To Plan or Not To Plan

I’ve signed up to do NaNoWriMo again this year and that’s set me thinking about planning.

I’ve had a few goes at NaNo before but have yet to win. I’ve enjoyed the experience but have struggled to sustain the writing. This year I thought I’d be more organised and plan my novel properly before I started. However I’ve been struck down with some ill health and have left things hanging. I’ve managed to do a little planning – character types, basic idea for story, setting – but not a proper plan.

Now here’s my dilemma. I have done a proper plan for a novel that is sitting on the hard drive. It stands at 18,000 words but is not feeling the love at the moment. Since I went to the writer’s group and got some feedback I’m not sure that it’s going the right way and I need to think it out. This means I’m wondering whether to plan my NaNo novel or ‘pants’ the thing. I’m quite happy to write this way so it holds no fear. I’ll make my mind up at some stage but again this has got me thinking about whether I’m a planner or a pantser.

I know that there are positives on both sides. With a proper plan I know where my story is going and can write any part at any time. I can write the ending first if I want to – rebellious or what? But the novel with the plan is stalling and I’m not sure I believe in it anymore. If I write with no plan I feel freer and the story seems to flow. I can let the story develop as it wants to and I can change things as I go along.

So what should I do for NaNo? Do I force my tired cold-ridden brain to do a proper plan for the novel or do I just start writing on November 1st?

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11 thoughts on “To Plan or Not To Plan”

  1. Is it possible to do a short bullet point plan to cover the story arc and then write freely using that? I know what you mean, sometimes you just want the story to flow out and often they take their own turns anyway. #whatimwriting

  2. If it were me I'd want at least a loose plan to guide my writing… But then I'm very much not a pantser! I guess it depends a bit how much time you have – when I've written my novels I've had a maximum of a couple of hours a day, so it helps me to fit lots in if I know what I'm going to be writing when I sit down. You could always get started without a plan though and do mini plans at the end of each day's writing? I'm sure it'll be fun whatever approach you decide – good luck!

  3. I'm a pantser but this may well be why I've never finished writing a novel. For short stories, flash fiction, picture books texts and poetry, pantsing works fine – it means I get the main stuff down fairly fast and I can then put lots of energy into the edits. But for a whole novel I think it's easy to get tangled up without a plan. That said, nano is all about just throwing yourself in and not worrying about the outcome. I get the feeling you're leaning towards pantsing. Follow your gut as you're more likely to win that way. Thanks for linking to #WhatImwriting xx

  4. I never plan and actually find it blocks me if I do. I like the story to flow of it's own accord. A writing teacher once told me not to tell anyone about a story from beginning to end in the process as it kills the urge to write it. I put planning into that category. So don't feel compelled to plan – it doesn't work for everyone

  5. I don't know which I am…I have a broad plan but not lots of little details planned out. And I pick whichever bit of the story I want to write when I sit down rather than follow the story arc. Well done for getting to 18000 words. Good luck for Nano, whatever you decide. X

  6. I'm lucky that I have lots of time to write – if I turn the TV off of course! But I do know what you mean about having a plan, it's reassuring to know where the story is going. I'm flying by the seat of my pants on this one ans so far so good!

  7. I tend to briefly plan then let the characters and plot eek themselves out as I'm writing (with some heavy editing on the way). I say do it, do it, do it. It sounds like you want to but maybe the confidence level is a tad low (that's me every day!) but you may find the love if you hunker down and keep writing. Good Luck!

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