Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pantser or Plotter?

I mentioned I was a pantser working on becoming a plotter to some of my friends when they questioned how my writing was going, and they laughed in confusion and asked what that meant. I guess that is writing terminology at its finest!

I find being a pantser is a lot of work. I have to write, then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. This is okay for short stories, but I wrote a draft of the novel I'm working on and it is a mess. So I want to try writing a detailed outline and then rewriting it. A lot of writers love being pantsers and that is just what works for them, and that may be the case for me too, but I'm going to give this a shot.

I am actually participating in a neat online class this month with paranormal author Suzanne Johnson where she shares her method of plotting. I am sure I will learn a ton, though even if I don't, it will still get me working on that outline, which is great! The unfortunate truth is that sometimes I need accountability to get anything done.

What about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check the link for some of the other blogs participating in this event!

61 comments:

  1. I feel your pain... I'm a pantser too... and there are SO many days I wish I could just plot the thing! Save some time. But it's not how my brain works... plotting takes the magic out of it for me for some reason...

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    1. I could see that. I think I need to just have a basic plot so I know sort of where it is going and then I can let my imagination go and still change things as I write.

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  2. I'm a plotter for sure. t's hard for me to sit and write whatever comes to mind. I have to know where the story is going first....which prbably explains why mine is going nowhere! :)

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    1. Sometimes it helps with the creative process just writing whatever comes to mind! But it does mean lots of editing later.

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  3. For NaNo I was a panter last year....which is why I intend to be a plotter this year. Way too much work =)

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    1. Yeah, I pantsed my way through my NaNo project last year too!

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  4. I'm a pantser too. Trying out some different plotter outline techniques for next book though. Good luck with the class!

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    1. Thanks! Good luck with the plotting.

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  5. Plotter, and I developed a mini-synopsis outline that has worked for me (a 2 or 3 line summary of each chapter). Thanks for your warm welcome into the group. It's much appreciated. :)

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    1. You are welcome! Chapter summaries are a good idea--I might try that.

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  6. I'm a plotter, or what I call a planner. I outline my novels with a flexible outlook, but at least I know where I'm headed, I can detour if I want to. It saves much angst for me.

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  7. Hi Allison
    I used to be a panster. You're right, it makes a mess of your ms. Now I plot. I have a notebook or sometimes I use a word.doc. Either way, it gives me direction. If something comes up and I realize I need to add something in I make a note and do it. Especially with fantasy. The current epic I'm working with has a lot of herbal remedies and other plants that the antagonist uses to control people. I must invent the names of the plants and write a detail sentence or two describing what it does so I can remember. I base a lot of the properties off real plants, but they don't grow in my fantasy world.
    Nancy

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    1. That is really interesting and sounds like fun :) I like writing fantasy cause I can make up my own details instead of having to research them. The trick is remembering everything you've come up with.

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  8. Definitely a plotter! I write about 5 pages first, though, to get an idea of who the characters are and then I outline.

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    1. That is a neat idea! It would certainly get you thinking about the plot.

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  9. I'm a planner - I have an outline written out and have notes of key scenes that must take place, but can't write to a rigid plan because it takes all the creativity out of it for me!

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    1. Yeah, I don't think any plotter sticks rigidly to the plan after they start writing.

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  10. I have to plot and outline or my stories would wander into the desert and never return.
    I bet yours will rock with an outline and rewrite!

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    1. haha, thanks for the confidence! I think it will be much better when I have most of the details down before I begin the rewrite.

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  11. I start with a very vague plot usually, and fill in the details along the way. Sometimes big plots form on the way, their shapes appearing from the mists of the unwritten pages to come. It really depends. While certain key elements are already formed, I'll be honest...I don't know how the story is going to eventually end up.

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    1. That is the fun of it, though, I think :)

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  12. I started out a plotter and then turned pantser. When I outlined, my stories tended to come out sort of contrived. Now I follow a more organic path while I write, using the character's motivation and reactions to steer me, though I usually know my end goal, so I'm not blindly writing toward a cliff. Hopefully. :))

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    1. Sounds like that works well for you!

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  13. Well, first I let the idea sit and develop naturally into scenes in my head. After a set time, then I sit down and outline. By then, I know the main points and just connect the dots with new scenes. If I haven't done both A and B, then C (the writing of the manuscript) doesn't happen very well. I'll either get stuck or it'll take me a painfully long time to write.

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    1. That is a good way to do it. It is fascinating seeing how everyone's writing technique is different.

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  14. I'm a slightly reformed Pantser. And you know, when I tell people these terms that don't write, I get the laugh and the weird look as well. But pantsing is good for some things. Not all, though. I switched to plotting things out and the process is soooo much smoother, cleaner and better. I still have my moments of pantsing, I don't think I will ever get over that aspect of writing. It's the most fun!

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    1. Yes, I think I will still pants my way through scenes too, even with a detailed outline.

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  15. Oh do tell us how you find the class and good luck with it, this sounds really interesting! I am a plotter myself and I find I couldn't write without plotting it out first!

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    1. I will let you know! It is great so far.

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  16. I'm a mixture of both. My first book was a complete work of pantsing. My second book was a product of plotting. My WIP is a journey of I have no idea what type of writing I'll do which probably means I'll be pantsing it. Although, I think once NaNoWriMo starts up, I'm going to have to make a clear plot for it. That'll be the only way I'll finish it.

    But, I agree that I need someone to be accountable to. That's why I like NaNo. I finished a book last year because of it. You should def try it out if you haven't. Nice to meet you!

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    1. Nice to meet you too! I did NaNo last year and it really was great to keep me accountable. I am debating whether to do it this year or not.

