Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNo, first-drafts, and pantsing-process

It's been a while since I've worked on a first draft. I think I finished the 'Brake Fluid' draft sometime back in June (too lazy to check/confirm at this moment), and since then, I have been single-mindedly editing/re-reading/polishing/etc.

It feels a little weird to be working on a first draft again. Like, if you've injured your dominant hand, and have to use the other one for a while. You know all the motions, but the angle and strength are different. You have to think about what you do it instead of just doing it. Everything seems slower and less efficient.

Yup, that's what first-drafting feels like to me, as a pantser.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing them, because I get the change to discover new stories, new characters, new worlds. I write to find these things... which is why I get no pleasure from plotting/planning ahead of time.

But it's still difficult.

I still have moments (lots of them in fact) when I get so frustrated with myself for not knowing what happens next... when I'm stuck mid-scene with no idea what the next line of dialogue could be.

Today was full of moments like that. I took a lot of breaks, did laundry, washed dishes, brought in more wood and kindling for the fireplace. I read blogs, checked email... played solitaire on my phone (I may have a slight addiction...).

I barely scraped in 1,700 words. I'm still short by 866 words from being on target, but the word count isn't what's frustrating me.

It's not knowing how the very last scene I wrote connects with that 'lady of crows' scene I wrote a few days ago. I'm not sure if they are separated by a day, or a week of in-novel-time. I don't know if my characters head north, or south, or if they argue and go in two different directions.

So what did I do to raise my word count today by those measly 1,700 words? I went back and fleshed out earlier scenes, ones that were so sparse, they were little more than dialogue and a few transition sentences. I looked for parts I had written earlier than now needed to be changed. For where I automatically typed 'day' when what I meant was 'night'. I gave Mica some of the qualities that drive me crazy in my own dog (the beagle).

Apparently that's part of my process. Write sparsely, then when I open the file the next day, I go back over the previous day's scenes, fill them in, and get myself back into the head-space of the story that way.

Or that's how it should work, normally.

I didn't beat myself up, but I'm disappointed in my progress. I wish I had caught up and surpassed the 8th day word count goal of 13,333 words, especially since I'll be gone this coming weekend and will lose another 2 days of writing time, plus more later this month.

But I also think, maybe I did just need a break today, and that should be okay.

It has been a long time since I've exercised my first-draft-muscles, and perhaps this lull is a momentary rest for my brain.

Maybe when I wake up tomorrow, I'll know who Issa bartered with, and what they wanted with the snow-bear coat. Maybe I'll know if the crow-lady goddess will help, or hinder their travels, or what changes Mica is going to go through now that he's developed a taste for god-flesh...

How is everyone else doing? Do you find it hard to get back into writing first-drafts after spending time editing/polishing a story? How are you other NaNo-participants doing?


  1. As my dad used to say quite often, "you can't fit a square peg into a round hole." But sometimes you can if that square one is smaller than the hole. All that to say, sometimes you just have to free the mind by doing other things. You'll get on track with a 3-4,000 word day. Hide and watch. Cheers.

    1. Heh, very clever :)

      Since I woke up this morning brimming with ideas, perhaps this will be that day ;)

  2. Writing first drafts can be a bit daunting after months of rewrites/revisions/edits. But you're slowly working those familiar muscles again and may find yourself pecking at the keyboard with ferocity as some of the pantser in you catches tail of a scene and runs.

    1. Glad I'm not the only one!

      ...and yes, this morning I may have gotten wind of the next scene's scent... let my put on my Vibrams and I'll be ready to track it down ;)

  3. Ah, that's good you don't beat yourself up about not having a certain word count. I think mulling and re-figuring is an important part of a writer's process--for either pantsers or plotters. Happy writing!


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