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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Three things to know about your story, even if you don't know anything else

I am a pantser. I rarely plan anything out beforehand, because if I plan it before I write it, I'm not going to write it--the planning feels like it's already been told, and the fact that no one wants to read a collection of notes on an unpublished story doesn't really do much to convince my subconscious of anything.

But being a pantser while wanting to be efficient and actually get stuff done has led me to learn a few things! I still don't think a person needs to know every single detail to start--save that level of thinking about it for the middle when you have to figure out how to get to the end--but you do need to know something.

Like this!

1. What is your hero doing?

Like, this might be a big question, depending on your story, but it doesn't have to be. You don't have to know the whole theme and arc or anything, just a quick sentence or two of literally what they're doing. Right now. When the story starts. Maybe also a little of what happens next, just to get you going. Once you're going, you can just keep asking "and what next" to get through large chunks of the rest.

If you also know why they're doing what they're doing right now, or what they're trying to accomplish all the better. But don't overthink it if you're trying to not plan.
EXAMPLE: Our hero is currently on the edge of known space, trying to decide if he'll stay out there or come home; he's conflicted between lonliness and the need for adventure 

2. What are the basic things about the world that will affect the story?

You don't need a lot of worldbuilding here, but you will need to know the rough outline of your setting and how it helps and hinders the people you're talking about. Think: weather, terrain, city vs not-city, any enemies or big animals around, stuff like that.
EXAMPLE: He's in a spaceship, but it's kind of rickety, and maybe there's another ship out there he hasn't noticed yet?

3. What do you want the end to be like?

You don't need to know exactly what the words are going to be when you start a story, but it's good to know what you're aiming at, even if it's just an image. Everything in between can shift and alter while you're getting there, but if you don't know where you're going how will you know if you make it?
EXAMPLE: He's standing on the alien ship, representing all of humanity in space.
With just that little bit of stuff, you could have enough to start! You can find out the rest of the story as you go, uncovering it like it's archaeology. For the days when you want to write something fresh and new but you don't have anything preplanned, it's a fun exercise to keep you limber and to give your brain a break from all the heavy lifting of building everything beforehand, too, even if you're not a pantser! And it's a good way to test if an idea is ready to be a story: can you come up with something for all three of these things, even in the vaguest sense?

You might have to edit more than if you'd planned it out first, but you also might come up with stuff you never thought to do if you'd planned--and that's what keeps me mostly working it out as I go!

Are you a pantser? What tricks do you use to keep a story going?

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