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  • Writer's pictureJ.M.

NaNoWriMo 2019, The Beginning . . .

Graphic of a pair of trousers or pants if you're American.
Nanowrimo 'Pantser' Badge of Honour

People who write novels are either pantsers, i.e. they do very little, if any, planning and write by the seat of their... or they're plotters, which means they think everything through – characters, backstories, motivations, arcs, trajectories, what happens and in what order... the lot.

Or they do a bit of both.

I'm more of a pantser.

A lot of a pantser.

I decided to actually write the sequel to The Wonder Girls, which I'm unimaginatively calling TWG2 Draft 0, about late September this year. I was always going to write one, at some point, in theory. I'd purposely left a few threads dangling and had one or two ideas leftover from book one that I could recycle. After putting all this effort into sending Baby, Ida, Fingers Brian and Gin out into the world, a sequel was the next logical step. But until three weeks into October, I didn't really have a big idea to hang those dangling threads on. As you're supposed to start Nanowrimo on 1 November and keep up 1667 words a day in order to make the 50k word target by 30 November - that was leaving it a bit too pantsy.

But towards the end of October, a piece of 1930s history that I'd been vaguely aware of for a year or two, presented itself. I found lots of interesting information about it down in the basement of Southampton Civic Centre, where the archives are stored, and in some oral history recordings, with a whole bunch of other stuff, up at the University. Boy, oh boy, did that make me feel like a proper author.

However, regurgitating history makes an essay more than a story. Probably not even a very good essay. I needed a what if. But having done more research at the outset of writing a book, than I'd ever done before, it became impenetrable. I had lots of interesting material but no way into it.

Panic set in. 1 Nov was hours away, as was the launch party for book one, as was children arriving home and as was all kinds of stuff. Drat. I'd told people I was going to do it, write the sequel in November, made 'a public declaration' in an online writers' group I belong to and my brain had seized up.

Why do I always forget what I learned a long time ago? That the only way the story will come is if I start writing it? It's like stepping out on an invisible bridge of faith - do you know the bit in Indiana Jones? The bridge only appears when you take the first step, a leap of faith.

My fingers hovering over the keys early morning on 1 Nov was when I finally found the way in. It was obvious once I began typing. There is a chance that this beginning is just that, my way into the story, and won't make the final cut but that doesn't matter. I'm in.

Newspaper cutting advertising a public meeting in Southampton Guildhall
From The Southern Daily Echo, 1937

So for the last eleven days I've been feeling my way from that point. It's like the fog clearing, like the story has always been there, I just have to discover it. It was about day six when I knew where the story was heading and how it should end. How to get there is still mostly a mystery, though. But that's what makes it exciting. I'd be so bored if I knew everything - it would be like writing an essay and I was never a fan of that.

I'm at 18,425 words, which is on track. But I'm about to enter the swamp - the middle of the story where it can all go horribly wrong.

See you on the other side, about 22 Nov.

I hope...

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1 Comment

Good for you, Ms Pantser! Enjoy the unknown as it evolves.

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