I’m happiest when I sit down with my laptop, turn on my iPod and write. I love not knowing beforehand what I’ll write or what kind of trouble my characters might get themselves into. Often I’ll listen to the words in a song and go from there. In the writing world, this is referred to as a panster. Before I was bit by the writing bug, if someone were to ask me what a panster was, I would probably respond with, “A person who sews or hems pants, like a seamstress.”
Of course, this type of debauching behavior is completely opposite from my punctilious and obsessive list making personality. I like order. I like things done a certain way some might call me a perfectionist. One would think I would embrace outlining with open arms, but so far, I don’t get warm and fuzzy when I think of outlining a story.
I associate my previous attempts to outline with high school algebra tests from many years past. I thought I knew the material, but when the test was placed in front of me, I froze. This is what happens when I sit down to attempt an outline. My mind drifts into summer vacation mode and suddenly writing isn’t fun.
Unfortunately, exhibiting panster behavior during my last participation in NaNoWriMo didn’t work out in my best interest. The first week was great. My iPod was jamming and I was excited. I was developing my characters as I went along making them do whatever I wanted them to do. Then it happened. By the middle of week two, I hit a monstrous roadblock. This is not a good thing when you’re under pressure to write 1666 words a day just to keep your head above water.
All of a sudden, I felt like Hansel and Gretel. I was lost in the woods and I had no idea where to go. As a result, I wandered. I filled the pages with useless dialogue and weak scenes that didn’t advance my plot. I worked my way through the roadblock and completed the challenge, but not without a few migraine headaches and a great deal of wasted time.
This year, with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I have decided to try a different approach. I plan to embrace my anal-retentive tendencies and outline my story. I realize I’m starting a little late to have a thorough outline. Many participants have been outlining for months, but that’s ok because NaNoWriMo isn’t about following the rules of writing. It’s about getting the words on the page.