How To Write a Novel – Pantser or Planner?

how-to-write-a-novelOctober is here already. That means National Novel Writing Month can’t be far behind.

For the past two months, I’ve been conducting a series of story clinics with an eye toward helping you prepare for writing your next novel.

In August, the series began with discussions on writing single-sentence summaries and in September, we walked through the character development process. If you missed either one of those story clinics, here’s the link to the single-sentence summary introduction and here is the link to the first character development post. These clinics, like all of our clinics, are available for review at any time.

This month, I’m talking about a few ways to actually write your next novel. There are five Saturdays in October, so that means four lessons plus this introduction, but there are many ways of writing a novel.

In fact, there is an endless variation on the theme with pantsers at one end of the spectrum and pre-planners at the other end.

[Tweet “There are an endless number of ways to write a novel. #WritingTips”]

A Few Definitions

Before we get started, I want to define terms just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Pantser: Also known as writing by the seat of your pants, pantsing, winging it, and writing intuitively.

With this method, no pre-planning is involved. The writer gets an idea for the story and starts writing the story. The writer may begin at the beginning of the story and work through to the end or may start at the end and work backward. It’s not uncommon for a pantser to begin writing in the middle of the story and work in both directions.

It’s also not uncommon for the pantser to work in a non sequential manner. That is, he or she may write a pivotal scene in the middle of the story, then the scenes that set up the pivotal scene, followed by the scenes that arise out of the pivotal scene.

I’ve written stories and scenes in both ways.

The one thing that is common with most pantsers is that they don’t know where the story is going when they begin. At best, they have a general idea of how it might end. They write each day to find out what happens next then fill in the gaps as necessary.

[Tweet “Most pantsers don’t know where the story is going to end up when they begin writing. #WriteTip”]

Pre-planning: Also known as plotting and outlining.

A writer who works by this method plans out every detail of the story before writing the first word. Characters are well-developed, the plot is well-developed, and subplots and minor characters have also been mapped out.

Although this method of writing is widely known as plotting, that’s not an accurate term. All writers plot, but some plot as they write seat-of-the-pants, some plot during revisions, and some plan their plots before they write.

I also don’t usually refer to this type of writer as an outliner because a pre-planner may not outline. There are many different ways to pre-plan, which we’ll discuss later this month.

So for the purpose of this course, we have pantsers and pre-planners and all those in between.

Hybrid: All of those writers in between the strict pantsers and the strict pre-planners use various combinations of both methods. They have adapted what works and discarded what doesn’t until they have their own unique “hybrid” method of writing. Our own Danielle Lincoln Hanna uses a hybrid method of planning, which we’ll cover in the third lesson.

[Tweet “Most writers use a hybrid method combining pantsing and pre-planning. #WritingTips”]

October’s Course Schedule

  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: The Strict Pantser
  • Week 3: The Strict Pre-Planner
  • Week 4: The Lincoln Hanna Method
  • Week 5: The Lewis Method

No matter how you write novels, you fall somewhere on this spectrum. The vast majority of us, in fact, are somewhere along the continuum from strict pantser and strict pre-planner.

I hope you’ll join us for this month-long course.

To make sure you don’t miss a post, subscribe to Indie Plot Twist. You can choose to receive notifications of new posts, newsletters, or both and it’s all free through MailChimp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *