Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Rough cut — plantsing away #nanowrimo2018


Week two of NaNoWriMo. I made week 1’s word count, but so far I’m slipping this week. Phone call with my daughter last night, who hasn’t registered for next semester yet –WHAAAT?! So, that, and reminding her to Do Her Homework before the day before the day it’s due. I know. What a concept.

It’s part of learning to manage time. And she’s trying, but boy, the call of procrastination is strong.

I am getting back into the routine of writing every day, which is pretty much the point, along with finally finishing my rough–really rough–draft of book 2. I’m still planning to work on a new book I plotted out but haven’t really gotten to yet. I did write a really rough draft of it, but that needs to be rebooted.

Anyway, every year around NaNo time there are posts and discussions about plotting versus pantsing, better known as writing “by the seat of your pants”. In other words, planning the story versus just writing and letting the story write itself (you know what I mean, like when the characters take the reins and head in a direction you didn’t intend them to go).

I like to think I’m more of a planner than a pantser. I don’t exactly outline, but I walk through the story. I have a starting point, I have an idea what will happen first, second, third, etc. I know who the characters will be, who the bad guy is, who the good guy is, and who the supporting characters are. This gives me a map, but leaves me room to wander a bit.

So, here I am, writing my minimum 1,667 words a day (ideally, 2k words a day, but I haven’t gotten onto that kind of roll yet), and walking through my path, and the story–erm, the characters started taking a side trip. Which seemed to work. Until it didn’t.

Wait, let me back up. I started with an apparent self-inflicted demise… or was it? The more I wrote, the more it wasn’t quite working. So, I wrote myself an inline note (I do a lot of those to remind me of things that pop into my head). And as I wrote the note, I realized why it wasn’t working.

Hoo-boy. I have a bit of revising to do. But this is a rough draft, right? It’s supposed to be crappy. Onward, ho!

Then I run into a scene that doesn’t quite go as planned. Those darn characters! The change seems to work, but the further I go, the more that change screws up part of the climax.

So, another long inline note about why the change made four chapters back won’t work, and how I can handle the storyline so my original idea will be a logial step in the plot. And now to keep going while pretending the dead end doesn’t happen and my original idea is a part of the plot.

As I’m going through this, I realized something (lightbulb moment!): my rough draft is my way of talking through the story to refine it. Not polish; that comes later. It’s like planning a trip. You check out the map (yes, the old paper ones no one could ever refold right), maybe highlight the route you want to take. Figure where to stop for lunch. How about a stop at a landmark or historic site; hey, you’re going right by the world’s largest wad of used chewing gum. It would be a great photo op ๐Ÿ˜€

So you head out on your road trip, stop at the chewing gum tourist trap, and hey, a few miles off the road you can have lunch at Ole and Lena’s Homestyle Restaurant, because you can’t go past NorwegianJoke City without stopping for their world-famous lefse.

And you can get back to the freeway the short way, or you can go ten minutes the other direction to visit Cousin Sven. Besides, there’s another main road you can take to get back to Grand Highway Junction. Cool. So after you hang with Sven for a few hours, you head out.

And you hit–you guessed it–road construction. Man, maybe you shouldn’t have picked this road. So, do you retrace your steps, or take that other rural two-laner? Hey, two-laner might be fun. So you take that route. Until you hit the cattle drive. You go back the way you just came. Sheesh. Should have stuck to the freeway.

And there is an ugly picture of my writing process. Sort of. I have a plan, take a few side trips, then learn I shouldn’t have taken that detour. Or the detour works for a while, or the detour leads to an even better trip through a state park.

Bottom line, the whole process of writing a rough draft is instrumental in refining the story, so take advantage. And that pesky internal editor can get in the way of the process, so send her on a month-long junket to somewhere. Remember, rough draft = crap, but it also equals an opportunity to make major structural changes before it becomes a lot harder to make them.

Hey, 860 more words for my NaNo count–woo-hoo!

