Plantsing

No. This is not another tea garden post (or a post about any other kind of gardening). Rather, this post is a post about the bridge between plotting and pantsing (NaNoWriMo terms).


If you read my previous post on NaNoWriMo (here) or if you have participated in NaNoWriMo before, you might know a little bit about NaNoWriMo already but let's refresh. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is set in November every year though they run other events throughout the year. The organization challenges writers to write a novel that is at least 50,000 words long in a month or less.


The organization has a number of different "badges." Some you earn (like updating your word count every day for a month) and some you give to yourself (like crying at your own words). One of the second kind (which you give to yourself) is the identification badges. They are as follows:

  1. planner: If you are a planner, you are planning your novel ahead of time as much as possible. You know exactly what will be in each chapter. In fact, you know the order of what will be in each chapter. You don't just have an outline for your books, you have an outline for your chapters and for your scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if you even outline your sentences. You know it all and when November starts, those 50,000 words fly by because it is all planned already.

  2. pantser: If you are a pantser, you prefer to give your novel room to breathe. In fact, you like to give it so much room to breathe that you really don't plan at all. At most, you know where the book is starting and maybe where it will finish. You know (in general) who your characters are but you are waiting for November 1st to see them develop character traits. You don't know what your chapters will contain or where the book will take you, you just know the general overview of the story you want to tell.

  3. plantser: I am a plantser. I like my book and characters to have room to breathe but I plan enough that I know where I am going with the book. I don't plan out each chapter but rather start with what I call "plot points." These are general overviews of what I want to occur in a portion of the book. They are usually 1-3 sentences long and can represent 1-5 chapters. I like working with this because I feel it gives me a guide for the direction of the book without restraining the book to that guide (the book and characters can still develop and change as I write).

I have made a version of the "plantser" badge which you can find in my Redbubble shop here. I have a copy of the sticker on my water bottle and really enjoy showing it off.


Recently, I finished planning out the plot points for my next book "The Beauty" which is what lead to this very discussion. I have had great inner debate over my book "The Beauty" as it has been one of the hardest books to create a plot for. I have created general plots for many of my books but "The Beauty" has been difficult because of the story it is based off of (Beauty and the Beast in case you couldn't tell). I have found it difficult to not create a plot that comes too close to the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast and given one element of my book (that I had already decided on before reading As Old as Time) I have also had some difficulty avoiding creating a plot that resembles the twist on Beauty and the Beast created by Liz Braswell.


The great thing with plantsing (using my plot points) is I can create a number of individual plot points that are entirely different from the two storylines and know that even if there are some plot points that may be more similar to Disney/Liz Braswell's retellings when I write out my book, the combination of the two will allow new characters, scenery and actions to develop that sets the story apart. In other words, the use of less developed plot points (but still some structure) allows me to ensure that I create a book that breathes and grows on its own, telling me where it needs to go but which does not end up looking like other books/movies I have read/seen.


Plantsing may not be the way for you but I suggest giving it a try (in particular, my method).


For your next book, instead of starting out without any plan or planning out every element, try making small plot points that describe the plot of a few chapters in 1-3 sentences. Then allow yourself to write with just those plot points as a guide. Let your book develop and grow as you go. Let your characters tell you what they want to say, wear, and do. Let your scenes build up around you. Let chapters shrink and lengthen as you decide how many chapters that plot point will cover after writing some of the chapters. Your writing will speak to you and flow through you (I promise) you just have to let it.

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