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Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ghost, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    I'm surprised there's not already a thread about this. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or some ungodly combination of the two? :p

    This isn't about which is better. It's about what style works for you, although I think it would be nifty if we also list how much we've actually written.

    As for me, I've only done a half dozen short stories, none published. Most of them are pantsed, but I've half-pantsed my way through a couple. Trust me, it's not as horrific as it sounds. I sometimes make lists that include a couple of vague ideas for a scene (Bob confronts his mother) and some fragments of the scene that evoke a mood for me (Bob's old mother has trembling hands). I usually have an end in mind and spend my time wandering toward that conclusion.

    How do you go about your writing?

    Freudian Slip? Instead of "conclusion" I first wrote "confusion." Hah!
  2. I am both a pantser and a literary Calvinist. ;-)

    By "literary Calvinist" I mean when I'm pantsing I'm still usually writing toward a specific ending, and I have clear and definite ideas about characters that I pre-define and stick to unswervingly. But no outlines. Occasionally vague notes.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2012
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I'm a plotter, definitely. Pantsing gets me nowhere.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Panster definitely for short stories. For longer works, enough plotting so that pansting (nice word, Ireth) doesn't lead me too far afield.
  5. Kit

    Kit Maester

    I plot, but the characters do not always cooperate. For instance, one of my peripheral characters in my WIP decided that she wanted to be the MC, and she was taking over.
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Plotter. For complicated plots you have to. I also try to time the relationships around the big events to make things more intense. But my plots are more planned than the stories.

    Also, before I write I try to visualize the key moment of the chapter, may even write it first, and then write the rest around it.

    I should mention, a good chapter comes before the outline, so the outline changes constantly as I write.
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    I'm a pantser when it comes to coming up with ideas and synopses and then getting started. But once it all gets under way, I shift into plotting mode.
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I was a pantser but now I'm plotter. Sometimes I'll pants out a short story, but rarely now. I pantsed out out my first novel, a 275 000 monster with six pov characters with nothing more than a beginning and an end. It's a spaghetti factory of words that nobody in their right mind would try to untangle. Although I did try a few times before sanity took over. I found that to even try to edit it I had to reverse engineer an outline.

    My second novel, I wrote with half my pants on... er... would that be the right description for half-and-half? Any way it was plotted out for the most part but there were parts I just couldn't figure out so I left them blank and when I got to that hole I just pansted it. After writing the first and second acts, I got stuck and couldn't pants it any more, so I stopped, took off my pants... er.... I had to go back and do a more solid outline.

    Finished with the first draft coming in at around 90 000 words. Still polishing it, but I found with the outline it was so much easier to make changes on the fly. With the outline I had a big picture view of the whole story and could tell how each small or large change would ripple through the rest of the book. Made it easier to decide if things were a good idea or not. It was easy enough to write another outline to see how the change would play out.

    I'm very happy with how my second book came together. It felt like I was very much in control and didn't let anything get out of control unless I wanted it to. I knew the job of each scene, how much of the main and the many sub-plots it was advancing, so I wasn't feeling the scene that day, I could just let the scene suck on the first draft and rewrite it later without worry of having to make major changes to the rest of the book. It was quite liberating.

    I've plotted out a bunch of short stories and found that the more extensive the plot the closer the stories that come out are to the stories I envision in my head, which to me is a good thing. I find because I have a map to where I want to go, I don't need as much focus to keep on the road I want to be on, so I can easily see the more interesting forks in the road when they come up. When they do, I easily turn the wheel and change roads if I want.
  9. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I guess I'm half-pantsed. I begin with a character I love, then I outline four or five scenes I just HAVE to have. Then I begin writing, start outlining, and let it all flow as inspiration strikes me... and only get to the ending at the end. HA! I am going to try to plot next time. I bet it's worlds easier.
  10. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    Sometimes I start a story knowing only how the first scene is going to progress, but once I write that the rest of the story unfolds in my head and I write according to that mental outline. I don't know whether that would be considered pantsing, plotting, or a combo. Whichever, it works for short stories.