Keep onย  writing, and enjoy your weekend! (and remember, less than two weeks until Turkey Day ๐Ÿฆƒ)


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, seven chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

31 thoughts on “Rough cut — plantsing away #nanowrimo2018

  1. I do like that word – plantser! I try to plan my writing, too, but things do happen. Life happens. And when life gets in the way, so to speak, or procrastination does, I think it’s important to forgive yourself, open that document when you can, and just do it. It takes more energy to mentally beat yourself up for not writing than it does to just get back to it, in my view.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm … Julie, this sounds like hard work ๐Ÿ˜“:) but I am sure the result, after road works and
    the like, will be worth it.
    I like the word plantser as it reminds me if planting something. I think I will settle for plantser with
    a scrap button handy.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your idea of planting something (and yes, definitely that scrap button!). I”m plugging along, slowly but surely, like the tortoise. I’ll get there, but not as quickly, I think, as I have in the past. Which is fine, because at least I will get there ๐Ÿ™‚

      Have a great weekend, Miriam!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The road analogy is perfect, Julie. That’s what it’s like even when outlining sometimes. Road construction and cattle drives! I’m an edit as I go writer… except during Nano where those in-line memos -to-self have to suffice. It’s good practice to just forge ahead, and sometimes forging ahead is how we learn what didn’t work four chapters ago. Congrats on finishing your draft of book 2. The muse much be thrilled! Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Diana! That sort of thing has happened to me in my last few projects, figuring out something that seemed like a great idea at the time does’t work five chapters down the road.

      I’m hoping my Muse will come back will some treats ๐Ÿ˜€

      Have a wonderful writing weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. I think that’s pretty much how I do things. Well, I start with a long outline–50+ pages–but after that we’re pretty similar. That was fun–and instructive–to read your process, Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! I don’t think I could do an outline that long, but I do have a tendency to rewrite my path through the story a few times before I start the draft, so maybe by that time I’ve gone through 50 pages ๐Ÿ™‚

      Have a wonderful weekend, Jacqui!


  5. Ah, detours. You never know what’s going to happen with them. I have every faith in you, Julie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Characters do love to take those detours, but like you said you can run into that cattle drive. Luckily they finally get out of your way and you continue. Have a great weekend and happy writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great illustration via the trip. Oh, that cattle drive. That would’ve been fun to watch for a short while, but I’d be cursing my mistake before long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That reminded me of a cattle drive my husband and I ran into when we were driving around in Montana years ago (before kids). And they were in no hurry to route the cattle off the road. So we waited. It actually didn’t take that long, but it was one of those things you can say later–yep, I’ve been in a cattle drive ๐Ÿ˜€

      Have a great weekend, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Being able to say that makes it allll worth it!
        I was thinking, as much as I’m happy to have the little dragon with me in my bag, I’d feel so much more confident with a big hulking night fury next to me. Not that yours needs to come, necessarily, but how about a hologram image? Will that be acceptable? Be with me but from afar? Double the dragon fire power.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are in luck! My Night Fury showed up last night claiming she was getting bored with her, in her words, “sabbatical because I didn’t want to share my Thanksgiving turkey with her”. (I can do Thanksgiving turkey exactly once–okay, maybe twice–a year, so she gets most of the leftovers anyway). I think she’s kinda envious of Grumpy getting to babysit me. So I told her about your writing conference. And she asked if you were the blogging friend I met this summer in person. I said yes. She said you were so cool, and thought it would be fun to go to the conference with you. I told her it wasn’t for a few months yet, and she said she could wait if it meant she could swim in the ocean for a bit (I think she likes chasing the seals). Bonus, she and the little one get along, so if you want them both, I could spare them for a long weekend. ๐Ÿ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, hooray! Double the dragons! I will be unstoppable! Are they good with taking their swim on my meal breaks? I uh, ahem, would have a hard time feeding them without breaking the bank. Tell them there are plenty of seals in La Jolla, not far as the dragon flies. You should probably show them my picture so they can get better acquainted with me. And I don’t believe I know their names! Only reputation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll show them your blog ๐Ÿ˜€ And they’ll be good to swim during breaks. I’ll make sure to tell them they should get their fill of seafood since they’re out there. The little one likes the name Blue Pearl (I told her she’s more purple than blue, but she said if I can’t pronounce her dragon name, she wants to be called Blue Pearl, so there ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ) And the Night Fury never told me her name; she just showed up one day and stuck around. She comes and goes as she pleases (kinda like a cat). I told her I would call her Wander. She looked at me, then left, so I’m not sure what that means. Until she complains, I’ll call her Wander. ๐Ÿ˜€


