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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Footprints Lead the Way

I've always been a pantster when it comes to writing. With my completed manuscript, I only started with an image of two characters. Their story unfolded as I wrote it. With my second and third projects, I started with basic plot ideas, but within a chapter or two, those ideas turned into something else entirely. There are definite creative advantages to writing like this. None of my projects would have ended up with the story line they did if I'd had a plan. Unfortunately, there are also some major disadvantages. In the end, there is a great deal of rewriting, revising, and editing required. With my first project, because the plot didn't present itself for several chapters, my characters lacked internal motivation to act the way the new plot required them to act. Therefore, I've ended up rewriting the entire thing. The point I'm trying to get at is that, this year, I want to become a plotter, at least to a certain extent. I don't want to write by the seat of my pants. I want to make footprints that I can follow, even if they aren't set in stone. From what I can tell, the pros would far outweigh the cons. Perhaps I will find that I'm wrong, and that writing actually works better for me when I go about it without direction, but either way, I want to give it a try. That being said, one of my goals for the new year is to, at the very least, develop a basic outline before diving into my next project. I want footprints to mark crucial points in the plot and provide a vision of where I'm trying to get to. If it doesn't work for me, then so be it. I'll go back to my ways as a pantster, but I will know that I gave plotting a chance. What about you? Are you a pantster or a plotter? Have you tried both? If so, which one worked better for you.

41 comments:

Anissa said...

I always know the end. Somehow, that comes to me almost first. I also have an idea of a few key scenes that I know will fall somewhere in the middle. So in a way, I think I'm 1/2 and 1/2. The story emerges as I write, but I always have those critical scenes, and my ending to work toward. That said, with my current WIP (which I'm completely rewriting), everything is changing. I've come to recognize that the end I know is not the climax, it's the denoument.

Anyway, I like plotboarding. I usually make one when I'm halfway through the novel. Then I recreate it before revision. The visual nature of the plotboard somehow triggers a different part of my brain and helps me think of ways to make the story better.

Good luck with the outline. :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I'm a combination. I have a general idea of the story I want to tell, but I don't always know the ending when I start. I might outline a chapter or two ahead of where I am, but I've never been able to write out an entire plot before I start writing. I signed up for a writing class, though, so everything could change!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I've found a system that works well. I used to be a pantser. But I like how things have gone for this latest WIP. I plotted. I wasn't anal with it though. I marked out essential scenes. I calculated some basics and took notes. So far I've noticed that it all seems tighter.

I still allow the story to develop, but I remain in control.
~ Wendy

staceyjwarner said...

I'm definitely a plotter...I need a road map to let the true creativity happen...

much love

KatieGrrr said...

Plotter deffinately. I've tried the panster way, but it didn't work for me. My creative energy stalemates when I feel like I'm rambling or I'm not making progress.

Writing is hard, revisions are hard, but plotting, thats gravy. I could plot all day.

Though I still let my story float away if the winds change.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Good for you! That's awesome!

I'm mostly a panster. Whenever I try to plot, it doesn't work. I'd love for that to change one day, though!

SarahAnn said...

I've been working on this too! Reading this is just the extra encouragement I needed!

I've started a Word Notebook document. Each page is titled with a story idea. I force myself to summarize in a paragraph the initial path of the story. Once that's done, I'll begin writing. But I also revisit the document and try to outline the story as it unfolds in my head, before I get too far into it!

That being said, I love the excitement of seeing a character come to life before my eyes, so when outlining, I try to not eliminate too much of the mystery. :)

www.sarahnoelsmusings.blogspot.com

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I'm a panser at heart, although I'm trying to improve my plotting skills. I have serious outliner envy!! Perhaps my next WiP...

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I like your analogy about footprints, makes a lot of sense. I started out as a pantser as well, but I am a combination now. Before I start, I have a really rough outline (like one page). Then I tease out my characters backstories, goals, motivations and conflict (both internal and external). Once I have that I start writing. I don't know what scenes are going to happen, but with the G/M/C of each character to guide me, I can pants it at that point.

Valerie Geary said...

I used to be a panster, but I hated the results I was getting... my writing made me want to vomit and I felt I was wasting time and energy with all the rewrites. I plot now. So far I am a much happier writer... sometimes my characters still surprise me though. Which is a-okay. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, I am Super Plotter. I have the ending, characters and backstories and a few milestone scenes planned out in my trusty notebook before I even begin writing. Sometimes I even do little essays of character voice, passages that don't wind up in the book.

While some might see this as constrictive, writing it out helps me to explore all my options. And the story often doesn't turn out the way I planned it because of the unplanned things that happen along the way-- subplots, etc.

Sometimes it's like driving on the freeway, and other times it's like taking the scenic route.

Patti said...

I'm struggling with that right now. Plotting takes the fun out of writing, but not planning means a ton of rewriting and editing.

Carolyn V. said...

I'm a little of both. I have to know where the story is going, but I don't mind just throwing stuff down on the way to the end.

beckylevine.wordpress.com said...

I started as a pantser, but now am a confirmed plotter. I HATE writing into what feels like a deep, dark void. I'd rather plot wrong, write that, and have to revise! :)

I can recommend two books I like for plotting--James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure and Martha Alderson's Blockbuster Plots. Have fun!

