Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fricassee

Two things on my mind this morning:  pantsing and slush.

First, the pantsing.  You all know I'm a Pantser in Recovery.  As in, over the last few years, I have learned the beauty of planning.  Not obsessive outlining; not anything that remotely looks like a synopsis.  But I will definitely never attempt to draft a story without a Beat Sheet again.

So it's NaNo month, and I'm occasionally asked, "Are you doing NaNo?"  And my response is always a vehement NO!  (Don't worry; there's a thread here.)  I'm a slow drafter and a careful thinker, and it would absolutely kill me to write a flood of words knowing in my gut that I'd be throwing sixty percent of them away later.

(Not everyone who does NaNo throws away sixty percent later. But I definitely would.)

I had a knee-jerk, anti-NaNo moment a few days ago when Beth Revis tweeted that she was doing NaNo.  She picked up on my incredulity and threw me a "Why do you hate NaNo??" email.  (Poor Beth.)  I don't hate NaNo.  I just don't see any value in it for me, personally.  Honestly, I have plenty to do.  Plenty.  The last thing I need is a new story that will be in horrible shape on December 1.

In the course of my conversation with Beth, I had one of my "a-hah!" moments.  And here it is:  People who find joy in the art of drafting are likely the same ones who get a thrill out of NaNo.  They're the ones who take that 30-day wonder and craft it into something that really works.  BECAUSE THAT IS HOW PANTSERS WRITE.

Nobody can argue that Beth is a successful author.  I love her writing!  And this is how she works--bonafide, no-holds-barred pantsing.  She gets the job done by spilling the story from her gut and then going back and fixing and re-fixing until it shines.

It's certainly possible to carefully plan a novel in the weeks before NaNo, and then sit down and write something that isn't broken in twelve places.  But that brings us back to the "I'm a slow writer" part.  I can't seem to turn off my internal editor long enough to free-flow.  And I'm perfectly happy this way.

(And it's no secret that I hate drafting.  HATE.)

So, really.  If NaNo gets your juices flowing and gives you a worthy project, then go for it.  As for me, I am perfectly happy not doing NaNo.  It doesn't tempt me. 

Chocolate, however, does tempt me.  Which brings me to the Slush.

I'm blown away by the 286 that came through for the YA/MG category of our Baker's Dozen this week.  I expected around 200 max.  So, yeah, I'll be spending extra time with Jodi Meadows over the next couple of weeks.  That's okay with us, since we, yanno, spend a lot of virtual time together, anything.  

Slushing, of course, is intense.  We Skype as we read, discussing each entry real-time.  Jodi is the Mistress of Spreadsheets, and she keeps track of all our yeses, maybes, and nos as we go.  (I'm so grateful for this; truly, I am spreadsheet-challenged.)  She also keeps track of things like tense, whether the protagonist is male or female, and interesting trends (last year, for instance, there was an inordinate number of novels that opened with sex).  I will have statistics for you soon.

At any rate, I needed a psychological boost last night as we jumped into the largest YA/MG slushpile to date.  So I bought myself two of these:

This divine creation is a chocolate cheesecake bite from Whole Foods--creamy vanilla cheesecake enrobed by luscious chocolate.

Oh, yes.  I can face ANY amount of slush with a cheesecake bite in my mouth.  That, and a glass of Toasted Head Chardonnay.

It was lovely.

So we're pressing through, hopeful that we'll produce a strong list of entries for our auction.  A reminder to those of you who entered the adult category: I will be sending emails to the 25 winners on Monday (the 12th).  If you do not receive an email from me, your entry was not chosen.  Please make sure you've got facelesswords(at)gmail(dot)com in your address book, to avoid hungry spam folders.

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. I think "enrobed" is my new favorite word. Yum!

  2. Are you still doing that extra submission slot for those affected by Sandy?

  3. Cindy Amrhein (@HistorySleuth1)November 9, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    My name is Cindy and I'm a pantster. There, I said it.

    I do a lot of non-fiction which involves research, fact checking, footnotes etc and it can get stifling after a while. So I do NaNo to loosen up and go with the flow. Shake out the cobwebs, and just have fun with it.

