write a novel with an outline is when you suddenly have to change the direction of your novel. You then have to go back and revisit that outline.
If you don’t have an outline, however, you can be so much more flexible. You don’t have to go back and change anything. You can suddenly decide to get rid of a character. You can decide that the character wants to get married or get a job. You can decide to give that character a bad habit that he is trying to break. You can suddenly add another character.
Without an outline, you are free to do whatever you please. In November, just write. Just enjoy that feeling of writing. Sometimes when we have deadlines to meet and projects to do, we may forget how much we enjoy writing because it feels like a job. When we just write for the sake of writing, it starts to be something that could be fun.
I’m not saying that we should forsake outlines on all of our writing projects. But for NaNoWriMo, at least, not using an outline is a great way to just get the ideas out. It is a great way to just let your characters take charge and do what they want to do. It is a great way to just let spontaneity take over.
So, when the clock strikes 12 on November 1st, just start writing. Even if you have no concrete plan in place, just write. Just start with one word, and then another, and another, and keep going until you’ve got a story.
Remember, in November, you are just writing a first draft. You are not writing a second draft, or a final draft. A first draft is going to be horrible. In fact, it should be horrible. A first draft is when we get the ideas out. The pruning comes later, after all of the ideas get written.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
See also: 3 Reasons Why You Should Do NaNoWriMo