Monday, May 9, 2011

An Astonishing Discovery

I am one of the scouts that is taking part in Savvy Author’s Bootcamp.  Bootcamp is a gruelling month-long write-a-thon that has a writer pump out as many words as possible - preferably with the goal of 2,000 words a day for 60K for the month.  Now they don’t have to be perfect, actually they are far from perfect.  Think quantity over quality. 

My rules include no editing.  No proofreading and definitely no going back and changing sections.  Once I finish with a scene or a chapter, I move on and don’t allow myself to look back.  I learned that lesson in last year’s Bootcamp where my perfectionist nearly crippled my production.  That summer I learned that the point is to put words on the paper.  After all, you can always go back and edit. 

This is my second Savvy Bootcamp, and I’ve been successful at NaNo for two straight years, so as I prepared my outline for the month, I thought that I was ready and set to get it going again.  I had my deadline set and circled in red maker on my calendar.  I sat down in front of my computer, with my outline in front and readied myself for some serious big word counts.  That’s when it happened. 

Not even a week into Bootcamp, I had been following my outline, which also includes cue cards of well-drawn out, organized and preplanned scenes including point of view, setting, key points to hit, etc. when I suddenly became stuck.  The words wouldn’t come out and each word that did manage to make it to the page was laboured and forced. 

As I stared at my outline completely frozen, I realized that I set my character on a path that he would never follow.  I grabbed my character interview sheets and reviewed them.  Yep, I was right.  My hero would never do what I was trying to make him do.  My stomach lurched as I realized that I needed to start a completely new outline, a brand new set of plot points that it had taken me more than a month to construct.  I panicked as me, my life and my slight OCD had led me to believe that I was 100% pure plotter.  Bootcamp was doomed with that mentality.

That’s when I read Marilyn’s blog “Trusting My Instincts” and just on a whim, I opted to try just to freely write what popped into my head - without an outline.  At first it was hard, like an acrobat working without a net, but then it became easier and the words just flew off my finger tips - no outline needed.

Now I can’t say that I have no outline because I do cheat just a little.  At the end of each of my writing sessions, I write two to three sentences on where I’ve left off and my vision for the next scene or chapter.  I think of it as a spotter just to make sure that if I do stumble, I won’t hit the ground so hard, but the ability for freedom and endless possibilities as I sit down to write the next scene is very freeing. 

Bootcamp has taught me yet another lesson, I am a mix of plotter and pantser - I guess that makes me a "plantser".  Whatever I am, I am just happy that I am able to write again.


Michelle Dobbins said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I tried NANO for the first time this year and got 15,000 words and I'm doing bootcamp for the first time. I did great at first but the words have been very labored the past few days. I had most of the story plotted with some gaps in the middle and now I think I'm afraid I'll go in wrong direction but I guess if I just keep going, I'll at least learn more about my characters even if some of it gets cut later.

Ella Gray said...

I love that we do something that allows us to make up fun words to call ourselves, like plantser, LOL. Letting go of old habits can be hard, RJ - way to rock it out :-)

Jenn said...


Good for you for putting down 15,000 words! Bootcamp is definitely not for the weak at heart. *GRIN* I find that with my first (and second and some third) drafts are sometimes just learning experiences with my characters. Remember that you can always revise it. Thanks for your comment! And good luck with Bootcamp - I'm sure you'll rock it! RJ :)

Jenn said...

Thanks Ella! Old habits are definitely hard to drop, but its always fun to try. Sometimes something even better comes along. Thanks for the post! RJ

Marilyn Muñiz said...

I'm glad my post helped you out!

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