  4. I admire authors who NaNo, but I'm an edit as I go writer, S.L.O.W.(Silly Lover of Words?) I need that re-reading/editing time to get my head back in the story, and it keeps my characters' voices sounding right. My way works for me.

  5. This is my first year doing NaNo, and, while I am a pantser, I find I've put waaaaay more thought into outlining for this novel. Really, though, I just needed a kick to start on novel #2, and I figured this could do it. Since I'm writing MG, even if I end up deleting a third of what I wrote during NaNo, I'll still end up with a decent word count. Also, I know that even if I don't "win," I'll still be way farther ahead on my novel than I was at the start of the month.

  6. I am 100% in agreement with you, Authoress :-).

    For those who can pants a novel in a month, more power to them.

    It just ain't me :-)

  7. I feel like there's huge value in those of us who are planners to learning how to unhook, and NaNo definitely does force that, doesn't it? In a way, I wish I'd done it a year or two ago bc the steepest part of the learning curve for me in completing my YA was figuring out how to stop retreading every sentence a half dozen (okay, two dozen) times and force myself to move forward. Not just to get the damn thing down on paper--though that, too. But also because all my excruciatingly crafted darlings were actually standing in the way of a readable YA book that flowed. There was a moment this year when I put down the very good YA I was reading nearly in shock, realizing that even the Meg Rosoffs and Maggie Stiefvaters and Lauren Olivers of the world use simple, straightforward passages interspersed with the gorgeousness to get the job done. For better or worse, NaNo does seem to give a kick in the pants to those of us too wound up in our own preciousness... I personally just don't like anything that fosters competitiveness between writers. And, in spite of all the supportive rooting from the sidelines, to me it still feels like a race.

  8. I'm sending virtual showers of chocolate rain to you and Jodi as you move through slush pile this weekend! Here's to chocolate fingerprints on paper!

  9. Well, I'm pretty much a "pantser" and have a love/hate relationship with drafting. (I LOVE revising.)
    I'm doing NaNoWriMo (sort of)for the first time, even though there are a million reasons why this is not a smart time for me to be doing this.

    I'm still working on "final" revisions for another novel (HOPING that it is going to get somewhere in the Baker's Dozen!), but I'm doing NaNo because when Dec. 1 roles around I will have something. Not an idea or a wish or a hope, but the bones, at least, of an actual book. I'm excited!
    Though I've been a fan of "freewriting" for many years, I learned a new freewriting technique from a teleconference/webinar by Angela Morrison on
    This technique focuses on dialogue and letting the characters talk and tell their story.
    It's working great for me with my new NaNo WIP.
    So, I think NaNo means different things to different people and works (or doesn't) in different ways.

    So if you like it and it helps you get something done, great. If not, do what works for you! One of the wonderful things about writing is that there are so many different ways that it can be done.

    Happy slush-reading,Authoress, and thanks again for doing this!

  10. Robyn - So much head bobbing to your comment. Great writing ebbs and flows. It's got to be a mix of wonderful breathtaking prose with some solid simple writing. We can't be screaming down that rollercoaster hill every minute -- that's when agents say, "Slow it down here."

    Authoress - I am so thankful for what you do. This site is my comfort when I'm having a rough writing day, pounding my head into my keyboard, saying "WHAT DO THEY WANT?" Then I come here, read some secret agent comments and take a deep breath and press on, knowing there is hope for all different kinds of writing. This site is my chocolate covered cheesecake.

  11. Then I suppose I should apologize in advance to Jodi... as she'll have to create another column in her spreadsheet for my genderless MC :)

    (#122 from the Nov. 6 sign-up)

  12. I've never been a pantser, unless you count my highschool fan fiction, and i've been using beat sheets for a decade or so. I've won NaNo the last 4 years. I think the key for me is to make sure i have a solid beat sheet and notes written weeks before NaNo starts, so then when it does, i'm ready to get to it. And because of that, my drafts come out clean and i even have time to edit and revise as i go.

  13. Happy slush reading Authoress! I finally entered the Baker's Dozen this year-- I checked and re-checked my entry before sending it but, as expected, I made a dumb mistake and did not include title or genre at the top!! Agh. I don't think I saw this mentioned in the submission guidelines, but I'm sure I was supposed to include it anyway--??

