Thursday, September 1, 2011

Go ahead, give it a shot

You can't go very many days in the writing blog world without coming across a post about plotting or being a by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. These posts are usually titled something like Plotter vs. Pantster.

And I used to pride myself on being a pantster.

English was always my best subject growing up. I had no problem pumping out several-page papers. Essay questions were my forte. And I'd brag about straight A's (without ever writing an outline). In college, it went the same way, and when I began my career in a writing field (journalism) my attitude continued.

I did my best writing by simply sitting down and writing. Fast and furious.

Then I read a writing book, and the idea for my new story began unfolding in my head. I imagined plot twists and character arcs, settings and a killer climax. I decided to write it down.

I spent several hours working on my outline (which my crit partner told me was actually a synopsis since it wasn't in list form). This was a whole new experience for me. The synopsis ended up being a couple of typed pages. This was decidedly anti-pantster behavior, but it felt natural, so I went with it.

And you know what? I don't think I'll ever write another novel without a synopsis first. It has made such a difference in the speed of my writing. It has made such a difference in knowing exactly where I'm going. It's made such a difference in remembering where the story started.

I'm in love. Plotting IS worthwhile.

Now while I work on my WIP, I have the synopsis up on my computer at the same time. I highlight each sentence as I finish that portion of my story. It gives me a rough idea of how far along I am. If I make major changes in the story, I add those into my synopsis so that the end result will be a good summary of the book.

So today I'm challenging you to give the other team a try. Are you a strict plotter? Then try to write something letting the creative process flow with no worry of where things are going until you get there. Are you a pantster? Give an outline or a synopsis a chance.

Go ahead, play for the other team this once. You never know what you might discover.

Plotter or Pantster? Are you open to switching things up a bit?


Raquel Byrnes said...

I like to think of myself as a plantser...a little bit of both. I think plotting helps you have the freedom to follow the story without worrying that something will get missed.

Just stopping by from the campaign to say hello. :D
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhere in between and each story is a little different. One story just needed a couple sentences for each of the major turning points. Another came to me in dreams, jumping around the story line, that I had to write fast and furious just to capture each scene before they disappeared with the rising sun. The one I'm working on now needed a more detailed outline but like you it turned out as more of a synopsis.

And I've learned writing that synopsis BEFORE drafting makes the whole synopsis process much less "dreaded" LOL Great post.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Love this post ! Great idea.

I am figuring out that I might want to change sides. i'm going plotter all the way baby!

Anonymous said...

Last year during Nano I did a bit of both. I knew my characters, knew the general plot, knew many major points and overall how it ended. But I quickly found out there's a WHOLE LOT that I DON'T know. So I pantsed too. I think that novel is going to have to be pantsed in places and plotted in others (with lots and lots of revision later). So much has happened with it that if I had NOT pantsed my way through...I would have lost out on some seriously awesome plot twists even I didn't see coming. (lol) We'll see what happens when I finish it.

This year during Nano I'm am definitely plotting. Lots of plotting. And for this project, I think it's what I need and it will help me finish it in a timely fashion (even if the first draft takes longer than 30 days). In fact, I'm devoting October to plotting. Go through all of my past notes, comments, half-finished chapters and make sense of it all. (I'm picking up a story started roughly 10 years ago and giving it the makeover it should have had from the beginning, if my 14 year-old self had known how to write back then.)

So to sum all that up...both work for me. I think it completely depends on the project! =)

Claire Robyns said...

I'm definitely a panster, I've been known to start writing a book with no more than the title in my head, lol. I've tried plotting, but it didn't work out well for me. After writing the first couple of chapters, however, the characters need to start taking shape and the plot needs to start forming, otherwise I'm in trouble

Melanie Jacobson said...

I have never tried a synopsis BEFORE I write. I can't believe I haven't thought of that.

I'm totally trying that next time. Maybe if I had done it this time, I wouldn't be in the middle of such a headache. Oy.

julie fedderson said...

Hi, I'm a campaigner stopping by for a visit. I'm a total pantster, and I cuss myself for it every time. I fully plan to outline the next one.

Yeah, I say that every time.

Misty Moncur said...

Pantster! Ha! I've never heard it called that. I think an outline helps you remember where you're at more quickly when you have to step away for a while. But you have to be able to vary from the outline and change it when necessary. Great post!

Susan Oloier said...

I am best when I am a plotter. The WIP I am working on has been done as a pantster, and I simply cannot finish it :-( I suspect if I had an outline as I did with my other manuscripts, I'd be done by now.
Nice post!

Sand Castles and Snow Forts said...

I wrote my first novel with a bit of plotting along the way, but mostly as a pantster. Book #2 total plotting and you're right, the writing is much faster until today. One of my side characters jumped right in the way and grew bigger than I expected! Lovely creative day! Following from the campaign. Nice to meet you! Drop by for a visit.

Su said...

I do both, depending on what I'm writing and what kind of mood I'm in. Stopping by from the campaign!

Jan Morrison said...

Hi - fellow campaigner here - and I'm definitely a pantser. I've tried plotting but I just can't. I know it would be smoother to plot ahead and it ain't gonna happen so I'm now a happy pantser. It just means revisions take forever. My belief is that you're going to put the time in somewhere - whether you frontload with lots of planning, or backload with heavy revisions - ?
Your site looks great - I'll be back - even if you are a plotter. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'm another Campaigner too!

Ah, plotting and pantsing . . .

I am a plotter. Strictly. The few times I have tried to be a pantser, my story has wandered off in too many directions and I don't even know how to fix it anymore without gutting it all. Which is what I think I'm going to have to do.

The stories that I take the time to plot always turn out the best, and always get completed. Sometimes I'll sit down and write a short story in pantster mode, but nothing longer than that.