NaNoWriMo ~ Quality and Quantity

Heffala put paws to novel
Image by bulldog1 via Flickr

3 weeks and counting….

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. This week has flown by and time is tick-ticking me forward to NaNoWriMo time. This week I have spent a lot of time perusing the World Wide Web for tips on preparation and inspiration for NaNoWriMo. In reflection of these sites, there seems to be a 50-50 sway on Plotting for NaNoWriMo, Some NaNo writers believe that plotting kills the whole concept of NaNoWriMo. They argue that NaNoWriMo should be an organic writing experience. Still others argue that it does not matter what you write as long as you reach the amount of minimum words.

As for myself, in everything I believe in Quality first. Yes I could make life easier for myself and just write whatever happens to enter my mind irregardless of the quality of the thoughts. On top of this, I also add that I take my writing very seriously. Even if NaNoWriMo is a competition to challenge yourself, never-the-less it is still a competition and in the end are we not trained to Go for Gold. Then surely this means that Quality and Quantity need to have equal parts in your NaNoWriMo.

What are your thoughts?

For me writing is reflective of who I am. Writing, whether it be in a blog post, for NaNo or a WIP; is about myself putting my best mental foot forward. When I get up in the morning and get ready for the day job I have a routine:

I have a mug of coffee and eat a healthy breakfast. Then I shower and get dressed. Finally I do my hair and makeup. This all takes about an hour of the day. When I get to work, I prepare the tasks that need to be accomplished for that day. Then finally I am ready for the work day to begin.

If I put so much time and thought into preparing for my day job, why would I put little to no thought in preparing for NaNoWriMo. The answer is I wouldn’t. If I put so much effort into my day job preparation then I must put the same if not more effort into any and all my writing pursuits.

This is why I rest on the side of the plotting and the Quality argument for NaNoWriMO. If I do all my plotting and preparation for NaNoWriMo now then I will be better prepared to write a quality submission. There is also another winning argument for plotting: If you have an outline of firstly what you want to write about and secondly where you want to go with your story, then you have a greater chance of succeeding at winning NaNoWriMo by writing at least 50 000 words of Quality writing.

Preparation is a key to self-discipline. A runner completes time-laps and has training runs to prepare both his body and his mind for a race. A student revises and studies course material to prepare for an examination. So what is the preparation for a writing challenge where you are to write a new piece of prose in a limited time span with a word count tacked on?

On the Twitter #group for NaNoWriMo, they have been doing NaNo Sprints. This is very good training for this challenge. It keeps your thoughts focused on the clock and on your word count. You also get into a rhythm that focuses your writing into a short time period. It also gets you to flex your writing muscles.

Another great way to prepare for this challenge is to Freemind. Freemind or Mind-maps are a visual way to plan your outline. I am a plotter in that I like to be prepared. This does not mean that I always stay in the lines but it does mean that instead of just one puzzle piece, I have a picture to reference that allows me to complete my jigsaw puzzle. Freemind is a tool I use to build the frame of my “puzzle”. Mind Mapping is a fantastic tool to prepare for any given challenge. It especially lends itself to something like NaNoWriMo. It is a very organic way to plot and outline without narrowing your thoughts. Instead it focuses your thoughts in a very visual way. Freemind is such a “free-flow” form of mind mapping that even pantsters can appreciate it. It works better for me than a bullet form or longhand written outline. I can combine short ideas with a visual graph that helps me brainstorm my ideas.

Another great way to prepare those mental muscles are writing exercises. These can vary from interviewing your characters to blogging or journalling in the voice of one of your characters. You could also picture yourself in the setting of your story and write a travel article for that setting. You could write a review of your unwritten novel focusing on the salient points. The ideas for the exercises are endless and are only bounded by your imagination.

One way I am also using to prepare for Quality writing is reading exercises. Reading is one of the best methods to stretch those mental writing muscles and the imagination arteries that fuel those muscles. The plotting, the word sprints, the main mapping and the writing exercises are all work for your mental muscles. They will strengthen and bulk up your mental muscles. However, you don’t just want bulk in muscle, you also want definition and tone. Muscles – mental and physical – are defined by stretching and toning. Reading therefore is the Pilates to your NaNoWriMo. So take the phone off the hook, take your wristwatch off, open a book and start “stretching”. I recommend at least 2 hours a day to these “Pilates” sessions.

