The First 10,000 Words

The problem with pantsing NaNoWriMo is that the first 10,000 words are easy.

These are the words that have been building up all of October and are under high pressure by the time we release the floodgates on November 1st. They are the scenes we’ve been thinking/sketching/dreaming about and it takes very little effort to turn them into wordcount.

It’s the next 10,000 words (and the next, and the next) that get fuzzy.

Which is rather counterintuitive, after all you’d think once we’ve gotten the ball rolling that the plot and the characters will just grab it and go… but the further along you get with your NaNo novel, the harder it is to add to it.

That’s because it’s not just an idea splashed onto a blank canvas anymore, now there are lines we have to color inside, rules about the world and about the characters than bind us. Events have to follow one another in a logical fashion, facts and timelines have to keep faith with what’s gone before—

Only they don’t.

NaNoWriMo is a rough draft and it’s the time for messy coloring and multimedia montages that you know will end up on the cutting room floor. Long rambling bits of history, backstory, things that never happened because they don’t have a time or a place where they fit. Songs sung while traveling, cooking recipes, and other daily minutia that don’t forward the plot or put guns on mantels.

Write them anyway.

Because there are very few novels that end at 50,000 words and there’s always more story to find.

So follow the wild geese and white rabbits—explore things that don’t fit, try on different POVs, add in characters and then take them out again, sink your hands into that primordial ooze and play.

Pantsing means no outlines, no guideposts, no lighthouses to guide your way. The only thing you have to chart your course against is what you’ve already written and I say throw that away too.

November isn’t for masterworks it’s for mud pies and ninjas, for putting together things that don’t fit so that when you step back in December you can see the shape of the story.

And when in doubt, start the next line with ‘And suddenly’…

Martha Bechtel

My name is Martha Bechtel and I write fantasy and science fiction stories, paint small model horses silly colors, cast resin and plaster magnets, code random code (and Wordpress plugins)... Come on in and join in the fun!

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