Laundry is pretty much the bane of every mother's existence. Doesn't seem to matter how many kids you have, clothes multiply like rabbits and pretty soon you're buried. The trick for laundry, I've found, is two-fold: minimize how many clothes you and your kids have (so you can't go much longer than a week without washing), and have a process or routine for getting it done.
You didn't come here for laundry tips, though. You came for writing tips! Lucky for you, laundry and writing have something in common: both are more efficient and a lot less painful when you get more organized! And one way to get more organized with your writing is to try plotting.
I used to be a hardcore pantser. A pantser is a writer that follows the whimsy of their muse to finish a story. Instead of planning everything out, they barrel (or wander) ahead, writing “by the seat of their pants.” Hence the term, “pantser.”
Pantsing was fun. I thought it was the best way to write, waiting for the muse to strike and writing in a fit of passion and emotion. I only wrote when conditions were perfect. When I scheduled writing time for myself, I often found my muse elusive and blamed the infamous condition known as writer's block for my lack of words.
Later, when I revised, I couldn't really tell the difference between times when I'd written full of passion and times when I had forced the words. Progress was slow. My plot meandered. My characters seemed unmotivated and disjointed. I became convinced there had to be a more efficient way to write without sacrificing quality or enjoyment, but I wasn't sure where to look.
Enter plotting. Plotters create an outline before they start writing. This often includes character arcs, the plot, world building, setting, etc. They name characters and do as much research as possible before diving in.
My realization of the magic of plotting was gradual. I heard about plotting at writing conferences I attended, but thought it would suck the joy from writing, so I avoided it as much as I could. Until I decided to use NaNoWriMo to write the sequel to Woven and realized I needed to try something different to succeed in writing 50,000+ words in a month.
As a homeschooling mom with five kids under seven and two businesses, my writing time is limited. I fight for most of the time I get. Those minutes are precious. I can't afford to spend them writing a sentence, thinking what I want to have happen next, and writing the next sentence, or being subject to my unreliable muse from day to day. I love it when a passage flies out of my fingers, but writing nirvana is rare. I needed to try something different: I needed a plan.
You see, Woven took me 3.5 years to write, edit, and publish. I had no outline until close to the end when things got really confusing and I had a deadline to finish by. I had an outline for maybe a third of the book. The book prior to that took me seven years, and I never had an outline.
I started the sequel to Woven during NaNoWriMo 2017. The two months prior I outlined the entire book. The first draft of Bound was finished by January 2018. Only three months! I revised, edited, and released Bound by September. Less than one year.
I'm currently writing a paranormal/urban fantasy trilogy, preparing to rapid release the entire trilogy later this year. I wrote the first book in two and a half months. Then I had a baby and got derailed, understandably. Still, the second book is halfway done. I'm well on my way to taking less than a year to finish THREE entire books. I had a full outline for the first book, a partial outline for the second, and I'm still working out the third. Writing the first book took far less time and went so much easier than writing the second has been, but I've learned my lesson and finally finished plotting the second book.
Not convinced? You can still utilize the power of plotting, even if it doesn't seem like it's for you. Here are a few tips to help pantsers become plotters:
Outlining isn't the magic solution to all of your writing problems. Yes, it's less likely you'll get stuck in writer's block. Yes, you'll probably get more done in a shorter time and finish your drafts faster. But sometimes I feel stuck even with an outline, and then I have to spend time figuring out which part isn't working. Those times get frustrating.
Sometimes I'll put my pants back on for a while, just to free my brain and remind myself why I love to write. I won't tell you whether you should be a pantser, or a plotter, or some hybrid in between. There's room in the writer's tool belt for both methods.
Personally, I'm hanging up my pants. Plotting minimizes shiny plot and character syndrome and improves focus and efficiency. It is the “schedule” for your book that, like having a laundry routine, ensures that you'll get the job done. And I've learned that, like laundry, writing sometimes feels like a chore. It's not all flowing inspiration and glistening, perfect packages. It's labor. It's sitting down and pounding out some of the worst words you've ever read, then going back and polishing them until they shine.
Whether you're a pantser or a plotter in the beginning of your draft, eventually you will hang up your pants and analyze your plot and your character arcs and all the background details of your story, so you might as well embrace plotting sooner rather than later. It's a fact that the laundry has to get done, or the books don't get written.
Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?
Bonus! My favorite new plotting tool is a program called Plottr. Plottr is an easy-to-use timeline creation software that you can use to plot out your novels. It's great for those visual processors among us who tend to use napkins and sticky notes.
I used Plottr to draft the plot for the second book in my urban fantasy trilogy. My favorite feature is the use of keywords/tags that you can use to search for specific people, places, events, etc. within your plot. So much better than a word document (which can become unwieldy), and it's simpler than Scrivener. Drag and drop, create character and setting profiles, and more!
One of the best parts is that it costs less than $40 and it's not a subscription! That's right, one-time purchase and you're good to go. It is still in development, but so far I haven't found any kinks. I seriously recommend giving Plottr a try.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.