Novel Planning Tools Even Pantsers Will Love

Dec 6, 2010

I've been buried in the planning stages of my new WIP this week, and...um...I love it. Not the WIP (although I do love that), but the planning. I call myself a pantser, but I'm sort of a hybrid pantser-plotter. I have to have several things in place before I can start a draft (or get very far into it): basic character sketches, a basic plot outline, and a basic setting.

And I'm here to tell you, it can actually be fun! Even you die-hard pantsers out there would have fun with some of these tools:

Polyvore - Create a character's fashion. Honestly, I thought this was silly when I first heard about it. Then I tried it. Do you have any idea how much fashion can tell you about a person? You can design sets that include outfits, jewelry, shoes, accessories...it's awesome. Check out my protag Vaea's fashion sense. It's a little telling, no?
MyWebFace - My crit buddy Chersti put me onto this one. I always have a basic idea of what my characters look like, but it's hard finding pictures on Google that match (I even signed up for one of those matchmaking sites so I could browse pictures of people!). On this site, you can design your own character how you want them. It's not exact, and it is a cartoon, but it's pretty fun. Here's Vaea. [PLEASE NOTE: Since writing this, I've learned MyWebFace is infamous for attaching spyware/malware to the required download. I had to remove it and the associated bad content from my own computer, so I regret to say I no longer recommend this!]
And, on the character note, I use the personality color code and the Meyers-Briggs personality types to help me get some of my first basic ideas for who my characters are. They give a very good basis to start a more detailed character sketch.

Freemind - This is the plotting tool for pantsers (and plotters, too!). It's a mind map software that author Simon Haynes uses to plot his books. If you check out his post, you can even see the base mind map he uses over and over. I use this base for every story, because you can be as detailed or as sparse as you want. I've even included such incredible outline points like "more bad stuff happens." I am, after all, somewhat of a pantser. But even so, it helps to get a linear look at my storyline.

I haven't found anything cool for designing a setting out there, so if any of you know of any sweet map creation software or something, feel free to share in the comments! I'm a big fan of Google images to get some ideas for my settings.

And...the new WIP does actually have a title now! For the moment, it's being designated Black and Blue (BaB), and it's a YA sci fi. Woot! I love starting a new book.

So, my friends, any planning tools or tips to share? What's your progress on your own WIPs?

18 comments:

Jodi Henry said...

I downloaded mywebface and it's great. I always have a general idea of what my characters are going to look like, but this really helps to solidify the picture.

Thanks

J

Cheyanne said...

You are totally crazy. :) I absolutely hate planning! Sometimes I will write an entire draft without ever describing my character's looks because I simply hate deciding what they look like. But I have to admit, the personality types website is a great idea, because it can help make a character more believable. Perhaps I'll try this.

MT said...

This is like highly evolved paper dolls (which I loved when I was a kid, by the way). :)

Meredith said...

Oooh, these are such sophisticated ways to plan! I definitely need to check them out as I do character sketches.

Katie Anderson said...

Some great ideas, thanks Shallee!

David P. King said...

Oh, wow! What a neat program! This will make an interesting experiment will my already established characters, as well as new ones. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. I do pretty much the same stuff.

The Golden Eagle said...

I like the idea of MyWebFace--I usually have trouble picturing my characters, so that might just help!

M Pax said...

How fun!

I need to have those basics before I start my 1st draft, too.

I snag pics as I run across them and keep them in a folder. For both setting, critters & characters. I find places I visit inspiring, too. I've been gravitating toward settings around me.

Creating a lexicon for characters is a fun exercise, too. Helps you personlize imagery, etc ... to the character.

Michelle Merrill said...

I'm totally gonna use these ideas! Thanks for the websites and good luck with that new novel. I can't wait!

Abby Minard said...

Those are totally awesome tips! I'm going to try them out right now. I still keep saying I really need to sit down and draw my characters. I used to draw "back in the day" and I'd love to try it out on my characters. Thanks for the great tidbits!

WritingNut said...

Wow, these are amazing links! Thank you so much for sharing! I've bookmarked all of them :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Awesome stuff! Thanks so much for all of these. I'm a terrible plotter. I'm definitely checking out that plot-map thingy.

Amy

Melissa said...

Wow! These are some great tups. The my webface looks really, really good! I'm getting it right now!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Wow, Shallee, wonderful tips and resources for us writers. Can you believe it, I have never done all this. I just have a very clear image of my characters in my mind. Will try out these and let you know how it went. Thanks for sharing.

DL Hammons said...

So...you're a plantster?!? :)

Amanda Sablan said...

Great post! I've got to try some of these. And what dedication, signing up to a matchmaking site for your writing!

Girl Friday said...

Not too happy with you right now, just spent two hours on Polyvore :) But it rocks, most helpful, thank you!

alinalovestowrite said...

Hi! I've been reading through your blog for a while now, and I have to say that you have so much amazing advice for writers! Also I just wanted to let you know that I mentioned you in my blog since I found FreeMind through this post. Thanks for being such an awesome blogger :D
- Alina

 
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