Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pantser or Plotter?

Recently my younger son lamented about a playdate with his cousins. He planned everything they would do, even the script he would use when the youngest cousin asked to play with his hamster. He was so concerned that everything would go just right.

If my son were a writer, he'd for sure be a plotter.

I do not write this way. Even creating a synopsis before the manuscript is finished is terrifying for me. I don't like to have everything all planned out (which is the exact opposite of how I live the rest of my life.) I like to have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end -- but I like to let the character's actions push and pull the story along. Having a "plan", in my eyes, does not allow me to write organically.

I am a pantser.

Plotter vs. pantser. I've seen many discussions as to what other writers consider themselves. To each is own, is my motto.

When I come up with a story idea, I let it simmer for a while before I sit down at the computer. I think about it when I'm standing on line at the grocery store, when I'm cleaning the kitchen, or when I'm driving alone. The characters start to take on a life of their own. When I do finally sit down to write, most of the time the story pours out of me. Often times, I don't even remember what I've written when I go back and read what's on the screen. That is a freaky feeling. When that happens, I know that I've got my mojo. The sentences don't come out in chunks; they flow like tap water.

How do you write? Plotter? Pantser? A little of both?


Mary Moreno said...

Great subject, Kris. I once heard Elmore Leonard speak at a writer's conference and he said that whenhe sits down to write the characters in his head tell him what they want to do. Love the concept, but it doesn't always work that way for me. I am a combination pantser and plotter. I find that my writing goes faster when I plot, but is perhaps more organic when I just give in to the flow - and sometimes I surprise myself. Or rather, my characters suprise me.

SG Redling said...

As a long time pantser, I'm taking my first baby steps into plotting and, needless to say, the story is going at a snail's pace. It's my first mystery and I'm following James Frey's advice (from How to Write a Damn Good Mystery.) He had better be right, that's all I'm saying because I miss losing myself in the story!

Anita Clenney said...

I think I started as a pantser, but I got so tired of all the good ideas coming later and having to go back and weave them in, that I gradually moved to more of a plotter. I decided that if I thought the story through, let it unfold in my head, then I could create these beautiful twists and turns BEFORE I wrote.

Now I really simmer the idea in my head, like you said Kris. I think about it all the time. I keep a digital voice recorder in the car for brainstorming. This is my favorite part of writing. I will have a synopsis (less at first, more later) on the story before I start writing.

THEN...I know where the story is headed, but I am not locked in to anything. If the characters want to detour over here, then away we go. But I've found by doing it this way, I know the twists and turns I want up front. I do have others occur to me later, but not so many that it kills me rewriting.

Unknown said...

Mary~ Yes, I love to let the characters flow and do what they want. Sometimes, that doesn't work, and I do have to really **think** (my way of saying plot) before I write. I don't like to do that, because it does slow my flow way down.

Shelia~Good luck with the plotting. Try not to get discouraged with the pace--maybe you won't have to do so much editing?

Anita~ Yes, I agree, letting the story simmer really, really helps. Maybe that's my way of plotting. Still, I find that the words flow and do not come out in chunks when I let the story come out. Too much plotting for me makes me feel like I **have to** stay in that story line, and that completely shoots down my creativity. Maybe there's a happy medium there someplace. I don't know.