Friday, August 9, 2013

Plotters and Pantsers alike - is it possible to go against your nature?

Happy Friday, OAers!

You all have seen the dozens of blog posts and discussions about plotters, aka compulsive planners and outliners, and pantsers, aka the improv masters of the writing world. I'm sure you've also seen the endless arguments for and against each. This is certainly not going to be one of those arguments, because in my humble opinion, those are silly.

But in general, I think it's safe to say that quite a few writers are more or less set in their ways regarding which one works for them. I, myself, am a total plotter. I have micro and macro outlines. Foreshadowing is my best friend. I even have foreshadowing charts. I love structure, even on the days when structure does not always love me back.

Since I have to wait a while before I can get back into my current project, and I didn't really want to start anything epic from my queue, I decided I'd pass the time with a fun little palate cleanser, and I decided I'd try pantsing it. That process always looked really fun, so why not give it a try?

I came up with the idea for the new story yesterday... and already I have a fairly significant chunk plotted out. Whoops.

So maybe I'm a bit set in my ways, but what about you guys? Was there ever a time where you 'went against your nature?' Or are you comfortable sticking with your own style?


  1. I used to be a total punster--until I wrote myself into a corner I couldn't get out of. Then I tried to completely plot out the story. I got board about fifty pages in and never finished the project because I knew from start to finish what would happen. So I learned to compromise. I start a story, plot out a certain portion and write to there, then let the story take me where it will, curtailing bits that enter my head that I know won't work. Sometimes I have a general end in mind, but normally I only plot in sections so I can keep my attention on the project.

  2. I'm just like you, Becky. I have to plan everything out. My spreadsheets have spreadsheets. My notes have notes. I've also wanted to just let go and dive right in to a story without planning everything. It would be so much fun to see where my characters take me. day. -RB Austin

  3. I used to be a total panster - now I'm sort of a panster plotter lol I got tired of turning out first drafts that would take months, if not years, of editing to fix. So I decided to start plotting....and have never looked back :)

    I don't plot out every detail though. I write out a general outline (VERY basic). And then I do a couple brainstorming/fleshing out passes where I'll expand that into a more detailed outline and synopsis.

    Usually after I start writing, I'll stop to flesh things out a bit more and do a chapter outline (still pretty basic, just a one liner or two about what happens in each chapter).

    This has really helped me when writing on deadline because I always know exactly what I need to be doing, how much more I need, etc. Things change, details certainly and sometimes what I had plotted just isn't working so I redo it.

    But for the most part this has both kept me on target and made my first drafts very clean. Now, I can turn out a pretty decent story, start to finish (including a round or two of editing) in a very short time. As opposed to the seven years it took me to get my first book publishable lol

    1. Oh - it's during the editing phase that my plotting REALLY goes nuts. That's when I have detailed, color-coded chapter outlines/notes/corkboards, etc. :D

  4. I am an obsessive plotter, but two years ago I experimented with writing without an outline and wrote my first YA thriller. I'm trying it again now with another YA, but I still rely heavily on outlines for my fantasy novels.

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  6. Sorry - typo ^^

    I am a pantser. I have tried to be a plotter, because my pantsing offer results in lots of rewrites. I want to be a plotter. I do. I even work on outlines, feel really confident I've got my story sorted, and then sit down to write it only to have it veer in a completely different direction.
    I think I'm destined to be a pantser... :(

  7. I'm a wingman. However, on my almost-ready-to-be-queried work, I did a lot more 'pre-thinking' than on my previous one, because I saw the potential for trouble. I don't see myself turning into a full-blown plotter anytime soon.

  8. I'm a hybrid. I often start with just an idea but I do mini-outlines (very brief) throughout the development of the book. For recent projects under contract, I've had to turn in an outline and I found it actually helped. It's just my reluctance to spend the brainstorming time up front that prevents me from outlining all the time.

    I think you have to find the right amount of structure that doesn't stifle your creativity. A balance.

  9. Plotter all the way. For me, it isn't stifling to my creativity, because I am creatively coming up with the story - I'm just doing it earlier ;-)

    I write Sci-Fi, so there are often a lot of plot threads and things that need to be worked out ahead of time. I will write a basic outline of the story I want to tell, figure out who my characters are, then those characters fill in the blanks of the story.

    If I wrote myself into a corner or had a first draft that required massive overhauls to make it work, I would probably never finish it. Actually, check that, I *know* I would never finish it, because when I first tried the writing gig years ago, that's exactly what happened. Once I figured out I was a plotter, I was golden :-)


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