I am a hypocrite

Are you a plotter or a panster? One of the rather infamous questions in the writing world. Are you the kind of person who can just start of with an idea and a few characters and completely run with it, having no clue where your characters are going or how the stories end? Or do you have to sit down and meticulously plan out each and every plot point of the book before you can even attempt write?

I considered myself to be the ultimate pantser. Dancing Through Life was written completely on a whim, and I just let my characters form on their own. When I was writing a scene, I was totally in the now. I had no clue how the book would end, never mind what was happening two chapters from now. And it worked for that story, because I felt like the characters were writing it. Of course when I started it, I was thirteen and barely knew the first thing about writing.

I did the same "pantsing" process for Perfection is my Enemy. Even as I was writing the last few chapters, I never knew exactly how I wanted it to end. Because of this, I had a long period of writers block, because I had no clue where I was going.

Still, I preached the pantsing through and through. I tried REALLY HARD to plot at one point, and it just didn't work out at all. The most I think I've ever done, plotting wise, is character development charts. Whenever I tried to outline, I was left staring at a blank word doc.

Then I started Expiration Date, which is of the dystopia/thriller-esque, and discovered that plotting can indeed be your friend. Usually, when I get started on something, I go with a vengeance, and then the trouble begins around the 10k mark. That's exactly what happened with this story, and I realized that I need to figure out what's going on in this story's case.

So I opened a fresh word document with determination, and low and behold, I have the first eight chapters outlined. It's nothing intense, just about five or six bullets for each chapter, hitting the major points. It's really helping out with the pacing, and I'm finding that an outline may be just what this story needed.

You don't need to define yourself as a panster or a plotter.

In fact, I truly believe that it all depends on the story and the genre.

For me, contemporary fiction is easier to wing, because it's supposed to be real, and therefore the characters should drive and define the story, not the plot. With the dystopia, I need to have a sense of what's coming up and what's going on. I'm still leaving plenty of wiggle room, but this general skeleton is necessary.

Of course, there will be people who will always plot no matter what, and there will be people who will never plot.

And it is possible for the devout pantser to morph into a plotter.

Speaking of Expiration Date, stay tuned for an excerpt coming up in this week's WIP Wednesday!



Anonymous said...

"Usually, when I get started on something, I go with a vengeance, and then the trouble begins around the 10k mark."
^^That is my problem on Super Ordinary. :/

Elanor Lawrence said...

I agree with you, Marissa. Realistic fiction is relatively easy to 'pants', assuming that you know your characters at least a little bit. This is because you're living inside the real world with all the rules firmly established.

If you're writing a fantasy/Sci-fi/Dystopia, not only do you have to know your characters, you need to know the world they live in and how all the magic/technology/government works.

And if you're writing a mystery/thriller, you really want to have a good idea how it will end, or at least who the bad guy is and why they committed the crime. This will allow you to foreshadow properly and leave clues.

In short, I think the amount of outlining you need to do really depends on the genre you're writing. I've always been a devout plotter b/c I wrote mysteries, so it was pretty much essential. Now that I'm writing a dystopia/Sci-fi, I can give myself just a little more wiggle room.

I may just write a blogpost about this. :)