Thursday, September 9, 2010

Plotter vs. Pantser

Ah, yes, the age old question for writers - are you a plotter or a pantser?

I have always been a pantser.  Admittedly, it was only about a year ago that I actually heard that term for the first time, but it's definitely the way I usually write.  I create the stories "by the seat of my pants," making things up as I go along.  I usually have some vague idea of what the end of the story should be, and I generally have a really good idea about the characters, but I rarely have a map to get them from point A to point B.  Even in high school, when we were required to turn in an outline for the major essays we wrote in English class, I'd write the essay first, then fake an outline afterwards.

When I started my NaNo novel last year, I had the main character's name (Thurman G. Woodfin) and a title (Thurman G. Woodfin and the Case of the Missing Toothbrush).  As I wrote, it became clear that Thurman, while the title character, was pretty useless as a detective.  Instead, his assistant (Sara Aebli) became the MC - she was the Penny to his Inspector Gadget.  I also realized very early on that his missing toothbrush was not enough to carry on a 50,000 word story.  So I made it up as I went along!  The end result was awful - it turns out that you actually need some sort of plan to write a viable mystery.  Huh.

Anyways, as I said, I've always been a pantser.  But something weird happened this week.  I started to outline.  I decided to do 18 chapters, and I started filling in details about what needed to happen in each of them.  I'm a little more than halfway through, and I sent the outline to Tanya (who is awesome!) to get a feeling for the practicality of the idea.  She and I went back and forth in emails, and I realized that this whole outlining thing isn't quite as bad as I was afraid it might be.  I still need to finish the outline, but I've got a pretty good idea of what else I need.

Of course, I may freak out when it comes time to actually use the outline, but we'll just jump off of that bridge when we come to it.

1 comment:

Jamie D. said...

LOL - I feel your pain. ;-) I used to be a straight pantser too, then I swung over to outliner (scenes only). Now I do a very vague scene outline before I start, and then generally don't look at it again once I start writing. It's like I need the outline to cement the main plot in my head, but then I need to just "go with the flow" so to speak when I'm writing.

I bet you'll find a nice balance between the two eventually. :-)

We'll have to connect on the NaNo site this year - my username is "outofwords" over there. ;-)