Pantser or a Plotter?

Someone asked me this today on Twitter and although I’ve never heard of the first term, since we were talking about writing, I figured it out right away.

And so I answered that I am a “seat of your pants” type of writer these days – a pantser.

I used to be a plotter – oh was I ever!  I plotted everything from the beginning of the story to kingdom come, till the cows came home and till the ink ran dry from both my pen and my mind, and I was left too dry and too exhausted to actually write out the damn story.

Sometimes it would happen in the middle of the story, by the time I’d reach 25K words, and once, when I reached 65K.  I plotted so much that I actually ran out of steam, and fall out of love for my technically drawn out characters and all their character arcs.  Oh, the tables and the charts would all be filled out, but the writing page would end up…empty.

And so, after almost ten years of not writing – totally burned out and besides, I had a real life to tend to, a baby to birth, etc. – I picked up the pen and began writing again.

Armed with my new iPad (this was a year and a half ago) and all the writing apps I could get my hands (and wallet) on, I started plotting…and plotting…and plotting.  I had story boarding apps, index card apps, even writing complete with music apps.

But my writing was dry and devoid of that oomph that comes with writing that seems just so organic, as if words just flowed freely from my pen, or from the artery that I’d just cut deep enough to produce a healthy flow of creative juices.

Then I came across this quote by Ray Bradbury:

Jump and unfold your wings as you fall

It told me about writing organically, just allowing words to flow through your fingers, just letting them all hang out.  And maybe later on, I could just trim them down or add to it, but at least there was something real on the page.

I also got rid of all those damn apps.

I started with a paranormal novel and looking back now – this was begun in September 2012 – I wrote without a muse inside my head.  Just faceless creatures walking to and fro reciting dialogue as I wrote – dialogue that was actually really good, but impersonal.

I was too afraid to put faces to the characters then, afraid that I would revert back to my old ways of plotting till the ink well ran dry and I’d fall out of love with the faces I’d chosen.

But being organic in my writing also meant welcoming new ideas in, allowing things that used to scare me back into my life.  It meant allowing a new muse to enter the threshold of my ‘mind palace’ and feel at home – and be an inspiration for me.

It meant that I needed to find him, and let him in.

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So these days, I can definitely say I’m an organic, seat-of-my-pants type of writer, one who has let the muse into her life and allows herself to play with words each and every day, even when the plots that form on the page often go on overdrive and become a bit too wild and crazy at times – but at least I can rein them all in later.

Plotting for me has become like making a sandwich.  I have the two pieces of bread to start with – my beginning and my end – and what goes inside, the filling, I fill it up as I go – as long as the goal is the same – to make it to the second piece of bread, that ending that I had loosely ‘written’ or thought out inside my head.

And so if you’re reading my stories these days, you’ll probably be asking yourself, ‘what is she thinking?’ or ‘where the hell is this going?’.

And the answer is – it’s a journey that begun at the beginning and is making its way to the end.  And along the way, you and I are simply on this one huge adventure – with you as the reader, and me, as its writer.

And boy, am I having fun.

I hope you are, too.

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8 thoughts on “Pantser or a Plotter?

  1. You know I am! That is the way I write too. I just dive in and let it happen. Otherwise, I stress out too much and the joy departs. Hopefully I will learn from those who are better than me and from my own experiences as I grow. Also, I am waiting for that ‘happy ending’ with your story. Ha! ;p

    1. Oh the pressure of that happy ending for Lucas 🙂 This one will take some time to process and so there will actually be some note taking and plot reviews that’ll be happening before I can tie the final loose end that’s been dangling in the wind for some time.

      Love that you write the same way, too. I hate to see the joy and exuberance depart as well.

      1. Thank you. Yes, after so much suffering in the past year I decided that if I was going to go back to writing I was going to do it with my heart and feel joy. Does that make sense? Right now I am also reading North and South and blogging about it, but only one person commented tonight, so I am bummed out. 😦
        Still, I will continue. It’s good for me to express my thoughts. You understand that. 😉
        How many more days until that last chapter? ;p

  2. Thank you for this post. As you know I’m just tentively starting to write, both at my blog and also attempting fan fic. I always thought you were meant to plot – that’s what we are taught! But I tend to just write what is in my head and it just pours out onto the page (well, computer screen but you get my meaning!) it’s so nice to know that I’m actually not doing it wrong, I’m just a Panster! 🙂

  3. For a long time I had a phase of experiencing writing as so painful and unpleasant that I would just pick the least unpleasant part of it first and hope that some pleasure would come. (Sad consequence of having to produce prose to keep one’s job …). Now I’m trying to add a little more structure. But the key is *still* waking up with my fingers twitching …

    1. I often wonder if I can keep up my spontaneity and sense of adventure if called up on to write for work. Come to think of it, I do know that answer already – as I do not write massage therapy related stuff at all without wanting to pull my hair out. I can talk about it in class, but not write about it. But stories, yes, my fingers twitch at night just thinking about them 🙂

  4. Viva la pantser! I had a similar issue with my first attempt at a novel. I plotted the bejeesus out of that thing and completely lost interest in it after somehow racking up a word count in excess of 200k (what… it was epic fantasy). I just knew so much about what was supposed to happen to the characters that I no longer had any interest in them. Never again.

    1. 200K words!!!! You poor dear! But yes, I totally understand what you mean. It’s like we know our characters SO well that we just don’t care anymore to take them along their journey – heck, what for? We already know their ending – though unfortunately our readers don’t.

      I’m having more fun these days being a pantser because I’m sitting on the handbasket with them and we don’t know exactly where we’re going just yet, or what detour awaits us both 😉

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