Thursday Thoughts: Planning Tools for Plotters

Last week I shared a Twitter thread about Plotters vs. Pantsers and Game of Thrones and a peek into my planning process as a Plotter. After some follow-up conversations on Twitter, a few more thoughts come to mind:

  • Most people (and authors) are a little bit of both. You might primarily think of yourself as a Pantser, but not identify with all the characteristics. That makes sense! They refer to it as a spectrum in the writing world, with much room for variation even within the two categories. Some Plotters like to leave nothing to chance and plan out every detail, from mapping major plot points to creating a chapter-by-chapter outline. Other Plotters create a more loose framework to work within.
  • Struggles and strengths aren’t the exclusive province of either Plotters or Pantsers. For example, everyone can struggle with pacing. This difficulty plays out differently depending on your dominant style – if you’re a Pantser, meandering might be how you struggle with pacing. If you’re a Plotter, pacing might get you if you rush through everything and try to force your plan.
  • For me, the value of applying this writing analogy of Pantsers vs. Plotters to storytime came from thinking about my personal style/process in a new way. Periodically taking time to pause, think through and articulate what I do and why always helps me grow as a professional.

Today I want to share one of my favorite plotting tools! I feel like I’m constantly trying to get a grip on organizing my storytime ideas. My old method using OneNote worked really well when I was only doing thematic storytimes, but my more “go with the flow” approach these days needs something more flexible. After playing around with lots of mind-mapping and brainstorming solutions, I landed on the Mindly App.

Here’s an example storytime outline again:


And here’s a glance at all the thoughts I had going into this storytime:


There were lots of different directions I could have gone after reading The Mouse Who Wasn’t Afraid – things in the forest, feelings… but I knew I really wanted to use my recently made-over Mouse House flannel. So we explored the Houses connection.


Speaking of my Mouse House flannel, there were a lot of other potential connections to explore after that, too:


One of my favorite things about Mindly is the option to add notes to each bubble. So in my Mouse House bubble, I wrote down math talk opportunities I wanted to remember:


I also wrote down dialogic reading prompts for the books and anything else I wanted to remember for each activity.

I absolutely adore Mindly! It’s such an intuitive mind mapping program and it comes with some really important features, like the ability to add photos or web links and sync to Dropbox. There’s also a great search function, something that is severely limited in OneNote. The only thing that could make Mindly better would be a web/PC accessible version. Still, the upgrade to Mindly Plus was well worth the minimal cost.

Are you a Storytime Plotter? How do you keep track of your plans and ideas? What tools do you use? Please share in the comments below!

By the way, here’s some more resources to learn more about storytiming to a flow (as opposed to storytiming around one theme):

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