Are you a planner, a pantser, or some kind of combination of the two?
Before researching and beginning to plan my NaNoWriMo novel last year, I never really thought of my own writing process or the steps I could take in preparation to write my novel. I was always one to have some sort of idea in mind of the shape I wanted my stories to take. I allowed my writing, plot, and characters to naturally flow every which way until I had some sort of jumbled mess that took forever to wade through and come to a conclusion with. In short, before last year I was a serious pantser.
But pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants with a story) really works for some people.
Sometimes the natural flow of a story works (which I discoverd while writing a YA contemporary novel that still isn’t completed). You can allow things to naturally progress at their own pace. And then they take off, which can be really exciting.
The trouble with pantsing for me was that I got so lost in my own story and didn’t remember where I began and had no idea of where I wanted my novel to go next. So I got discouraged and my novel got put on the shelf, and hasn’t been touched since.
“But I can’t handle not having my outline!!!”- says the hard-core planner
In the beginning of last October, I began my research and planning for my NaNo novel. I found some amazing character sketch sheets and filled a notebook with notes, character sketches, and a very basic outline. It was the first time I really planned my writing out. But I read about the dangers of over-planning my novel and didn’t want to have such a tight, constrained outline for my novel that it couldn’t progress naturally. Some people can create a beautiful outline that is stunningly fool-proof and that they can directly transfer over to their novel.
I am not that kind of person.
Actually I’m kind of a hot mess while writing.
Maybe you can have the best of both worlds.
My character sketches were helpful, even though I didn’t really look at them. My outline kind of went out the window except for major plot points which I knew I needed and a lot of the details that I researched.
Actually I discovered that my structure for outlining was very constraining, and a loose outline was the way to go with my writing style and with this particular novel.
Having a good outline structure really helps too.
It wasn’t until I was revising that I finally found that outline structure that helps me outline basic plot points that push the plot along. You can get as detailed with the outline as you want, but this makes sure your novel is actually going somewhere. This video explains everything really well. Katytastic is one of my favorite vloggers and has great information about writing.
I now have this plot structure in mind as I write, and only outline a couple of chapters ahead in advance, so I have an idea of plot movement and let my novel progress naturally.
Could this be the best of both worlds? I don’t know, but it works for me!
It’s really all about what works for you.
There’s no right way to go about it. Each writer’s process for planning (or not planning) is just as different than their actual writing process. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why we have such radically different novels and stories. Which is pretty awesome if you ask me 🙂