A plotter has his or her favourite plotting mechanism and opens it with great glee each time a new book idea is brewing. Devices range from scene trackers set up in tables, spread sheets that list chapters and scenes chronologically, index cards and sticky notes or even new fangled software programs like Scrivener.
On the other side of the fence you’ll find the pantser pacing distractedly, alternating between jotting down abstract notes when an idea strikes or quietly basking in the sun, contemplating and daydreaming while complex scenes play out in her head. A pantser writes by the seat of her pants and scowls each time she walks by the blank plot planner hanging on the wall.
A few years ago, after I had finished my first novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I boldly announced to group of writers in a workshop I was doing that I am a ‘pantser’. Even though I shared a tried and true (by others) plot planner, beautifully laid out and explained in The Plot Whisperer, I dug my heels in, claiming my place in the pantser ranks. As I wrote Mental Pause, the story had flowed from me so rapidly I didn’t have time to plot it out. My characters took over and I had to let them determine what and where the next plot twist would be and how my protagonist would react and when the antagonist would show her true colours. I was dreaming about plot and character development both day and night and couldn’t wait to hit the keyboard to pour out the scenes that were playing in my head.
So, I strongly believed that I was a pantser, at least when writing fiction. You see, my first two books were non-fiction and both started with a very specific, very linear, chapter outline (which I considered the plot planner’s non-fiction cousin). So I could only assume that was the determining factor.
As a ‘multi-genre’ writer I often feel a bit torn between which soapbox I should jump on. So, I had this pantser persona in my head after the experience of writing my first novel. Imagine my surprise during the writing of my next novel, Deep Deceit (launched March 2015) as I tried to apply my ‘pantser’ mentality and I ground to a screeching halt. When I wrote my debut novel, we had just moved to Thailand, I didn’t have much freelance work going on, didn’t know many people and it was the tail end of rainy season… and it was NaNoWriMo. To top it off, I was suffering from peri-menopause’s horrible night sweats, mood swings, and paranoia. I needed something to pour myself into so, I wrote all day every day… and loved it!
Fast-forward a few years and picture me slogging away at my next novel. Other priorities had crept in and if a couple of days had passed since I last wrote, I often found it hard to remember where I left off. I’d forget the name of that secondary character I introduced the last time I sat down to write (or even if I actually brought them into the picture yet). I kept having to go back and re-read what I wrote and take the first half hour at least, getting back into the story to figure out where I was on the plotline, which was all in my head except for a few notes I had arbitrarily written in a ‘dump’ file!
As the frustration grew, I finally realized that it would be helpful to have a plot outline or even a scene tracker. I guess I should follow my own advice more often. I started pulling the plotline from the deep dark recesses of my mind, pushing aside the frustration and self-doubt that had crept up. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a novelist. Maybe my debut novel would be my first and last! NO! My mind screamed back. And, I listened. I hammered out all the scenes that still needed to happen to reach the climax and conclusion for Deep Deceit and cried with relief as I went back to where I left off and the words started flowing.
That’s not to say that some of the scenes weren’t scrubbed for better ideas or they didn’t fall into a different order as I went but once I had a basic idea outlined of where I was going my confidence grew and I made much better progress. I’m still not letting go of the ‘pantser’ in me because I might need her some day.
Is it possible I’m ambidextrous? Who are you?
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HOW TO CONVERT FROM PANTSING TO PLOTTING by @annethewriter http://goo.gl/kNmEpk #theartistunleashed #aspiringwriters #writetip