Coffee and Conversation: That Post-NaNoWriMo Glow

Grab a cuppa and a comfy seat, and let’s chat a while...

It’s Monday again- Well, it was, when I started this post, anyway, and, around here, that means it’s time for Coffee and Conversation.

When I was six, my family was driving on an interstate highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living their lives, lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to see what those lives were, and to share my own…

Here, each Monday, I strive to reach that understanding through offering ideas and tidbits from my life. Settle in for a while, and share something of yours.

So here we are. It’s the Monday after NaNoWriMo, and it’s been a week or three since I have written a Coffee and Conversation post. I tried to avoid this, by writing up a few posts ahead, to sustain me through the blogging drought that always seems to accompany my intense noveling. The only problem with that was that I used those posts during my October planning time. Never having planned a novel before, and determined to see Rock Your Plot through with attention and intention, I underestimated the amount of time needed to move through the process.

As those of you who read with me may know, I finished NaNo, and my own personal goal of drafting an entire novel in those 30 days. I’m rather impressed with myself, and happy to know that I can write that much, that quickly. Read King of Shreds and Patches excerpts.

Final NaNo 2013 Stats.
Final NaNo 2013 Stats.

It wasn’t accidental, this mission I’ve accomplished. I set myself up to succeed. How, you ask?

I spent most of a month in planning; which allowed me to delve my characters and their motivation, and indulge my imagination. I lived close to the gestating ideas, all month. We built a relationship, this nascent novel and I, before I ever wrote a word.

When it was time to begin writing, at midnight on November 1, I already had a “container” of sorts for each scene. I knew who would be in each scene, what the premise of the scene was, where and when the action took place; why it happened (the goals of the thing); and the last – how it happened…a short paragraph each summarizing what I expected to happen in the beginning (getting the situation set up), middle (the conflict of the scene), and ending (usually with an unanswered question or some type of disaster for the point of view character).

Honestly, going in, I was a little worried about it. I write best when my characters have room to play and grow, and they usually take charge of their own stories, and let me know what they are going to do. I wasn’t sure that all this prepwork, although it seemed open-ended enough for my creative process, wouldn’t get in the way.

Those worries were – delightfully – unfounded. The planning process unrolled from the most basic – premise, goal, motivation, and conflict of the novel; major plot points – and moved gradually into other, more complex matters -character biographies detailing their life up to the beginning of the story; scene by scene outlining, as mentioned above.

The opening scenes of my lovely, rainbowy scene list, with word count total.
The opening scenes of my lovely, rainbowy scene list, with word count total.

I think that this allowed the story to begin writing itself, before I actually began. Rather than my customary envisioning of bits of scenes and dialogue, I felt the story building, developing, growing into a cohesive whole, with each scene a part of the trajectory of the story as a whole, and the POV character’s personal story arc.

Writing this NaNo novel felt different than any of the others I’ve begun or continued as NaNo projects (I think there have been 8 altogether, although some have or will become two novels, before they are completed). I never felt that sense of desperation that was formerly familiar in the middle of each story, as I got tangled up in my plots and details, and the entire story bogged down.

Screenshot 2013-12-03 00.08.28
Beginning of the WhoWhatWhyWhereWhenHow?, or, affectionately, WWWWWH?. This is my “cheat sheet” for the scene on the left.

It might sound paradoxical, but the planning freed me. Freed my mind to focus on the possibilities that would advance and deepen the story, rather than flailing and floundering for something – anything! – to make the story more excited When. It. Seemed. To. Just. Drag. On. Forever.

While some of the scenes do wander and sag a little, and there are two scenes I think might want to be reversed, and a few dropped threads and inconsistencies I’ll need to deal with in revisions, this is a cleaner rough draft WIP than any other I’ve completed, and I did it far faster than ever before.

Part of the 'How" section.
Part of the ‘How” section.

Planning wasn’t the reason, though, as much as that the planning system I chose works so well with the way I create. I’m thinking that’s the key; I didn’t need to force myself to fit the system, and the system is very open to tweaking to suit my individual tastes and needs. Like the way I write, and live, it’s flexible.