Lastly, continue with your other writing pursuits prior to November. The more writing you do the more habitual it becomes. Writing everyday should be as routine as brushing your teeth every day. The more often you write and the more substance you write on a daily basis improves your writing. It becomes simpler to write Quality + Quantity.

There are 21 days left until the flag is waved and the race starts. Use these 21 days wisely. Remember the preparation you put into the simplest daily tasks and use that same self-discipline in preparing your mind for this challenge. Do research on how successful past NaNo winners have succeeded and listen to their hindsight when they failed. Don’t keep this challenge a secret but tell everyone you can about this challenge you are setting yourself. The more people who know you are doing NaNoWriMO, the greater are your chances that you will feel an accountability to both yourself and these people to put your best mental foot forward.

21 days and counting…..

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

11 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo ~ Quality and Quantity

  1. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!?

  2. I also agree: planning is an important part of any work and it does not make it any less fun or challenging. The other way also works for me, without any planning at all, so I believe it is only a matter of how you feel at that time. I love to plan, but sometimes picking up from nowhere can come as the greatest form of inspiration. Loved this post, simply amazing!

    1. Thank you for your comments Ratsel. I have also done both at times. Although I am a perfectionist at heart so tend to find it very difficult to not correct and edit at the same time as writing. That will be my challenge for NaNo. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. I’m a little mix of both plotting and pantsing. I’ll go through the entire story at least once in my head to make sure I have a story in the first place, and I’ll get to know my characters. I’ll world-build like crazy because I love that part the best 🙂 But I don’t write an outline and I don’t plot out what happens in what chapter (in fact, my first drafts are just one long chapter that I break up later in the editing process). I like all the little details to come as the story progresses and I like to give my characters the freedom to change the plot as they see fit (because if I don’t they’ll just stop telling the story, and then I have nothing!). I can see how either method could work for some people, but I like a mix of plotting and pantsing for mine 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments stickynotes! Yes I love world-building too. I also find that characters can take control of the story…

  4. Pre-planning helps Kim, without pre -planning though we may get our 50,000 words, they will be words that do not fit into the WIP (a jumbled mess which we may eventually shelve) or push the story forward.

    I agree that it should be both quality and quantity. That will the mark of our true success: if we meet the word count and have the stuff that pushes the story forward.

    1. Thanks for commenting Rachna. So true, you may still get words without pre-planning but they might be very jumbled. Very true too how each writer has to find the method that works for them.

  5. There’s a big difference between a spirit and a law. I fail to understand how pre-planning prevents the organic growth of a novel. In a perhaps poor analogy, even an organic garden doesn’t start with just throwing seeds on top of the soil. My pre-planning makes it possible for my novel to develop organically rather than becoming a chaotic mess that I’ll eventually abandon. To each their own.

    1. Thanks for commenting Catana. I think you misunderstand me. I am in full agreement with pre-planning and plotting. Many pansters I have been talking to online view their method as an “organic” one: meaning without any help of “fertilizers”, “pestisides” or “pruning”. In other words they view it as coming up with an idea and then just running with it throughout November. I, on the other hand, view “organic” writing as preparing the soil and the plant bed for the seeds to sprout: this involves pre-planning, nourishing the soil with nutrients and making sure of the placement of the seeds. Pre-planning to me is going into a nursery to buy a specific type of seed, one whose needs I have researched and prepared for. Whereas “Panster” is picking up a seed found on the pathway, not quite knowing what type of seed it is and planting it while hoping for the best. I have been a panster in some WIPs so I understand the pull of the pantster argument. It worked wonderfully for me this June when I did my own mini NaNo. However, I wanted to pre-plan and plot this NaNoWriMo submission instead. So having been both a pantster and a plotter I can see the pros and cons of both sides. Just like no two seeds are the same, no two novels are the same. I approach each of my works individually. Some of them need the pantster method and some need the plotter method. Both can have success.

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