      • Wander and Blue Pearl. Those are terrific names! If I decide I need BP with me at mealtimes, I hope she won’t mind hiding in my bag as I slip her bits of my food. I’ll be sure to let her swim during the sessions to make up for it. It would be like double food that way. It’s possible I’ll need them to take turns babysitting me. We’ll see how far my confidence gets me.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. OMG, that was the perfect look at writing detours. I am SO THERE with you, Julie. All those side roads that beckon with promises of what’s waiting down the lane, only to end in an entanglement you didn’t expect. Even as I try to plan I still hit those detours and road bumps. Loved this post!!!
    Cheering you on with NaNo, and hoping you don’t encounter any “no outlet” roads ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Thanks, Mae! It’s so true, isn’t it? Sometimes those detours are the perfect route, sometimes, well, not so much. And I sometimes wonder if my Muse has a hand in those detours, kinda like Wile E. Coyote and his countless efforts to steer the Roadrunner into whatever ACME contraption he built. ๐Ÿ˜€

      No dead-end roads quite yet (at least none I can’t recover from), but my word count is flagging. Typing up a storm to catch up.

      Have a wonderful week, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love getting insight into your writing process, Julie. I think your side trips visiting cousin Sven and eating at Ole and Lenaโ€™s homestyle restaurant sound like a hoot. And you made me laugh at the image of photographing the worldโ€™s largest wad of chewing gum. I think I get sidetracked before I even open the map. I wonder what the term for that is? Procrastinating plantser?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lol, Julie. I can totally relate with this. When i draft, i have a rough picture of what’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen and so on. And then the story takes a detour, i take it, and if a scene comes up that clashes with something i wrote a few chapters back, i keep on writing – no notes for me (i’ll pick it up when i’m revising), unless it’s some much better idea and i need to change the entire previous chapter – in which case i go back and write a really crappy outline .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear ya, Jina! Yes, rough idea of where the story should go, and then when I get into it, the story goes in a different direction. And yes, I have gone back as well to write yet another crappy outline to work in the new direction. Or unwork it in. Or ???

      Enjoy your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So far, my NaNoWriMo story is mostly following the outline, but there are new things that are popping up along the way. Wait, my male MC has a baby sister that he doesn’t know about? A mage and a warrior are joining them? They’re starting an experiment in democracy before they actually see it? And who is the evil mastermind behind all of these assassinations (I still don’t know the answer to that one yet).

    I’ve made a couple of changes along the way, but I haven’t gone back to fix the changes, for the most part.

    Hope the rest of NaNoWriMo goes well for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Those darn new things that pop up along the way ๐Ÿ™‚ They can be a great new direction, or a nice fleshing out. I’ve had new ideas hit me as I draft, but more like “duh!” moments (of course he had to know Jimbo back in high school ๐Ÿ˜€ )

      Thanks for stopping by, Brooke! Good luck with the rest of NaNo to you as well!


  12. Julie, you never know where the detours will lead … sometimes a gold mine, other times you learn along the way! Sounds like a slightly crazy manic time with NaNo and family life – I hope your daughter is all sorted now and settling into her college and course. As you’re travelling along this month of writing, perhaps you can take a break from the road, head out into nature and a road with no obstacles! Half-way there today ad fingers crossed it’s going well for you. hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right, Annika! And every so often I do backtrack and take the other route. And I’ve discovered I learn a lot along the way. I just wish I could drive a bit faster ๐Ÿ˜€ My daughter is still adjusting to the the whole managing her time thing; she’s still struggling to get her homework done (it isn’t the time, it’s the focus and procrastination she has to learn to manage :D) I’m missing my walks: lots of trucks hauling during harvest + cold weather = no fun walking. I have been watching Bob Ross paint though ๐Ÿ˜€

      Hugs back across the pond to you! xx

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s