Apart from random short stories I’ve written two Novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The first was written by pure pantsing, as in ‘writing by the seat of’, which is how I’ve always written. A few days before NaNo 2012 started I had my idea and ran with it pen blazing.
Spending time chatting with friends who approached writing from a more structured standpoint, and reading blogs on pantsing versus planning I was intrigued. On NaNoWriMo 2013 I read a Pep Talk were James Patterson said “An outline isn’t something to be scared of, it’s just a chapter-by-chapter description of the scenes that, lined-up together, make your book.”
I decided even though there wasn’t enough time to plan properly, as NaNo had already started, to take the thoughts I’d been mulling over and jot them down in One Note, creating a new section called Plot, giving each chapter a page under that section. I made a section for characters and listed all my thoughts about their names, appearance, quirks etc. in there. I already had a section on research where I had placed some of the information I’d gathered. I also found that as I developed a character on the page I could jot details down in One Note. I found that when I ran out of that faint structure and was writing without a security net it felt unusually scary at first, but found myself once again on an interesting carefree pantsing journey for the rest of the book.
I guess although I say I’m a pantser, to some extent I know the story in my mind already. I know where I want to begin how it ends, how lives are entwined, so it’s not the entirely the same as the moments I’m wandering without a mental map drawn for a section.
So far between the first two books I did far more deleting of whole chapters, characters were cut in the first book, but there were new characters and story lines that emerged that I preferred, and I wonder if I would have lost these had I stuck to a predestined plot. I will probably rewrite it from scratch when I pick it up again though.
Which brings me to book three which has been nagging me to write it, as did book two. To satisfy my curiosity I’m approaching it as a well-planned project start to finish. I want to follow this structured way of writing and then decide, once I’m done, if outlining has improved or stifled my writing. The temptation is very real as I want to dive into my keyboard and uncover the story. I hope I can hold it off long enough before plunging into draft one.
On the experiment so far I’ve found as I start writing my idea for a scene on some pages, I’ve written part of a conversation between characters or found myself writing part of a scene instead of simply giving an overview. On other pages I’ve posed a question, What if?
What I can see with the planning of book three is that by listing the plot points and on which secondary stories I want to focus on, it serves as a journal for the thinking process which ideas to scrap and which avenues to explore further. And I think it seems to help with gaining an overview of whether the action is spread out or if there are any plot pitfalls.
I like all my books, even those I’m not currently reading, to be in and around my bedside table. I think that’s why I like One Note so much, all my projects all together, close at hand where I can jump between projects and find the piece of information I’m looking for.
And if it doesn’t work for me I’ll go back to mulling it over and pantsing for my next book.