To pants or to plot. That is the question.
I am wrapping up the third book I’ve written, which is the first one that is going to publication. And I am a relentless pantser. This is how the process works for me:
Think of vague idea.
Chew on that idea for several days until it formulates into a story swirling in my head. Still just an idea, mind you.
Stop Writing. Realize I don’ t know where to go from here.
And so on.
In the end, the story ends up finished, and it works out okay. The benefits are that I just let the story take me where it wants to go, which is tons of fun. The story and the characters in it take on a life of their own and they define their path.
But time and again I run into a couple of problems with this approach:
1. It often requires me to do some rewriting.
Either I don’t like the journey from the beginning to the end or there are components of the story don’t jive. Or, and this is more often the case, I’ll think of some element I want to add into the story and will have to rewrite sections of it to make the element fit. Ultimately my story takes longer to write.
2. It takes me a while to get into the story.
When I jump right into my concept feet first, I haven’t taken the time to get to know my characters or what they’re up to when everything opens. Because of this, it takes some time to find the tone of the story and their individual voices, thus often resulting in scrapping the beginning and starting over.
3. I’ll get to a point in the story and have no clue how to connect what I’ve written so far with where I want to end up.
I’ll be plugging along, letting the story carry me to where it will and then bam! I hit a wall. This isn’t the proverbial writer’s block I’m talking about but straight up no clue where to go next. At which point I usually end up pulling out some paper and outlining the rest of the story anyway.
But my writer’s heart loves the pansting approach. I like to get carried away with the story and the characters. I enjoy the adventure it invites me on, the thrill of figuring out those next steps.
I want to write a lot of books. Ideas bombard me almost daily, and I want to make sure I’ m doing those ideas justice by giving them their due time and my best effort.
So, I am engaged in a rehabilitation process. I am a recovering pantsaholic, making my way to becoming a plotter. A whole new world of scene definitions, white boards and writer’s tools are opening to me, and I am making my way amidst the myriad resources available to find what works best for me. What I’m finding is that I can be organized with my writing, defining outline, setting up my story so I know where I’m going and still give myself the freedom to follow the story where it wants to take me. My outlines now are rough, broken into scenes and conflicts and besides that, I have the freedom to figure out the route the characters and I will take to get from Plot Point A to Plot Point B.
So, how about you? Pantser? Plotter? Plantser?