Friday, April 1, 2011

Pantser or Plotter?

That’s a question I hear often from writers seeking advice. I simply tell them to get that story out of their heads and onto paper and not to worry if it reads either like a screenplay filled with dialogue or something a grade one put together. Why?

Because it’s a first draft. Everyone works first drafts differently. Some love to sketch out their characters with extensive profiles; others love to map out the world or plot; and there are those, like me, who allow their characters to drive them wherever they want—otherwise known as a pantser. There’s no particular method that works for everyone. Each writer goes with the flow according to what their muse tells them.

All of my first drafts are basically screenplays loaded with dialogue. I allow the characters to speak to me and then in the subsequent drafts I go in and fill in narrative, descriptions, five senses to bring the story alive, and build my world and setting.

I’ve tried to be a plotter but it simply doesn’t work for me. It stresses me because when I have to follow a formula and my characters move in a different direction I get blocked. So to avoid this blockage I move forward with no particular direction and write.

Another ‘no-no’ that I do is I don’t set limits to word count per day. Tried that and again, for me, maybe not for you, a word count to reach seems to frustrate me. There are days where I write several chapters, and other times where one word comes to mind...a cuss word inner thought to ‘moi’ and that’s about all I do for writing that day. Won’t deny it’s not frustrating, but it would be double hell for me if I knew I missed my 1000 words and need to make up for it the next day by penning 2000. No thanks.

So, how many of you here are Pantsers and how many are Plotters?


Li said...

Great post! I'm still muddling between the two. Setting word goals didn't work, but neither did just winging it; I'm too undisciplined. Hence my blog. I feel forced to write something at least 2-3 times a week, but not guilty if I'm stuck. (Except for the AtoZChallenge, of course.)

Charmaine Clancy said...

I plot my plot outlines. I can't write until I know where my scene needs to begin, what the conflict will be and where it needs to end. I do sometimes veer off, decide another suspect would be a better culprit or find some surprise characteristics. But I need a plan or better still a map (I've even started by drawing a map of the settings and plotting out movements that way). But I figure it doesn't matter how you get your first draft, as long as you do.

Really loved this post.

Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Elise said...

I somewhere in the middle there. I use a bullet point outline with a minimum of 60 bullets. Those hold my basic plot ideas, snippets of scenes or dialog, character points, a mixture of plotting elements. I do try to write something every day though. :)
Wonderful post :)

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

pantser all the way unless you call getting the most of it in your head before you start on paper. an outline would drive me crazy because so much of the characters and plot flows once I start on the basic idea.

Unknown said...

Definitely a pantser! If I get stuck, I just start writing. It's like trying to dig my way out of the center of the earth with a spoon. And I know, because I play Minecraft. Still, it's better than trying to plot ahead of time. I've tried that before and every time, it has killed any deire I've had to write the story.

Anita Davison said...

I'm definitely a plotter. Without a firm outline I tend to go off at a tangent and stray from the plot onto a road leading nowhere and the word count goes haywire. I start with list of scenes and a short description of what happens in each. I don't write them in sequence though - my mood dictates whether the happy, sad or dramatic parts are written.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I thought I was a panster, but for my latest WIP I've turned into a plotter. I hate when I do that. Consistency is so important. LOL. Great post.

Erin Kane Spock said...

My answer: Yes.
I am both. I create a basic outline, pace events along the character arc, and create a rough estimate of chapters. Then I start writing and see what happens. About 1/2 way through, I revisit my original pacing and make adjustments.
So, yes, I am a plotting pantser.
The good thing about not being a 100% pantser (book 1) is the amount of revisions are not as overwhelming.

Mary Andrews said...

PANTSER: I do two or three very loose partial outlines as I write a book but all I know for sure is the beginning and (theoretically) the ending. The characters pretty well do the rest from day to day.

--Mary Andrews
The Fireborn Chronicles: Resonances

jabberingjo said...

my first comment went in to cyber space, I think.I hadn't thought about pantser or plotter. I think I'm more of a pantser. I write like a maniac, but when its done I revise immediately. My plots and sub-plots come when I'm in the maniac phase. I love writing in that phase, but editors don't like it lol
J. Rose Knight (Joan)

Charlie said...

Pantser here! I've tried doing the big outline thing but I get bogged down. I love to let my characters loose and let them tell me their story. I usually have a general idea of the beginning, middle and end, but my characters take those tidbits and run with them, filling in all the fluff with thrills and spills. I'm so super excited to see how many there are like me! I'm not so abbynormal after all. LOL
C.K. Volnek