4 consejos de planificación para calzones


4 Planning Tips for Pantsers

I know, I know, this seems antithetical to those writers who revel in the unknown and the sheer joy of pantsing a 300-page novel. I totally get it, because I too am a pantser.

There is a special kind of elation when your characters do something completely unexpected that blows up your plot and creates a whole new set of conflicts that you then must solve. After all, part of the fun of pantsing a story is that you never know what will happen next or how it’s all going to end.

But for a new author, pantsing can be chaotic, stressful, and lead to dozens of extra drafts to fix all the little things you change as you write your story. As a writer, I like to believe that we are constantly learning. Each new story and draft brings about its own challenges that help us grow. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some tips that cut my writing time in half from my first novel to the second one.

My goal is to help anyone who feels like their plot is a giant amorphous blob of constant evolution that they can’t seem to wrangle into a finished novel.

Believe me, I’ve been there.

1. Understand your main character/s & primary antagonist/s first.

   As a pantser, you may introduce secondary and tertiary characters as your story progresses, and that is OK. Those characters can be rounded out in second or third drafts.

   But before you begin your first draft, you should know who your main character/s and antagonist/s are going to be. Not just their names, but who they are as people.

   I don’t mean superficial details. Personally, I think that’s something you can pants in the story as it comes up. But I’m talking about the deep stuff. The stuff that makes them tick and dictates their internal monologue or their actions.

Some Questions to Consider:

  1. What is their voice? How is it going to sound on the page?
  2. What is their history/background? What aspect of that history defines them most?
  3. What motivates them?
  4. What are their flaws?
  5. How are they going to approach conflicts that may arise in the story?
  6. What is a trigger for them?

   Knowing at least the basics around these details early on helps you get a handle on your MCs’ voice and how they might react to conflict as it occurs. It also helps you create a believable villain with layers and shades of gray. That will limit the number of drafts you need as you will be better equipped to keep them consistently “in character” throughout the story. 

2. Try a few pre-draft brainstorm sessions

   I’ve tried both plotting and pantsing in an effort to refine my process, but plotting just didn’t work for me. It felt too restrictive and I always ended up way off plot anyway, which meant all that prep work ended up being useless for me.
   So rather than come up with a strict scene-by-scene plotline to follow, I do a few brainstorming sessions before I sit down to start the first draft. I don’t even write anything down during these sessions, but you certainly can if that helps you with your story.

   What I do is I start to build a general framework in my mind. Picture the bones of a house when it’s stripped down to the studs, that’s what I make for my story. I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Where is my main character going to be located in the story?
  2. What is going to be the central conflict?
  3. What is the starting point of the book?
  4. What do I think the ending is going to look like? It doesn’t have to be exact. For me, the end is often just a location where the final conflict will take place and who will be there.
  5. What few things need to happen for the character to get from point A (start) to point B (ending)?

   Having this very general framework, along with my characters’ motivations, helps anchor me in the story and, while the specific details might change, I do have a good idea of what the bones of the story look like. Once I have a good starting point, I write my first draft.

   The other plus to brainstorming sessions is that these questions often lead you down rabbit holes that you wouldn’t have expected. You get ideas for interesting subplots that make it into the book later. It’s basically like doing a bit of your pantsing upfront, without restricting yourself to a specific plotline.

   A brainstorming session for me means a long walk around my neighborhood, alone with my thoughts. I’m pretty sure that my neighbors think I’ve lost it. Talking to myself and gesticulating wildly tends to give people that impression :-).

3. Choose some non-negotiables

   After you have your brainstorming session, you’ll have a good idea of what scenes or ideas you’re married to and what you’re not. For me, I pick a few things that I know must happen. Often, they will be the beginning, the inciting incident, and the endpoint. From there, I fill in everything in-between as I go.

   I never decide how I’m getting from the beginning to the inciting incident and then to the end before I write my draft. I just know that I need to get there. This allows room for specifics and events to change without messing up my plot and causing issues with my early chapters.

   Also, some of these non-negotiables may be subplots. They can often help you get from point A to point B, which is always a great perk.

4. For fantasy, start your world-building early.

   This is something I STRUGGLED with during the first drafts of my first novel. My world was all over the place, which caused me to write about 80 drafts. Once I got my world organized and defined, it made the writing process so much easier.

   You don’t have to know every tiny detail about your world upfront, but you should know the general way it works. Like societal hierarchies, types of creatures, types of magic/their capabilities & limitations, governing structure, terrain, general history, etc. Knowing these things up front can help you stay consistent through your draft.

   Plotting on the fly has enough moving variables to it without adding the additional burden of world-building as you go. Note, some details about your world may change as you get further along in your draft, and that’s OK. But having a good framework hammered out helps you stay on track and make solid decisions as you write.

   I really hope these tips help anyone who is looking for some tricks to refine their writing process. And, as always, please feel free to comment below with any questions or to add some suggestions that may have worked for you as well.


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