Have you ever found a system for achieving a long-term goal that seems tailor-made for you?What do you like about it? Why do you think it works so well for you? Are there clues to your own process, in the system you favor? I’ll get us something tasty to sip, and you can tell me all about it! =D

The very first words of a spanking-new adventure!
The very first words of a spanking-new adventure!


  1. Congratulations Shan! You did it! Yay! Big kudos to you. By your wonderful organizational skills, you rocked Nano! That has to be a great feeling of accomplishment. So I think we understand the lack of blogging. No worries. Glad your back! 🙂

    • Thanks, Karen!

      It feels amazing to have done it, and not to be trailing the end of a fourth WIP! As a bonus,it’s fed ideas for the three waiting-to-be-finished drafts, and the two that are about to go through the revision process.

      Still, next year, I hope to be able to keep up at least a minimal blog scheduled while doing NaNo my way!

  2. Congrats on the success! I only reached 40k this year, but considering I was running around England and Europe at the time, I feel 40k is nothing to be sneezed at!

    I don’t have any one process that I use. For last year’s NaNo, I had a basic outline from beginning to end, while A More Complicated Fairytale got sketched out, but there were certain scenes that were in my head almost from the very outset and started writing before I fully knew where it was going. I was just lucky it happened to turn out so well.

    • Emily,

      40K is wonderful!

      40K while traveling – now that’s stupendous!

      All of my previous WIPs have been much more haphazardly planned, or completely unplanned. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, and, as I get ready to revise Chameleon’s Dish and Bounded by a Nutshell, I see that the completely unplanned approach leaves me with a draft that needs very major changes.

      I get a very different vibe from King of Shreds and Patches. It’s cohesive and makes sense already. It’s got life and depth missing in the books I wandered through the writing of.

      I think each of us has ways we work well, and others we’re not at all suited to. The trick for each of us is to find what works, and what doesn’t, for us. I need to play, and to have freedom.

      I will untangle the unplanned works, and I’m happy that this one won’t need the same intensity of revision.

      AMCFT certainly did turn out well.

  3. Congratulations on your win! And thanks for writing about Rock Your Plot. I’ve been thinking about trying it out, and now I am definitely going to do it (actually, really right now, as soon as I post this–just clicked over and bought it while reading your post!).

    • Kim,

      Awesome! I hope it works for you. It was just what I needed.

      Thanks for the congrats. It feels so good to know that I can do that, and do it well.

      Hope this finds you joyfully writing! =)

  4. well done on nano – I have had to plan a bit but am an odd scene kind of writer – as they come as I feel in the a.m when I rise. Have fiound tho’ I am planning a little more these days – I also spend a lot of time with my characters before I start – now their lives in detail – we all have our ways I guess – but i did like your colourful planning – colour will tempt me any time:)

    • Alberta,

      I think finding our own way is the best thing we can do (and not just in writing). I get the odd scenes, most often when driving or in the shower. But, with the kids with me most of the time, and writing time being dependent on their needs, I’ve found that my unplanned stuff wandered all over as I had more or less focus to give the developing story.

      This provided me exactly the right amount of structure, while leaving me plenty of space for the exploration I need.

      Here’s to lots of odd scenes and color in your life! =D

  5. Congrats on such a successful NaNoWriMo, Shan! I’ve not done it before but I might try next year. I’m a panster though. Too much planning make my writing come out flat when I actually write it. Because I feel like I’ve already told the story in the process of plotting. To each what works for them! Congrats again. Ya did good, gal!!

  6. I haven’t really found one technique that works for me just right, but bits and pieces of a whole bunch of different ones that I can take and weave into one. I like to use the snowflake method to figure out the basic plot points. Start with a one sentence summary then expand on that until I have a full summary of what happens. I throw out the steps that don’t work for me though. I like James Scott Bell’s LOCK method too and use Larry Brooks’ 4 part scene structure when figuring out my scene list.

    • Fallon,

      I like to pick the bits that work for me, too. It’s not often that I can take something nearly whole and use it this way.

      I haven’t tried the methods you listed, but I may play with them, in the future.

      I love having access to so many ideas!

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