October 26, 2012

Casual Fridays: On Being a Plotser

Most authors categorize themselves and their writing style in one of two ways: Plotter or Pantser.

Sorry, Toto, I'm a pantser. You're not going to find my
outline in there.

Plotters map out their stories ahead of time, while pantsers throw caution to the wind and let their characters surprise them.

I've always considered myself a plotter. I'm a cautious scaredy-cat by nature, and I'm generally not fond of surprises. I need to have a basic idea of how the story will begin, take shape, and end, before I can feel comfortable writing anything. When an idea comes to me, I write up a pretend query letter that hits on all the important plot points. And then, I start to write.

And you know what?

My finished drafts may be reminiscent of that pretend query letter, but they never - NEVER - follow it point-for-point. And why?

Because I am not a true plotter. I may have a general idea of what needs to happen, but I don't have a scene-for-scene roadmap. I don't even write a real outline.

Because I'm actually a plotter/pantser hybrid - A Plotser, if you will.

I realized I didn't fit neatly into either category when I was writing LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE. The story has a dual timeline, and I wrote it completely out of order. Sometimes I'd be writing a "present" chapter and realize something needed to happen in the "past" that tied it all together. But what? Well, to be honest....

S**t if I knew what.

So I'd throw ideas (or was it my whole head?) against the wall until something stuck. And when I found ways to make connections that hadn't existed before, I was seriously pleased with myself.

The same thing happened with ms #3, SHADOW PARK. I knew the conflict Ellie needed to face, and I knew how I wanted it to go down. I also knew her best friend was a boy named Jeff. What I didn't know was that Jeff was southern, out and proud, and funny as hell - until I started writing him. He totally caught me off guard, and yet I'm not surprised at all that he's a reigning favorite among my CP's.

Turns out I like surprises a little more than I thought I did :)

Your turn, peeps - Tell us about your writing style - are you a plotter, panster, or a little of both?


JC Lillis said...

Fellow plotser here. I do the same thing with the pretend query letter -- but I'm also up for plenty of character/plot surprises along the way!

Jamie Krakover said...

I'm mostly a plotter but my current WIP although well plotted often is pantsed so I guess that makes me a plotser

Kimberlee Turley said...

I'm not sure anyone can write something without doing a bit of both. I'm a pantser, but I'll still have some sort of idea where the story is going and what conflicts there will be. I just let the finer details work themselves out in the writing rather than in an outline before I start.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, but I admit that sometimes I write character sketches. Writing little details about the characters helps me figure out what they're interested in and what kinds of issues they're facing; it's a great way to fight writer's block.

Seabrooke said...

I'm totally in awe of you and other patchwork pantsers. I can't even begin to consider writing a book out of order, nevermind pantsing while doing that.

I'm a linear writer, and mostly pantser, but with a target or two in mind. I nearly always know the climax, and sometimes know a major mid-way scene. That said, once I actually start writing, more often than not the story plots its own direction. My last book went so far off course that the only thing that remained of my original climax was where the searched-for information was hidden and the nationality of the villain.

ELAdams said...

I'd say I was a plotser, too - great word! I write a synopsis before I start, summarizing how I want the story to take shape, and then I start writing. Usually the outline changes a lot, so I don't see the point in plotting my books in detail when I'm only going to completely change it! I do write my books in linear order, however - jumping around would just confuse me!

Great post - glad I'm not the only writer who doesn't fit into either category! :)

Sarah Nicolas said...

The most planning I ever do is a Save the Cat Beat Sheet. One sentence for 15 "beats", and that's it!

Meredith said...

I've always been a pantser, but in order to boost my creative mind and get away from a project that is driving me crazy I decided to participate in a NaNo event that is having me plot out a story. I didn't think I'd like doing it, in fact I was determined to do it my own way. But I have to admit, it's really working for me. I've enjoyed doing the (way more) in depth character sketches, following a beat sheet and beefing up an outline that maps out every chapter and major event that will occur. I'm not breaking it down scene by scene, but I do make notes of any ideas I have. I'm not sure I'd do it every time but it's really making my life easier. Of course, once I start writing who knows if I will actually stay on task LOL. Still, I think I'll definitely use some of the techniques more in the future.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I know where to start, and where everything will eventually end up. That's as much plotting as I do before I start writing. Pretty early on, though, I have an entire mental road map for the story. If I try to write it down, though, I might as well just sit down and write the story. Writing an outline is all but impossible, because I keep filling in details and conversations when I only intended to write a few sentences. :( So I'm a technically a plotser, but the whole outline is fluid and resides in my head.

alice-jane said...

Definitely a plotser but veering on the pantser side. I rarely write outlines though I will write notes.

erica m. chapman said...

Hmm, well I think I'm a more of a pantser but I definitely have plotser tendencies ;o) Great post!! I LOVE Jeff <3333

Sara said...

It seems like we have really similar writing styles! I start out by plotting the entire story chapter by chapter (really just one sentence per each chapter) so I know where I'm going. However, once I actually start writing, I never look at that outline again. It usually ends up very different from the initial summary! haha

tawney13 said...

I'm a plotser too! I know where I want the plot to go and what characters but I never know what happens until I write. My characters take over! Loved this

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