My last book was a long, hard slog to write, and when I look back on my process the only thing I can put all the pain and suffering down to was that I didn’t really plan anything. For months I bumbled my way through a loose plot, trying to make my characters do stuff they really didn’t want to do. I cried, I yelled at them, I threw things, and it was the hardest book I’ve ever written.
Yes, I’m being a little dramatic (but it’s all true).
Anyway, from day one I’ve been a pantser, and I was proud to be a pantser—freedom to the creativity and all that. So I was surprised that this book became such a thorn in my big toe, because I pantsed my way through my first book just fine. But the sequel was really, really, really hard.
I now have the final book in the series to write, and until a few weeks ago I was terrified at the thought. What if it takes me two years again? What if I get half way in and have to rewrite a quarter because my MC shouldn’t have killed her brother’s best friend, and everything is now a mess? What if it just plain sucks? I’ll probably think that at some stage anyway, but that’s not the point.
I decided I needed to take a different approach.
When I thought about my two other books, I realised they were a little easier (notice I said a little) because I had in my mind a definite beginning, middle, and end—even if it was just in my head.
Yes, this devout pantser decided to give plotting a try. Gasp!
She’s a traitor I hear you say, but seriously, I think I’m now a convert.
I might just add here that pantser or plotter, every writer is different and has their own process that works for them. This is merely my take on a process that quite clearly wasn’t working for me, and how (I think) I fixed it.
I googled until my fingers bled. I read blog posts and articles on plot structure, and planning, and all that other stuff I said I’d never need because I wanted to let the creativity speak for itself.
I found this: The Snowflake Method and I picked up my pen, followed the instructions, and wrote.
It was so refreshing to be able to put my thoughts down on paper in a coherent order. I could see what was working for the story and what needed more work. It was like I’d been sitting in a dark room and didn’t realise until someone turned the light on. In less than two weeks I’ve written 10k, because I was better prepared. I’m a slow writer, and I have very limited writing time, sometimes only half an hour a day, so for me this new way of doing things has become very beneficial to my productivity. If I know what I’m going to write about before I sit down to write it, I get more of the story out because I’m not wasting time thinking things through during my precious writing time. I’ve done the thinking (planning) beforehand.
This is another blog post I found that really hit home with me and is worth a read. I love the mountain climbing analogy.
How about you? Do you plot, or pants your way through? Are you a convert from either side? I’d love to know what methods help you to be a more productive writer.
K. A. Last has recently converted from pantsing to plotting. She is the YA author of Sacrifice, Fall For Me, Fight For Me, and Immagica. She drinks lots of tea, is obsessed with Buffy, and loves all things pink. K. A. Last hangs out on Facebook or you can find her on twitter and Goodreads. She’s also been known to blog once in a while.