Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

28 Apr

Apparently, I’m a Pantser.

Not sure what that means?  I wasn’t either when I first read that today… when my friend Wren called me one.   But then she explained and you know what?  She’s right.

When I write, I pretty much fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants.  A Pantser.  Of all the names I’ve been called in life, I guess that one’s not so bad.  Especially because she was right. She suggested that I explain my writing process, since it is so much different from hers and she blogged about her own today.   So, here you go.

I get an idea.  A kernel, a tiny grain.  Usually when I’m doing something lame like doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom or taking a walk.  It usually pops into my head when I’m doing something calming or monotonous.  And it’s typically about a character.  I’m very much a character writer.  I start with a vague idea of what personality that character will have, what personality attributes and it grows until I can see his or her face in my mind.  The more I think about it, the better I can see it, the more I see what kind of person he or she is.

The plot comes second for me.  I start thinking about what kinds of trouble/adventure/angst/drama/love/hate/relationships that character would get involved in. 

And then I start writing. 

And that’s it.  Sort of. 

Because, like my friend Wren pointed out… since she’s a Planner (as opposed to my “Pantser”), she sits down and plots out every single thing that will happen in her novel.  Before she writes it.   That’s like… unfathomable to me.  I mean, how does she know what kind of person her character is going to evolve into if she doesn’t let it organically develop?   Right? 

But her way has benefits.  Because since she knows where her plot is going to go, she can work tiny details into her storyline as she goes along.  Me?  I have to go back and add them in later, after I have developed the story line.  Do you know what that means? 

Revisions.  A lot of them.  A LOT of them.

Wren puts in all of her work at the beginning… hours of note taking, plot outlines, etc.  Me?  I get an idea and run with it.  But I spend hours going back and adding details as my characters grow.  She puts her work in on the front side and I put mine in on the back.

I’m not more creative than she is, and she isn’t more organized than I am.  Actually, she’s pretty darn creative and I’m pretty dang organized.  It’s just the way we’re wired to write.  I need to let my characters grow so that I can get to know them and she needs to lock everything down before she starts.

But I’ll tell you something.  I tried it her way last night.  I sat down and sketched a rough outline of the first five chapters of the sequel to Every Last Kiss.   And it wasn’t so horrible.  It gives me a guide to cling to as I go along, which will probably make my writing faster… making me more prolific.   And meaning… wait for it… LESS revisions.  Hallelujah!   So, I might try it a little more.  From time to time.   I know myself, and I know that I won’t always be patient enough to do it.  I’m going to want to start off at a break-neck pace so that I can get my ideas down onto paper before they disappear.  

 And that’s okay.  We all do what works for us because basically, what it boils down to is… neither way is right or wrong.  It’s just what kind of writer you are.  And it takes all kinds.

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7 Responses to “Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?”

  1. Wren Emerson April 29, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    You said it really well. I still cringe a little bit when I think of you being all reckless… it would be like driving at night with the headlights off to me, but I’m a little closer to understanding how it works for you. I hope to see more of these posts popping up around blogland in the next few days. I’m really curious about how everyone plans a book. Or doesn’t.

  2. Fiona McGier April 29, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    I usually just “work through” entire scenes in my head for a while before I sit down to write, then I let it flow. Once in a while I’ll make some notes, like when I’m writing a series and I have to account for how many years have passed since the last book, so how old all of the characters are now. Or I might sketch out a vague idea of scenes, like if I wake up with a dream and think, “Damn! That would make a great book!” I write a few things down so I don’t forget everything!
    And oddly enough, I REALLY enjoy the editing part a lot! I get to fall in love with my characters over and over again!

  3. Paula Martin April 29, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I can completely relate to this as I’m a Pantser too. Love your comment “how does she know what kind of person her character is going to evolve into if she doesn’t let it organically develop?” as I enjoy finding out more about my characters as I write them. As you say, it means more revsion – but I enjoy that too.

  4. Courtney Cole April 29, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Thanks for the replies! It is so interesting to hear how other writers think. I found your comment interesting, Fiona, about waking up in the night and making notes. I actually do that, too. Although, sometimes in the morning I can’t remember what the heck I was talking about. I’ll have written something like,”glowing stone is important” but I failed to mention what the heck the glowing stone was in the first place… Pretty funny.

  5. Addison Moore April 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    Hi Courtney! I’ve pants myself into many a corner. I try do plot mostly but I think I do a little of both!

  6. Shellie Sakai May 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Oh, I am so much a pantser it hurts! I want to be a plotter but am so lost as to which plotting method to use. I a organized but, when it comes to writing (or time for writing) no way can I accomplish it.

    I have an outline I made a long, long time ago. Maybe I should dust it off and give it another go.

    Thanks for the post! 😀

    • Shellie Sakai May 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      I meant to say “I am organized” damn keyboard! LOL!

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