Friday, June 17, 2011

Are you a Cranky Pantser or an Evil Plotter?

So I love to travel. I know it's a given for most people, like saying "I hate needles" or "chocolate is magical" but...I really do! When it's just me or me and my dear hubby, we could have no plans at all and have the grandest of times. No itinerary, schedule or tickets needed. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of...uh...flyer. Well, you know what I mean.

But I don't "pants" everything. I DON'T PANTS WRITING. I can't! I've tried and I can't. In fact, I started a new story a few weeks ago. Something fun and light(ish), no pressure or revising just yet, just that heady exhilaration of creating a new world, looking through baby name books for new characters and writing every errant thought down just in case it "fit" into the plot somehow. That's right...I figured I'd pants the while darn thing.

This time I CONSCIOUSLY put away my Scrivener and my outlining tools, my chapter by chapter drawings and my (literal) character sketches. I said to myself, "Maybe plotting takes the fun out of it. Maybe pantsing this thing will get it out in 17 days like Elana Johnson's POSSESSION or one of Natalie Whipple's infamous three week novels. I can do this. I CAN JUST WRITE." Grass is always greener, am I right?

But I got one chapter! Then another, then...nothing. Nothing whatsoever. I scraped and thought, plead with the characters and scrabbled for the setting but NOTHING. Not even the handsome hero was giving me anything (and he was the one chatting me up from the beginning!)

So I gave in. I sketched out my heroine and hero, drew the apartment, the school, the missile silos. I outlined chapter by chapter what was happening, labeling Act One, Two and Three, giving each scene a single word emotion (Fear! Dedication! Frustration! Triumph! Hunger! wait, that last one was just me...) Basically, the deepest form of OCD outlining that you can do without actually writing the dumb book.

And my brain heaved a sigh of relief. I gave it a few days to sink in...and then began to write again, literary itinerary in hand.

I've seen the other side, ladies and gents, and I'm happy to return to set up camp in PLOTTER territory. But what about you guys? Have you crossed enemy lines? Find it agreeable or scary? Were you once a plotter turned pantser or vice versa? What made you switch? Of course both are equally effective but...ISN'T PLOTTING BETTER THAN PANTSING? COME WITH ME! FOREGO YOUR PANTS FOREVER!

Uh, maybe I should phrase that differently...


Adam Heine said...

I pantsed a fantasy novel long, long ago. The first 4 chapters were kinda awesome. Then the next two totally sucked.

Then I had no idea where to go from there.

Even worse, when I outlined the rest of the novel to help me out, the whole thing sucked because of the corner I'd written myself into.

Rick Daley said...

I usually start with a high-level summary of the full story line, including the climax and any twists (roughly 2-3 pages). From there I make a list of scenes, indicating the POV and main revelation for that scene...character motivation, character change, action / plot point. Once I have the directives for each scene, I start writing the first draft.

As I get into the draft, the scene outline changes. New scenes are added and the order of scenes may change based on details that emerge in the full narrative.

Revisions are usually MS more outlining.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I don't think I could pants my way through a one page short! Seriously. I'm a plotter through and through. I've never drawn my outlines, although I always feel like that's what's missing with them. I feel like If I could only SEE this all on paper, my outline would be complete. Yep, complete with the brain heaving a sigh of relief.


... even if it is only on paper.

K. Marie Criddle said...

Adam - SEE? I don't understand how pantsers do it. My brains heaves at the thought of having an entire, complicated world and story just spilling out onto the keyboard unplanned. Ug.

Rick - I LOVE seeing how other people do it..,gives me another level of planning to incorporate into mine!

Peggy - Mua ha ha! Yes, we will rule it fairly and honestly with only a few unreasonable demands as to cookies and Nathan Fillion visits.

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I would classify myself as wearing short pants. They only go so far down the legs of my story (snicker), but I need a bit of plotting. With my WiP, I needed to figure out my main plot points first and then I pants my way through to each plot point. It's fun not knowing how to get to the next plot point, but at least I know where I'm headed!

Queen 'Bina said...

I wish I was a plotter. I'm working on it. I really think my stories would be better in the long run if I knew where the heck I was going. But there is something magical about forcing through the blank moments until suddenly the characters get fed up with my inept skills and take over the story for themselves. When that happens, I know we're going to make it. Still, a little preparedness couldn't hurt, so I'm working on that. Mostly I'm hoping to make the revising process less excruciating for myself. Yeah, good luck, Robin.