Pantsers vs. Plotters is the aspect of writing methods I find most fascinating. There are Pantsers like me and Nora Roberts (yeah, see what I did there?) who start with a general idea or snippet of something, sit down at their chosen media and let the story take them down whatever road it chooses. Then there are Plotters who I imagine have plotting systems that take more time than it takes to write the actual book. And then there are people at every single little miniscule point along the spectrum. Somewhere in between the Plotters and Pantsers there are the Plotsers, Plantsers (a word I'm not entirely convinced wasn't made up by Corrine O'Flynn last night), and even the Panters (a word I made up two minutes ago because it makes me giggle).
The reason why this fascinates me so probably has something to do with my education. In school (especially those run by the DoD), we're often told there's only one correct approach to a task - the way the teacher does it. I honestly think it took me so long to get serious about creative writing because I felt that I was "doing it wrong."
Remember the creative writing assignments where we had to submit the outline for the story a few weeks before the story? I LOATHED those. It's not that I couldn't do it, but - even then - I knew the quality of my plot was far inferior when I was forced to outline ahead of time. These plots were contrived, cliched and boring. It didn't take long for me to discover - sneaky little over-achiever with nothing else to do that I was - how much better I did if I just went ahead and wrote the story first and base my outline (by then it was really a synopsis though, huh? I hate those too) on that.
(and teacher-friends, please don't get mad at me. I understood the point, what you were trying to teach us. I just also understood that it sucked.)
I did this (and got good grades) but it made me feel dirty, like I was a misfit. It wasn't until, while researching before signing up for my first NaNoWriMo, I read Nora Roberts discuss her plotting (or lack thereof) that I thought maybe I wasn't such a freak after all. She says:
"Honestly I don’t do a thing. I have a basic idea in my head, I do whatever research needs to be done – and will continue to research throughout the course of the book – and then I sit down and start. That’s it. Oh, and I try to make sure there is a good supply of Diet Pepsi in the house. And pretzels or some salty thing. And chocolate."
(side note: after reading thisinterview, I've decided that Nora Roberts and I are the EXACT SAME PERSON. I'm just the personality that prefers Coke Cherry Zero over Diet Pepsi. And minus some romance, add some magic, and lower the MC's age. And, you know, without one of those pesky little publishing contracts. But whatever. Other than that...)
On the plotting side, I know there are writers who are as in to it as I am against it. Though I can't possibly understand how Plotters can do their thing, I'm not going to tell you it's a bad idea. Some can't start a book until they know the ending. I met a girl who was starting her book after finishing the 75 page outline. There are entire books written about methods involving color-coded index cards on multiple cork boards connected by interweaving pieces of yarn that represent something I can't even imagine.
And what I'm trying to say is: That's cool too.
If you've always used the same method, I'd suggest to give the other side (I like to think of Pantsing as the Dark Side - that's right: I'm a Sith writer) a try. But once you find a method that works for you, don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong. Because my ex-Marine drill sergeant sophomore English teacher is the one who was wrong: there is more than one way to arrive at a great story.
What about you? Are you a
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