There are two types of writers in the NaNoWriMo universe. There are pantsers, and there are planners. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. (Hence the name.) They have some vague idea or a main character or even just an opening line, and when November 1 rolls around, they jump on board the story train and see where it takes them.
Planners know what their novel is going to be about before November 1 rolls around. They know their characters, their setting, their story. There are different degrees of planners, mind you. Some people write more in their outline than they do in the novel itself, with pages and pages of character sketches and world building and elaborate plot spiderwebs. Others will just do a quick overview and have a general idea of where the story goes. But when you get right down to it, you’re either a planner or a pantser.
I am a planner. Some years more so than others, but the best of my eight NaNoWriMo novels have been the most planned. Without an outline, I tend to ramble, taking 20 or even 30,000 words to get to the point that should probably have been chapter two. I never have any trouble getting the word count—I’m a fast writer and a quick thinker and I’ve been doing this for a long time—but without an outline, a plan, a general idea of where the story is going and how it’s going to get there, I struggle with actually writing a complete story arc.
So, even though I could churn out 50,000 words of blather without much trouble, I plan. I outline. I write up a chapter-by-chapter summary of what’s going to happen in my novel. Because the satisfaction of NaNoWriMo, for me, isn’t just the writing. It’s the story. And I don’t trust my November brain, in its caffeine-enhanced, sleep-deprived, writing-addled state, to be able to get to the story. I could write a book, sure, but what I want is to write a novel. With a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I think part of the appeal for me is the supplies. I love pens and notebooks and the act of sitting down with a blank piece of paper and seeing what spills out. I never actually write by hand, but I plan the old-fashioned way. I always buy a new hardbound black sketchbook for every novel, and I’m on an endless search for the perfect pen. (The one in the picture up there might be it. I just bought it on Saturday and I love it way more than is reasonable for a writing implement.) It has to be blank pages—I find lined notebooks unnecessarily bossy—and it has to be black pen.
When I’m actually outlining, I have to have headphones in. I’m the same way with writing—if I don’t have headphones in, I get distracted, so even having music on speakers isn’t enough when I really need to buckle down and write. (Plus my husband knows that headphones in = actually working, so it’s a good visual sign too.) For years I couldn’t write to anything but instrumental music, so I have an impressive collection of movie soundtracks. (And am always looking for more, so hit me with your best in the comments!) I’ve branched out in the last year or so, but when I am stumped, I switch over to one of my writing playlists and my reaction is practically Pavlovian.
I’ll write more about my actual outlining process in another post, but for now, tell me about yourself. Are you a planner or a pantser? If you’re a planner, how do you plan? If you’re a pantser, how do you not die from the stress of the whole thing? (I’m not a very spontaneous person. You might have gathered.) What’s your NaNo soundtrack? And surely there are other hoarders of pens and notebooks out there. Let’s talk writing supplies, baby.