July 1, 2010 | By: Tracy

Planners & Pantsers: Planners Needed!

Alright folks, I need help.


We all know there are pretty much two types of writers: Pantsers (those who fly by the seat of their pants while writing) & Planners (those who hyperventilate at the thought of having to begin a story without massive outlines and characterizations in place).

I’ve always prided myself on being a Pantser. Never minded the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how my story was going to get from one major plot point to another. Now that my schedule is more hectic, however, I need to find a way to squeeze the most productivity from every writing minute. As much as I enjoy the freedom of being a Pantser, I won’t lie and say it’s an efficient writing style.

Long story short – I’ve decided that for this next story idea I want to see if doing a little planning/outlining ahead of time keeps it more focused. The less chaos in the revision stage, the better, right?

This is where I need help! I’m not really sure how to begin.

I’m not worried about character development. It’s pre-plotting the outline that has me tangled up. To me “outlines” are those things we had to do in high school--I hated them with a passion-- so I think I’m having a bit of a mental block.

I’ve got a huge dry erase board to mark up with some sort of structure: perhaps what I’d like to have happen chapter by chapter? I just don’t know how to start.

So, I’m looking for any tips and tricks from you Planners out there. What do YOU do before you start a story? How do you make sure you keep your story on track? Are you okay if, in the midst of writing, your story starts to veer away from the outline?

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

6 witty remarks:

Bohemienne said...

Chapters are often pretty arbitrary dividers. Worry more about "scenes"--all the plot points you want to hit. Think of them as checkpoints along the racetrack :)

It also helps me to divide the story up into 3 acts, and decide which segment each plot point belongs in. Then you can logically figure out which need to happen before which.

Mary McDonald said...

I wish I could help, but I'm a panster! Good luck!

Terry Towery said...

I agree with Bohemienne above. I'm a panster who plans some, if that makes any sense. While I prefer to see the story develop organically (and I'm often stunned when a character does something or, gasp, up and dies on me!), I always do a fairly long outline.

But the outline isn't by chapter, but by scenes. I essentially write out a synopsis of the high points, which is always a moving target for me. As I write, I adjust the outline accordingly. It allows me the freedom of pantsing it, but still gives me a little of the structure I need to write a novel.

Hope this helps!

Tracy said...

Thanks, Boh! That's the kind of advice I'm looking for. I didn't really want to have to plot each chapter. I think plotting my key arcs and where they belong in the sections of the story is a good base to work from!

Terry - I'm glad to know that there is such a thing as a half-pantser. Maybe we're shortsters?

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Start off the way a kid would tell a story. Write it as a list. "And and this happens,
and then that happens,
and when that happens it makes this person do that thing, that the other person doesn't like,
and then becasue of that. this then happens... etc" Start from there and then it'll grow :o)

Matthew Rush said...

This is going to sound droll, but I do make an outline. Basically it covers major plot points, or things like what motivates this character to do this particular thing. It is boring as hell but it does help later.

Another option, if you're on a brand new project, is to Google the Snowflake Method. Or just follow my link .

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