    That said, pantsing has definitely led to dead ends for me on multiple occasions, especially when I attempt whole novels instead of short stories. The issue is that I reach a point where I don't know how to continue the story. This is especially likely to happen when I'm in the middle act; I may know how the story begins and ends, but the middle is murkier.
  11. Klee Shay

    Klee Shay Troubadour

    Pants for the most part, though I do usually have some idea of the general plot. Once I get going the characters tend to hijack the story and I (mostly) just go along for the ride. Forcing a story never works for me.
  12. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

    Hmm, tough question. I guess I'd say on a "macro" level I'm an outliner, I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the ideas/pre-writing/world-building frame of mind rather than getting down to the nuts and bolts... but on that "micro" level I pants it. I don't suppose that really makes sense... Okay, look at it this way, a lot of you guys are saying "mental idea of what I want to happen" and pants from there, well I just write that bit down. I'd forget.

    Technically that would make me a plotter. Technically. I'd hesitate to call my rambling prose "structured", or anything ;)

    Perhaps this matter isn't clear cut black-and-white? I prepose that it could in fact be said that there's a pants-plot continuum and any given writer sits somewhere along it... doing their thing.

    Pants-plot continuum... haha!
  13. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I have an idea for certain scenes or what nots that I want to include, but I mostly just write and try to make my way there without too much plotting. I mean, I want to be entertained by the story too! Of course, having never successfully completed a story, my method might not neccesarily be the best one...
  14. Ailith

    Ailith Minstrel

    @Christopher Wright: Literary Calvinist... love it.

    I am a hardcore plotter. I use an excel spreadsheet to sync up all the different plotlines, characters, events, and major groups. It works up and down (timeline) and side to side (relational). My problem is that sometimes I have to remind myself to actually write... and not just spend all my time plotting.

    I do also enjoy pantsing, but only for short stories, or as an exercise.
  15. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    I have yet to write anything within the last decade, but I used to be a pantser. I am going to convert to plotting when I finally complete the world building I've been working on. From what I've read, here and other places, plotting seems to produce more polished works.
  16. I tend to avoid pants when I'm writing - I like to feel a bit of fresh air.

    Joking aside, I tend to mostly know the plot before hand, but never in so much detail that I don't have room to play around within that plot.

    I usually write a first chapter and a very rough draft of the final chapter, then try to work out how my characters got from the beginning to the end. Knowing how I want the story to end gives my writing a goal and some direction.
  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

    It's a bit like the wave/particle nature of light - you sort of have to do both. BUT, I never finished a novel until I discovered plotting.

    What tends to happen for me is that I always have a million ideas rattling around in my head, then all of a sudden one day I'll have what I call the framing idea. This is some sort of motivation for action which manages to incorporate one or more of my random ideas - I'll suddenly see how how two or three ideas go together to make a good premise with a jumping off point for the action. Typically, I'll write about 30 pages straight away, and then I'll sit on it and let the ideas percolate.

    I'm usually working on three or four projects at once so the ideas for a particular project may take a while to come to fruition - but one day I'll be in the mood for a that story, read over it, and the ideas will start exploding. Then I plot, plot, plot. I don't have to have a fully fleshed out plan but I must know what the end is and what the main milestones are. Then its all pantsing within that plan, working my way scene by scene towards the conclusion. It's really important to know how each scene will end and what information you want to reveal/where you want to get to before you start writing.

    Funny thing is, for all this careful plotting, I am still constantly surprised by the antics of the characters and plot twists that even I hadn't seen coming. And yet, when it happens I can see how the story was leading me to there.

    Weird...but good!
  18. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    I have the general structure of a novel in my mind when I start to write it- I mean what is going to happen, when certain events are supposed to take place and how the novel will end, but many times my characters give me surprises by behaving in ways that I did not anticipate... and when I write down some scenes, it can be different to the idea that I was planning =)

    Forcing a story to be exactly what I wanted in the start does not work for me, it's like an adventure!!

    I always compare the writing of a story with the climbing of a mountain: You know where the summit is and which is the best climbing route to reach it within a certain deadline, but unexpected things can happen in your way up =)
  19. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    I guess...both?

    I usually have a fair idea where the story is going, and my scenes are definitely planned, but I've been taught (more like had it bashed into my brain) that you have to stay fluid and flexible. So, if something unexpected happens, I just go with it and see what happens.
  20. Both. Depends on the time of day, phase of the moon, and how energetic I feel.
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