Writing by Discovery
In writing, there are plotters – people that plot out their stories and follow that plan – and there are pantsters, which are kindly called “discovery writers.” This pantster signed up for National Novel Writing Month 2019 (NaNoWriMo).
I had an idea, a “what if,” and I had a deadline. Every night that November, after the kids went to bed, I followed my characters around for approximately 1800 words. Some nights it took an hour to meet my wordcount; some nights it took four. It was stressful, and I was tired, but it was only 30 days. I tried not to think about it during the day.
As a “discovery writer,” I honestly had no idea what was ever going to happen next. As I typed, I’d suddenly realize something about a character’s past. Or I’d leave a note to myself in all caps that said, “HOW LONG TO GET TO MARS?” – because now they were going to Mars (unplanned by me, but that’s where they were going, so I should probably find out more about it if I was really going to write this ridiculous book). I did research as I went, and kept a spreadsheet of links to NASA, MarsONE and studies about soil bacteria, which had – also against my will – become an issue on the space shuttle, and one that I couldn’t fix for months. I wasn’t in control.
The story went off in weird tangents – not my story, because my story was never supposed to be about space and soil – it twisted and turned. I wrote completely without a plan, without an ending in mind, and somehow, I managed to type my last word – my 50,083rd – just before midnight on November 30th.
It wasn’t the story I had planned to write, and they weren’t perfect words but there were 50,000 of them. I put it away for a month, then read it with fresh eyes, and while it was still imperfect, it wasn’t terrible. Over the next six months, in lockdown, I revised, expanded and rewrote while my kids sat and homeschooled beside me.
NaNoWriMo was a grind, but it gave me the reasonably short timeframe and the motivation I needed to finally write a novel. I even sat down to do it again this year. I wrote another 50K words in 30 days, but this time I was prepared. I wasn’t a pantster this time: I had an outline, almost chapter-by-chapter, of what I wanted to happen and what I wanted to develop. This story wasn’t going to go rogue on me (though it did, here and there), but I discovered something else: it wasn’t as much fun.
Ground Control is being published in e-book, paperback and hardcover formats in the Spring
(*My dear friend Joanne’s niece)
I received a copy of PERIGEE in the mail today. A gift from the poet Diane Kerr.
I had the honor of capturing her author photo which now graces the back cover of her just published poetry book.
Thank you Diane and congratulations on winning the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and having your book published at the University of Wisconsin Press.
To read reviews and/or purchase a copy click here
“Diane Kerr mentors poets through the Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Program at Carlow University and is the author of the collection, Butterfly. Her work has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Mississippi Review, and Pearl, among others. She holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Kerr’s forthcoming Perigee follows a speaker’s emotional reckoning with a traumatic secret she felt pressured to keep during her girlhood. In varied lyric narratives, these poems reinforce that shock and suffering have no statute of limitations.”
the point in the orbit of the moon or a satellite at which it is nearest to the earth.