I’ve been writing with increasing frequency ever since I was in the eighth grade, but not once did I ever consider my writing method. In other words; how did I write? Was I a plotter, a pantster, or did I take the hybrid approach of plantsing? The answer isn’t as straight forward as one might think.
Plotting exists in the realm of Planners R’ Us. You research everything you need from story locations to the characters themselves and come up with a detailed plot line long before ink meets paper. There are many a writer who’d decry this as boring, taking the fun out of the at of writing. However, it can be necessary at times.
I’ve found that I have an overreactive imagination which allows me to come up with amazing characters and fantastic stories to put them in. But just as genius and madness are two sides of the same coin, the flip side of my imagination is that I have difficulty concentrating and my mind goes all over the place. I found this out when writing my first book.
At first, I tried writing it as a pantser, essentially making the story up as I went along. I was about six chapters in when I realized that the story was in danger of imminent derailment followed by a fiery crash. I stopped, scrapped the last chapter, and wrote out a plot line for the rest of the novel. Things went more smoothly after that. So, does that make me a plotter? Yes and no.
Pantsing is where you take an idea and run with it as fast and far as it will carry you. No carefully structured plot, no figuring it out before hand. Just you, a pen, and a blank piece of paper in desperate need of a story. However, I’ve already mentioned that my first attempt at pantsing ended in disaster, but does that mean that I never just wing it? No.
I just wrote a novel that had a major battle towards the end. It involved a bit of planning because three things were occurring simultaneously; dialogue between the protagonist and the villain, a sword fight between the two, and a battle between the protagonist’s allies and those of her opponent. However, the conversation/battle between the protagonist and the antagonist was stilted, dull, and in desperate need of revision. But I didn’t think that plotting would fix it.
My solution; identify the last place where the writing worked, figure out where it picked back up and pants my way from point A to point B. The result was–hands down–better than anything I could’ve pre-planned. But if I’m not a plotter or a pantser, than what am I? Perhaps, I’m a little of both.
A plantser is a hybrid, an individual who has a foot in both worlds. Basically, as a plantser, you’re not afraid to hop from one camp to the other in order to insure that you have the best story–and plot–you can possibly have. Take the second novel of a trilogy that I’m writing.
The numerous locations and sheer number of characters that will be introduced demanded that I plot out the novel and perform extensive research before I ever started writing, a process that took nearly three weeks. That doesn’t mean that the plot is set in stone. I’m more than willing to change something if it means a more interesting story. I view a plot line much as the pirates view the Code in Pirates of the Caribbean–it’s more of a suggestion than an actual guideline.
I’m not one to propose any style of writing as being superior to another. If you find something that works for you, than go for it. Me? I think I’ll stick to plotting with occasional spats of pantsing.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.