Throughout October I’ve been planning my NaNoWriMo project. As a pantser this is a new experience for me, but I wanted to experiment to see if planning improves my writing.
This month my #AuthorToolboxBlogHop post will cover what I’ve learned from planning, and a few useful tips. The hop is hosted by Raimey Gallant, details of which can be found here:
So without further delay, here’s seven things I learned from planning:
1. Planning can be fun:
There’s no feeling more awesome than getting excited about a project. Planning, or finding images that help visualise characters and locations, can be fun, inspirational even.
It can also be distracting. I spent hours on Pinterest looking at pictures. My guys are going to be so cute! *crazy fan girl moment.*
Tip: Don’t do all the fun stuff at once. Break up plot struggles with image searches!
2. Planning is hard work:
Now I’ve pulled my crazy fan girl together and locked her up, let’s talk about a serious aspect of planning. It’s hard. I have a short attention span and am easily distracted, but serious planning involves a lot of work and a lot of thinking.
I’m used to writing whatever comes to mind and seeing where the idea takes me. It was hard to think about characters, world building, and plot before I’d written scenes. I usually develop my characters by writing about them.
Not all my characters have come out to play yet, and my plot is a problem. I can write short stories with these characters, yet I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. I’ve sat and stared into space a lot too, but at least I’m doing that now and not in November!
Tip: Try to structure your planning. Having a checklist makes it easier.
3. Planning can make a project less daunting:
I’ve planned five chapters so far, but I can already see how a structured plan will help during NaNoWriMo. I’ll have (hopefully) figured out the plot before NaNo, and won’t have to worry about getting stuck or waffling until I find my way in November!
Waffling is exactly what happened last November with Dragonspire. I’m now stuck in the middle and can’t write myself out of it. I hope a plan will improve the quality of my writing, stop me getting stuck, and allow me to finish a first draft!
Tip: Plan your story from beginning to end, no matter how hard it is!
4. You don’t have to plan *everything*:
I quickly came to realise that planning everything would overwhelm me. When I’m overwhelmed I don’t function, so I listed important things to plan and things I’m willing to leave out if I run out of time.
I won’t beat myself up if I don’t get to those things. I’ve managed to write with no plan at all before, so if some parts of my plan are incomplete it’s not the end of the world. If there are details I’m stuck on, I’ll leave them. I don’t have to plan everything before the big day.
Tip: Know your limits. If a long to do list is overwhelming, keep it brief!
5. Simplification is OK:
Sometimes I’ll think of a major plot point, but have no idea how to resolve it. During planning it’s okay to write ‘Arthur saves Merlin.’ You don’t have to know how.
If I got tied up in every detail, I’d never get anything done. Does age matter right now so long as you have a rough idea? Is hair colour essential to the plot? No. Of course not.
Tip: Focus on planning essential details.
6. Planning is time consuming:
Planning is taking longer than I expected. I’ve spent a lot of time staring out the window trying to figure out my plot. I’ll need to lower my expectations when I set my word count targets. I write in 15 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks: 1000 words per hour is realistic. I can sometimes write over 500 words in 15 minutes, but I’m not consistent.
Tip: Set realistic targets. Things usually take longer than you expect!
7. Planning can kill the Pantser?:
The jury’s still out on this one. Normally I write scenes as soon as I think of them. When planning, I’ve forced myself to write single lines summarising a scene. The pantser in me feels stifled. I hope these lines trigger my creativity during NaNoWriMo, but we’ll see.
Another thing that worries me: Planning requires me to think about the end. If I know how my story ends before I start writing I fear I’ll get bored. Perhaps this explains why I’ve found plotting so hard? Tips for planning as a pantser appreciated!
What I’ll try to do for NaNoWriMo:
Avoid planning once November starts. I hope my planning will be good enough to avoid any research tangents or distracted staring out the window moments in November!
Make sure my notes are consistent on the 31st. I have contradictory notes so far (three different ages for one character!) and I need to sort it out.
When things get overwhelming I’ll retreat for a bit and take a break, to a bubble where nothing can touch me but the magic of my WIP. There’s no room for doubts in this space.
Expect things to go wrong: Even with the best planning, things could go wrong. I may end up with less writing on some days and not meet my targets. I need to prepare to be flexible.
I hope my finished plan will allow me to get on with writing during NaNoWriMo, without stopping to think about what my characters will do next. Next week I’ll introduce my plan and my project. After that, updates and inspiration will be weekly in November.
How about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you a Pantser or a planner? Do you find planning hard? What do you think we can learn from NaNoWriMo?