Today I decided to write a little bit about how to begin writing. Every author is different, so take what I say with a grain of salt. If what I suggest doesn’t work for you, find your own path and you do you! This is absolutely nit a one-size-fits-all kinda deal. Every book (even within the same genres!) are all different because the authors are all different.
Now, into the good stuff.
I used to be a “pantser” (aka, someone who just sits down and starts writing by the seat of their pants.) This kind of author doesn’t know what’ll happen next. They don’t have any plans for the future, they let the characters tell their story. It’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding way to write stories and bravo to those authors! I loved writing like this because it made me feel adventurous and like I was on the ride, alongside my characters. (My Rose Winters novellas were both pantsed novels. Stephen King also reportedly pantses his stories.)
Nothing short of immense awe goes to those authors who are “planners” either. These are the authors who, well, plan their story. They have varying levels of detail for themselves. Some planning authors plan every little character arc, every plot detail, everything short of the actual conversations. (though some do throw in ideas of what scenes could be, by including dialogue or scenery or what have you.) These are the authors you picture with the “idea wall” and sticky notes everywhere. JK Rowling and EL Stein both admit to being planners. (We can totally see the crazy detail oriented Planner JKR is by her entire Pottermore website having crazy amounts of detail you would never even think of. Like the recent bathroom announcement. Don’t ask.)
Recently I have become a mix of these two, a “planter” if you will. I have the general idea of my story and what is supposed to happen. But I am still that person texting my best friend near tears and saying, “my character is doing something I don’t like!” and completely changing the rest of my outline from there. For the purpose of this post I’m going to talk about my NaNoWriMo 2018 experience. I hadn’t “won” a Nano in 4 years. (When I say win I mean reaching 50,000 words in a novel in 30 days.) I was determined to win this year because I wanted the discount code to Scrivener, a program I will talk about in another post.
For this year I started with the basics. I had an idea (I wanted to write a story about Merlin, King Arthur, and a secret.) I started by naming my characters. Merlin and Arthur were obvious. But I went to my favorite naming website and started looking up other medieval names that I liked. I sent a list of them to some friends to narrow down and came to two different names. With those two names I had two different plots my story could take. I decided to merge the two, choose my favorite name, and go from there. I finished naming all of the characters I needed to. Then I went and found the Save the Cat Beat Sheet which I love dearly for planning. (This link leads you to explanations of each beat, if you’d like a copy of what the sheet looks like, feel free to contact me and I will send you a copy!)
Once I got an idea of what each “beat” would mean, I sat back and looked at what I had created. I knew who my main characters were, what makes them tick, and even found pictures on Pinterest to represent who each of my characters would be. (Merlin was represented by a nice picture of Harrison Ford, my Main Character’s mother played by Blake Lively.) I even had a friend model for me so I could make a temporary cover for my book for the competition.
Once I had all of that done, I still, regrettably, had about a month until the competition started. But I felt like I wanted to get to know my characters a little bit more. I found a copy of 2018’s “inktober” prompts. These prompts are meant for artists, not writers. But it still worked. Each day of October you were given a single word as a prompt. Artists use this prompt in order to spread their talents and learn to do new art they wouldn’t normally do, or challenge themselves in their own talents. I took each of those words and every day would write a scene or a paragraph based on that word. Some days were super easy, others were a bit of a challenge. And one in particular (whale) I straight up had no idea how to incorporate. It was a fun way to learn who my characters were and how they acted. Only a few of those scenes ended up in my novel by the end of November. The rest of them were just fun to imagine side conversations.
By the time I sat down to write my story I had my cast of characters, my plot structure, and several scenes to help me get started. Despite this, my ending did change by the time I was done. (Characters still have control over their story in my process.) I did have a side character who surprised me. And that is where I get to enjoy the pantsing part of my story. I enjoy letting the characters take the wheel. Even if it throws me off and puts me behind a few days in the competition. I still won. I’m planning on trying this process again for 2019 Nanowrimo to see if it could possibly repeat itself and I can win again, but we will see if I can find inspiration enough. For now, I’ll just continue to edit my Nanowrimo win and feel proud of myself.
As always, if there is a question I didn’t answer, let me know! I would love to answer it for you yourself, and then also add in an article talking about it.