The article 4 Keys Reasons Planning a Novel Speeds Up Your Writing Process appeared first on The Write Practice.
Do you dread planning a novel, or love it? Plotters and pantsers often have different perspectives—but which one are you?
Declaring yourself as a plotter or pantser is like being asked to pick a house in Hogwarts: are you House Planner or House Pantser? Which one?
In your writing career, I can guarantee you’ll connect with writers from both “houses,” and I’m not sure there will ever be a definitive answer to one team being better than the other.
However, I do think there are extreme benefits to planning a novel. If nothing else, there are four key reasons why planning a novel will speed up your writing process when writing your first draft—and next drafts.
I Used to Be a Pantser, Too
This article is about planning, but first, let me make it clear that I was once the ultimate pantser. I finished Nanowrimo a total of five times just pantsing. I dove in, no planning, and just wrote. Those Nanowrimo sessions produced three 50K word novellas and parts of two other books.
I felt proud to have completed those books, but at the same time, I had mixed feelings every time I read them.
They each started with a solid idea, but usually after a few thousand words, I started to lose control of the story. What followed was a desperate attempt to steer the plot on course, rather like herding cats. By the time I reached the end of each book, I looked back at the bumpy, crooked path that got me there and felt rather unsatisfied.
And yet, I was resistant to planning.
It felt terribly restricting to lay out an entire book and have to follow it step by step. Because of this, I went on pantsing for a long time.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the value of planning and the efficiency it brought to my writing.
Not only that, I learned how to do it correctly—a method that motivated my creativity and ability to finish stories. I was proud of this, and felt the stories come to life instead of flattened.
Planning Brings Freedom
Contrary to my initial belief about outlining a book, I’ve now realized that planning is not restricting at all. In fact, planning liberates writers. It gives them freedom to explore the story and character without worrying where the next plot point is going to come from.
When I wrote without planning—pantsing every word—I actually found myself feeling more tied down. There was always a nagging worry in the back of my mind:
What if I write myself into a corner?
What if I end the story before I hit my word count?
What if I realize I need a subplot but I’m too far in to develop one?
Plotting eliminates all these questions and more, because planning will let you see the book as a whole, recognize problems early, and make adjustements before you have fifty thousands words already down on paper.
Let’s take a look at four key reasons you should plot your novel, and how these can help you speed up your writing.
4 Key Reasons Planning a Novel Will Benefit Your Writing Process
There are many reasons to plan a book, and planning may look different for each person. However, no matter the planning method, certain principles remain the same.
In this section, I will go into details of the main reasons planning a book is a smart strategy, and how they can make your life easier as an author.
1. Holistic View of Your Story
The word “holistic” is a bit of a buzzword these days. In practical terms, “holistic” means to look at the pieces of something while considering its role as part of a whole.
When planning, it’s not just about the inciting incident, the backstory, the climax, the character development, and any major details that advance the plot. It’s also important to ask, “how does this detail fit into the story and affect the rest of the pieces?”
A pantsing writer may only handle one detail at a time, which makes seeing its connection to the whole story more difficult. At least until the editing phase.
Consider a chapter where the backstory is introduced for the main character.
A pantser may dive right in with a fleshed out history: Maybe the hero lost their parents. They tried to keep the family business going but failed, and now they’re trying to get into a high-risk venture to save the business.
Diving into a scene like this can go wrong in several ways. The biggest of which is that everything you write might not be applicable.
The inverse problem could also happen—something is left out that would need to cover later. This causes confusion. Maybe after a few chapters, the writers realizes that the character’s brother is the real reason their family business failed, except they’ve already established that they and the brother were estranged after the death of their parents.
Now the writer needs to go back and fix the backstory, and possibly a myriad of minor references throughout the story where they reference the main character’s relationship with said brother.
This is a polishing nightmare.
By this point, a good amount of the book might already be written, so the only options are either revise or face major tweaks later on—and fixing plot holes later is always harder than getting it right the first time.
Important details are far more likely to miss something in editing.
However, if you were planning this scene, you would simply write down the following:
Chapter 2: Backstory
- MC lost parents
- MC becomes estranged from brother
- MC reflects on how they lost the family shop after failing to keep major contracts
When planning forward, the natuer of the relationship between the MC and her brother becomes more apparent. No problem. Go back to the scene, cross that second line out, and change it:
MC becomes estranged from brother becomes:
- MC and brother try to run the family shop together
By doing this, the plot hole is fixed before the writing even starts.
Isn’t that a relief?
2. Avoid Writer’s Block
We all have trouble getting started sometimes.
Call it writer’s block, call it procrastination, call it fear. At the end of day, all of us have made up an excuse that kept us from writing. There’s no avoiding it.
I used to think that when writer’s block came, I had no choice but to set aside my writing and wait it out. This ultimately resulted in a lot of wasted hours and days where nothing got written—until I finally realized the reason why I suffered from writer’s block:
Writer’s block happens when I don’t know what to write.
Maybe it’s hard to know where to take the story from a certain point. Maybe there are too many (or not enough) ways to wrap up a scene. Maybe a character has developed in a far too unexpected way. Or maybe you just sit down, stare at that blank screen, and have no idea what comes next.
Fortunately, when a book is planned before writing starts, writer’s block can be easily avoided. I actually can’t remember the last time I had writer’s block, because whenever I sat down to write, all I had to do was refer to my plan. When I did, I knew exactly what I needed to write that day.
How can you plan your chapters, and novel?
Start by dividing the plan into chapters and scenes. They do not have to be terribly minute. Just a list of tasks for a scene like in the previous section is enough.