Plotting vs. Pantsing
You will hear these two terms thrown around NaNoWriMo possibly more than any actual writing takes place. The great plotting vs. pantsing debate has been raging since there have been stories. If you want to participate in November’s festivities but don’t know how to even go about trying to write a novel in an appropriate amount of time let alone 30 days, here are some options for you to consider.
Plotters are people who sit down and really plan out their novel before they start. They have fleshed out characters, story arcs, sub plots, and world building under their belts before they even begin to write. They use their notes like a skeleton and build their novel from the meticulous notes they’ve made.
Plotting your novel necessitates prep time to research, contemplate, and properly plan your novel chapter by chapter. Since NaNoWriMo essentially robs you of any luxurious prep time you might have counted on and demands you devote all waking hours to writing for the next 30 days, plotting becomes difficult, but not impossible.
If you feel you need to have a plan before you can begin writing, here are some tried and true methods favoured by WriMo’s and professional authors alike:
- The Cue Card Method
- The Snowflake Method
- Save the Cat Beat Sheets
- Using Scrivener to outline
- Or any of these helpful ideas from Chuck Wendig
Was all that a little overwhelming? Then you might want to try:
Also known as just winging it. Pantsing involves various degrees of preparedness (usually little to none) and Pantsers may sit down to write without having any of the above mentioned elements like plot, characters, setting or even the vaguest idea about what they want to write. They put fingers to the keyboard and words come out.
There are pros an cons to each method, being a plotter involves having a roadmap to the finish line, but many Pantsers feel that laying out what happens scene by scene leaves no room for spontaneity or creativity in the writing process. Likewise, Plotters feel that people who sit down to embark on a novel with plan but a story in their hearts and the will to write it must be senseless, especially to enter into a month long challenge to write a book.
Plotting and Pantsing are not mutually exclusive, however. Often Pantsers will find their inspiration half way through their work and map out a loose structure for the rest of their novel, while Plotters may find they have written themselves into an inescapable plot hole of doom and find it necessary to throw caution to the wind and abandon their coveted plan. You can use any of these methods in combination with each other.
If you truly don’t know where to start, take inspiration from an author you admire. Brilliant author A.L. Kennedy has collected all of her thoughts about the craft in her book On Writing, as have many other authors.
Check out this great post from the NaNoWriMo Blog about the Plotting/Pantsing Debate, and prepare yourself, whatever method you choose, because NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight.