Learning to Love Planning
Planning vs Pantsing. It’s the age old writing debate. The first time I ever wrote a novel (my first NaNoWriMo) and honestly, anything I really wrote previously I was a pantser. I just sort of let anything I wrote go with the flow, and it was…fine.
Pantsing was fine to start out. It allowed me to work on just producing words and not getting too caught up with pesky details. I slowly realized, though, that pantsing wasn’t exactly working out. So I tried to add in some planning. But the thing is, I never realized how much planning I needed to do to feel like I was in a good spot.
So here I am, years later, still working on the same novel but PLANNING it. That’s right folks – I am a certified planner now! Characters, culture, setting, etc. I’m planning it. At first, I was worried I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I mean, here I am, planning for the first time. How do I plan appropriate enough to make sure that this time I’m actually going to have a draft that I love?
Now, for all you pantsers who wish they could do some planning, here’s what I’ve learned/my tips for planning:
Step one is getting organized. This may seem obvious, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve tried to be organized, but I was never organized in a way that was actually helpful. For me, I’ve realized that notebooks aren’t my favorite route. I can’t see multiple pieces of information at once, especially when I need to cross reference two different cultures, for example. So this time I took to using blank white paper. And it’s working.
Knowing What You Need to Know
This is probably one of the hardest parts for me. I want to be as prepared as I can before I start writing again. Some things are obvious: general plot arc, characters, setting, etc. But what about the other things that just spring up? I’ve learned the hard way that coming up with them on the spot is doable, but I tend to lose track of things, even when I make a conscious effort to jot them down.
So how did I figure out what I needed to know? Well, after working on this novel for several years, I kinda know what needed more planning. My setting just never felt as developed on the page is it was in my head. That was a no brainer. I ended up picking several aspects of the setting, getting as specific as walls, and wrote short paragraphs just describing them. It honestly feels like that will be a HUGE impact on my ability to world build.
I also knew that, since my novel is in the realm of sci-fi, that I needed to develop the cultures. I’ve thought about important things in our cultures today and jotted notes down about how they work in the future. If you need to develop cultures, here are some of the things I’ve made sure to detail:
- How do people relate to one another (esp. romantic relationships)
Don’t Go Overboard
Well, for me, this was important. Before I had printed out character sheets that asked for things ranging from name to how they think others see them to their internal philosophy. These are great. However, I’m not going to page through four pages of notes just to quickly remember the key personality traits or someone’s quirks. So I ended up using the long sheets, since I already filled them out, and created one-pager cheat sheets so that I can easily find the information I will need on a regular basis.
Of course, I’m not saying to ignore all of the details – because they can be important. Just think about how you intend to use the information in the future. Because it’s made my life a lot easier with that in mind.