Tag Archives: plotter or pantser

Making the Arduous Journey from Pantser to Plotter

Moonday Mania

A blog about the craft of writing

I’ve always been a pantser. From the moment Mr. Brown in fifth grade introduced us to outlines, I knew I hated them. I even had to write my ten page research paper two weeks before it was due so I could fake the outline, turn it in, then pretend I’d written the paper from the outline. I desperately didn’t understand why anyone needed an outline.

In college I would get up the morning a paper was due and write it, then go turn it in. Well, only if it was a short one. Longer papers required writing the night before, but none of them got more than my brain turning them over and over. Maybe a few notes scrawled in my spiral notebook, but no outlines. Nada.

So when I really started to write I of course sat down in front of a blank screen and thought about my first scene. Then I typed. This worked well. For the first few scenes. Enthusiasm drove me along through chapter one, then chapter two, then chapter three. By chapter four I was sinking fast and when I hit the second quarter of the plot, I was stumped.

Without a road map I had no idea where my characters were going. Without character sketches, I had no idea why they were even on the journey. I had to change. Even if change meant kicking and screaming and acting like a two year old, I was going to learn how to plot.

Of course what I really did was read books. Lots of books. Books on how to fill out sheets with your characters names and descriptions and deep motivation. Wait, deep motivation. How could I possibly know how my characters were motivated without seeing how they acted? I couldn’t. So I struggled through completing my first book. And then came the editing.

And then more editing. And then the re-editing.

You see without a roadmap I had created some serious issues. I had discovered my characters so far into the plot that I had to go back to the beginning and re-write. A lot. And when I had done that, I found out that some of the plot didn’t work so well, so I had to re-write it. And when I had done that, I still needed to polish the whole shebang. And then I had someone say that they didn’t understand my hero’s motivation, so it still needs more editing. ARRGH!

It was then that I realized that I needed to plot. At least a little bit. And it was then that I discovered the Snowflake method. Randy Ingermanson (author of Writing Fiction for Dummies) has a free Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine that you can sign up for, but what got him started on the e-zine was his plotting method. So many people wanted it he was called to post it online. And now he has a program to help you do it yourself. It’s simple, it’s fast, and better yet, it works for anti-plotters like me.

Next Moonday Mania I’m going to share how I use the Snowflake method and how easy it is for even a committed pantser like me to make the switch to plotter.

Are you a pantser, plantser or plotter? How do you know? Have you tried to make the switch? Leave a comment and tell me your plotting story.

And don’t forget to record it on the Rafflecopter widget. Every day is a new opportunity to enter the contest and win prizes HERE in celebration of the release of Little Red Riding Wolf. More opportunities to comment when you visit the blogs on my blog tour. Tuesday visit with me at Her Story Calls and leave a comment there too!

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Getting Lost Taking the Scenic Route

I have been caught off of the main highway of writing and slowed down by the tempting editing side roads along the way. As I have learned to write I keep hoping the editing will get shorter, but now I’m not sure. I thought the fix was in plotting. You see I am a natural pantser. In fifth grade when Mr. Brown was trying to teach us how to write a paper, he showed us how to research, write note cards and formulate an outline. Then and only then would he give permission for us to begin the writing process.

I, naturally, was resistant to this controlled way of writing. Already enamored with story writing I didn’t love the idea of non-fiction, but was willing to give it a try. Research, that was fun. Can’t remember the subject, but I’ve always loved finding out facts. Note cards, yes I liked those. Short sweet and able to shuffle in any order I pleased. Note cards could even be color-coded, that was even better. But the outline, ah yes, the outline. There I failed.

I tried writing an outline, but I didn’t know how things would go together. How could you write a map of where you were going when you hadn’t been there. I struggled with it. Then I gave up. I ended up writing the paper in secret and drawing the outline from that rough draft then turning in the outline. Mr. Brown approved, I waited a day or two and handed in my rough draft. Sneaky.

Already a closet pantser I stayed that way through college, whipping up decent papers the night before or sometimes, if they were short, the morning they were due. I could have been a better student. I could have written better papers had I taken more time, or known how to really do an outline that worked for me. But once again, I found ways around it. And muddled through.

So now I am an adult. No one is asking for the outline, no one is grading me on it. My desire for good grades is enormous. I want that A. I want that editor or that agent to hand it to me on a silver platter. And now I know writing a novel on the cusp of the due date isn’t going to get me there. No, to do that, I need to hand in my best work. But how is a life-long pantser supposed to change?

My perfectionism forces me to edit. And edit. And edit. I have heard, and I’m sure its true, that plotting saves time in the editing stage. And I badly want this. So I started my new story (working title Blood Were) by Snowflaking. Randy Ingermanson of Advanced Fiction Writing fame is the author of this method and when I heard him speak last October at the Heart of Denver mini-con a light bulb went on. This was structure without structure. This was like the note-card shuffle. At this, I could be successful.

I started out well, but soon petered out. I could write a small character sheet, get my main plot points down, but when it came to filling things out I was stuck. It turns out that I can come up with inciting incidents, major plot points and even black moments, but when it comes to anything in between I need to write.

I need to write to really understand my characters, and I need to write to know why my plot goes the way it does. I like having some structure. I now have a sort of a road map in the Snowflake method. Lets call it verbal directions. “Turn right at that drugstore, you know the one with the blue roof, take your third left and when you see the Dairy Queen you’re almost there.” (I always navigate by food, DQ and donuts are the best.) I truly don’t understand the nuances of my characters or how they will interact until those words start flowing.

So here I am. I was hoping to become a reformed pantser, but instead I am embracing it, with a little dip into the plotting pool. I still like the idea of plotting out the main points. I like to know the general idea of where my road trip will take me, but I’ve found out that what I really like is the journey. Even when it means my newest 1,000 plus words need to be cut and re-written from the heroine’s point of view and not the hero’s. What can I say? I’m a sucker for roadside attractions.

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