When I started the September writing challenge, I took a step back and evaluated my current novels for several hours. Attempted to plan and organize my ideas, I looked over my plots, settings, characters, etc. This led to lots of changes. A lot. Despite not writing anything in September, the changes I made will help in the future when I do finally sit down and write.
Take The Davidson Effect. I almost threw out the entire story. Instead, I took out four main-ish characters, threw two of them into another story and the other two into my “character pit” for later use.
The Stone Brothers? Changed the time period by 60 years. Considered (still am) taking out the two main characters. Added two characters from TDE into this story. The new characters are actually going to visit the coffee shop (the main setting) from From Behind the Counter since they’re now in the same time period. I love it when I can casually connect characters across novels!
The Dove of Hope: changed the personality of the main character, developed all characters and plot more, and actually created an in-depth outline. Made the story more “mature” instead of sticking to my 13-year-old mind’s view of what makes a story exciting and interesting.
I cleaned up the Pinterest storyboards as well, cutting TDE down from about 422 pins to 120. Now everything feels crisp and new! My novels are slightly more planned now.
Even as a pantser, I can appreciate how this helps. Just like in chess, you have to plan your moves in advance to save you trouble later on. Ignoring my lame attempt to connect the picture with the post (it’s late….), here are a few advantages of planning:
// It helps create a more complex story. Most people plan a couple scenes in their head before they write, but I’m talking about taking a look at each piece of the novel briefly. Characters, plot lines, resolutions, surprises, relationships, etc. It doesn’t have to be long, but try to figure out how each aspect of your novel is going to connect.
// You can decide what’s needed and what’s not before you start writing. Granted, there will be things you have to remove and redo in your story afterwards but you could save yourself a little editing time if you determine beforehand whether or not to remove that one random character.
// You can evaluate the complete story. I don’t know about you but when I wing it, I tend to forgot a few things. With TDE, I rewrote the story several times and it just never worked. Examining the story before I dive into writing yet another draft helped me determine what wasn’t working. You don’t have to hope something will workout.
// You can avoid several roadblocks. One of the fun things about being a pantser is even you don’t know what’s going to happen before you write it. It’s exciting to not have an idea before you get there. Staring at a blank screen because you’re not sure where to go next, however, doesn’t help the story get done. If you write down a brief overview of a couple scenes (doesn’t have to be detailed or EVERY scene) you have in mind, it helps keep the story moving. You may have an easier time transitioning from scene to scene if you know where you’re headed.
All of this said, you can’t plan everything. Those times always come up when you’re a couple hours into writing, brow furrowed, eyes locked on the screen, cold tea beside you, enthralled in the story, and you add an impromptu plot twist or a new character.
What do you think about organizing before writing? Are you a planner or a pantser?