Know Where You’re Going
By: Emily Layne
Writers are generally categorized into two groups—ready to find out which one you are?
· Get an idea and start planning the book before you write?
· Create personality profiles for your main characters, complete with birth dates and photos?
· Plot the entire book: beginning, middle, and end?
Or do you…?
· Get an idea and start writing right away?
· Don’t worry about where the story is headed as long as you’re enjoying the journey?
· Find yourself struggling with where to go next so you take a break for a little while?
If you matched most of the bullet points in the first section…
Congratulations, you’re a plotter! Plotters are authors who prefer to, as the name suggests, plot out their entire book before they start writing.
If you matched with most of the bullet points in the second section…
You rebel you, you’re a pantser. In other words, when it comes to writing, you like to “fly by the seat of your pants.” You get an idea and get writing right away, with no cemented idea of where you’re going—and you don’t mind that one bit!
But, contrary to popular belief, I don’t think there are only two kind of writers. There are actually three.
When I first started writing, I was a hardcore pantser. I would get an idea and get going. Which is why it took me a year+ to finish my first novel and then another six months after that to edit it. And you know what? I was never 100% happy with that story. Which is probably why it never got me an agent—or published!
As I wrote book after book, I found myself gravitating toward the plotter side of the author sphere. Sort of.
While I loved making my character profiles and plotting the entire story, I needed flexibility. Ideas would pop into my head while writing (according to my plot outline) that didn’t necessarily mesh with the pre-ordained story I had already laid out.
Which is where a whole new breed of writer comes in: a plotter with pants on. Okay, the name sounds a little ridiculous, but it is exactly what it implies. A writer who plots out the story, but also leaves room for flexibility while writing. Have a new minor character pop up? Great! A side plot transforms into a more influential point in the story? Awesome!
I’ve found this to be the most exciting way to write. I’ve never struggled with writer’s block or a blank page, because I have an outline ready to go. Edits at the end of the story were minimal because I’d already worked out the kinks. I even plan out my first line while plotting (can we all agree this is one of the hardest parts of getting started??).
Using my method of plotting and then writing (with my pants on), I’ve finished 60k+ word books in 14 days. Yes, it’s possible!
I have an Instagram series in my stories were I share my process from book ideaàfinished book, but I’ll outline my process to you below.
STEP ONE: Book idea. I get an idea and come up with the title of the story.
STEP TWO: Pinterest Board. I make a Pinterest board and pin every image that inspires me.
STEP THREE: Music. I create a music playlist and listen to it nonstop, jotting down any ideas.
STEP FOUR: Character Bios. I take every main character (or really important side character) and break down their personality traits, clothing style, and growth throughout the story.
STEP FIVE: Plotting. This is where the real work comes in. I sit down and, using MS Word’s outline tool, plan each chapter of the book.
STEP SIX: Writing! This is where I set a word count goal. Say 50k in 30 days (woo-hoo NaNoWriMo!) or something less intense like 75k in 90 days. Whatever is attainable and works for you.
STEP SEVEN: Finish the book and celebrate.
STEP EIGHT: Take a break from writing and the shiny new story I just finished.
STEP NINE: Come back later and edit, edit, edit!
STEP TEN: Once the book is edited, depending on where I was in my writing journey, I would send it to critique partners or, now, my agent!
So, this is my advice to you, whichever category you thought you fit into at the beginning of this post: plotter or pantser... Consider melding the two together. Use my process as a guide if you like, but make sure you leave room for your own style.
And you know what? Maybe you are just a writing panster and the thought of plotting is too horrible to consider. Or vice versa. That is totally fine.
That’s what writing really comes down to, and what makes it so amazing. It’s a creative process. There is no set way to do it (unlike algebra, blegh). So find what works for you—and write, write, write!
Emily grew up a proud Army brat with an Anne Shirley-esque imagination. She loves reading, eating too many potato chips, and spending time with her husband—who loves books almost as much as she does.
When not writing fantastical stories, Emily can be found playing with her curious daughter, exploring the great outdoors, or concocting mostly-believable excuses to avoid socializing.
Follow Emily on Instagram!