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  17. Hi Allison! I'm happy to meet you! I'm a natural pantser, or discovery writer, and for the most part that's still what I am. But like you, I've discovered it's not practical for me, being an actively publishing author, to write by the seat of my pants anymore. I love the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet method and am a total die-hard maniacal fan of the method now. :)

    Good luck to you! You'll have to report on how you found the class and if Suzanne manages to change your wicked pantsing ways. :)

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    1. Nice to meet you too! Haha, I will have to let you know. I think I will end up being a combination of plotter/pantser once the class is through, but who knows? I will have to look up the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet method.

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  18. I feel like I'm a good blend of both pantser and plotter. I need to be able to know where I'm going before I get there, but I also need to be able to think of things as I write. Weird, I know. I honestly don't even know how I get anything done, lol.

    I also need the accountability factor. I won't get anything done unless I'm making declarations to people (other bloggers) about what I'm doing and when I plan on having it done.

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    1. Yeah, accountability is big. It is helpful setting goals and letting others know what they are.

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  19. I tend not to write a word until I think I have the plot down, and that makes me think I'm a plotter. But I revisit and adjust as I go along, because my characters always drop something that seems minor but ends up being major to motivations and plot. I've moved from being very adamant about knowing every detail of my plot, to letting the characters have more influence. Now, I still outline, but it's with a lot more flexibility. When I'm feeling that I need motivation, sometimes I outline chapters, and try to write to them. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, so I definitely have a measure of pantser in me, too, depending on the project.

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    1. I think I will end up being a combination of the two as well.

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  20. I'm a pantser and I'm trying to be more of a plotter, but it's not working very well. Any outline I make, my muse takes me on a detour from. You're right that it's hard to rewrite later as a pantser, but I love the joy of writing that first draft and letting the story take me as it may.

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    1. It is fun letting your imagination go wild. Though I find I get stuck more often that way :)

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  21. Um...both. LOL I make a general outline, then panster my way through it. :D

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    1. haha, that is a good way to do it, I think!

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  22. I think for all intents and purposes, I am a pantser. I may have some things planned but... yeah, I'm a pantser.

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  23. Like other posters have already mentioned, I'm both. I plot and then start my first draft. After that... my inner pantser happily takes over. Great IWSG post!

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    1. I think that's what I will end up doing too. Thanks!

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  24. Like other posters have already mentioned, I'm both. I plot and then start my first draft. After that... my inner pantser happily takes over. Great IWSG post!

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  25. Love hearing about people's plotting/pantsing! Only recently I've figured out that I plot the novels and pants the scenes. For a long time I didn't know how to explain what I did and how I did it.

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    1. It is neat hearing about other people's methods! Everyone is different.

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  26. Plotter - definitely a plotter. Though I often deviate :)

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    1. Well, my hat off to you. Hopefully I will be joining your ranks :)

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  27. Hmm when I first start writing, I'm totally a pantser. And then I get, like, 10,000 words in and am all "maybe I should start to plot this thing now." BUT, even when I do plot, the panster sometimes can't help but mess with what I've already figured out...

    So I guess that's my loooooooong way of saying that I'm both? haha

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    1. haha, I think I will end up being both as well. I don't think I can completely erase the pantser in me :)

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  28. I'm a bit of both. I read Stephen Kings "On Writing" (the only book of his I've read, btw) and he suggests just letting the story flow, putting it away to ferment for quite a while, then editing. He does no outlining at all. I'm pantsing my first novel, but it's rather intricate (space opera meets Bourne Identity type agency corruption and double crosses) so I may need to do some actual plotting. Like who knew what and when. Learning as I go!
    Thanks for encouraging me for IWSG. I appreciate you.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/

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  29. I really need to learn to be a plotter - I'm a pantser through and through and I dislike it. I should get in on one of these online classes :)
    Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

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  30. I'm a pantser, but reading this post, I didn't realise how much work I was actually leaving myself. I'm not sure if I could plot, whether it would get in the way of my working, but it is something I'm going to consider giving a try, at least maybe part and part now.

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  31. I love how you can say so much with just three paragraphs! I have been a panster, slowly turned plotter. (And most of my non-writing friends have no idea what that means) Champion in the Darkness was a panster novel - with just five key scenes I wanted outlined in my head before I started. I still work from a five key scene method, but now I try to at least have a mini-outline for the rest, and I try to have character vignettes and a good idea of what each character's heart's desire is before I start. Champion has taken me 6 revisions, and I'm not done yet. The sequel to it has only been through 1 draft and it's already a stronger novel . . .because I plotted it, instead of pantsing it.

    Have fun with your class!!!

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  32. I'm a pantser trying to become a plotter, too. I prefer the terms "gardeners and architects" :) Anyway, I can totally relate to this. My problem is that when I think in "outline" mode, I am way too analytical and can't get a story to pop into my head to save my life. Basically, the only way I can write is to sit down and basically go into a "writing trance" wherein the story just comes. It's soooo much work, though. I agree. That class sounds cool. Let us know how it goes!

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  33. I'm a pantser, who wishes she was a plotter, because then I wouldn't be stuck with like a million plot holes.

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  34. Yes, I'm late visiting, I'm still finding IWSG posts I haven't read yet!

    I'm a pantser and I love it that way - I can't plot for toffee. But I think you may have a point about length - the longest I've attempted came out at 58,000 and currently I'm writing novellas between 15-20,000. If I was going full length I might have to reconsider. Good luck!

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  35. I plot for the big points and then let the story flow on its own for how I'm going to get there. Sometimes the flow leads me away from one of the big points I had planned on, but it ends up being better. Have fun in your online class!

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