Blogging Taught This “Pantser” to Plan

When it comes to fiction writing, the blank page has always been an invitation to me, rather than an obstacle. I have a unique ability to write linearly, flying by the seat of my pants and improvising as I go. Historically, I have never done must planning before pen hits page. But as I have gotten more serious about content strategies, blogging taught this “pantser” to plan.

What is a Pantser?

In 2013, I took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – a now-international event where every November writers scramble to put 50,000 words on paper in 30 days. That’s 1,667 per day. Two full-length blogs, seven days a week, for a month (while working full time, by the way).

I started with a basic idea – telling a First Contact story from the alien’s perspective – and a blank page. I had done no planning at all. I just figured I would write whatever came and clean it up later – a true “pantser”. Surely, I could hit 50,000 words with no preparation, right?

I failed.

I slid into third base with about 35,000 words on November 30 and a fully mediocre start to a science fiction novel. And there it sat for the next 3 years.

Content Planning for Blogging Taught Me the Value of Planning

2013 was also the start of my work as the Legal Linguist. In perfecting my craft creating blogs and web contents for lawyers and small businesses, I learned the value of planning. I’ve written before about how creating a content calendar for your blog can help you write more focused posts and improve the quality of your writing. It gives you a road map to avoid writer’s block and direct your creative energies.

I am now a huge advocate for pre-planning your blog. Each of my ghost-blogging clients gets a calendar that lays out how I plan to focus on their practice areas and target keywords over the course of each month. I even spoke about the importance of a blogging calendar at the recent Blogging for Business seminar taught at Michigan Works Ferndale. But I had never considered translating my new passion to my fiction writing.

World-Building and Character Planning: Better Late Than Never

Then, late last year, I decided it was time to dust off some of my old writing. Maybe it was watching all my writer friends work on NaNoWriMo. Maybe it was a desire to get back to fiction. Either way, I cracked open the fiction folder on my old laptop and started reading.

And I found that First Contact story. It wasn’t any better than I remembered. But it sparked my imagination, and my newly developed planning mind. Over the last four months, I have gone back and done all the planning I probably should have done before writing in the first place. I built the alien’s world. I questioned assumptions. I developed his character. And, for the first time, I gave serious thought to my antagonist.

And it reignited my interest in the story. As I write this, I have half of my plot outlined. Even though I probably will throw away 15,000 of those words I wrote during NaNo, I know my writing will be better, and more fun, when it is time to put pen to paper once again. The planning structure that I learned from my professional blogging life has improved my writing, and my interest in this science fiction story.

It’s only April right now. I don’t know if I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, or whether it will be using this story or another one. But I do know that blogging has taught this “pantser” to plan. Whenever I do sit down to write – fiction or non-fiction, novel or blog – I will do my homework and plan before I get down to writing.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and websites for law firms and small businesses. If you need help creating well-planned blog content for your website, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.

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