How my ZWD made me a plotter.


Zero. Word. Day.

The bane of NaNoWrimo’s everywhere.

That horrible, horrible day when no words will come no matter how hard you try. Or the day when life gets in the way and prevents the writing.

This is your brain on writing.
This is your brain on writing.

I think right around this time last year I was talking about how every NaNoWriMo is different.

It is not to be expected that the experience of the previous year will carry over into the next.

I did not lie.

It's baaaaaaaaaaaaack
It’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack

I, proudly, am a pantser. I wear the badge. I subscribe. I fly by the seat of my pants. I write novels not knowing what the hell is going on until the edits.

I am a wreck.

If you noticed, I have a fun little widget on the left of my blog showing how many words I’m on. Right around 35k is the number as of last night. Might be Friday night, I don’t rightly remember. Anyway, not really the point. Well, it kind of is.

35k is where I stalled out. Now, keep in mind, that last year I would have gone into the SECOND WEEK of NaNo looking forward to hitting the 30k mark, maybe just over. Never in the three years that I’ve done NaNo have I ENDED a week at 30k, let alone above it.

That was problem number one.

This is the whine warning. Turn away now while there's still time.
This is the whine warning. Turn away now while there’s still time.

Problem number two is the same problem I always run into but never address because I ignore it. Like an addict, I know there’s a problem, but if I don’t pay attention to it, it’ll go away.

Plot is the problem.

Or rather, too much of it.

Which one of you shall I eat first?
Which one of you shall I eat first?

I’m one of those people who can very easily say “and then!” and keep right on going on even though the poor person I’m talking too has that glazed look in their eye.

My problem goes something like this:


Stories don’t need more, in fact, stories need less. Sometimes, a LOT less. Pack too much into a story and the threads get tangled. mom, okay?
Just….call mom, okay?

It’s frustrating. It hurts. It makes you think the whole writing endeavour is not worth it; you suck, you fail, a whole litany of other bad feelings and words that absolutely ran through my head last night as I was trying to sort my story out.

I have a pretty good system built it. When something is wrong – or when I’m doing something wrong – whatever I’m working on shuts down. It’s the same system for writing as it is for drawing. I can’t tell you how much I cried when I was in my very first drawing from life class and we had to draw fucking fabric, or how dangerously close I was to giving up on the whole writing thing permanently because I’ve been working on the same story for so long.

It didn’t feel worth it. It felt like that feeling I get when I look at Sakimichan’s art on deviantArt and know, deep down inside, that I will never be as good.

It sucks.

It’s not true. Of course it’s not true. But it still sucks.

So, I told myself, like I do, that there will be no giving up. I will not fail at something that is, for all intents and purposes, supposed to be fun. And, I mean, for fucks sake I’m supposed to have a book to put out! I can’t fail!

So what did I do?

I cried.


I cried and I went to the only two people I could for help. I want to say that I asked in a dignified and straightforward manner for help.

But I didn’t.

I whined through the Facebook messenger. I’m pretty sure I grovelled. I begged and pleaded because I didn’t want to fail. I want to tell this story. So I wailed.

I have two of the best friends and writing partners anyone could ask for. They are patient. They are kind. And by some grace of whatever god is up there, they haven’t throttled my dumbass yet. They both told me the same thing they’ve been telling me.


This picture. For so many reasons.
This picture. For so many reasons.

I’m pretty sure if Shiri could have, she would have reached through the interwebs and smacked me upside the head. Jennifer too. Lucky for me, that kind of thing isn’t possible…….yet.

Shiri laid down the law, she gave me an assignment. Outline everything. One page character sheets with motivation and arc, part numbers, chapter numbers with the beginning and ending sentence for each, and three key things that happen in each chapter. Do it all and you’ll have a book.

Me v. Plotting
Me v. Plotting

I want to say that I rebelled, that I shook my head and resolved to go about my own way of doing things and came out on top.

What I really did was sit my ass down at Chili’s, got waited on by a really nice bartender who guessed my love of Arnold Palmer’s accurately, had a swell burger, and plotted out my entire book.

To get good at something, you have to be willing to learn new tricks. Like any thing in this world, NaNoWriMo is a learning process. And learning takes practice. And sometimes a zero word day.

(Plotter for life!)