Pansters, How Much Novel Prep Do You Need to Do?

Compass directionsIt’s Friday and I’m getting ready for our free special webinar next Tuesday on essential plot and character tips for novelists, so you can start planning your novel, and people have been signing up and asking questions. Thanks!

Let’s dive in!

Mary asks: “As a pantser how much preparation should I do?”

I love this question because I can so relate. For years, I struggled with finding direction so I could actually sit down and write.

But I felt lost, without a roadmap. I didn’t know I needed a roadmap or even a compass.

I didn’t want to outline. Bleh. Just thinking of I, II, III, A, B, C, made my skin crawl.

How could I ever find my way from spark to completed novel?

Then I discovered, or actually re-discovered the Hero’s Journey, which reminded me of my first love: the adventure fantasy tale.

Using the roadmap of the Hero’s Journey, I wrote my first fantasy novel and had a blast, even though I had no idea what I was actually doing, except following my gut.

Being a seat-of-your-pants writer is fun! That’s why I do it. I imagine that’s why you do it too.

But some pantsers can’t write if they don’t have an inkling where to go next. I get that. That’s why I was stuck too. I needed an inkling, not too much where I’d be bored, but just enough to whet my appetite and lead me into the story.

I’ve heard it likened to just needing your car headlights to be shining a 100 feet in front of you to be able to move forward in the night. Now, you need to know where you’re driving so you can get there, right?

Of course, you could drive in circles, to extend our metaphor, and that can be totally fun.

It all comes down to what you would like.

Instead of “how much preparation should I do?” how about asking it differently, “How much preparation will help me feel prepared and excited to start on my novel?”

Honestly, there is no “should.” There is only what you want. So tap into that, and then explore what feels good and works to generate ideas for you.

Here’s some ways to prepare your novel so that you know where you’re going:

  • Get clear on your genre. Reader expectations shape our stories.
  • Learn about your characters. For many pantsers, that’s where they love to play. I do!
  • Explore the world of your story. What makes it exciting and intriguing to you?
  • Keep a steady finger on the pulse of your curiosity and take lots of notes. Some people use Scrivener. I do. And I use a notebook, audio notes, and post-its. The important thing is to capture all your ideas. Now is not the time to judge them.
  • Watch these silly and fun videos. Creativity comes from joy and love.

As you can see, there are lots of way to prepare for writing your novel. It’s a personal choice, and one to explore and discover for yourself.

In my October 2016 Plan Your Novel course, I present a process designed by a pantser — me. I’ve designed a roadmap that you can and encourage you to customize to your life. (We teach to the whole brain: There’s plotter tips too that you may find useful, too.)

If you’re ready to dive into planning your novel, this course is for you.

As I often do, I have goodies for you: 2 ways you can win a free pass to the course. Check those out here.

Your turn: What draws your curiosity as you think about planning your novel?

I’m curious! And would love to know!

Post below and let me know what you discover. Happy Writing!

Join us for our Special Free Webinar, Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 5pm PT: “Essential Plot & Character Tips.”

Sign up here:

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  • I usually start with setting. World-building captures my imagination. Then I add characters, at least the main ones. Other characters tend to pop up as I travel along. But for me, world-building is the most fun.

  • Beth Barany says:

    So cool, Nicole! World building is fun. I love how it captures your imagination first.

  • L.P. Masters says:

    I suppose I subconsciously start with theme. Most of my novels have an underlying theme, something important (and rather broad) like freedom, sacrifice, determination. I also often like to give a lot of attention to my antagonist, since antagonists are very important in my opinion. They’re what really drives the story, and I like mine to be Just Right.
    Finally world, setting, plot, little scenes of action. I just think about all sorts of random things and try to mesh them all together. I love it.

  • Beth Barany says:

    L.P. Your love shines through. Thanks for the reminder about antagonists. They are so important.

  • K says:

    In a nutshell these tips for pansters were to make them become plotters

  • K, If that’s what you want!

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