Morning, lovely people! 🙂 We’re halfway to the weekend! *does fist-pump in the air* And today we continue the week of alliterating titles with Writer Tip Wednesday. Each Wednesday, I’m going to pop up a few tips that I’ve been lucky enough to learn so far in my publishing journey. So hopefully they can help you guys too! 🙂
To Plot Or To Pantster? That Is The Question
Now this post will come from someone who has literally been both a pantster, and is now a plotter. In case you’re wondering what on earth those terms are, they are the kind of writer you might be. A pantster literally writes ‘by the seat of their pants’, and can knock up a plotline on the fly, adding all the creative parts later in editing. A plotter will plan the storyline first, writing out the novel as it follows the pattern of events.
I’ve done both of these methods now, and can still see the benefits of both. For my paranormal novels, I’m a pantster all the way. The beauty of these novels is that it can be completely imaginative and free. Things that defy physics can happen (Take that, my old teacher, Mr. Stevens! Gravity does not ALWAYS work!), and you can twist events so sharply it creates hairpin turns. It can be fun to not even know where your characters are heading yourself, and to find out the same way as a reader would can tell you if it’s good enough or not. The downside to this kind of writing is that you must do a lot of editing. Inevitably, as you go back over the novel in the editing process, you may find you forgot to tie up a loose end, or something no longer makes sense to have. But as long as you have a keen eye before sending it off to the professional editor, you can do this method with no problem.
And what of the plotter? Recently having started on my first historical fiction, I’ve found it necessary to plot the story out, as part of it is based on a real person. (I’ll be doing another post at some point on plotting out a historical novel, as it’s very different from some other genres!) If you have a set timeline in your mind, then you can mark it out in order of events, filling the sections in between with action and dialogue, bridging each gap from A to B. This method is the one most used by new authors, and it allows for almost a ‘how-to’ of the storyline. The only downside of this method is that you may find your creativity more limited than the pantster when it comes to the editing process, as you are locked into an unchangeable (without a lot of extra work, anyway) series of events.
So, you’re new to the world of writing. You’ve got an idea of the storyline, it came to you in a dream…now what? You’re going to have to pick a method, but which one?
This can be the easiest method to launch into, as you get straight into the process of your idea. But you will need at least the barest of notes first. Your main characters must be well-defined. No matter what your timeline does, they should be well-defined and clear before you start, because they are the backbone of your novel. You can always add to them later, and even drop in extra characters, but the main characters will drive what happens. Have a rough idea of three points; the beginning, middle, and end. Everything else can be filled inbetween. Your story essentially needs to have the protagonist(s) hitting a problem near the middle. The beginning will set events in motion to create that problem, and the second half of your book will go towards resolving the problem. (I won’t go into detail, but I explain more of how to create your plot ‘pantster style’ over at The Book Maven’s blog here.) This method is best for paranormal, romance, and humourous genres.
This method is more difficult, but depending on your novel’s genre, you may find it a lot more helpful than winging it. Historical fiction and crime thrillers often benefit more from this process. The first thing to do, is your research. If it’s historical, find out as much as you can about the period you wish to write about – and indeed the characters, if you’re basing it on real people. Crime thrillers will require research on weapons used, crime investigation, and much more. Once you have compiled all the research to start yourself off with (you will do more during writing the novel itself!) you can move onto the novel planning. Where is your story going to end up? Will this be a series, or a one-off book? This can determine the end as much as all the other planning. As with the pantster process, work out your beginning, middle and end. However, you must work out and add on all the events in between. Don’t worry too much if you can’t figure out a section between two parts, this is where your writing itself will come in. Once you have a firm timeline, well-defined characters, and research, you’re ready to begin your novel. Although you have to craft your words as creatively as possible, be careful not to stray too far from one point to the next, as otherwise you may add unnecessary words.