Plotting and Planning #IWSG

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, making it the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

I’ve been all over the security map this past week, going from high to low to elated to stressed. But since there are so many emotions in my mix, I’m focusing on just one topic–the one that has me scheming with excitement.

I’m planning book 3.

Now this might not seem like a big deal, but the thing is, this is the first time I’m planning a story before I start writing it. We’ll ignore the 7000 words or so that I wrote a few years ago. And the really creepy poem that goes with this book. Those don’t count.

After the mess I ended up with in book 2 and the fact that it took me five freaking years to finish, I decided I wanted to try to learn from my previous mistakes. Typically, I have a general idea of what’s going to happen and I just leap in and pants my way through the rest of it. But my progress was slow and I found myself wondering what a particular character was doing during a section of the book, leading me to hem and haw for several months. To help myself, I figured out all the scenes I needed in order to reach the end, and it worked, but it also made me realize what didn’t work. That led to a timeline shift and tossing out over 200K in book 2.

Yeah, let’s not do that again.

So I sat down and started figuring out all the scenes I’d need for book 3, and I discovered I had the same exact problem as book 2. About 3/4ths of the way into the book, I had no clue what a particular character was doing. I knew what was going on with the other characters, but this one? Hmmm. So I started asking questions of myself, I consulted with my sis-in-law, flooded her email with the random ideas that popped into mind, and voilà! I figured it out! This character would be dealing with people introduced in book 2 and encounter a particular item that’s referenced with some regularity in book 2.

And… now I need to add something to book 2.

*sigh*

Book 2 is out to beta-readers already. It’ll only be a small addition, maybe 400 words in one scene. But it’s going to come into play for book 3 and lead to the wrap up in book 4!

So am I insecure? Yeah. What else am I overlooking? What other issues are there because I haven’t figured out all the scenes I need for book 4? Guess we’ll see when I get there.

I’m skipping the question of the month because it just sends me spiraling into a state of despair. So rather than dwell on that, I’m pretending it doesn’t exist. That’s healthy, right?

About Insecure Writer’s Support Group
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You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you ever planned a multi-book series? Have you ever come across something that you realized should’ve been introduced in an earlier book?


As a side note, you should totally pick up a some books while they are on sale for only $0.99 each. First is FULL DARK, an anthology featuring one of my stories. Next are Hinting at Shadows and On the Edge of a Raindrop, both by Sarah Brentyn. They are collections of flash and micro fiction, perfect for lovers of poignant tales or reflections on the human condition. More on these next week, but I didn’t want people to miss out on a sale while it was going on!

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

29 thoughts on “Plotting and Planning #IWSG

  1. I’m a diehard pantser, but that’s great that you found out what works best for you. That’s really all we can do as authors, keep trying different things until we find the one that works.

    Happy writing!

  2. I am a panster. One thing that helped me was the 5 plot points. Learning to identify in my own work help with staying on point. https://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting/structure/the-outline/51-plot-five-key-moments/

    Happy IWSG Day.
    Holly Lisle is releasing How To Write A Novel for all levels of writers with a huge discount that will never be repeated. There is a discounted available for content edit too that is worth the price of the course. The early-bird special closes on Fri. Oct 5th, but I highly recommend it. I grabbed it and I am loving lesson one. I own all her courses but I thinking this is gonna be one of her best. Her How To Think Sideways course changed my writing life in 2012, and I think this one may do the same for me in 2018. I talk about on my IWSG post this month. Just a thought, I am not pushing this just some of the “things you mention” are things she addresses with a repeatable process once learned. I really believe in what she teaches. She is awesome.

  3. Look at you, getting ahead!

    (And congrats on the cover, it’s very cool – I didn’t see it when you posted it a couple of weeks ago but I went back to check out all your updates)

    I wish I could plan and plot better but I find the more I plan the less enjoyment I have with the actual writing. I dunno, it seems that letting it free-flow is more satisfying, even knowing it’s going to take a ton of work to fix it all after the fact.

  4. This phrase makes me smile – “…has me scheming with excitement.” Good luck, Loni!

  5. We have to do what works, and I’ve found that what worked for one book does not necessarily work for another. Perhaps I’m not really a writer, but someone who wishes I were. Anyway, good luck with your new approach. Let us know how it goes.

  6. Totally perfect to pretend the question doesn’t exist. What question? 🙂

    Congrats on planning book 3 – that’s a huge step. I’m doing more planning for my current book this time around in the hopes that I won’t have to go back and fix so many plot holes and issues. Hopefully, it will be smooth sailing once I start drafting.

