Two lovely people (Soizic included) asked me about planning novels and how exactly I’m going about the transition from pantser to plotter.
For the uninitiated, ‘pantsing’ comes from the term ‘to fly by the seat of your pants’, i.e. to start writing with perhaps only a vague (or no) idea of where you’re going, and just make it up as you go along. My first MS, a Nanowrimo project, was one of these. I did get a full manuscript out in the end, but it was pretty rambling. Although I tried to salvage it with some post-planning, it was never enough to make it into a coherent whole. I know there are writers out there who can pants brilliantly and produce a perfectly plotted book, but…I’m not one of them, clearly.
However, as I mentioned before, I’m very impatient with my ideas, and for the last couple of books I’ve sort of half-planned and then got lazy and jumped in. This means I still have problems like plot holes and bits where I’m totally stuck. I know I need to knuckle down and plot properly before I start anything new. I’ve got two brilliant ideas I’m working up at the moment – one of them is my Esador project, and another is a sci-fi – so I’m practising my plotting skills.
Worth emphasising – there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing this. You need to play around and find out what suits you – and, as I say, it might also depend on the story.
Under the cut, find my top resources:
1. Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. She is brilliant for everything, really, but she has a few dedicated sections on planning that are super-helpful.
2. Janice tipped me off about Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets. These are a more complex version of the classic Three-Act Structure, with lots of beat points to try and hit in your plot. I’ve been using these for both new ideas, although interestingly enough it’s proving helpful for one and not so much for the other, where I feel like I’m having to twist things to get them to fit.
I’m using them in conjunction with the app Evernote so I can fill in beat cards when I’m on the move. I have a ‘notebook’ for each idea, with notes for character/plot ideas and then each beat sheet.
3. Another popular method of planning is the Snowflake Method. There are some good ideas here, especially about solidifying your characters’ main goals and growth arcs. I have tried to use the method as a whole, but it’s never quite clicked for me – maybe give it a try, though?
4. Beth Revis, author of the brilliant Across the Universe trilogy, goes into detail on many aspects of novel writing in her Wattpad Guide. I’m still dipping into it, but so far, so good.
5. There are loads of writing forums out there. I use Absolute Write. There is some discussion of plotting here.
I hope this is useful and gets you started. Lots of these ideas are also useful for revising your novel, too – try mapping your novel onto 3/4 acts, for example, or writing your chapters out on cards to see where you might need development. Happy plotting! No pants needed…!