Someone else’s story

Allison Tait blog
Posted on January 19, 2013

The writing process is a mysterious thing.

One of the joys of being a ‘pantser’ (that is, someone who writes by the seat of her pants, with no plotting in advance) is reading through the story once you’ve finished. Half the time, you can’t remember a word you wrote and so you end up reading a book that was, ostensibly, written by someone else. Or at least I do.

You may remember that I took part in NaNoWriMo in November last year. While I didn’t ‘win’ and hit the 50,000-word mark, I achieved a respectable 46,000 words or so and ended up within spitting distance of finishing my story, a children’s manuscript. I started the month with a paragraph of an idea and ended up with an epic adventure. How this occurred is a mystery to me, too.

I think one of the most valuable things about an exercise like NaNoWriMo is the fact that to make the word goal, you have to simply write. Words on the page. And when you have to get them out, it’s amazing what comes out of your subconscious.

In the ensuing month or so, I wrote an ending and have begun reading the story aloud to Mr9, my harshest critic, looking for ‘boring bits’. We have found more than a few, but he has also laughed in bits that I’d hoped were funny and look worried in bits that I’d hoped were worrisome.

It’s not yet finished, but his advice so far: “Chuck in a few more battles, Mum. That’ll sort it.” I might add that this is always his advice. (I’m thinking that nuanced character studies may not be his forte.)

So now (having done some hasty research on ‘how to write battle scenes’) I’m going back to page one to review it all.

I’m actually looking forward to it.

There’s nothing better than editing someone else’s work.

Do you ever read something you’ve written and think ‘where did that come from’? Or is it just me?


  1. Melissa Mitchell

    I had intended to do NaNoWriMo but we had house guests and I froze and it all ended up being kind of a write off. But I had 2 paragraph sized ideas. They haven’t really gone away, so maybe I ought to brush one of them off. One of them was a book for my almost-10 year old. Needs some battles too. 🙂

  2. Allison Rushby

    ‘Pantser’. Shakes fist and all that.

  3. Allison Rushby

    You said the ‘p’ word.

  4. Claire Hewitt

    Not much, but sometimes I read very old blog posts and think – did I really publish that crap.

  5. Anna Spargo-Ryan

    Yes ma’am, most of the time. I like to write very late at night and then re-read in the morning and imagine what kind of person wrote those words down. Sometimes they’re better than I expected; often they are much, much worse. This might be my favourite thing about writing.

  6. Juggler

    I love Nano too. Last November was my fourth year and I am a complete pantser as well. Fortunitly I have managed to scrape over the 50,000 each year. I never heavily edit my books as they are just for me. I do use CreateSpace and have them all done in a proof copy and have them sitting on my bookshelf. My family have even got on the bandwagon and join me in the best month of the year.

  7. Garage Girl

    Love your work Allison, keep it coming… by the 1,000 words!

  8. Elisa {With Grace and Eve}

    I love that Mr 9 is your book consultant! And yes I do read back and think where did that come from, and where was I then? xx

  9. rhon

    All the time! I want to do a WriMo one day, but I never seem to get more than 10K words, although I guess if I do at least 5 I will get a real novel out of it!

  10. Ellie

    I agree with you, and Krissy. Writing’s a funny thing, but I find the editing somewhat crazy. I get much more creative when I re-write/ edit, and it varies greatly from the original. I did have a plan- ONCE 🙂 It takes forever (onto about the 4th edit) but is worth every slaved over word. Each time I think it gets better if less truthful! But it is so much fun!!! (elspethholden@blogspot.com)

  11. catseatdogs.com

    NaFebWriMo sounds like a plan Emily. Just the incentive to get words on paper/computer and who knows what will pop out! Can’t wait to read your story Allison, looking forward to the battle scenes! Good luck x

  12. Krissy

    I do that too. I have an almost finished YA manuscript sitting on my desktop, 53000 words, and I remember only writing a handful of them. It’s an awesome/weird feeling 🙂

  13. allison tait

    Great idea Emily – it’s worth it just to get those words on paper.

  14. Emily

    It’s so interesting to read this post because I am not a pantser at all. I’m a planner. An overplanner. My plans take longer (and often ARE longer) than the finished product. I might hold my own NaFebWriMo just to see if it makes me fly by the seat of my pants!

  15. Kylie

    I know this feeling well! Am writing personal development style book & get spurts of ideas where I handwrite pages of notes, usually after a shower. Have found heaps of these pages last week and thought ‘wow, that’s not bad!’ it’s like a force takes over and u enter zone

    • allison tait

      Totally agree Kylie!

  16. Kymmie

    You’re amazing Allison. You make writing sound so easy, that I think I could do it like you do! You’re a bit tricky. xx

    • allison tait

      Ah no – noone else has read it yet. It may turn out to be complete drivel! But that’s the joy and mystery of it all.

  17. Vicky Finch

    All the time. I have read back over some blog posts and thought wow, who wrote that! Or essays that I wrote for uni, and think, gees I actually sound like I know what I’m talking about.lol

    • allison tait

      Love that feeling Vicky!

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