  7. Anna

    Congrats on the plotting and planning. You sounded like a mad scientist until I read further in and I’m glad its book related. I also turned to outlining because it was such a time saver. You only have to sketch it out and then hop back to pantsing with a plan. Enjoy the journey.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  8. I have a content editor who runs plot with me in the early stages, and that helps a ton in getting my head around the entire beast. Thank goodness for help!

    And good on you for plotting. It might be a pain, but the formulas out there really do help for major turns along the way.

  9. Oh boy, can I relate to this because I’m a die hard pantser. But it’s taken me forever to finish my book because I didn’t try to figure it out before I wrote it. I’m trying really hard to figure out the sequels before I really dive into them. I actually *just* came up with something to put in Book 1 that is really cool & subtle and links to Book 3, but I’m glad I realized it before I finished!

  10. Sounds like you got it now for the third and it’s an easy fix for the second. Keep planning with the third right up until you are ready to release the second one, just in case.
    Now you know why there is twenty years in between each of my three books…

  11. Have you read Story Genius? It’s great for a pantser like me too. Also, KM Wieland’s Creating Character Arcs?? You will fly through those books!

  12. Think of it as smoothing wrinkles out on sheets. Eventually both stories will be smooth.

  13. Working a series is a complicated process! I’m not an planner either but I’m trying to turn that around so I don’t run into problems like I have in the past, similar to the ones you’ve mentioned here.

  14. That’s my one big fear, that I’ll get to a book 2 and have needed something in book 1 that wasn’t there. But as there’s still no book 1…

  15. Yay! I love that you’re going in with excitement because that’s the best emotion to have going in! And yes, looking super far ahead helps! Good luck with book 3 and book 2 🙂

  16. Good luck as you plan book 3!
    I think I’m a combo: plotter + pantser… maybe more one than the other? 🙂
    I love collections of flash and micro fiction, so I need to check out those books. Thanks for the heads up.

  17. I know what you mean. I’m getting nervous about polishing book 2 of my duet. Once book 1 goes to the formatter, I can’t make any more (big) changes. I hope I haven’t missed anything significant.

  18. I am definitely a plotter. What I’m doing now though, is trying to weave a plot thread into stories I’ve already created that are part of a series. Instead of being open-ended as originally conceived, they’re going to have an end. Not easy to do! Good luck with your project!

  19. Sarah Brentyn

    Pantser. Always have been. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of this (what you’re saying here). Glad you got it sorted out, though. It’s a huge undertaking and I think book 3 is going to go a lot more smoothly because of this approach. Good luck with the planning. And thanks so much for the shout-out! 🙂

  20. I’ve found that having a plan does help. The first book I ever wrote, I totally did it by the seat of my pants. It’s a mess. The rest, I had a skeletal outline, at least. It does make it easier and it also helps when I have long gaps in work time, I have my notes to remind me what my plan was.

    I’m still happily reading! I’m the world’s slowest reader. Always have been. Sigh.

  21. This is great that you are already getting ready for book 3. Awesome! I have always been a pantser but am now switching to trying to have more of a plan because that just isn’t working for me now. I guess we all need to adapt as we move along and write more.
    Good luck!

  22. I’m a big panster. I tried plotting once and lots the motivation to write the story since I knew how it ended. Good luck with book 3, though, and your plan.

  23. As a plodding plotter – since my first novel spiralled out of control for thirteen years – I applaud your scheming ways, Loni. At least, you are moving forward. My WIP has become Book 2 and my backstory is claiming to be Book 1 – for the moment.

  24. Way to go, Loni. I usually have a rough outline of a story myself before I start writing, but I never did scene-by-scene plotting. Maybe that’s why I’m still procrastinating with my latest story. Maybe I need one.

  25. “Yeah, let’s not do that again.” Yikes!
    Bravo to you, just on general principles!

    On plot v. pants: I’m somewhere in between. However, I did find reading “Take Off Your Pants!” (Libbie Hawker) to be helpful. Five stars for the title, certainly.

  26. Plan away! After horribly pantsing my way though my first novel, I know for sure I’m an outliner now.

  27. Plotting can help to figure out all of those details that may need to be present in later books (or were present in previous books). Good luck!

  28. Plotting can really help give direction, even if it doesn’t end up being the exact direction you take with the book. You can do it!!!

  29. I do more planning than I used to, too. Since I don’t have as much time to write, it helps. My plans are still pretty loose, however. I guess it’s how I roll.

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