The Problem with Pantsing NaNo #amwriting

NaNo is the short name for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It takes place in November, and the goal is to write 50K in 30 days.

Three NaNos ago, I won. I’m paying the price for that now.

Oh, it’s not an issue with the quality of my work. No, I actually still enjoy what I wrote. But I wrote it all in one POV with the expectation of integrating it in with the other POVs at a later date. Here we are at that later date, and I’ve had to completely chop up my timeline. I’ve come to realize most of what I wrote that NaNo won’t survive, simply due to timeline changes. I even combined another two chapters this past week. I think I would’ve been fine if it was a single POV book, but since I didn’t have a clear idea of where the other characters were going three years ago, I’m facing the changes now. But it’ll be better! Really, it will.

I’m currently on what will likely be chapter 17 (assuming I don’t rearrange everything again). My current plan has me at 60 chapters. Of those 60, 36 won’t be impacted by my timeline changes. Not too terrible. I might not have reached halfway chronologically yet (3 1/2 chapters to go), but hey, half of the writing is done!

Have you ever had to completely toss out a novel’s worth of words? Do you work with multiple POVs? Do you have a habit of rearranging chapters?

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

17 thoughts on “The Problem with Pantsing NaNo #amwriting

  1. No, I’ve never done any of those things you asked about. You’re doing something about those novels you started and at least that’s something. Hope it all turns out well for you.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  2. I have no idea how you keep track of it all, but it’s awesome.

    I threw out the whole first version of my first book and massive chunks of the second. Haven’t finished with #3 so I’m not commenting there. XD

    I’m sticking with a single POV for now since it also limits what the reader knows, but I have toyed with the idea of adding in a second POV. Especially given stuff I have in mind for down the road.

  3. I still do think I’ll work on my first novel again, and when I do, it’s probably best to start from scratch. However, (as I’ve likely mentioned before) I now know I need to do a solid outline. A pantster I am not… Your mention of NaNoWriMo is timely. Two nights ago, I opened my file from 2013. I made it to 47,000 words. My goal was to just write, so that entailed working on a few chapters for my book, writing a few national park pieces (which will largely never see the light of day since you know who flew the coop), and in that file are also 21,000 words on ten short stories in various stages of development. I skimmed through them and there’s something there. Something worth going back to. Too bad it’s taken me five years, FIVE!, to open that file again.

  4. I tend to write from one POV, so no issue there. But, you can’t edit what’s not there, so at least you have something to work from. It’s all part of the process, eh? Good luck.

  5. I’ve never had the POV change thing, but I did have to scrap nearly my entire first draft of my first book because I ended up changing something significant to the plot (it’s been so long that I can’t remember what it was) but I remember thinking: is it worth it? Thank God I thought it was because (in my opinion) it benefited the story tremendously.

    It sucks having to cut so much, especially when you love what you wrote. But if it’s worth it in the end (and you believe it is) you’ve got to go for it! Trust your gut! πŸ™‚

    Thank you again for supporting me on Patreon. It really means a lot πŸ™‚

  6. No, but I have blended chapters together or split some apart.

  7. Well, you know that I’m a pantser too. It’s how my mind thinks: on the fly. I feel like my best work is when I give myself “permission” to just go wild and let the characters lead me wherever they want to go, and then the same thing may happen…I have to edit like a wild woman. The cool thing though, is that you know what you wrote rocks because you won. That means what you’re doing now will also rock. Keep up the great work!


  8. I write from an outline and detailed timeline, so I’ve not had to rearrange characters. I have chopped over 30,000 from a story before, but that was just trimming excess.

  9. Oh yes. I tossed a book. And rewrote it so I could get what I wanted. What was interesting was I wrote it really fast the second time. The characters and plot were all stored I suppose.

  10. All this headache and extra work will be worth it when you have a book that is better than you anticipated.

    I don’t rearrange chapters, but I have added in chapters, which means if I have two alternating POVs, I have to add two new chapters (one in each POV) so the arrangement doesn’t get messed up.

  11. Although I don’t do exactly that, Loni, I seem to keep reworking the same novel for NaNo/NaNo editing/CampNaNo/NaNo etc. Keep the faith and keep writing, Loni, you have the motivation.

  12. RR

    Yes, some times it happens. A half written novel gets tossed because it doesn’t work. But you are doing great! You keep up with all the projects.

  13. Happy Friday, Loni πŸ™‚ I am doing the very same thing now. I just finished a first draft of a manuscript and now I’m taking apart my first baby ever, and I’m changing it into two POVs. I can’t believe it. This will probably be my 6th draft and I think I have been working on it for nine years. I’ve learned a lot though through the process. Thank you for this post πŸ™‚

  14. My savior is Scrivener. Having the ability to rearrange scenes and chapters is such a huge help and timesaver. I don’t know how anyone would do it otherwise.

    I am a reformed pantser. It was taking me too long to finish a novel. 7 Point Story Structure beat sheet has been another lifesaver for me.

  15. I’ve never worked with multiple POVs. One seems hard enough πŸ™‚ I tossed out lots of words before, but never a novel’s worth. Must be so frustrating.

  16. How in the world do you keep track of everything?! I have enough trouble figuring out all the logic, etc for my novella and that is waaaaaay shorter than your story.

  17. I “pants” NaNoWriMo, but since that’s the way I always write, I’m used to it. Sometimes I juggle multiple POVs. It can be more interesting than using one, depending on the story.

    Back in college, I wrote a book that was 500 single-spaced pages, and it needed so much work, I finally threw it out and started over. The new version was a lot cleaner, with a simpler but more effective story. It landed me my first agent (who I’ve since had to fire, but that’s another story).

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