Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plotter or Pantser

I had a totally different post written for today, but something happened pissed me off so bad I had to write about it. On one of the loops I’m on a discussion turned to plotting and flying by the seat of your pants – aka pantser. One person really irked me. She gave great detail why she’s a plotter (all valid I must say), but then she closed with. I’ve come to realize that plotters are professionals and pantser's are only writing for hobby.
Hold on; hit the rewind button on that. Hobby? I don’t park my butt down every day (before going to my full time job) to pump out 1k words for a HOBBY! I took offense to that. I’m a pantser by every sense of the word. I get an idea from a line in a song, a character on television, or someone I see out on the street, and then I run with it.
Take my current WIP for instance. The heroine is waiting for a pizza to be delivered when someone knocks at her door. She’s expecting the delivery boy, not some gorgeous guy. The hero has gone to the wrong apartment. That’s all I had to start with. Nothing special.
As I sat and wrote the story I couldn’t believe the twist and turns that have sprung to life. This is going to be a pretty cool romantic suspense. Oh, BTW, it started out as a straight contemporary romance. So, you see for me flying by the seat of my pants works.
Here’s another point. Recently I had to write a synopsis for a short story. I didn’t want to write the full story if the editor didn’t feel it would fit her current anthology. She loved the idea and asked me to write it. I knew the beginning, middle and end. Great, right?
Wrong!
I’m struggling with getting the words down on paper. In fact, I secretly think this story sucks big time. I’ll know better when I go back to edit. The point is I plotted this one. Maybe it’s in my head, maybe not. All I know is for right now pantsing seems to work for me. When I try to deviate from this I get stuck. Maybe some time in the future that will change and I’ll become a plotter, but for now I’m sticking with what works. Oh, and on a final note. This November I’ll have seven books out. Not bad considering I landed my first contract last December. I’d say not too shabby for a hobbyist?
What’s your thought being a plotter or pantser?

22 comments:

Desiree Holt said...

Raising my hand and saying, Pantser here. After more than three years of being published, I'm STIL a pantser. Like you, Amber, I start with an idea, but the characters often take me in a different direction. I don't have a day job (retired) so I plunk MY butt in the chair for five hours a day and honey, that ain't no hobby.

Anny Cook said...

I, too, and a pantster. What I've found is that the more long term plotting, the more I feel frustrated when my characters are not at all interested in going in that direction. Instead I make notes of things as they come up that I want to include in the story--or ideas I want to incorporate.

Definitely not a hobby.

Kate Hill said...

Personally I'm more of a plotter. I like to have an outline for my stories, but I still need space to make changes and adjustments when necessary. I need wiggle room because sometimes new ideas spring up during the writing process. For me, saying "this is the outline and I'm sticking to it no matter what" puts limits on the work that can be detrimental to the characters and story. I definitely like to have an outline for the major plot points and the characters' personalities, but that's just personal choice. Maybe some people can't stand working by an outline, so whatever works for you is great. As long as you finish the story and enjoy the process it doesn't make a difference how you get there. Everyone has a different style and I don't think there is a right or wrong.

Desiree Holt said...

Excellent post, Kate

Regina Carlysle said...

Whoever said 'pantsers' are obviously doing this as a hobby shows herself to be a complete newbie to the whole process of writing. I know there are plenty of highly paid, very famous NY Times Bestsellers who are pantsers, and that's the truth.

Holding up my hand here, too. I'm a pantser all the way and no, this isn't a little hobby like scrapbooking and gardening.

People really need to think before they speak.

Regina Carlysle said...

And yes. Kate is right. A loose outline can be helpful. We all have our methods of what works best but to demean another writers process is just wrong. In the end the path taken doesn't matter as long as the end result is achieved.

Ava Rose Johnson said...

I like to have some kind of idea in my head as to where my story is going, but other than that I'm a total pantser. My characters demand flexibility and if I ignore their voices, the story doesn't work.

Anita Birt said...

I'm a pantser too. I tried plotting and could not do it. I have to let go and write. Like you, a sentence or a snippet of conversation or a scene will jump start a story. Multi-published, New York Times best seller, Jo Beverly is a pantser!!

We all have different ways and means to get those words down on paper. To denigrate writers who are pantsers is unproffesional.

Thanks for your blog

Fran Lee Romance said...

