It’s been exactly seven weeks today since I put down the first few words of Book 3 in my Crown of Tír na nÓg series. And today was a particularly productive day (I hit my highest daily word count so far at around 2.4k!) and I’m so thrilled about my progress that I decided to write a blog post about it.
Planning over Pantsing
In the community of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) you’ll often find the words “planner” and “pantser” and even “plantser”. A planner is someone who doesn’t start writing the first draft until they have figured out the major plot points, and sometimes a planner will plan everything down to the chapters and scenes before writing a single word of the actual novel. A pantser is the opposite, someone who might only know how their story begins but not how it ends, and a plantser is a combination of the former two.
I am a planner. I like to create an outline beforehand, focusing on the pivotal moments in a novel, such as the inciting incident, the turning point, and the climax.
When I started writing my first novel, Seelie Princess, my outline was all over the place. I had no idea how to structure a novel, so I was more of a pantser, but with every draft that passed, I became more of a planner. I would create a table called “Chapters Overview” with their title, a short summary, and a column for notes that I still had to consider during my revisions.
I was a better planner by the time I started writing the sequel, Unseelie Queen. I had most of the pivotal moments in place before I started writing, but I hadn’t thought too much about the individual chapters and things still shifted around between each draft.
Planning Book 3
I’m now a full-blown planner. Not only did I create an overall structure, I wrote a very extensive chapter-by-chapter summary. At some point during writing that summary, I paused and thought, “But doesn’t all this planning take away the mystery of storytelling?”
And yes, it does, to some extent.
I try to write for at least an hour or two every day (except for one day off each week, which is usually Sunday) and I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain this daily writing habit if I already have a summary I can consult when I feel I’m veering away from my story. Of course, veering away from an original idea is sometimes an improvement and I still do it, too. I’ve cut chapters I thought would be important, shifted scenes, or made a different decision than I had intended. Sometimes the creative juices are flowing freely and I follow them wherever they take me; and sometimes I struggle to put down a single word, and on those days it helps to have a structure in place.
Writing Draft 1
I’m sometimes tempted to call this “Draft 0” because even with all the plotting I do, the first draft I write is still pretty raw. This is the draft that I don’t show to anyone. Sometimes the ideas just keep on coming, and I’ll end up thinking faster than I can write. And that’s when I make the strangest mistakes, like skipping entire words or confusing “their” and “there”, something I rarely do when I take my time with writing.
I can’t remember which author said it (it might have been Holly Black) but I once read that the first draft is basically “puking words onto the page”. Just letting it all out. This might sound a bit gross, but I agree. When I write the first draft, I try to think as little about future revisions as possible, even if my brain keeps telling me to go back to that one sentence and stare at it for an hour straight.
So yeah, this is what I’ve been up to since August 12, when I started writing Book 3. And today I’m looking back on all that I have achieved since then:
If I’m hoping to hit my goal of 100k by the end of October (which was my original goal) then I’ll have to pick up the pace. But that word goal is only an estimation, and the deadline I gave myself is an estimation as well. I don’t want to spend too much time on this first draft because no one is going to see it anyway. For Draft 1, I have only one goal: to put all my ideas into words and pray that some of them won’t need to be revised five times.
That’s all I have to share for now. Maybe when I’m done with Draft 1 I’ll crawl out of my writer’s den and write an update here on my website.
Until then, happy reading!