Six revisions after pansting my first novel attempt, I converted and became a plotter. And I’m loving that plotting a novel beforehand offers many opportunities for revising ahead as well. Here’s the process I used for my second WIP:
First, I defined the overall goals, stakes, and conflicts for the novel. This portion of the plotting literally took a few minutes.
Second, I drafted a rough outline of the major plot events and character development arc. Since I was working on a historical fiction, a lot of research also accompanied this round. This helped to eliminate some potential plot and character detail flaws before they could become an issue. Even with the research (and working and mothering full time), this pre-writing amounted to just a few weeks.
Third, I used the plot and character rough to detail several things for the chapters: 1) goals, stakes, and conflicts; 2) beginning, middle, and end of scenes; 3) who must be and who might be present in each scene; 4) motivations and emotional responses; and 5) when and where each scene would take place. This step, along with additional research as needed, helped to identify and eliminate additional plot and character problems, and, again, only took a few weeks.
Then I was ready to write.
It’s amazing how much faster this WIP is coming together. Essentially, I am writing the first draft, but writing it like I’m revising the third or fourth draft—without the need to cut darlings that just aren’t working. Writing time has been much more productive, and the story has started stronger. Grant it, some of this is attributable to experience, but overall I believe that the month spent revising through prewriting will eliminate the major post-writing revisions—and heartache—that my pantsed novel—now in its seventh revision—needed.
Kristen perfect timing, I really I needed your pep talk right now. I’m doing the same thing with a YA fantasy novel I started years ago before joining SCBW. After Virginia Law Manning’s mini-workshop on Scrivener at the Pocono Retreat, I promised myself, NO MORE PANTSING! I’m trying to think of the process as a logic tree. The plot and themes are the trunk while the various characters and subplots are the branches. When I get stuck as to which way the story should proceed I write down the different possible options. As I flesh out the story, I can go back and trim off the branches that don’t fit logically into the overall plot-trunk. When I first started writing this novel I had pantsed my characters into a corner that I couldn’t write them out of. It feels a bit daunting to think of taking this process down to the chapter by chapter and scene by scene stage. There are so many decisions to make when you’re creating an entire world. Your time line gives me some goals to work towards. Thanks!
Kristen and Chrissa, reading about both of your processes has made me realize that I really need to take a step back from editing my chapter book manuscript. I need to think big picture, and then zoom in to make sure each chapter is working towards the end goal. Thank you both for sharing!