Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pantsers Need Timelines, Too

I'm a pantser; I admit it.The easiest way for me to write the first draft of a new novel is to simply do it. That doesn't mean I do no planning. I spend time working out the plot in my head and getting to know the characters. Most important I decide on the endgame. I have to know where I want the characters to end up, but in the middle I find it easiest to let each day's scene evolve from the day before.

This method works well for creating the first draft, but it comes with a penalty. Often my time sequences are off. This is a serious problem in the mysteries I write. Events must happen in a particular sequence so that the ending is believable and comes as something of a surprise to the reader, but is buttressed by clues along the way.

I solve this problem by making a detailed timeline once the draft is finished, and I've had a chance to get away from it for awhile. It sometimes takes a bit of rewriting to assure that all the events happen in the proper sequence, but by then I know my characters, setting, and plot so fixing the details is easier.

This is the season of Nanowrimo when writers are encouraged to just write the novel. I think it's great advice. At least at the end you have something to work with. So, pantsers, enjoy the creative month of November. January is a good month to step back and work on the timeline of your novel.