Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plotting vs Pantsing

I am always amazed by writers who plot. And outline. And timeline.

They seem so organized!

I wish I could be as organized, but the truth of the matter is that I'm a seat of the pants writer - a pantser, if you will. The only things I know about my stories are the names of my hero and heroine, and that it will have a happy ending. Usually I know the conflict, but sometimes that changes.

There are writers out there who outline each chapter. I tried that once, ended up with about twenty pages of outline, and got completely stuck when I tried to write the story. It was like pulling teeth to get the words to come out of my head. Frustrating, to say the least.

I've tried timelining as well. I've found that I need a timeline, but I can only use it when I'm editing, to keep track of how many days have passed, or what time of year it is at the end vs the beginning of the book.

Some authors do collages of their story ideas. I don't even get that, never mind attempt it. It seems simple enough, but I just can' t wrap my brain around it.

So, I write as the story comes to me. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. I usually catch it in the first draft editing phase, but not always. The book I'm working on now needs a subplot. I have to go back to the first page, reread, and weave it in. Of course, that'll mean the story could possibly change, and that's okay. As long as the ending is happy, the story will work itself out.

I try to think of a book as a three-act play - intro, buildup, resolution. I can identify the major turning points - once the story is finished. I envy the people whose minds are organized enough and steely enough to know all of that before hand.

Sometimes, I've been halfway through a book and the plot suddenly veers way off course. I'll follow it to see where it goes. There have been times when I've gritted my teeth and fought to steer it back down the right path. But, there are those times when it's actually better. More powerful.

Like the book I'm writing now - it's the first one I've ever done with a hero who has a physical disability, for lack of a better term. He's darker than most of my other heroes. Or at least, he will be, if he ever decided to be agreeable. Maybe if I'd outlined his scenes, I'd have him behaving. But for now, he's fighting me every step of the way.

The truth is that I can't force myself into a routine that doesn't fit me, any more than I can force myself into a pair of jeans that are a size too small. I can wish it all I want, but it ain't gonna happen. And that's okay. Neither one is the "right" way to write. It's simply a matter of finding which is the right way for each individual.

Maybe for my next book, I'll try plotting.

Maybe not.

1 comment:

The Quoibler said...

I, too, am a card-carrying "pantser", though I write articles, website content, and the occasional ebook, but not lengthy novels.

For me, I just like finding out "what will happen next"; it's kind of akin to simultaneously being both the writer AND the reader.

Often, I'm surprised at the direction an article takes. Ironically, those are some of my best works.

Of course, I've plotted and planned and outlined a few pieces until my little brain is numb. But the writing tends to come out unspectacular, formulaic, and forgettable.

As far as I'm concerned, you should keep pantsing!