A guest post from Jennifer Blanchard, of Procrastinating Writers
Since I was in middle school, I wanted to write a novel. A real novel. I wrote a 160-page novella when I was 13, but that didn’t count. I wanted to write a full-fledged, 300-page novel.
I spent years of my life dreaming about writing this novel. I had story idea after story idea. I started and restarted and started all over again. Hundreds of times. Maybe even thousands.
But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t write that novel. I couldn’t make it happen. It always felt like I was missing something—some knowledge or information I didn’t have at the current moment.
When I found StoryFix early last year, that’s when I figured out what I’d been missing.
In order for a novel to be successful, it has to be structured. It has to contain certain plot milestones and they need to show up in specific places throughout the story. That was the information I was missing before I found StoryFix.
When I first learned about story structure, I was intimidated. There was so much I had to know about my story before I could even start to write it. And I didn’t know any of those things about any of the stories I’d tried writing all those years.
For almost a year, I immersed myself in “StoryFix University,” learning everything I possibly could about story structure, creating characters, story architecture…and anything else Larry decided to throw our way.
But still, a tug-of-war was going on in my head.
You Can’t Plan Your Story Before You Write It…Can You?
Some people are more right-brained and others are more left-brained. Then there are those few who are balanced between right and left. I’m one of those people—I’m balanced almost equally between right and left brain.
So that’s why I was having such a hard time fully adopting Larry’s point-of-view on writing a story. I mean, it made sense — plot points have a specific location where they need to show up in a story and have a specific mission they must accomplish.
But still, the tugging went on.
The right, creative side of my brain was screaming for me to ignore Larry’s theories and ideas. “Just sit down and write!” it would say to me. “Planning removes all the creativity from writing the story.”
Then the left, planner/organizer side of my brain was screaming, “Have a plan. Know all about your story before you write it. It’s genius!”
So two months before NaNoWriMo was set to begin, I thought I’d put everything I’ve learned from Larry to the test. My mission: Plan out every scene in the novel I was going to write during November.
The results converted me.
From Story Pantser to Story Planner
I always thought planning out a story from start to finish would be too challenging and make it hard to be creative and listen to what my characters wanted. But when I finally decided to sit down and give it a try, here’s what I found:
- Clarity — The more I planned things out and the more I thought about the mission of each scene as I moved through the story, the clearer my story became.
- Focus — With planning out each scene ahead of time, I was really able to focus on the information and details that mattered to the story. I was able to cleverly insert foreshadowing from the beginning. I knew what needed to happen in each scene in order to get to the next one.
- Control — Before I attempted to plan my story out, I would let my characters “tell me” what they wanted to do. But what they wanted to do didn’t always fit or move the story forward. Planning allowed for me to control the characters, by dropping them into places and challenges they’d be too chicken to enter into themselves.
- Relief — As I started planning out my actual scenes, relief flooded over me. It finally felt like my story was real and not just a bunch of random ideas and lists in my notebook.
- Reassurance — I now feel like the time I spent writing my NaNoWriMo novel will finally churn out a story that works. And a book that’s a polish away from being publishable.
Since I pantsed my first novel, I spent months writing the draft and then rewrote it two more times before I quit. I felt overwhelmed and like the story was going nowhere.
I believe pantsing is the biggest problem procrastinating writers (and writers in general) have.
They don’t plan enough or know enough about their stories, so they procrastinate on writing them.
I found that planning all the scenes in my novel got me jazzed to write it because I knew where the story was starting, how it was getting from one plot milestone to the next and how it would come to an end.
This experience was enough to convert me from pantser to planner. And I’m never looking back.
Where are you on your journey from pantser to planner?
About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers, a blog that offers guidance for writers who struggle to get started.