Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Notes from a reformed pantser…sort of.

From Google (thewritepractice.com/plotters-pantsers):   A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don't plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people, like me, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they're in a little of both. In reality, most people are plantsers, but some tend to lean heavily to one side.

From the Urban dictionary online:  Pantser: A NaNoWriMo term that means that you 'fly by the seat of your pants' when you are writing your novel. You have nothing but the absolute basics planned out for your novel. This outlook towards writing is often opposed by the 'planner', who knows exactly what is going to happen, when it will happen, and where it will happen. There is often enmity between the two types of writers.

From www.nownovel.com/blog/plotter-even-youre-pantserPlotters tend to plan out the story in extensive outlines before they even begin the writing process.

I often get asked what I am as a writer. Am I a pantser or a plotter when it comes to writing my stories? My biggest answer thus far has been I am a pantser, plain and simple, BUT with one caveat, I do know where my story will end. I’ve always held to the notion that I am 90% pantser and 10% plotter, with the 10% being a simple map of where I am going to end up at.

As an author, I love listening to the characters and where they want to go with the story. I’ve heard other writers say this is much like “channeling” for lack of a better definition. The story and the characters lead you organically how they want things to happen with a little planning on your part. Other characters will “show up” when they are needed.

A good example of this was with my first novel Elemental Awakening. I knew the gist and ending of the story, but as I began to write, a main character, Raze, showed up without any planning on my part. He had a definite “voice” and a fully developed idea of who he was. It shocked me when he casually wandered onto the page. He ended up being the main driving force behind what was happening to the main character.

My story planning evolved a little on my fourth book when I decided I’d like to plan the “character” arcs of those in Torn, The Shilund Saga, book 2. I sat down with index cards and wrote each character’s name on it and what was going to happen to each of them. Then I sat down and began the journey with them. Still, the characters told the story and I simply listened.

I liked the index cards so much, I went with the idea on a bigger scale and bought presentation "post it notes" paper with smaller sizes and stuck the large sheet on my wall. I put the list of the characters on it and then used smaller post it’s to put the main character arcs and plot points down on the paper. This guided the entire process on my fifth book, The Dawning of Scarlett.

My crazy wall

Another thing I did that helped my writing immensely, is I purchased “Scrivener” to help me keep my notes and character’s organized and even transposed some of what was on my board into Scrivener to assist with writing when I wasn’t at home and couldn’t just turn my eyes to look at the major plot points.

Now, I’ve started Redemption, book 3 of The Shilund Saga and I thought I’d try the “snowflake method” of outlining. I had my goal word count, coupled with my character arcs and set about to outline the entire book. I was actually surprised at how much I was able to put down and surpassed my 50 chapter goal and outlined through 69. It felt epic. So I’m starting the writing and we shall see how it goes. I wasn’t so stringent in my outlining that I haven’t allowed for characters to decide to “pop” in like Raze did. But I at least have more of a detailed road map of the story. This is a first for me.

I sat down with my writing group over the weekend and was discussing this very issue and was told by one of my writing friends they are a “hard core” outliner. I was fascinated. So I asked what they do when the story organically wants to go in another direction. They told me they then go back and adjust their outline to account for the change of direction. Ah, so not as hardcore as they thought. They agreed that sometimes an outline changes when a character wants to go another way.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I agree with the notion that thewritingpractice.com posted with their definitions that most writers are “plantsers” and tend to like one way more than another, ie more of the pantser way or the plotter way.

I’ll let you know how this goes.  I might be converted to lean more towards the plotting way of a plantser.

Happy writing!!

Good additional reading:

If you want to know more about Scrivener