Writing…Without a Plan

Pantsers abound the world over. They like surprise endings too. But is that the best way to handle a writing project?

In an earlier post, I said the quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line. True. But not everyone writes a book in chronological order. I certainly don’t. I may begin that way, but I soon give it up. I tend to write in alphabetical order. I assign each chapter a name and follow a list when drafting. This works for me for two reasons: (1) it makes the project seem more manageable (“chapter by chapter”, “bird by bird”) and (2) it allows me to take advantage of short breathers on difficult sections of my book.

I will explain reason (2) a little better. Let’s say I’m working on that difficult mid-section of the book. I write a first draft of a chapter, then realize that it doesn’t accomplish all that I want. I need another chapter. Maybe even two or three other chapters to finish the work. If I jump right in and write the “missing” chapters, I rob myself of some much-needed planning time for the new material. By switching gears to another place in the book, I continue working while still allowing myself the time I need to plan the “missing” chapters.

That brings me back to planning. An outline is essential to my writing process. And a periodic review of that outline is also essential to my writing process. If my story deviates from my plan, I have to decide whether my story needs corrected or my plan does. In this way, I preserve my vision for what I want readers to take away from my book.

The destination is still point B. And only careful planning can get them there.

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