Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Want To Be a Planter

Sia had a lovely guest scheduled for today who unfortunately had to reschedule. So today I'm filling in instead. ~ Kat Sheridan

I’m going to try to be a Planter.

I'm thinking this is a Pumpkin Spice Latte
OK, I know how weird that sounds. But hey, it made you look, right? Let me explain.

NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month, begins on November 1st. For those unfamiliar with the insanity, the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words every day. For the first few days it’s not bad. You might even skip a few, seeing the month stretch endlessly out before you. “I’ll just write twice as much tomorrow,” you tell yourself. If you’re not careful, that quickly becomes “OMG, even if I write 20 hours a day for the next three days, I’ll never catch up!”

Not that that’s ever happened to me. Ahem. Anyhoo.

The idea of NaNo is to turn off your inner editor and just write. Get all free spirited and new-agey and unleash the Kraken and stuff. For someone who’s a pantser—one who writes by the seat of their pants—this is a wonderful thing. I’m a die-hard pantser. The novel I just pubbed, Echoes in Stone, began its life as a NaNoWriMo project. My very first writing project. Ever. Pretty much on a dare, I sat down at the keyboard and just typed like a fiend for 30 days, with no idea where I was going or what I was doing. Side note: that only got me halfway through the novel—it took another three months to finish it, at least ten rounds of editing and revising, and five years to get the courage to publish it.

Anyway. So that’s a pantser. On the other side of the NaNo field are the Plotters. These are the folks who started back in August with charts and outlines and spreadsheets and research and 3 x 5 index cards in multiple colors and use software like Scrivner and have read “Save the Cat” and have 35 chapters of three scenes each all mapped out and likely already have the synopsis written and the cover in the planning stages. I know people like this. I admire them greatly. I am not one of them.

For the most part, pantsers and plotters respect one another, in spite of the fact that we baffle one another.

But this year for NaNo, I’m trying something new. I’m going to be a planter, a combination of plotter and pantser. I’m going to be working on a project that I’ve been tinkering with for awhile, and which currently resembles hash. Or maybe a ball of yarn the cat got into. Or something you scrape off the bottom of your boot. In other words, it needs to be untangled before I go any further. So before November rolls around, and I unleash the NaNo Kraken, I’m going to do a little plotting. I’m going to at least have a proper list of character names because this manuscript is a beast of a thing with lots of moving parts. I’m not going to go crazy with making a note for each little scene, but perhaps a loose sort of plot outline might not come amiss.

I don’t know. It feels weird. But I’m trying it. If I know myself (and I do), I’m wagering that somewhere ten or fifteen days into it there will come a bourbon-and-Mozart-fueled night of writing frenzy and all my lovely attempts at plotting will go out the window.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be a plotter. But I can try to at least be a planter!

Tell me: Do you ever make elaborate plans for something and then find yourself doing something else entirely? How did that work out for you?


Kat Sheridan is a former project manager and business analyst whose very serious exterior hides a secret romantic. She is fond of books, bourbon, big words, coffee, and shiny things. Kat splits her time between the Midwest in the summer and the South in the winter, sharing her home with the love of her life and an exceedingly dignified Shih Tzu. No matter where her body is, though, Kat’s imagination can most often be found on some storm-wracked coast, plotting historical romances that include forbidding castles, menacing villains, and heartthrob heroes. She loves to hear from readers, and can be contacted at, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.


Johanna Garth said...

I love the term Planter!! I feel like that's exactly what I am. Good luck with Nano, even though I don't do it I cheer on all who do. :)

Kat Sheridan said...

Johanna, jump on in the NaNo flood! The water's fine! I know lots of non-NaNo folks who use the concept of NaNo as a time to set personal goals. Maybe not 50K words, but perhaps 100 words a day, or simply to journal every day for a month or other related goals. And thanks for the cheers. Along about the third week we all start to look a little ragged. As in homeless, smelly and insane kind of ragged!

Dani Harper said...

I think being a PLANTER will give you the best of both worlds. I started off as a dedicated plotter -- for about five minutes until my first character turned into a werewolf. I told him not to, but he did it anyway. Since that time, I've learned that I can plot all I like, but there are going to be plenty of times when the character does what he or she darn well pleases. I foolishly fought it for a long time until I realized the result of "character interference" is usually so much better than anything I could have planned. So I'm a happy hybrid now - part plotter, part pantster. LOVE your term "planter" (maybe because I'm a gardening fanatic!) Thanks for the post!

Mason Canyon said...

I wish I could be a planter about things. I am terrible about waiting until the last minute to do something and then I'm usually rushed and it doesn't turn out like I want it to. A fun post to inspire us no matter what we write.

Thoughts in Progress

Kat Sheridan said...

Dani, laughing loud and long at your character turning into a werewolf against your will!

