Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Plans can look different to different people

When it comes to writing books, I've always been a bit of a pantser - that means I sit down and write by the seat of my pants, rather than have a detailed plan before I get started. That's not to say I have no idea what's going to happen, usually I have a vague plan and an ending, and go from there.

In a number of writer's groups I'm part of, there is a lot of discussion about NaNoWriMo coming up in November. If you haven't heard of it, the idea is to write 50,000 words, the first draft of a novel, in a month. Most of the people who are planning to take part spend October doing the plan of their novel, including character profiles and maps of the worlds their stories will exist in.



I look at some of this activity and wish I could plot like that, but it's something I've never been able to do. Even in High School when we were set a story to write, I would have to write my first draft, then the dot point plan. I did it this way mostly because when I did them the other way around the story would bare little resemblance to the plan I'd written.

When I sit down to write a new story the first draft I write is quite sketchy on details, however it has strong bones. It usually has a great middle and end, but the middle needs work to make it stonger. Shortly after that first draft, I type it out again from the beginning, adding in scenes that were missing and details that need to be included for the story to make sense. The beginning and end usually remain fairly unchanged.

After doing this a few times, I have come to realise that my first draft IS my plan!

My plan doesn't look like it does in any of the books and resources about planning. I don't have dot points or chapter summaries, but it allows me to find out where the story is going to take me in a way that flows for me.

This is also showing me that there is no one way to write a book. Different methods work for different people, and plans look different for different people.

How do you plan your books, if you plan?


Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two teenage boys and pet blue tongue lizard. She writes flash fiction and middle grade novels, her second book came out last week.

You can follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au and www.melissagijsbers.com

5 comments:

  1. Hi Melissa. I'm always interested in other people's writing processes, so thanks for sharing yours. I try to plan, to at least have a basic flow chart as to how scenes unfold & impact on the next. I did NaNo last year and found planning invaluable for writing 50k in under a month. Planning also helps when it comes to writing a synopsis, so I'm in favour of being structurally organised - even if I can't always execute it as I'd like!

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  2. Hi Melissa,
    There are probably as many variations of the plotter/pantser techniques as there are authors, I agree. As long as we and our readers are happy with the end result, I'm a big fan for sticking with what works. I hope you have a good Nanowrimo month.

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  3. I'm still discovering the ways. My first novel began with a character and an attitude and the plot grew out of that. My current WIP began with a metaphor and an imagined landform and I've done a lot of dot-pointing plot options since! Thanks for your post.

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  4. I'm still discovering the ways. My first novel began with a character and an attitude and the plot grew out of that. My current WIP began with a metaphor and an imagined landform and I've done a lot of dot-pointing plot options since! Thanks for your post.

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  5. I'm a tweener - I do like some idea of where I'm going, I do a lot of thinking through things, mulling over possibilities, throwing scenarios together and seeing if they work, even just getting into the skin of my characters and letting them say and do what they want. Usually, by the time I start writing, I have a good idea of the beginning, the end & some major points in between (like tent poles) - & the rest comes out as I write (and then as I revise). I've found a couple of books that address pantsters - like Stephen James' Story Trumps Structure resonates with me more than the 'beat sheet' approach but I do like some idea of where the story is going (or what I'm trying to achieve) before I start writing.

    As you say, we are all different & that's a good thing :)

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