Dominique said...

I'm somewhere in the middle, really. For my last project, I knew roughly where I wanted everything to end up and a few places I wanted to be in the middle, but as for getting where I wanted to go (and those places weren't always close together), I made it up as I went along.

Kristi Faith said...

I'm working on this too, Susan. Sometimes my stories simply start with a line of dialogue that pops in my head. Or a character, a scene, something small. I usually let that guide me. However, I have started with very basic notes. I won't call it an outline, because I can't write in that form, memories of high school and college comps haunt me. LOL It's helping, though sometimes the story changes as it evolves from my original notes.

jbchicoine said...

I think I’m a little of both. I have a general story arc worked out, but I’m always surprised at my characters’ circuitous route.

Dawn Simon said...

I was thinking about this yesterday. I'm a total combination. I need to have a basic map before I get started. This includes characters, keeping in mind how they fit into the story and could push it forward. Then I might play with voice. I don't have it down to a science, but I go back and forth as I write, using planned thoughts and new, organic ones.

strugglingwriter said...

I will be trying to plot with you thise year Susan. We can do it!

Karen said...

I generally spend more time developing the characters than I do figuring out the story. I'll have a basic plot figured out, but my stories are usually more character-driven. So if I figure out who my characters are and what their motivations are, it helps drive the story wherever it needs to go.

Natalie said...

I'm definitely a pantser, but I have been trying to do more plotting lately--at least a basic story line at the start. It usually changes drastically, but it's something to work with.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I have to have a basic outline- one page of bullet points reminding me where the plot needs to go. Otherwise I get to the end of a scene and feel lost. That's when I become victim to writer's block. Having an outline has saved me countless times.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I like this plan. Having a path makes things so much easier.

Janna Qualman said...

Pantser, more than anything, like I talked about recently. But like you, I want to make efforts to plan better. Not just with plot, sub-plots and all, because those I can keep down in my head, but with what happens next. I think that'll keep me on track better.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Mostly, I'm a pantster, but with a little plotter thrown in for good measure. :-)

dirtywhitecandy said...

Definitely a plotter. I need the boundaries of a rigorously tested route map. If I try to write without a plan my imagination is too unruly and goes whizzing off in all directions like an armful of gerbils.

Dara said...

Tried both. This current project has been a pantser one--and I can definitely see it. It's going to need much more of an overhaul than my last WiP.

I used to plot extensively but found that didn't work either. For me the best way is to be somewhere in the middle--have a loose outline to follow in case I get lost while letting it be as generic as possible to allow for story developments along the way.

Laura Pauling said...

I'm a total plotter. I leave room in each scene for what might happen, which still allows me lots of creativity, and I have the chapters outlined with a small paragraph describing what will happen. Of course, that can be changed as I get into the writing. Enough flexibility to not squelch creativity. When I'm planning a story, I need to sit down and see it play out before I can start writing.Good luck with your try at plotting!

Cindy said...

I used to be a pantster. It took me ten years to change how I do things and it made such a remarkable difference in my manuscript that I'm going to stick with it. I plotted out my most recent manuscript by chapter, by scene. Did all my research ahead of time and made character/location sketches, too. It was fun! I'm definitely doing it like this from here on out.

Tamika: said...

My first project was a panster, and I agonized so much that I ended up trashing the whole thing. I need organization.

Plotting has wonderful advantages and means doing most of my leg work up front rather than at the end.

storyqueen said...

It's all about the pants, baby!

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm an in-betweener, but I hope to develop a more detailed outline with a deeper plot before writing the entire manuscript next time. My current MS has been a little unorganized at times this time around, but I think it made my story go in directions it might not have gone. Even my thoughts here are unorganized, but it's late and I started my job today, so I'm tired. Hope you had a good day.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I've always been a "loose" plotter. I always begin with GMC for each character and a premise and maybe even work up a blurb. Then I write. I kind of pre-plot or outline one chapter ahead of what I'm writing. Things change but it's sort of a "map". :)

lauraabest said...

I usually have a vague idea where the story is going when I start out. But I like to see what's going to happen along the way.I've tried plotting but it hasn't been successful yet.

Kathy said...

Pantster.

Melissa said...

I wrote a very general outline and included a beginning spark, middle spark, and end spark (got this idea from Writer's Digest). I know all of the major plot points, but I left the little details out. So I have the comfort of knowing where I need to go, but still have flexibility when it comes to the little things.

Lily Robinson said...

My outline is not too detailed, so I can still let my fingers fly. But I MUST have it. I would ramble off into no-man's-land without it.

Terri Tiffany said...

I've done it both ways but plotting definitly seems to be better although like you, I really don't like it. But you can really see where it is going and then be sure to add everything in when you need to!

Jennifer Major said...

I'm with you Susan. I need to plan more so I start off more focused! Good luck!

Meredith Rae Morgan said...

I am in the process of transitioning from a total panster to a plotter. The stories that have worked the best for me were those I at least sketched out in advance, with characters, some backstory and a general framework for where I want to go.

I let the characters figure out the details of how to get there.

sanjeet said...

I've come to recognize that the end I know is not the climax, it's the denoument.

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