I’ve been a lifelong discovery writer up until 2018, but after discovering how story structure can help my writing, I’m now a Plantser, a discovery writer with an appreciation for genre conventions and obligatory scenes. Which kind of writer are you?
I’m a respectful plotter. I like a plan to know where I’m going, but I want to always respect how it feels while I’m drafting scenes.
I started out as a pantser. It didn’t really work out for me. I would end up removing half of what I wrote. After taking Daniel’s classes, I become a plotter and write what I need. I’m not wasting as much time now that I’m plotting things out. I save my “pantsing” for my pre-writing.
I’m more of a plotter, putting my scene idea on notecards. The pants thing helped me learn some skills like how to keep going and trusting my muse, but it’s not great for structure unless you’re a natural at it.
I try to be a flexible plotter. I remember seeing a film of Coppola making Apocalypse Now where he’s sitting at a typewriter developing new or revised scenes in the midst of filming. I have my notecards but I’m not afraid to destroy weak ones and develop new ones as the story goes on.
There is something to be said for a quick rip of fools cap and felt-tip making large progress on the “big” picture of an idea, premise, or even the merest singular thought. But, at some point, a dozen to twenty characters later, a hundred to two hundred pages in the stack; scenes and settings, and all those “other” things truly need to mesh. I’m thankful I can turn to my three-column grid of beats and mend all those noisome plot holes and stitch up them errant threads threatening to ravel at the very next turn of the screw.
Having mostly written short stories I am definitely a discovery/ pantser but I am trying for something longer, and already I can see there are going to be problems for me if I don’t make some kind of plan as to where I am going☺️
I’m definitely a pantser.
On top of that, I hate cutting things. To help with that, I’ve seen the truth that usually, tighter is better, and that removing words or sentences, paragraphs or even scenes can make the story more compelling. (Another thing that helps in cutting is having a “Deleted Scenes” file for each book, ha ha.) More conscious understanding of pacing and tension is the writing area I’m concentrating on.
I only mention all that because when you just write with no plan, there’s a big risk of having to cut all or most of it later - which means you’ve wasted a lot of effort. It’s not a complete waste because at least you’ll have deepened your understanding of some part of your story.
I’m coming around however to the idea of a sketchy bullet point kind of outline, a bare bones skeleton of where the story might go. I don’t mind that because changing that or even tossing it away wouldn’t stress me. So the idea of having some ‘way points’ for the path ahead doesn’t feel too constraining.
In general though I think I like the idea that the plot could go anywhere. For me, planned plot would likely act as blinkers, cutting me off from possibilities presented by my unconscious for consideration.
I have enough faith in my unconscious that I don’t fear the plot outcome will be weak when it does emerge; and that applies both at the book level and the series level. I suppose I’ll find out how that confidence pans out, by the tenth book or so!
When I wrote my first novel-length piece back in 2013, I pantsed the whole thing with only a bare bones outline for each chapter (done the day before I would write that particular chapter). It worked okay, but not as well as I wanted.
I moved to a more plotteresque approach with my next project, but still kept to planning and writing one chapter at a time. This worked better, but I still felt like I was missing something.
The novel I just finished was entirely plotted before I started writing it, though the plotting method I used didn’t agree with me much, and I had to restart the book three times before I hit something usable.
Now, I outline and draft one section at a time (whether that be a chapter, four chapters, or just whatever feels right for that project). Then, I edit once the whole thing is finished. It keeps me from overlooking character development and helps me keep in touch with who my characters are when I start the section and who they become as the section progresses.
So, overall, I’d say I’m a hybrid plantser with one foot in each camp, and sometimes a bit of a dance back and forth to either side, depending on what the project calls for.
Pantser…I write the first sentence and trust in God for the second:)
When I wrote my first novel back in 2017, every day was the same question, “What happens next?” I had no outline for the story, and I started with nothing but the first scene in my head.
I wanted to follow my characters throughout the whole story and let them make the decisions of what would happen next. It was freeing at first since I didn’t have to worry about getting from one plot point to the other, but as the pages grew it became more and more cluttered and harder for me to follow. I got it finished, but the biggest problem was I had no idea how to finish the story and when to do it because I was a complete passenger in the story. I believe I could’ve continued to write these characters and the rest of their lives forever because I was just watching them in my head.
Now that I have a better understanding of story structure and plotting, I have more confidence in myself to get at least a vague picture of where the story might lead. That way, I have some legs to move in a specific direction, but I still pay attention to my characters needs and what they do. If they don’t want to go where I want for a time, then I follow them for a bit before getting back on track, but I’m a strong believer that the story can change at any moment, so too much plotting can stress me out if the story ends up going another way. So, These days I’m trying to find a nice balance between the two.
Both. Pantser on the first draft, then plotter to tighten things up on subsequent revisions.
That’s me, exactly, Suo2328. I’ve always been an intuitive short story writing pantser. Following my characters and my gut instinct always worked for me with short stories. When I began writing my middle grade mystery a few years ago, I hit a wall at chapter three. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t find a way forward. That’s when I started searching for a method to plot that I could understand and embrace, one that didn’t feel restrictive and unnatural to my creative process.
Exactly. I’ve been afraid that planning too much will demotivate me from actually writing, but I know that not knowing where I’m going with my longer project has been worse. I’ve procrastinated, and got nowhere fast.
I consider myself to be a planter. Like I plot a little bit while I write. I’m trying to get better at structuring my plot before writing. It’s definitely a process.
Sometimes this is the only way to discover what we want to say.
Writing strictly as a hobby for years meant that I could pants away with no fear/pressure to actually finish anything. Now that I’m taking writing more seriously I’m trying to plot more, but I’m still at that stage where I’ll have the picture in mind, plan out the puzzle pieces, fit them all together and still end up with something different than I intended.
LOVE that. I may have to steal it.
Feel free - I stole it myself:) Here’s one more:
“Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.”
The second sentence I can do, it’s the first one that drags me down!
I saw this article today and thought it was interesting. I’m a pantser who has tried hard to plan/outline, but have come to the point where I’m embracing pantsing. (The first novel I wrote was by planning. It was painful and the end result no good.) I have evolved a method where I do some limited planning and then I write what is already clear, usually starting at the beginning, and then revising as I go along, like adding new scenes or whatever. What I recently came to understand is this whole process (for me) is cyclic, not linear. What was interesting in this article is the author said that same thing. I feel like maybe I’m finally getting into my own in terms of how I go about writing. So far I am getting better results.