The first year that I have ever done Nanowrimo, I just jumped right in. I just popped open my laptop and started typing away with no thought or plan on what I was going to write. I was — and still am — a pantser by nature. I prefer to just dive right in, bypassing the prewriting and outlining stages. I just want to write write write, letting my characters chart their own destinies. I was definitely not a planner.
While this method has worked well in getting the ideas flowing, I still discovered that I needed one thing to help me not be so overwhelmed. While writing my Nanowrimo novel that year, and even subsequent years thereafter, I found that I had trouble remembering who was who. I would forget small plot details, such as what so-and-so did and to whom. I would even sometimes mix up their names. I was like a robot, mechanically writing with no logic or sense. I was just writing to meet the word count quota of the day. I was definitely not in charge.
But I found that sometimes I did need to take charge. I realized that I didn’t want to just begin writing haphazardly. While the moments can be magical when the characters take charge, it is still important to employ this hack to keep your writing top notch and, most importantly, have your book be a good first draft.
What I needed most while doing Nanowrimo was a pen. I also needed a notebook, or at least some sheets of loose leaf paper, because I don’t think my landlord would be too happy if I wrote on the wall. I needed a pen and a notebook so that I could jot down notes as I went along. I found that jotting down the character names, along with some details about the characters, helped me to remember what I was writing. It also helped to ensure that I was staying consistent and to the point. It made sure that I wasn’t giving repetitive information to the reader. And finally, I could refer back to my notes to make sure that I was on track. It’s also important to note that I wasn’t keeping notes before writing the novel, but rather during the process.
So, while I am still very much a pantser, I find it useful to write down notes while I am writing. If I don’t, I run the risk of the story getting garbled and scrambled. I run the risk of the story weaving itself to a dead end. Writing down small details about the characters and plot events helps me to stay organized. It makes it a lot more likely that I will finish a book that is coherently sound, and not a mess that is destined for the recycled bin on my desktop.
Download this free ‘track the plot’ form to help keep track of the characters, setting, and plot in your novel! If you do end up using this ‘track the plot’ form, then please tag me at #crispyconfessions on social media. I’d love to see how it is working for you.
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And you, my dear reader, what do you use to help ensure your writing success?