Pantser’s and Plotter’s, and WriMo’s, Oh My!

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes1338212_30238506October 31st is upon us. For most of America that means getting kids suited up in Batman and Vampire costumes, decorating them with glow sticks and orange pumpkin buckets, sending them out into the neighborhood to go door-to-door begging and candy. It means an incessant string of children at your own door, possible spooky decorations and perhaps a horror movie or three. However, for a small percentage of people out there, it also means something else: the horrifying moment when the clock strikes midnight and November 1st arrives.

Why would the beginning of a month be scary, you ask? It’s not the beginning of just any month, it’s the start of November and that means the official kickoff of NaNoWriMo. No, I didn’t just mumble under my breath and I am not speaking with my mouth full. Sound it out, you can do it: Na-No-Wri-Mo. Or in plain English the National Novel Writing Month aka November.

While men across the nation are attempting to display their virileness by not shaving, a group of us are sitting down in homes, offices and coffee shops across the country to prove to… well ourselves, that we can write an entire novel in just 30 short days. Ok, maybe not a whole novel, but 50,000 words… which by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s reckoning that’s a novel. (The Great Gatsby is exactly 47,094 words and you thought it was long in high school)

If you come in contact with a WriMo (that’s one of the many terms we use for ourselves) there are some terms and topics that might help you in dealing with them effectively. Besides providing them with ample amounts of coffee and chocolate, those are methods that will always have positive results.

The first term is Pantser. No, I’m not talking about when Jimmy Dannigan pulled down your shorts in gym class in the 5th grade and everyone could see you were still wearing Superman Underoos (not that there’s anything wrong with wearing them –pulls up his shorts-). A Pantser is a WriMo or writer who has decided to literally write their 50,000 word novel from the “seat of their pants”. The sit down in front of a blank computer screen, empty tablet, or notepad and write what comes to mind. Now, they may have done a little bit of planning. They’ve thought about the idea of their novel, where it is set, who is in it, but they have gone through the rigorous steps that their mirror opposite has.

This brings us to the second term: Plotter. While the term may bring to mind the latest Marvel villain, sitting in a lair with steepled fingers desperately thinking of how to undermine Tony Stark’s latest project, it may share a little in common. A plotter is a writer who has gone through great lengths to think of everything that is going to happen in their novel. They will have outlines, pages full of character sketches and perhaps even maps of their setting. Their October will have been almost as busy as their November is threatening to be.

When you come upon one of these diligent WriMo’s it is best to first assess the situation. There are some things you can look for and ask yourself before approaching them:

  1. Are they writing? If the answer is yes, perhaps its best to back away now, and leave the coffee and chocolate on a nearby table for them. While your interruption might not be unwelcome, there is a possibility that you will stop their train of thought.
  2. Are they not writing? If the answer is yes it may be helpful to ask them what they are writing about. Giving a writer the opportunity to look at the forest instead of the trees could help them get back on track.
  3. Are they doing anything else other than writing? If the answer to this question is yes, the best thing you can do is ask “Why aren’t you writing?” Writers by nature are procrastinators. They will find any excuse to avoid the blankness of a screen or page. They will update Facebook, tweet to their followers, post cute coffee cup pictures on Instagram or check the latest analytics on their blog. These are excuses, meant to keep the WriMo from finishing their goal. Help them get back on track.
  4. Finally, the best question of all – “Why are you doing this?” This question may get you replies from blank stares to “Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” However, I am here to tell you the truth.


The real reason that these brave men and women have picked up pen, pencil or computer keyboard and set out upon a journey to bleed out 50,000 words in 30 days is this: It promotes literacy. It encourages not just adults, but children to read and write. The NaNoWriMo organization is a non-profit group that works nationwide with educators to help instill in our young, creative minds the desire to not just read stories, but to write them as well.

To help with this they take donations from the WriMo’s who participate in the month long writing endeavor and anyone else who wishes to pony up. To further encourage giving, each year duringNOWD-2014-Poster November they host the “Night of Writing Dangerously!” in San Francisco, CA. Here, WriMo’s that have been able to gather $275 or more in donations are treated to a special event and a 6-hour writing-thon! Imagine how many words one of us could crank out in that time.

Information on the writing-thon can be found at: And if you are so inclined you can make a donation to the NaNoWriMo organization through the website. If you’ve enjoyed reading this post and any of my other’s on this blog, I would be honored if you would make such a donation through my own personal page:

I started writing when I was 10 years old. I had a great deal of people, family, friends and teachers who encouraged me to do so. NaNoWriMo is an organization that can help promote and foster that kind of encouragement in our children.  So, the next time you see someone diligently writing away, or pondering in a piece of writing in your local coffee shop, give them a thumbs up. They’ll appreciate it. Cheers!


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