To cheat or not to Cheat

Warning, this is a classic Prudence MacLeod rant.
To cheat or not to cheat, that is the question. My answer is a big fat not. Oh, I wanted to, still do, but I just can’t. What the heck am I talking about? National Novel Writing Month, or whatever it is called.
You see, like a fool, I signed up for this at one of the busiest times I’ve had in years. Ok, 50,000 words in thirty days is tough, but I’ve done 80k+ in less time than that, so I know it is doable. So, how could you cheat? Well, the thing is pretty much run on the honor system, so I could pull a half finished manuscript out of mothballs and finish it off.
Yes, that would be a cheat, but I’m not alone here. I’ve seen several writers on Twitter boasting of how they already have their outline finished, characters sketched out, plot mapped out, and worlds created ready to go. So, I know I’ll catch a lot of flack for this, but it is a cheat. They’ve already got a month’s work done and only have to flesh it out. How is that different from me?
The truth is, I just can’t do it. When I was a powerlifter I had to compete against other lifters who used steroids and other enhancers, but I never did. I slept well at night, and want to continue that process.
So, here’s the challenge to all you plotter and planners out there. The story I was about to finish was called Immortal. You can look it up on the NaNoWriMo site. Tomorrow that will change to something else. I’ll start brainstorming at midnight and whatever I produce, and however much I produce will be done with a clear conscience. I wish all of you good luck, and at the end of November, I will sleep peacefully knowing I did my best and I played fair. 

18 thoughts on “To cheat or not to Cheat

  1. I've never really thought about outlining/plotting as half the job. It only takes me a few days to do it. Characters can still step in and make you have to rework everything.

    However, I've not outlined mine yet… I'll be doing that tomorrow haha. Soooo I guess I sort of agree with you 😀

  2. I've done it mostly without the outlining, just basically an idea maybe a few words on what the character looks like and I won one year and failed another. My reason for NaNo this year is because a few weeks ago I got hit with a story that won't Let. Me. Be! It's interfering with my work in progress so much that I haven't put in a new installation in my serial blog novel. Major problem. I've brain dumped in long hand, orally told my husband about it etc. Nothing is working.

    So, I decided to sign up for NaNo and using this dedicated month to brain dump it basically. Am I cheating? Maybe but I'm hoping it works for me.

  3. For me to jump in without the kind of planning you describe guarantees I'd fail. But it's in the rules as allowed so it's not cheating. Usually I'm in the middle of abook or revising so no Nano for me – because that' s not allowed and I can't cheat!

  4. I don't consider outlining to be cheating. Most authors outline before they begin really working on their novels. Then again, my outlines are usually bare bones. To each their own.

    And for the record, the NaNo rules don't say no outlining. They say you can't use prose already written. I'm sure some people toe the line pretty hard on that one, but again, that's they're issue.

  5. Hey folks, I'm not condemning anyone here, nor am I pointing fingers, I'm just challenging everybody to make this an even playing field. All rules are interpreted individually, these are my interpretations.

  6. Hey Coleen, I agree it is a big undertaking, no doubt about it. Plotting is allowed, but… I still have to write it then revise it in a month. I don't see myself as having an advantage here.
    No, I'm not competitive at all. tee hee Whatever gave folks that idea.
    I'm also going to spend lots of time this winter reading what other folks came up with for this. There should be some great stuff.

  7. Good luck with your story, Prudence 🙂 You've set yourself an interesting challenge. You said that you have already finished a bigger project so even with including the planning to the 30 days, you can do it.

    I'm a newbie writer who is intimidated by doing NaNo right now. I'm not going to risk missing even more valuable writing days, life is too hectic and stressful right now even without adding complications. For me the goal is to write 50K words in 30 days and if I do that, I have proven myself that I can write every day and reach a set goal, no matter what.

  8. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, so I'm coming at this as someone who has no vested interest in either side of the debate. That said, I have to respectfully disagree.

    The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50k+ on a novel in a month. The challenge only covers the actual writing. Planning is something entirely different, and it's a matter of personal preference, not cheating. To jump in without a plan (or to rush your plan in order to try to get down to writing words that count for the challenge) guarantees that you'll have a lot of unusable writing at the end.

    It doesn't seem like an efficient way of doing it to not have your plan laid out.

    I love and totally agree with what you said about not simply pulling a half finished manuscript out of the closet though. I think starting with a fresh story is important.


  9. I get nowhere if I outline anything. I think up characters and name them but if I go beyond that, I think myself into a box. I try to write and feel the restraint.

    I'm a pantser of extraordinary proportions so I alwasy dive in mostly blind. I thought up some characters for this year's Nano and as tomorrow approaches, I already feel myself leaning towards chucking them in favor of a blip of an idea I had yesterday.

    The rush of not knowing where you're going is fun but I realized it's also not the way for everyone.

  10. I decided against nano this year but I'll be rooting for you! Personally, I'm not a plotter, I prefer to write by intuition (King says that plotting is the jackhammer of storywriting and I agree with him on this)so if I were participating, I wouldn't outline. I don't do that anyway! Good luck to you!

  11. Wow, I love all the discussion here, I truly do. I know that some of you prefer to plot and plan, and that's Ok, but I just think it should be done within the thirty days. After all, I have to hit about 3500 each day so I'll have time for a fast edit and rewrite of my useless writing. (A little personal there Marcy)
    For those of you who are cheering me on, thank you, I will try to prove worthy.
    For those of you who think I'm full of it, I wish you good luck too.

  12. I signed up last year, got scared and didn't even start. I have an idea this year and may or may not do it. I don't know how to do all that you said. I am a novel virgin and I am learning as I go. I don't know if I am a plotter or a pantser somewhere in between. I will just write whatever, whenever, wherever just like I always do. I will not focus on word count, or even if I finish. I figure words for character development, words for plot development and words for outlining all count….right? If it's just words for story, I won't submit. Check me out, buddy/friend me I'm LadyJai there too.

  13. I'm with you, Pru. December is for editing, according to No Plot, No Problem the Nano handbook, and any planning is to be confined to the 7 days preceeding the beginning of November.

    It's supposed to keep it fun and madcap and "just get it written" which is supposed to be the point of Nano. Chris Baty, its founder, says that he gets hundreds of e-mails a year from writers that say they've got SOO much planned out and they just can't finish Nano because their novel deserves more time. According to him, a majority of these authors do not finish.

  14. I'm a NaNo rebel, and quite proud of it. As I see it, NaNo is a time for me to have a bit of a kick in the pants to get things done, and to enjoy the collective energy and community from others who are tackling a similar challenge. I didn't plot much more beyond the 1st chapter or two of my August CampNaNo story, and I regretted it mid-way through the month. It took a lot of quick thinking for me to recover, and I lost days along the way. This time, I have about thirty scenes outlined and lots of notes to draw upon.

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