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Pre-First Draft Planning for Pantsers

Happy Wednesday all!

So at last I am getting to the posts for pantsers I had wanted to write! I'm so excited about this post and I hope this is helpful to you guys! Before I jump into the post though I have three announcements!

First, if you sign up for my newsletter now you'll get my whole collection of fantastical short stories, Of Magic and Mayhem. You can sign up for that here:

Second of all, I started a Facebook group! I had wanted to do this for a long time but just didn't have the guts to do it. A Facebook group can be a big thing to manage, but right now it's not too bad. So if you're interested in becoming a part of my Dreamer group you can check it out here:

And last but not least, I am gearing up to publish a real website with my own domain and everything!! I've decided to use Wordpress and have been designing it and getting it all ready over the past week. It's not published, I haven't even bought the domain or anything yet but I'm hoping to have it ready to launch in July. I'll still be keeping this blog as my main blog cuz I'm too sentimental and attached to this one to let it go, but I'll also be writing the occasional post over there too. So when it launches I'll let you guys know!

Now onto the actual post. The word plan leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I want to recoil at the sight of the word plan and I don't even like that I now use the word plan when I talk about writing my books. I'm a total pantser, always have been, always will be. I love learning the story as I go and letting my characters run wild and free. It's one of the things I love most about writing. The discovery of a story.

But if I'm being honest, over the past few months (even over the past year) pantsing a first draft completely has left me with huge gaping plot holes. Some writers can deal with those. They're good at filling those holes. I, however, get overwhelmed by them. Very easily. I'll look at the plot holes in a draft and my brain will just shut down. And even when I am committed to figuring the holes out and fixing the super messy, chaotic first draft it takes me weeks and weeks to even sort out the smallest of holes and even then, I usually end up changing it. To me, it's a very exhausting process. I needed a change. I needed some guidance. So I started researching how to plot for pantsers and have tried several different methods over the past six months. So here are a few things that I do and if they worked or didn't work for me:

  • One the newer things I tried is pantsing before actually writing the first draft. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it works! I read a blog post (I tried looking for it and couldn't find it unfortunately) where the writer talked about how she plots her books as a pantser. She pantses a synopsis, letting it be as short or long, detailed or vague as she wants. By the end of it, usually it's about one or two pages long, she has a vague outline of a plot that she can use as a road map to keep her on track while she writes the book. She then segments the big moments in the synopsis out into chunks. If you use Google docs or Scrivener you can give these chunks they're own pages or documents and have a list of them on your sidebar. By doing that it minimizes the messiness of her first draft and makes the revision process easier. I used this when drafting The Lost Ones. Before I even wrote a single word of the first draft, I wrote up a synopsis that ended up being three or four pages long and then giving each important event I had come up with it's own section on Google Docs. So, now that I think about it, I ended up with a draft that is as messy as it would have been if I had pantsed it anyways... However, I still really like this idea and when I'm feeling stuck or don't know how to expand on an idea, this is my go-to method now. 
  • Plot as you write. I use this for almost every book I write. Beginnings are super easy for me. I can churn out the first 30,000-40,000 words no problem. But then I hit the middle and I have no idea what I'm doing or where the story is going. That is when I pull out my journal and bullet point out the next several scenes. Sometimes I only do two or three scenes ahead and sometimes I go all the way to the end. Often my plot deviates from the bullet points I wrote out and that is perfectly OK! It's called being a pantser and giving yourself creative freedom. When I get stuck again (which inevitably happens) I just go back and re-bullet point out my plot and it just goes on and on like that until I finish the first draft.
  • Using the three act structure is also a life saver for me too. There's this one graphic in particular that I refer to often. To me the structure is loose enough to not make me feel restricted and gives me freedom to change what I want or go off my plan but it also gives me a skeleton of a plot to work with. When I get stuck too and my bullet plotting isn't work out, I go to this and see where I'm at on the structure and decide how to proceed. If I need another obstacle before the midpoint moment then I'll add another obstacle. If I'm past the midpoint and need a crisis, I'll figure out a crisis to add. 

This is the one I use all the time 

So those are three strategies that I use often and almost always work for me. Like I said, too much planning or even the word planning makes me feel restricted. These three methods are loose enough for me to feel like I still have the freedom to explore my story as I write the first draft but also gives me a vague road map. I may not know my destination but at least this give me a few of the important stops I need to take.

I hope these were helpful and can help you as much as they have me!

Have a great week everyone!

Do you have any tips or tricks to help non-planning pantsers? 


  1. The synopsis idea seems great .. and plotting as you write ;D I've pantsed everything I wrote. My first few books had gaping holes, but the more I write, the less holes my novels have ;D

    1. Yeah the few things I did plan before writing never works out. Haha I wish that were true for me. I always end up having the same amount of plot holes, hence the need to learn to have some semblance of organization haha ;)

  2. The three act structure is a life saver though for my current draft I’ve written the most detailed outline I’ve ever done. I feel like for me in my first drafts I can pants more but in my later ones I plan more to fill in plot holes and keep multiple POVs straight.

    1. I do the same! In my first drafts I mostly pants but as the drafts go on I outline my plot so I can fill in holes and everything. :)


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