To plot or not to plot?

With NaNoWriMo around the corner I’m reading a lot more about how writers approach their novels. Some plot it out to the smallest detail, other’s ‘pants’ it all the way. Me? I think I’m a mixture of both. I didn’t use to be. When I started I dove in without much of a plan.

In fact, my first attempt at a novel was done entirely by ‘pantsing’ it. I had a character I liked, a premise, and a vague idea what I wanted to happen. I wrote the first draft in the space of a month, (by hand, due to lack of computer).I eventually typed it up which took a couple of months (many an hour was wasted on deciphering my own terrible handwriting!), but didn’t really make too many changes to it. I was pretty pleased with the result. I figured ‘Well, I’ll just do that again with the next one!’

So I did. The result was quite different though. I started writing it (on the computer this time) and it went pretty smoothly at first. I got 90 pages into it, liked the story, thought it was going well when suddenly –BAM! Roadblock. I didn’t know where to take the story. I was stuck. I tried to figure out how to get the characters from point A to point B but nothing worked. I worked on it for some time but then realized the story wasn’t going to come together as I had imagined. If I’d made an outline I would have figured this out before.

This experience did make me see the usefulness of an outline and I did try to make a detailed one for In Absentia. I really did. What I realized, despite the bad experience with what was supposed to be my second novel is this:

I’m just not much of a plotter.

Not in the sit-down-and-make-a-chart kind of way. Instead what I do now, once I know who my main character is and what his/her general story is, I plan it out in my head in greater detail. I make sure I know what I want to happen and how to make it happen. I have a notebook where I write important dates, timelines, and locations –things of that nature.  This works well for me. How about you? Do you prefer to plan it out in detail, or do you sit down, start writing, and see where you get?

Here is an interesting article on the subject:

Here’s What Both Pantsing and Plotting Miss: The Real Story

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2 thoughts on “To plot or not to plot?

  1. I’ve pantsed it a lot of times, but I’ve also worked off a vague outline (there are many out there who would scoff at my definition of ‘outline’). I’ve found that while pantsing it was admittedly fun, I ran into more issues of different shapes and sizes. The last couple NaNos and Camp NaNos I’ve been working off of an ‘outline’. This NaNo will be interesting, though, because I seem to have combined the two. For each arc, I have the starting point, a midpoint scene, and the ending climax. I am pantsing it everywhere in between. I’m hoping it goes well.

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  2. It really depends on the kind of book I’m writing. Overall, I have a *very* general idea of where I want to go, and then I try to keep an outline for a few chapter ahead of where I am right now. But after the first draft, then yeah, making an outline really helps.

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