Here’s the question – are you a plotter or a pantser?
Do you work out the ins-and-the-outs of what’s going to be happening in that story you’re about to tell, or do you sit down and let your pants take you where they will?
Are you an organised planner, or do you set a fire under yourself and write by the seat of your literary pants?
Or, perhaps, do you do a bit of both?
Me? I’d say I’m about an 80% pantser to a 20% plotter. I start with an idea, or a character, or a scene, and I let it run. If I try and lay too much down about what’s going to happen then I get bogged down in the detail, or worse, I figure I know what’s going to happen so why write it down?
When I was writing my first novel (safely locked away from prying eyes, never to see the light of day) I had an interesting moment where I was nearing the end of the book and suddenly knew, down to the scene, everything that was going to happen.
I nearly stopped writing then and there.
But without some plotting, then where are you going to get?
And that, for me, is where the mix comes in. I have to pants. It’s like an addiction. It’s exciting. The characters grow, they misbehave, they cause all sorts of problems. And then I start to see where they’re heading, what they’re doing, what needs to happen so all the other stuff can go down.
And there’s the 20% of plotting.
But here’s the thing – recently I’ve been reading a lot of crime, psychological thriller, and non-fiction books, and it’s got me to thinking that I’d really like to write a crime novel.
A hang-on-what-happened-there-oh-damn-I’ve-got-to-read-it-again-because-woah kinda book.
And for that I think I’ve got to wear less pants and spend a bit more time with the plots.
That being the case, I’m asking you plotters out there – what’s your best tips for plotting pre-writing?
What do you do?
Notes on napkins?
Because, from a fairly dedicated pantser, any tips on how to plot without taking the spark out of the writing process would be damn proper gratefully received.
2 responses to “Do you write with plots or pants?”
I’m probably half and half – a plantser?! Not sure that qualifies me to give tips, but here goes…
By the time I start writing, I usually have a pretty clear idea about the first quarter of the book, I know the main characters, and I know how the book will end. I probably also know the big things which will happen in the middle. I’ll have a rough idea of how many chapters there will be too, which gives me a sense of how much room I have. This is all on a few scribbled sheets of A4. But there will still be plenty of stuff I don’t know, and which I’ll have to write the book to find out!
So far I’ve found that, when I get stuck, it’s usually because I need to sit down and plot out the next few chapters, and work out what the steps are towards the next big thing I already know. Think of Wallace and Gromit throwing down track while panicking in a runaway train, and you’ve probably got my process worked out 😉 It does give me what I need to get unstuck, though.
Looking forward to reading your finished article!
I’m going through a similar transition myself. I always pantsed a story figuring the energy of being in the moment would propel me towards a solid ending. Sometimes it did and many times I abandoned my stories unfinished or dissatisfied.
Then I bit the bullet and snagged Scrivener. It had the structuring tools for building the complex stories I knew I could write, but had failed to achieve. MS Word was never this good.
Ksenia Anske is a stellar writer who was a serious pantser and is now chronicling her journey into becoming a plotter. You may find her posts enlightening.