Are you going to NaNo this year? I am a NaNo newb, but it’s not my first time challenging myself to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I skipped out on NaNo last year because I’d actually just finished my first draft of my YA novel, Taciturn, at 1:30 a.m. on November 1st. I was far from ready to go with a new idea, and because I pantsed the crap out of that YA novel, I had a LOT of editing/revising to do to get it in shape to share with anyone outside of my CP.
Yes. I’m making excuses, but they’re valid, right? Fast forward to June of 2013. My day job is about to go on hiatus (I’m a teacher), and I have a new novel beat sheeted and ready to go. This is when I learn about JuNoWriMo. So I sign up, and I download the word counter, and I write. I compete against my own motivation and my own time management. And I write. I write 50,000 words in 30 days. Oh yes. Even on June 30th, when I was 1,000 words away from “winning,” and I was out [relatively] late at a GoGos and B-52s concert [don't judge], I sat down at my laptop and hammered out that final 1,000. It may have been after 1:00 a.m. when I finished, but since I hadn’t gone to sleep yet, it was still June 30th to me, and I was the sole judge of my win, and WIN. I. DID.
Despite the already opened Halloween candy [gotta taste test for quality control], it’s not October 31st and the tricks and treats that I anticipate. It’s NaNo Friday. And once again, I’m beat sheeted and ready to go. I’m more scared this time than in June. Because I’m also working. And parenting. And querying. And ALL OF THE THINGS! But I’m up for the challenge, and I’m not doing this alone. My CPs and I have our fifteen beats and opening chapters and lots of adrenaline. Let’s DO this!
Ok. I know. I know. What’s beat sheeting? “Since brevity is the soul of wit… I will be brief…”
Or long-winded. I can’t help it. It’s NaNoWriMo, and I’m EXCITED!
Brief let me be. Beat sheeting is what turned me from a pantser to a plotter. It’s what [hopefully] solved any problems I’d had previously with story arcs and pacing. I will forever be indebted to a wonderful educator/blogger/writer called Jen for introducing me to Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat, which has taught me so much not just about plotting and outlining, hitting all the 15 beats of a story, but also about writing log lines, which I’ve turned into queries.
I know everyone has their writing thing, and beat sheeting just happens to be mine. And it’s kind of my CPs’ thing too. Did I mention I have some amazing CPs? *waves to Jen, Megan, and Natalie* Hi guys! They read my 15 beats, all 4,000 words, and helped me fine tune my story before it got to novel phase [that's for NaNo]. And I asked them to try beat sheeting too. And they loved it. I swear this is not an infomercial for Blake Snyder’s book, but we all just had such a great experience with the beats for our NaNo books that we wanted to share the love with all of you.
Megan: Typically, I’m a pantser. This year I don’t have nearly as much time [as last year's NaNo], so I thought I’d give beat sheeting a chance. Turns out, it was really fun for me to use Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet to work out my plot. I’ll see how it comes drafting time, but I feel really good about it.
Natalie: This is my first time using it, and I cheated a bit because I’d already outlined the book in Scrivener and then just had to figure out where everything fit. But I was glad that the story in my head was matching the arc that Blake Synder laid out!
Jen: Using beat sheets, I outline all the plot points as much as I can before I start writing. Surprisingly, there’s still room for my characters to surprise me and grow in unexpected ways. I think that was my biggest fear in trying to be a plotter, that outlining would strip me of the discovery process.
So…do you NaNo? First timer or veteran? Plotter or Pantser? If you plot, what sort of outlining device do you use? Whatever your writing method, I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.