Jun 20, 2012

What's Between a Pantser and a Plotter?

When I first started my WIP, it was for NaNoWriMo and I had a concept and the first line and decided to run with with.  Characters started fleshing out, a little, and I was meeting word goals and then, smack dab in the middle of my month...

Blank.

Hmmm....

So I sat down and wrote a VERY basic idea of where I wanted the rest of the story to go, realized that the stuff I'd written previously didn't give me any chance to get there and started tweaking.

Then I did a full, multi-colored outline of each character's subplot to really figure them out.

After I thought I knew them, I started over, rewriting the characters much better developed (trust me, they needed it).  And as I'm realizing who my characters are, the story is getting better.

So, to sum up - when I try to just put butt in chair and write, it stinks.  When I try to outline first, my characters are so dull that watching grass grow in the desert is cause for more excitement than they are.

And I would really like to figure out my method of writing with a great big hope that this isn't it.

I like to say that I plot with the connect the dots method - I know several big events and scenes that have to be in the story, and the tricky part is writing the lines that will show the big picture.  But even trickier (and all you professional dot to dot competitors know this) is when you can't find the next dot, and without it, the cute elephant isn't balancing on the ball, he's levitating and suddenly the whole story is off.

Is there a spot for those who aren't quite either?  Have you found some cool tools or tips to help discover who your characters are faster than my way?  

24 comments :

Michelle Gregory said...

i'm not sure that we have to define ourselves as plotter, pantster or in between. i think we just have to find out what works for us (which can change depending on circumstances, at least for me) and just write.

Simon Kewin said...

I work pretty much the same way you do. Sometimes I just have the beginning and end and I have to connect all the dots. Sometimes I have more of a plan. Sometimes I have a plan but my characters have other ideas. I think it's all good. I quite enjoy the elephant falling off the ball and you have to think, right, how do I get out of this?

S.P. Bowers said...

Throw out the labels and just write. Find what works for you and do it. Though it will probably change with each novel. As to ways to discover characters-I don't know. I usually just think about them. A lot. And then I write what I do know and it helps me find out more about them. There's a character exercise I have done in the past which is mostly SOC writing. I blogged about it here
http://spbowers.blogspot.com/2012/02/abc.html
But that's all I've got. Good luck!

Connie Keller said...

I lean much more toward the pantser end of the spectrum. I'd love to be a plotter, but it just doesn't work for me. I guess we just all have to find what works for our own particular brand of creativity.

Christina M. McKnight said...

Great blog post. A friend emailed this link to me...she said, 'this is SO YOU! You have to read!' I agree, I am the connect the dots kinda writer.

Donna said...

I am very much a connect the dots kind of writer. I just write through the events that I know and I am viewing my first draft as my outlining. I always put too much detail into my outlines anyway so this works better for me.

Andrew Leon said...

There are professional dot-to-dotters? >blink<

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I've always called myself a pantster, but perhaps dot-to-dotter is a more apt description!

With my current WIP, I outlined the first third, then deviated wildly from the outline while writing it. I completely pantstered the middle third. Then I had to sit down and outline the last third. I'm working on that now. I don't expect to follow the outline too closely!

D.G. Hudson said...

I'm a firm believer in outlining.

Because I jump around to different chapters when creating the first draft, having a flexible plan keeps me focused.

Jenny Morris said...

Sounds like you are a character driven plotter?? I'm the same way. Nothing comes until I know my characters. And if I put the plot down it doesn't always give me room for the characters.

Good luck!

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Lynn Proctor said...

i am not really a writer at least not today

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm mostly a panster, but I do usually have an outline to follow.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Your method sounds remarkably close to my method. I shall create a name for us. How about "writing geniuses".

Kelley Lynn said...

For me it depends on the genre I'm writing in. When I wrote my YA Fantasy, I didn't know much about my characters, but i knew what I wanted to happen so I just wrote the whole thing and by the time I typed 'the end' I knew who my characters were so during edits I made sure to hash them out well.

For my YA Contemp, well, it's all about the characters. So I had to know them pretty darn well and I let them dictate where the story was going to go. (as well as my collab partner ;)) haha

Donna K. Weaver said...

I like the butt in the chair approach. Though I'm going to use that beats process from Save the Cat that Elana taught at storymaker for my November nano project.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm like you, I can't outline too much or the story is boring, but when I pants, I always end up re-writing. I still try and do the connect the dots thing, but I've come to terms with my style which involves re-writing whether I like it or not!

Nicole said...

I've decided I'm actually a plotter in my head, but a pantser on paper. I never write a full outline, but it's all planned in my head before I write.

Ruth Josse said...

Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I do! Love it. Works for me. I sooo want to see your color-coded outline. I think other people's outlines are so interesting!

Laura Pauling said...

I think there are lots of writers out there that are a mix. I've seen some of them say that they use the beat sheet from Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Using those 15 beats they cover the main emotional and structural points. I can't pants to save my life!

Elana Johnson said...

Have you read Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder? YOU SHOULD. It's the in-between method you're looking for. Trust me on this.

Leigh Covington said...

Oh man! I so wish I had a magical method for plotting. I'm terrible! I think I'm going to try Elana's suggestion for Save the Cat! I've heard good things!

elizabeth seckman said...

I do a bit of both. I have a semi-outline, but then as I write, I get new ideas...some keepers, some deleters.

Leslie Pugh said...

I lean more towards being a plotter but feel a bit like you, that if I outline everything, my writing and characters are so drab. So I'm trying to have some more spontaneity in my writing.