I used to be a hardcore pantser. In fact, my first novel—which weighed in at a respectable weight of 70k, but I’ve been told that illogical stabs at ‘plot’ do not make a novel—was thoroughly pantsed.
Then I bounced over to the plotter side, and grew so disgusted that I almost ripped my skull off and played kickball with it when I signed up for a creative writing class that was…totally based on plotting. Go me. Luckily, it was that class that converted me to the way, the truth and the life, all outlined.
My plotting process usually involves way too much music + chocolate. Those are the only two steady elements.
There are people that don’t enjoy music. Or only write to soundtracks. Either they belong in an insane asylum, or I should tip my hat to them. Because I cannot do either one. I named an entire fictional world after the word for ‘love for music’ (Melomania, thank you very much). But the story behind each song usually sparks something for me. Whether it’s a character quirk to add to a current WIP, or an entire new story idea, I probably couldn’t write without music.
I can even read my way through a book with a poor plot if the characters are beautiful sinnamon rolls, full of sass and diverse quirks. It makes sense that it’s a person, not a plot, that strolls into my imagination and either demands to be listened to or hides in the shadows. Both get equal love and attention. Usually, it doesn’t take much time to poke and prod until I find some big gaping wound in their backstory that I can exploit into as much pain as possible. Ahem. It’s good for the little darlings.
All this leads into faceclaims. Sell your soul to Pinterest now, it will save time in the end. While there is a legitimate claim that Pinterest doesn’t help writers with realism (Really. Does everyone in the real world look like a model when they roll out of bed, or am I the only one with bedhead that is not even remotely ‘cute’ or ‘romantic?’), finding the perfect face for your baby is the best thing.
You get points if they belong to a popular show that you can either binge-watch or watch Youtube clips from to get ideas about. (Jensen Ackles, people. I stumbled across his faceclaim, hemmed and hawed, then took it as my own. Believe me, there’s enough Youtube clips on his character Dean Winchester to entertain an army of penguins for decades.)
Something always clicks with me that I can sneak into my own novel. I can take the feel of a certain character and apply it to my story, the skeleton of a plot twist and make it uniquely my own. (Pro tip: don’t plagiarize. It makes you look bad and the original author feel worse.)
I poke at my characters and the feel of the story that I have so far. I usually write out some sort of aesthetic to give me a grip on what I want it to feel like. (aka how much agony can I spread like confetti without totally ruining the jazz-cinnamon-roll feel that I want the story to have).
Usually, I get ideas for actual plot from cruel irony. “Oh, your family is the most important thing to you? You have Overprotective Older Brother Syndrome? Sorry, buddy. It’s time for me to wreck that in a fantastic way.”
After that, I brainstorm the major plot points. Then, I outline to fill in the gaps. I’m currently in the throes of outlining another multi-POV project that deals with angst and superpowers and religion and lack of cinnamon rolls and yeah it’s brutal. My outlining process is a post for another day.