Saturday, September 21, 2013

Plotting Pantser

I've always been a pantser, but there's one story I've been working on for a few years but haven't been able to make much progress on because I couldn't figure out how it would end or even a glimmer of how it might end.

So about a year ago I made a goal to plot this story, the whole thing, and prove to myself that I could do it. I've read a ton of books on plotting and tried several different methods, including outlining, writing notes, and building spreadsheets. They've all inched me closer to my goal, but I could never get it organized in a way that really moved me forward.

Finally, I went out and bought a bunch of Post-it notes and took the notes I had written down already and put them all on my whiteboard so I could see them as a whole. This method has worked in the past for major revisions and rearranging, so logically, I should've tried it earlier for plotting, but, yeah, I'm a little slow sometimes. ;)

I started layering ideas under the main notes and eventually ended up with this:

And somehow, in the middle of the absolute busiest week of the year for me, I managed to map out the last two-thirds of this story in one night, after almost three years spent plotting the first third (which was mostly done panster-style by writing scenes). I know a lot of things will probably change between now and when the first draft is finished, but now I have something to work toward.

And I'm pretty proud of myself for plotting a whole story before drafting it. :)

What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser or some combination of the two? Any methods you can't live without?


  1. For my first story, I went full pants. Now, four novels later, I'm at the point where I regard Scrivener with the reverence it deserves. Woohoo outlining!

  2. I've written 4 novels... all using pantsing. I have begun to revise in Scrivener, but for that 1st draft, nothing but writing it out works for me. and I'm okay with that. a lot of greats writers are pantsers ( waves to Stephen King). We all have different writing processes and I've finally learned that no one method is the "right" one.

    Still, there are some days when I sure wish I was a plotting kind of person :-) Way to reach your goal of plotting this one out.

  3. I'm a wingman. I start wherever it is I happen to start, which isn't always the true start of the story. As I write, I see more and more of the story. Once I hit roughly the quarter- or mid-point, I kind of see where/how things might end up.

    I do a lot of thinking about the story when I'm not writing, which might be a little like outlining in my head, but I rarely take or make notes on any of this.

  4. I'm definitely a pantser, although I do have an idea in my head of the general direction I want the story to end up, maybe.

    One classic example of why I love this particular way of writing is when I wrote a scene for a farmer in a novel I'm now revising.

    To drive the story forward, the farmer was meant to head off to a field at the top of his farm to check on his flock. There he should have met the antagonist which should have set off a chain of events pushing towards the end.

    But.... the farmer walked out of his house and instead of heading to the field, jumped into his landrover and headed off to a big cat sanctuary in Dorset.... Go figure.

    This event set off a chain reaction I hadn't thought of. And brought a final character into the novel who had been mentioned several times before but had never made an appearance, therefore tying things up nicely.

    Phew :)

    Yep, panster for me LOL

  5. I use a combination. Your post-it mess looks an awful lot like mine :)


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