The Pantser Plots: A #NaNoWriMo experiment. Part 1…

Back in August I lamented the trials and tribulations of NaNoWriMo, and how perhaps it wasn’t working for me. (Is NaNoWriMo worth doing?) I wrote 50000 words for NaNoWriMo 2016, and nearly managed the same for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. But when it came to editing, I realised I had a lot of work on my hands.

I think this sums up what I had at the end of NaNo last time: A bunch of scenes, some completely useless, some badly written, and a few gems all smushed together!

When I write in a rush I waffle a lot. I had no plan last NaNoWriMo, and as a result my writing went off the rails in places as I rushed to write 50000 words.

I’ve never planned anything before. I thought maybe it was time I tried.

The purpose of the experiment:

In October I’ll plan my NaNoWriMo 2017 project. In November I’ll write using my plan. The aim? To see if planning helps improve the quality of my writing, or if it just gives me a headache and makes me bored with my project.

As bored as this cat. Not mine – I wish I had a cat!

I’ll share my planning process and woes in October, and in November I’ll share my NaNoWriMo progress. I’ll discuss the results in December or January (since I might take December off!)

Why make a plan?

To focus my writing. I want to know exactly where I’m going and exactly what I’m writing each day. I want to plan word counts for scenes and chapters, and maybe even finish a draft (or at least half of one!) I’m convinced planning will suck the fun out of writing, like discovering spoilers does when watching TV, but we shall see!

How will I plan?

In the past week, I’ve given planning some thought.


Mica wrote a great post on creating a character web for Author Toolbox. I started to map out one of my MC’s for my NaNoWriMo project using this method, and it gave me a few ideas. 

I’ll start by noting character names, motivations, and characteristics. I may even do a few sketches! My NaNo project uses characters from history/legend, so I’ll need to raid the library too. Not going to lie, the research is going to be fun! 


I’ll map out my world on paper and make a list of locations. My worlds tend to be large, and there are lots of adventures. I’ll establish how long it takes to get from A to B, how characters travel, and which locations are key to my plot. Expect scribbled drawings in future posts!

My maps are not this pretty, although I wish they were!


This is where I know I’ll struggle. I’m great at coming up with characters and beginnings. The first chapters come easily to me and the ending is usually straightforward. The part I have issues with is how to get the characters to the end. I’ll probably plan chapter by chapter and write a few scenes as I plan, but resources on plotting will be gratefully accepted 🙂


In a complete contrast to Dragonspire (a fantasy set in a medieval kingdom) my NaNo project is set in the future and involves the solar system. I’ll need to research planets, space travel, terraforming, and other interesting things. I’ll just need to make sure I don’t get distracted!

My concerns:

I’m worried I don’t have the attention span to plan: I’m easily distracted at the best of times and unfocused at the worst. I’ll need to make a schedule to keep me on track and stick to it! 

I don’t know if I have it in me to write 50000 words in a month any more. I’ve slowed down because I know now I write better, and more happily, when I write slowly. I hope planning a project will allow me to meet the target word count and produce quality work.

I’m not 100% decided on a project. I often switch tracks quickly and get sucked in to other projects. I’ve been re-watching Psych in the run up to the movie, and my Pizza Assassin idea also has a main character called Shawn. It makes me want to work on that story. On the other hand I love my Arthurian legend stuff, so I really want to write about that too. I might plan both projects, decide what to write on November 1st, and try not to switch!

Throughout NaNoWriMo, I must not be tempted to take Captain Cold’s advice!

Other than that? Let’s see where planning takes me!

Thanks for reading! If anyone wants to add me as a buddy on the NaNoWriMo website, my user is: Louise-DragonspireUK

Future posts will be (roughly) as follows:

11th October: A post on how my planning is going.
17th October (#AuthorToolboxBlogHop) What I’ve learned from planning as a pantser.
31st October: Introducing my plan.
Weekly NaNo updates in November. Probably on Thursdays.
December/January: Was planning worth it? The results!

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Are you a pantser or a planner? Do you have any tips or articles for a newbie to plotting?


  1. Thanks for the mention! I’m sort of doing the opposite of you right now; I’ve attempted a mostly-pantsed write in the past month, after always outlining. It has worked stellar for me, which leads me to believe that simply changing things up is what really gets the juices flowing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. as a person who’s tried both writing with a plan and without, i recommend the plan. though i’m not sure i can plan a word count for a scene. a scene, what will happen there, though not the count. I’d sure want to know how that works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Give it a try! Seriously, give it a shot to find what works for you. Maybe you’re a planner at heart. Maybe this will help.

    Every writer is different. You have to find your path, and you do that by trying stuff out.

    I’m a pantster. The moment I start planning, the story dies. Rosetta (mama turtle) really hit home when she asked if maybe plotting didn’t work for me because once I’d plotted it, the story was over. For me, this is the case. This is how my creativity works.

    It sucks.

    It means my revisions are tough. Especially my first to second draft where my analyst comes out and closes plot holes, forces the theme that emerged by the end of the story back through the beginning of the novel, and works through making characters stay true to themselves.

    I hate it and wish all of that was there in the first draft. But, I have a first draft to revise. So, I can’t complain too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, I hope I’ll find out what works for me 🙂

      My number one fear is that plotting will mean the story is over for me too! I’m hoping that won’t happen with this project, and maybe I’ll need to allow some mystery or flexibility to keep me interested.

      Good luck revising, it sounds tough. I’m sure my first draft for Dragonspire (2/3 finished right now) will have similar issues because I didn’t plan it. I already refer to it as a mess that needs tidying up!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m still aiming for a version of plotting that doesn’t kill my enthusiasm, but I think I need to do something for cleaner drafts. I’ll be writing longhand in hardcover notebooks for nanowrimo. I may or may not get a decent word count.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Best of luck! Looks like you have a plan this year to make this work. I’ll start the world building next week and then I’ll outline. Well, I already started to outline with only a few major plot points and now doing the world building around this and see if it works.

    Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s