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Journal

Why I’m a Planner, Not a Pantser

Yesterday I wrote about completing the initial draft of the novel, and being unhappy with both the process and the result. I’m a planner, not a pantser, but I was trying to take a more freewheeling approach with this book. It was not fun, and the book is not good. Today I want to take a look at why, as a writer, flying by seat of my pants doesn’t work for me.

What’s the Plan?

When I have an outline, I always know what remains to be done. I can look at my notes and see, for example, that the scene where my main character meets with her father needs to be written. It takes place in a coffee shop, because they aren’t close, and I know what needs to happen within the scene. I am more likely to get through the required daily word count if the scene takes more words than I need to write today, and am also more likely to keep writing into the next scene if they connect and I know where the plot is taking me.

In addition to that, I’ve known for several days that this scene is coming up. I’ve had time to think about it, to pre-write some of it in my head. When I sit down to write it I know what things look like, and some of the key dialogue has been working itself out in my head. I’m not going into a writing session cold.

Without an outline, however, I only need to make word count. To achieve that, I can make up almost anything. It can be fun, because the story can go off in unexpected directions. You can discover things about your setting. You may learn new things about your characters. This is why pantsers enjoy being pantsers.

I’m a Planner, Not a Pantser

That doesn’t always serve the story, though. It doesn’t feel like progress has been made, at least to me. All I’m doing is throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. When you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere you end up is good enough. It’s far too sloppy and squishy for me. As I mentioned yesterday, the result is a manuscript that requires so much cleanup and rewriting. I’m basically just starting over from scratch for the next draft.

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Journal

Do You Use the Same Process for Every Novel

Today’s question is whether I use the same process for every novel, or if I take a different tack every time. In the past I would say that I had a consistent methodology over time. While things would evolve slightly as I found better ways of doing things, that was still an outgrowth of the same base process.

For my current work-in-progress, I made the conscious decision to do things differently. Most of my habit are based on cranking out word count to meet tight deadlines. I wanted to give myself room to meander, explore, and make more mistakes with this one. It’s a learning process and a journey, rather than a race to complete a finished product.

If you extend the question to include all of my writing projects in general, the answer becomes “it depends”. When I’m working on a series, the process will remain the same within that series. Each series has a slightly different approach based on deadlines and other resources. Stand-alone projects tend to each have their own methodology based on the need.

Do You Use the Same Process for Every Novel

Okay reader, do you follow the same process every time, or do you switch things up from project to project? You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

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Journal

What’s the First Step When Beginning to Write a Novel?

This is one of those questions that has no objectively right answer. The first step when beginning to write a novel will depend on your process. Are you a plotter, working out all of the beats ahead of time and then filling in the gaps? Or are you a “pantser”, flying by the seat of your pants and making it up as you go along?

I have always been an outliner, which I guess puts me into the plotter category. With my current work-in-progress, though, I’ve kept things slack. While I know where things need to go, I’m allowing the characters and some spontaneous worldbuilding to lead me there. This is more of a journey, where I know my starting point, and point, and places I need to visit along the way. Aside from those, there’s freedom to explore.

The reason I’m comfortable in doing this is because I have no deadline. I want to get the first draft completed by the end of February, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. My only expectation is that the bones will be there. In a lot of ways this process has been more like creating an extended outline, albeit with a lot more detail. The focus is on trying to be good, rather than to be done.

What’s the First Step When Beginning to Write a Novel?

Okay reader, what’s your process? You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

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Create Journal

Preparing to Write a Novel: Tasks and Reasons

It’s odd to be talking about preparing to write a novel two-thirds of the way through NaNoWriMo. There will be people who think that I’m behind the curve somehow, that this is a late start. My goals, and the parameters that I’ve set for myself on this project, don’t properly align with that excellent and completely worthy annual event. There are elements of this that are deeply personal, so I need this to be its own unique thing.

I’m giving myself 90 days to create a solid first draft. Rounding up generously, that’s 600 words per day. While it doesn’t seem like much,  remember that it’s on top of my regular “day job” writing. There’s also the fact that I want to blog about the process, which adds another 300 to 500 words per day, five days a week. Launching the blog is another reason to not do it in alignment with NaNoWriMo, where I risk getting lost in the crowd.

Digesting all of this, taking the time to grasp what I’m doing, is essential. I am looking at this as a stepping stone to the next phase of my career. I have no idea what that looks like, but that’s part of the journey. Do I expect this novel to be a huge hit and make me tons of money? No. It would be fantastic if it were that good, but I’m realistic.

Nor do I think this blog will suddenly take off, or I’ll get job offers as a direct result of posting here regularly. This is more about learning new creative skills, becoming comfortable in my own skin, and getting better at marketing myself. Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again wasn’t going to lead me to an epiphany that will take me to new and exciting places as a creator.

Preparing to Write a Novel

As well as putting together plot and character ideas, there’s been a lot of peripheral work. Rebuilding this site from scratch, for example, so that it meets my needs going forward. All of the static pages have been, or are in the process of being, overhauled. I want to be able to post without having to worry about site maintenance.

Getting my day job in order, so I can carve out time for novel writing and blogging, has been a task. Those work flows have to be nailed down. Fortunately I’ve been doing that for over 3 years, so I have processes in place in the event something goes off the rails. I couldn’t have done this in the early days of Dancing Lights Press, or even a few months ago.

Household things also need to be in order. This mainly means getting laundry and grocery shopping on a schedule. I’ve got meal plans put together, so I can spend as little time as possible on prep and cleanup. Cooking elaborate meals, as I am wont to do, is reserved for a few special nights per week.

The timing for this has also been carefully selected. We’re in the darkest, coldest, and most depressing months of the year here in Finland. Throwing myself into this for four months, including November for prep and December, January, and February for writing, gives me something to focus on. I do so much better when I have a passion project that I can obsess over.

If you haven’t subscribed to the site yet, please do. Come along with me on the journey. Leave comments. I want to know your thoughts. Full-time writing and blogging begins on 2 December, 2019.