Pantser? Sounds like something we did back in high school...when a guy walked by with those pants hanging around there butts so lower you could see their plumber's crack, we would all instantly become "pantsers"! LOL! It's absolutely fine to be a pantser, dear! All four of my books are pantser-written! Yay for pantsers!

Angelia Sparrow said...

I fall kind of in the middle of the spectrum.

Getting the basic plot is pure pantsing. My co-author and I blue-sky about "What would happen if?"

Once we get a basic idea of the story, we tend to outline. We've been doing this more as we've found some of our characters will spend the whole book in bed and never get on with the story.

We outlined our Robin Hood novel (in edits) Heart of the Forest to specifically limit the sexual encounters. If we hadn't, Robin would have spent half the book with Marion and the other half with Will Scarlet (who is supposed to be straight) and never gotten around to robbing anyone or aiding any poor folks.

The irony, our editor required another 2000 words of sex. 8)

We're plotting more as we write longer pieces. But pantsing has its place. Both are very useful tools for a writer.

Julia Barrett said...

Pantser.

Jean Hart Stewart said...

Lovely blog and comments. Interesting to know what you all do. I start out with the main character and where I want him or her to go. Jot down the beginning and the end, and tackle the dreaded middle later. I try to be more organized and make a plot outline of sorts, but as I go along fill in a lot of it as my characters dictate. Zbd they're very dictatorial.. bless them.

Nina Pierce said...

Everyone comes at writing a book differently. Even plotters don't do it the same. Did your commenter then believe that one method was better than another? The detailed plotter more serious than the sketched plot? Does a sculptor have a better eye for what is asthetically pleasing than the painter? All seven of my books came straight from the seat of my pants to the computer.

Rebecca Airies said...

Mostly a pantser here and this isn't a hobby for me either. The only thing I plot fully is short stories. I need the structure writing short or I'll go over the word limit I'm aiming for. Maybe one day, I'll get to the point where I can write a short without a guideline, but not yet. Even with that plot, I still have a little wiggle room and if something changes, I work with it. As Nina wrote, everyone works differently.

Afton Locke said...

Another pantser raising her hand. One method isn't wrong or right. It's what works for you. I do my detailed outlines AFTER the first draft is written as a handy roadmap to revision. I tried doing a detailed outline once on index cards. It was a disaster. I was so bored with the book I couldn't write it. I need the adventure. I do have a rough outline when I start -- just whatever I've thought of so far and the major turning points (beginning, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and climax). I keep this outline at the end of my manuscript and read/adjust as I write, plotting a bit ahead of myself like headlights.

Amber Skyze said...

Wow, thanks to everyone for stopping by and leaving your opinions. All valid and definitely what I needed to hear.
I agree there is no right or wrong way when writing. If you finish the story and get it in front of editors, who cares what path you took.
You've helped ease my irritation! Thank you all.

Kathy Kulig said...

Wow, that's a strange generalization. A professional writer is one who is trying to make a career out of her writing. It doesn't matter "How" she does it. I always thought I was a plotter, but as I'm coming toward the end of my 5th novel, I'm finding I'm a combo. Start out plotter with outline, then the story goes its own way.

Tara S Nichols said...

Hey Amber, just joining in on the pantser ranks. I can't help the way I write, but believe me when I say I feel like a professional when I get my cheque. A plotter just has a different method of getting to the same result as a pantser.It's a strange point of view and one I don't agree with. I see why you are pissed.

-tara

Amber Skyze said...

Thanks Kathy and Tara. I feel anyone who sits their ass down to write and struggle in this business is a writer. I don't care how they get to THE END.

Ashley Ladd said...

Seven books in one year is awesome! Good going. Don't worry about that other person's opinion. Do what feels right and works for you. Sometimes when I try to plot every detail I feel as if the story's already written and it stifles my creativity.

Amber Skyze said...

I second that Ashley! Thanks for stopping by.

Dee Brice said...

I don't yet have a contract for the novel I spent the most time developing, but I'm hopeful! Anyway, I'm more of a pantser than a plotter. My characters may sometimes lead me down a primrose path then thumb their noses, but they'll also lead me to unexpected places. My current WIP is one such story where I discovered one of my secondary--possibly tertiary characters--is a clone!

While I admire those writers who know everything there is to know about their characters and settings--J.K. Rowling for example--I'd miss the adventure of not knowing.

Dee Brice
deebrice.com