It's Good to Have a Plan!

I read a great article over at Eight Ladies Writing - blog: Planning a Novel by Michille. I've been working on this very subject for the last few months - like crazy, I want to get a book out - NOW! And her article sparked me enough to respond and I found I'd put down a lot of stuff and Heck - it should be on my blog too.  So here it is.

I'm a re-forming pantser. I wasn't going to do NaNo this year (NaNoWriMo - aka National Novel Writing Month), but have decided I want to "finish the darn book" also. I think the reason I haven't finished is because I get a huge chunk of the way in and then end up with mysterious plot holes that seem more like black holes because they suck the story in - never to be finished (because I couldn't figure out the darn problems).  I think I always felt like plotting took the creativity and flow out of it. What I am discovering is that it's a matter of perception.  A lot of the creativity and pantsing go into the outline (outlines vary by person as to the amount of anal retentive detail and obnoxiousness) AND you get a chance to figure out your story problems before you spend months and tens of thousands of words finding out you've created a hot mess.  I grabbed a story I felt I could work and sell and looked at it.  I love the characters, their feel, the story idea - even more now, but let me tell you how heartbreaking it is to pull it all apart and find out that it will be a very different story.  I am basically writing a new story.  Although it is a bit sad, I find the more I plan, the more exciting it is too!

I started to see the light in my James Patterson class where he talks about outlining and the creativity that goes into it - Then I read through the outline of his book that he gave us.  Wow! His outline is extreme (but he is often working with other writers so they have to have more info to be on the same page) - it was 30 pgs long.  I couldn't stop reading it. I kept wanting to know what was next, and next, and next - And that was just the outline! I was also reading the book - so I know what tweaks were made along the way.

I am trying like mad to get my outline done.  It is harder than I thought it would be - especially since I thought I already knew the story and the characters.  Imagine my surprise at being aghast that some of my characters were waaaaaaay different (and opposite of) what I thought they were.  It's not a string of murders any more either - it's more of an action thriller.  I'm understanding what the theme is - because the characters have been showing me what it is, as I work on figuring out my outline.  I find I've had a big problem in the past - the conflict lock - and it has been an unseen (to me), but well felt weakness.  I think getting the outline set, will allow me to be in the true flow as I go to write.... And I am even changing that up this year.

I read a great short book called "5000 words per hour" by Chris Fox... one of his suggestions was to use Dragon Naturally Speaking (because you can talk a heck of a lot faster than you type or write). He also advocates working on and developing your sprint muscles and tracking your success so you can improve. I had tried Dragon before, hoping to do write faster. I trained the system and everything, but I didn't feel I had much luck.  Fast forward to this week: I've been doing daily sprints this week to flex my muscles - two, 10 min sprints every morning - using the free Dragon dictation on my iPad and I am already clearing a NaNo day's word count in two, ten-minute sprints!  If I have my outline ready to go, I am ready to "read" my book. If I can do this, I will complete my mission this year - which isn't 50,000 words - It's to complete a first draft of the entire book!

For some quick help for other pantsers who want some accessible plotting help - I recommend two Jordan Dane (a self-described pantser) articles at The Killzone Authors. TKZ is one of my favorite and most useful writerly hangouts. If you need to kill some time, get some help, etc... I cannot recommend the authors there enough.

Here are the two articles:
The Author’s Bucket List on Plot Structure, by Jordan Dane, Mar 01, 2012
(If you can even fill in just the 5 points of the "W" here - for your NaNo - you will be 90% better off than your fellow NaNo-ers.)

9-Act Screenplay Structure – Novel Plotting Resource, by Jordan Dane, May 18, 2011

If you want some more serious plotting advice - that makes sense and will get you going, I recommend another new read:  "Outlining Your Novel" by KM Weiland - she has a matching workbook for it too.

I'm on NaNo as chaco_kid. I would be glad to be friends with any of you and kick ideas or kick bottom with you! :D  You can do this!  And remember:


  1. I saw at Kill Zone that you found James Bell's books helpful. Me too! I refer to them before, during, and in rewriting all my projects.

  2. Hi Mike- sorry for the slow reply- I am currently participating in NaNoWriMo. If you are too, come friend me at chaco_kid.

    I have many of JSB's books. I have been really trying to nail structure over the last month, because I'm a reforming pantser. My new all-time fave is JSB's new Structure book. I loved the mirror middle book, but this one is ... Wow! If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. :D


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