Today I’ve got a special guest post written on the HIGHLY controversial topic of planning vs. pantsing/gardening vs. architecture. Basically, some people (like me) tend to take a more structured, outlined approach to novels, while others prefer to sit down and let the story flow as they write.
Let’s be clear: it’s impossible to say which of the two is better. Some people insist that pantsing allows for more creativity, while others believe that planning leads to a more cohesive story. I’m firmly in the second camp but recognize that pantsing has its benefits.
But my guest author, Justine Alley Dowsett, found a way to put the two together in a way that seems to be highly effective for her story. Read about her method below:
Planning for Pantsers by Justine Alley Dowsett
I’m a pantser. What does that mean? It means that I’d rather ‘write by the seat of my pants’ than plan anything beforehand. However, with my latest book Uncharted, written with my co-writer Murandy Damodred, we did more planning than I’m used to and I think it helped us.
Since Murandy and I co-write, we use Google Drive to keep everything straight. If you’re not familiar with Google Drive or Google Docs, it’s an open platform where you can share your documents and multiple accounts can work on the same document at the same time. It also serves as a cloud drive, so your work is saved and backed up automatically and anyone you give access to the files can open them up and work on them. This helped us with planning because while writing we always had access to our notes file, which became a living document, changing as the story expanded.
Setting and Worldbuilding:
Usually I do a lot of the world building in my own head, but since Uncharted is an adventure story that takes place in a variety of settings and cultures, I made a point of writing down a handful of things to keep in mind about the settings, so I would make sure to include them.
This is where the planning really came in handy. Before we started writing, Murandy and I wrote out detailed backstories for each of our main characters and at least a sentence or two about our minor characters as we invented them. This helped to flesh everyone out and make sure we knew where they had come from and what was important to them because of that.
This is where our best of intentions sort of fell apart, but in a good way. Before we started writing, we formed a point form list of plot points then we proceeded to ignore them. As we wrote, we went back and added new plot points to our list and kept adding to that list to stay a few steps ahead of the story, but ultimately this was a form of pantsing more than planning.
Where the notes really came in handy was when I went to write the second draft. All throughout the first draft, instead of going back and fixing things that needed changing, I took notes instead. Then, when I went over the finished first draft, I applied the changes or checked for the problems I’d indicated. It saved me a ton of time and it also meant that Murandy and I could write quickly, without feeling like we were making a mess of things.
All in all, if you’re a pantser, like me, I suggest trying to apply some planning to your process just to see what you can learn. And if you’re a planner, take a risk and try a little pantsing!
Justine actually has a new book, released April 17th:
Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order. A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact.
Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner, the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.
Here’s a Taste:
The door to her ‘room’ on The Clover was just as she remembered it, although it seemed much smaller now that she was older. No larger than a water closet, the addition on the backside of the Captain’s Quarters that had been built for her was still there as though, after all this time, it was waiting for her return.
Reaching for the small brass ring that served as a handle, Meredith pulled the half-sized door open and was dismayed to find that there was no way she’d fit inside the small space. It was filled to the brim with all manner of junk. Tackle boxes, rope, a crate filled with empty bottles, and a pile of soiled linen; her ‘bedroom’ had been repurposed into the ship’s dumping ground.
This is my room. For no reason that she could fully articulate, Meredith felt indignant. Even if it’s been more than ten years, it was built for me and I’m taking it back! The irrational desire to re-stake her claim on something that hadn’t been hers for a decade took over and she grabbed the nearest thing to her and turned with purpose, ready to hoist a crate filled with empty liquor bottles over the railing and into the water below.
“Whoa, hold on just a minute!” Captain Laurent’s son grabbed hold of her arm before she could gain the height she needed to throw the crate overboard.
His noble friend, minus his navy suit jacket now, stood just behind him, almost as if staying out of her range. His white shirt was nearly clean, though she could see where brownish grey stew coloured the frills of his collar. Meredith felt only slightly guilty about her little ‘outburst’. He deserved it…he’s a jerk.
“No,” she stated, imploring him to listen, “you destroyed my room and I’m taking it back. It’s the only home I ever really had.”
“Your…room?” A light went on behind the young Captain’s eyes. “That’s why it had a bed in there…I always thought it was a dog house. Didn’t know why my dad would’ve wanted a dog aboard a ship, but he was always doing all sorts of foolish things.”
“Like taking in strays?” Meredith demanded, arching a brow disdainfully in his direction. “Is that what you’re implying?”
“Ah, no!” Reginald’s eyes went wide, his hands going up in a defensive fashion. “No, of course not! My dad was always winning strange sorts of stuff in poker tournaments. He was gambler.”
“Are you now implying that I was bought or won in a card game, like some sort of…child slave?”
His eyes bugged even further out of his head, if that was possible, and his cheeks flushed. “Ah…no…I mean…you weren’t, were you?”
“Of course not!”
“So now that we’ve established that you aren’t a stray dog or a child slave,” the noble interjected in a no-nonsense tone of voice, his grey eyes dark, “do you mind telling us who you are and what you’re doing here?”
Meredith fought the urge to laugh because the bit of mushy carrot in his hair was so at odds with his expression.
“I am here because I need passage out of Saegard. I fell in the water, got drenched, then walked here during the night. I was cold, wet, and badly bruised…from my fall. No one was around on deck, so I thought I would warm up inside. I took my clothes off to dry so I wouldn’t catch a cold and I used the silks because they were all I could find. That’s when I fell asleep. And I would have told you all of that, if you weren’t being such a jerk!”
About the Authors:
Justine Alley Dowsett
From obtaining her BA in Drama at the University of Windsor to becoming an entrepreneur in video game production and later, publishing, Justine Alley Dowsett’s unswerving ambition has always led her to pursue her dreams. She lives in Windsor, Ontario and dedicates her time to writing and publishing fiction novels. When not focusing on growing her business, she enjoys role-playing with friends and developing new ideas to write about.
With a background in Drama and Communications from the University of Windsor, Murandy Damodred enjoys fantasy fiction with strong romantic subplots. She is an avid role-player and is happiest when living vicariously through her characters. Though she’d rather think of herself as the heroine of her next novel, in the real world she is an expert in sales and management living in Windsor, Ontario.