  14. I am a pantser. Outlining or planning gives me hives. I tend to get it all done at once then go back and edit. I am doing NaNo for the third time. Last year I wrote two novels. LOL.

  15. I'm exactly like you. Big cheers for the brave ones who can NaNo and whisk out a decent draft in a month -- but I know I'd end up with strange plot holes, missed opportunities and really ugly prose. I'm sure I'd have to throw out many chapters, and my ability to see the whole clearly would be skewed.

    Patience pays off.

  16. Happy reading of the slushpile! Chocolate wishes winging your way.

  17. This is my first time doing NaNo, although I'm not really do it in full - just a mini version. So far, my word could s*cks - I'm finding that I can't just write without going back and adjusting, improving, etc. BUT my true goal was to start a new story (I was suffering from major lack of motivation) and I have actually started something new that I'm excited about. So s*cky word count aside, it has served as the kick in the pants I needed.

    In other news, happy slush reading and a huge thanks for all you do. If I could send cheese cakes and wine over the internet, I would...after eating and drinking some myself, of course. :-)

  18. Admittedly, I'm not doing NaNo either. I'm in blog tour recovery for the month.

    And that chocolate and cheesecake concoction certainly looks divine and I'm positive it tastes better than it looks.

  19. DJ, The Lone Wolf WriterNovember 9, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I have to admit, I'm not big on NaNo. I think it's great for those who participate, but there's something about HAVING to write that hits my "problem with authority figures" button. Or maybe it's the sort of competition between writers other have mentioned, the "I wrote this many words, so there!" kinda thing. I never discuss my word count- I don't think it's relevant. I think where I'm at in my story and where I plan to go from there is what counts.

    I guess I'm a writing loner and need to do it on my own, if you count one cat on the desk and one on my lap as being "alone". =^..^=

    But I wish luck to all NaNo-ers and am drooling over the picture of the chocolate-enrobed cheesecake kisses. Good thing my keyboard is waterproof!

  20. That is an inspiring piece of chocolate covered cheesecake. Thanks Authoress, for helping all of us get one step closer to obtaining our dreams. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. :)

  21. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I've been called "anal retentive" and a "control freak" by my writing pals who say outlining "stifles creativity." For me, deleting vast chunks of an ms because it's crap stifles my creativity. I need to know where I'm going and at least have a rough plan of how to get there before I can start writing.

    I am doing Nano this year (because I have the start of an outline) and have used it in years past to "kick start" me when I've had a completed outline. I have no intention of getting 50K words onto paper in 30 days. Competing for word count rather than good storytelling doesn't motivate me.

    Now, the chocolate cheesecake, that's something that could motivate me!

  22. I agree with you on the NaNo bit. I do, however, use the "pressure" from everyone posting their word counts to motivate myself to write more.

    I double agree with you on the chocolate cheesecake bite!!!

  23. Is it Monday yet? I won't be surprised if I don't make the cut, because I know I'm up against some excellent writers, but the anticipation is murder! :)

  24. This is exactly how I feel about Nano and have for three years. I used to feel guilty or 'not a writer' for not participating (even worse for not wanting to participate) but now I don't. I realize it isn't the way I prefer to write and try not to sweat it. I will be glad when December comes so my blog hits pick up again, though.

    I thought I was a pantser, and I still consider myself one, but I have trouble with my inner editor too. I write a bit, revise it, write a bit more, brainstorm, write a bit. I don't know what you'd call that, but it works for me.

    Your cheesecake looks wonderful! Good luck with all the slush!

  25. This is exactly how I feel about Nano and have for three years. I used to feel guilty or 'not a writer' for not participating (even worse for not wanting to participate) but now I don't. I realize it isn't the way I prefer to write and try not to sweat it. I will be glad when December comes so my blog hits pick up again, though.

    I thought I was a pantser, and I still consider myself one, but I have trouble with my inner editor too. I write a bit, revise it, write a bit more, brainstorm, write a bit. I don't know what you'd call that, but it works for me.

    Your cheesecake looks wonderful! Good luck with all the slush!

  26. I'm surprised the YA/MG didn't totally fill up all 300 slots. The YA world is just huge online, it seems like it's growing all the time. I'm so glad for blog contests like this--I've gotten excellent feedback from some other contests this year.