Monday, March 30, 2015

Of Plots and Pants and Plodding Processes

"Are you a plotter or a pantser," people often ask. It sounds like an easy-to-answer question.

It's not.

I used to think I was a plotter, but every time I said it, it sounded – even to me – like “I am a plodder.” Now, this may accurately describe my writing speed, but it does nothing to convey the wonderful exhilaration of the writing process.
This is my process: I go where the story takes me!

I’m hardly a pantser, though. I’ve written exactly one book by the seat of my pants. My characters were interesting, but had no direction; I felt like I was wasting both my time and theirs. They were so out of control, the story kept haring off on wild tangents. 

I know there's a story in here somewhere...
In order to save the story, I had to stop writing and do what I should have done in the beginning: determine the beats and develop a road map. Then I had to axe vast quantities of text (which, given my “plodder” pace, was enough to permanently cure any future pantsing nonsense). I felt like an archaeologist wielding a machete to clear away the jungle overgrowth from a hidden city before I could get to work making sense of the ruins.

As a writer, I am a huge devotee of structure, which is why I originally cast my lot with the plotters. Love me my road map! The danger with relying too heavily on a map, however, is becoming a slave to the highway. Though the interstate may be the fastest drive from Point A to Point B, it’s rarely the most satisfying or the most interesting.

So, I don’t feel comfortable identifying with either Plotters or Pantsers. Instead, I consider myself a Docent. 

I am the story’s caretaker. The tour guide. My job entails presenting the story and the characters in the best, most interesting way possible. Sometimes that means slavishly adhering to my plot points. Sometimes that means staying out of my characters’ way while they go exploring.

-->> What are you? Plotter? Pantser? Or something completely different? Leave a comment and tell me about your process!