The Obligatory Pantser vs. Plotter Post (say THAT three times fast)

This is the first time I will be sitting down typing my blog post into the magic window directly.  I didn’t pre-write this post days ago, edit it obsessively, then copy and paste it here for you all to read.  Read: these are my thoughts on the fly.

It’s kind of exciting.

All up-and-coming authors must weigh in on the pantser vs. plotter issue. (It’s a rule. I looked it up in the manual.)

When I first started writing I thought writers could be put into one of two categories: Plotters, or those who meticulously plot and plan their books; or Pantsers, or those who just write by the seat of their pants.

Plotter people outline, diagram, and organize their stories before they write one single word. Pantser people start with a blank document (or piece of paper if they’re old school) and write whatever comes to them.

Understand there is no “right” way to write a novel.  Or rather, the “right way” is the way that works for you.

So how do you know what works for you?  Easy, I say. You do what I did and try both.

I’ve come up with the conclusion that I’m Plantser. (Because JK Rowling has the copyright on Potter.)

I signed up for a retreat in October. With my registration, I’m given the opportunity to submit the first ten pages of my work in progress, plus a synopsis.  “That’s great,” I said.

Until I realized I had no synopsis written. I know what a synopsis is. I had an idea of how to write one, but I had to get it on the page before I could submit it.

As I was writing I discovered something amazing. I had to know what was going to happen throughout my novel. Like, all the way to the end.  This was not a comforting thought to someone who was pretending to be a Pantser.  But what I discovered was that writing the synopsis generated ideas, and plot points, characterizations.  I had to pause the synopsis-writing in order to run make notes or write a quick scene for the novel.

And now that the synopsis is finished, I have a great plan and a lot of scenes that may not have come to me in any other way.  It’s a good feeling.

On the flip side of this is I still haven’t lost my Pantser roots.  Last night I wrote a scene that I love. In the scene the reader learns why a character has a particular nickname.  But you see, before I started writing that scene, I had no idea why they called him that. I just knew that was his nickname.

But as I wrote the scene, the character told me why.

And that’s what I love most about writing. Creating something out of random bits of neurons firing around in my brain.

So today I’m a satisfied writer. I’ve learned a skill that will help me craft my story better. And I’ve allowed myself to go with the flow and come up with a great scene.

Not a bad day’s work for a Plantser.


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