I’m a pantser when it comes to writing novels. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I “fly by the seat of my pants” when I write. I go into a novel with a general idea. Sometimes it’s a specific character, sometimes a certain scene. But I never have a plot planned out when I start writing a book. I just write and see where it takes me. Like my current work-in-progress, for example. I had an idea for a scene at a masquerade ball, so I started writing that scene. I had a vague idea about a ghost hunter and a doctor, but even that got gender-swapped after I started writing. Things that I thought might happen never did, and once I got to know them, the characters took me places I didn’t think to go.
I’ve read tons of books on the craft of writing, and most of the ones I’ve read tell me I should plot. I should outline. I should know exactly how my story is going to get from point A to point B to the end. They have sample forms to fill out, character sheets, outlines…tons and tons of ways to organize my story before I even start writing it.
My problem with that? I don’t know how my story is going to go before I start writing it. I may be at point A, but I don’t know what point B or C is until I start writing. And I certainly don’t know how it’s going to end. I’m not the most organized person you’ll meet. You can tell just by looking at my writing space. So organizing a story in my head before I get to know the characters and how they act doesn’t make much sense to me. It works for some people. I won’t deny that. But trying to force myself to write in an organized fashion just doesn’t work for me.
The closest I get to being organized is my notecards, and they’re only a recent addition to my writing routine. After a I get a story started…maybe around the 25% mark…I’ll start writing plot ideas on notecards. New ideas pop into my head all the time, so I’ll jot it down on a notecard, and stick it in my pile. I like notecards, because I can rearrange them, add stuff in-between, and throw away ones that won’t work. I end up throwing away quite a few, because once I get to that place in the book, the characters have decided to go in a different direction, and all I can do is follow them.
My notecards are messy, with stuff scratched out and written in the margins, but they’re the closest I get to plotting. So I guess with this new method, you could say I’m now a plantser…In-between plotter and pantser, though I definitely lean heavily toward pantsing.
How about you? Leave a comment to let me know if you’re a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in-between.