I recently had dinner with non-writing friends. Suddenly, in the midst of a discussion about how a character of mine had a howling fit about my plans to kill him off, i got a good look at the expression on their faces and realize how utterly barking mad I must sound to them. Non-writers have a hard time fully comprehending just how real our characters can get to us, and how maddening they can behave.

Like you, I've learned it's best to just let the characters tell the story and try to "take dictation" from them as best I can. I can plot all I want. but there's always going to something that goes pear-shaped on me!

Kat Sheridan said...

Mason, I am a world class procrastinator. Just the WORST. Which is why this experiment in plotting (imagine me shuddering as I say the word!) is interesting. Or scary. Or just weird. (choose the word of your choice!) It may not work at all, but I'm trying to give it a chance. Check back with me in a month to see how it went!

~Sia McKye~ said...

KAT! You are the very best, my friend, thank you for the interesting article.

Yes, I've also let the NaNo Kracken loose for two seasons. I'm not sure about this one. I do have something niggling at my mind. Yes, I've actually thought of plot points...I am a very spontaneous pantser but, I do see the value of being a planter. I'm by no means the type who plans out to the nth degree what must happen and when. My plot points are sort of vague so and so much find this and do that and character X must come on board here...

Kat Sheridan said...

Sia, looking forward to having you as a NaNo buddy again this year! All I ever usually know is the two main characters and the end (yes, I tend to write the end first, then go back and work toward it). But for the current work in progress, I made a list and found I have 29 named characters (seriously), spread across two stories told 150 years apart. There's simply no way I'm going to manage that three ring circus without at least some kind of map!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kat, I hope it works for you! I am an extensive planner. My outlines take longer than writing and editing the manuscript.

Pk Hrezo said...

I'm one of the ones with the index cards and notebooks. I have to plot it all out before I draft. :D
Not doing NaNo this year, but I wish you good luck Kat!

Kat Sheridan said...

Alex, I know a couple of other planners, and always envy how fast they write. Then I rmember how much time they spent planning and plotting and realize it's a sort of "pay me now or pay me later" kind of proposition. I feared that planning would take some of the fun out of the discovery along the way, but I'm leaving myself plenty of wiggle room for that inevitable moment when a character changes his/her mind about something!

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi PK! I actually like index cards and notebooks and all those things, but I'm afraid it has less to do with actual planning and more to do with my secret addiction to fun office supplies. LOL! And good luck to you as well, however you're doing your writing!

Yolanda Renee said...

I do both - get the idea down, but it's a mess. Rewrite, organize, and detail. I've always wanted to write a perfect sentence the first try. Will never happen, don't expect that for my novels either!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Johanna, NaNo can be tough. I've never finished all 50k but I have participated two...hmm, might be three NaNos. It's tough but also fun.

Dani--LMAO! 5 minutes huh? But I'm with you and Kat, a hybrid.

Mason, I've been known to procrastinate now and then. Depends upon what life project I'm working on. :-) Most of the time I don't because catch up will about kill me. Not work it.

Kat--I'm still not sure about this one. I love our buddy system and we have some good writing buddies on NaNo--a couple who leave me eating dust EVERY year--still they're pretty great!

Alex--kudos to you. I couldn't plan and outline that much. I'd start yawning and lose interest. Not wired that way. But I like the results I've read in your books.

PK--I DO have a notebook and I use it when I'm stuck in a scene and writing long hand seems to unlock things for me. I use it to keep track of a few things.

Yolanda--Oh, me too. That perfect sentence or fully developed scene. Sigh...It ain't happenin' for me. The cool thing about NaNo is I drop kick my inner editor to a galaxy far away and just write.

Kat Sheridan said...

Yolanda, oh that opening sentence! So important and so impossible! But never throw those efforts away! Many, MANY years ago, when I first started my novel, Echoes in Stone, this was the opening line of the prologue: "The screams rose from the heart of the fire, an off-key soprano soaring above the basso profundo roar of the inferno."

Flash forward to the actual publication. The opening lines are now "Passion killed Lily. Passion and Dashiell Tremayne." The prologue is long gone. But that original opening line? A close facsimile of it still exists, buried somewhere deep in the middle of the book. Words are hard to come by, and I don't believe in wasting any of them!

Tina said...

LOVE this. I'm a total pantser. Wouldn't know how to outline since I don't know what my characters are going to do! And I know what you mean about non-writers and their blank stares...sigh. We're a weird bunch alright.
Planter is great new term. Just don't think it will work for me. I've been working on the same novel for two years now, but really only two months, doing two BuNoWriMos. I'm contemplating doing NaNo, because these challenges do kick me in the rear and get me going.
Oh, and speaking of characters and minds of their own...I got really pissed off when I realized my MC's real problem was that she was an alcoholic...sigh. Not good for a spy...
Nice to meet you!
Tina @ Life is Good

Jo said...

I think if I were a writer I would be a pantser. I cannot imagine all the work and plotting that some writers do although I am sure it is a good thing, but I think I would hate it. Hope being a planter works.