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Pantsing versus Planning
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 3:26 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 18

This topic was going to come up eventually, so I figured I'd get it out of the way.

Are you a panster or a planner? That is, do you get an idea for a story and just start writing or do you get an idea and labor over an outline, creating the entire story before you start the actual writing?

Me? I'm a reformed panster turned planner.

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 6:19 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103

I am a planner.

Someone conned me once into thinking the story that would come out of a pantsing adventure would be so much more spontaneous and thrilling for me, the writer. So I tried the other way, for "fun". It wasn't. That story is currently in its third significant re-write and is so far from finished just thinking about it makes me cry. I absolutely love the story, but it still needs a lot of work.

I've gone back to planning. Even though I know what will happen at each story milestone, I am still constantly surprised as my characters use me to get to that point in ways I didn't expect. More importantly, I have some concept of progress, and where I am in the process. Also, I love editing but don't love to significantly re-write or re-think the thing. I'd rather keep that part to a minimum.
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 6:19 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103

For some reason my comment posted twice and it won't let me delete the second post.

I've changed the second post to this message in hopes that some one with administrative power can delete this comment.
Ellie Isis
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 8:32 PM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 60

I'm a plantser. I write from dreams most of the time, and my method depends on how detailed the dream is. Sometimes I get entire stories in a dream, beginning, middle, and end, complete with character names and snippets of dialogue. These I will jot down in outline form.

However, other times I get just one vivid scene, or one intense interaction with a character. Then, I'll wing it from there. I've finished books using both methods, but surprisingly, it's the seat-of-the-pants one that nabbed me an agent.
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:29 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I do a little of both, depending on the story. Sometimes I plan out part of it and then start writing, figuring it out as I go. Other times I plan it out completely, though sometimes (usually?) it changes as I write. And sometimes I just have a vague idea of one or two events and dive right in.

It's all dependent on the particular project and how I'm feeling about it.
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:11 PM
Joined: 3/15/2011
Posts: 15

I'm a plotter, but at the same time, I know that if I hash out the details too much, I'll lose interest in the overall story. So I have an initial process I go through which gives me a general plot, character arches, backstory, magic system, etc. Then I dive into the first draft and pretty much don't look at any of my previous outlining until I'm finished. This leaves me lots of room for exploring new characters and plot twists as I go, and more often than not, I find little ways to improve things in the process.

I did a longer post on my plotting process here if anyone's interested: http://write-strong.com/?p=135
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 10:37 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

I'm such a combination. I have blogged about it in the past, in great detail, but in short, I have a two-step outlining process.

Initially, when I'm gearing up to write that first draft, I have a very bare bones outline.

Then, when the draft is done, it's a more detailed outline. Much more detailed. (And only possible for me to accomplish because the words are there already.) When it's done, I have it printed and bound so I can work off of it for revisions.

There's a lot more to all of it, and to how I use it for revising, on my blog.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:01 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

I'm closest to what JR listed. I do a lot of prep work, to where I know what will happen, but don't actually write down anything other than the results of real world research. Once I start writing anything in the outline can change if there is a good reason.

If I wrote most of the outline down, I'd feel no impulse to actually *write* the story, and I'd also wind up missing out on things like minor characters growing into major plot elements.
Posted: Monday, March 21, 2011 7:41 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 227

I'm a little like Steph, where I start with a bare bones outline, and sometimes not even the ending. I usually get to the "black moment" before my characters start screaming at me to get writing. For this reason, the ending and how they resolve the black moment has to be figured out while writing (and sometimes it blocks me until I figure it out). Luckily, my characters are often chatty so they can tell me as we go along what they want to do or how things might resolve themselves. In that respect, I'm a little pantserish.

My process is also changing. In my first story, I needed my characters to tell me how they were going to get from Plot Point C to Plot Point D. This caused me to write in chronological order and kept me from jumping around. The problem with this was that if I got stuck, moving forward was not an option. In my last two stories, I plotted more and had the motivations down so well that I knew what the next scene was going to be. So now, when I get stuck, I can jump to the next scene or even a later one and worry about the transitions later, in edits.
Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:05 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 6

The best metaphor for the way I write is driving home late at night by a new route: I know where I'm going (the overall outline of the story), but as I'm traveling I can only see what's in the headlights in front of me. That is to say, I plan an overall outline of the story -- generally a paragraph or two, if that -- then as I get to the end of each chapter or major scene, I spend a paragraph or two outlining what I'm going to do next.

So I guess... part pants, part plot. Shorts, perhaps?
Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:12 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216

I’m a plotter. I work from a very detailed outline. While the outline doesn’t have to be rigidly enforced, using one gives me a sense of where all of the critical moments in the book happen – are they too soon? Too late? Where’s the climax of the book? How much resolution do I have? I can take a look at my story arc and see if it’s doable. If I “pants” it, this doesn’t tend to happen – I’ve noticed that my writing rambles. There’s a flow to it, but the flow is slow …. stagnant.

What works for the listener’s ear in music composition (classical) works -- be it a piano sonata, symphony or opera, which all follow a set structure and form – works with a reader’s mind, IMHO.


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