I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time in 2009. I’d heard about it from a writer friend in 2008, but forgot about it until December of that year. So in 2009, I was determined to be ready.
For a long time I debated on whether to be a Pantser or a Plotter. Since I had three months to kill before I could actually start writing my novel, I decided to plan, although I had never planned a novel before.
So began an insane amount of character profiles, location descriptions, even a tad bit of actual research, since my novel would be taking place in the French West Indies. I even wrote an entire synopsis for the novel. By the time November 2010 rolled around, I had 20,000 words worth of plotting. I dove into that novel like a happy seal into the ocean.
When I reached the 50,000 word mark – a pivotal moment in my 80,000 word novel – I lost interest. It wasn’t the novel’s fault, because I was still in love with the story. But I was bored out of my mind. So I did the only thing I could think of: I started writing the sequel, and Angel from Hell was born.
I already knew how the first on ended thanks to all my careful plotting, so I could pick up in the second novel with no trouble. I already knew I’d wanted the first novel to be the first of a trilogy, so it wasn’t like I was pulling this second novel out of a hat.
But, essentially, I was. I didn’t know what it was about; I simply started writing.
“I don’t want to do it, Hell. Please don’t make me.” I was blubbering like – well, like a nine-year-old. A nine-year-old holding a gun in her hands.
And from that first paragraph, I wrote 50,000 words without the painstaking character sketches and outlines. After 50,000 words, I once again got bored and went back to the first novel, finished it up, then came back and finished up the second one.
Both novels were written as well as one can expect from a first-time NaNo-er (I prefer the second, personally, because it has my absolute favorite character co-starring).
But the thing I learned? I’m not a pantser. At all. But I’m not a plotter, either.
I’m a plotter AND a pantser.
I can do either or. Some novels require planning. The first novel, A Sacred Promise, required planning because of an intricate timeline, a lot of back story, and a fictional element added to a historical one. But Angel from Hell required little to no planning because, while there was a lot more action going on, it followed a simpler timeline.
Summer Rush got an outline. The five novels that followed A Sacred Promise didn’t. An outline killed Not Another Stupid Romance. Not having an outline killed Elsewise.
I’m still in the process of figuring out which ideas need outlines and which ones done. There’s been a bit of trial and error. But now I know I can do either one, and I’ve figured out that little bit more about myself as a writer.