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!


Jess Schira said...

I generally pants my way through the 1st 10,000 words or so, by which time I get hit with a mental bolt of lightening and see where my story is going. At that point, I create a story board and start over again. What I like about having the story board is that when I'm stuck on a particular scene, I can set it aside and write a different scene and than work my way backwards towards the problem spot.

Ami Hendrickson said...

When I actually put words on paper and *write,* what I put down generally stays, in one form or another. I really HATE when I have to cut vast chunks of words.
But before I start writing, when I am wrestling with the story and deciding if it's worth my time, determining if I like the characters in it enough to dedicate a significant portion of my life to them, I am in the "Pantsing" stage. I sort of mentally wind my characters up and see what they are capable of, following them down their various rabbit holes, looking for a thread I can weave into story.
All this is to say: I follow a very similar process, though much of my 10K pantsing is done in my head.
Also, this: YAY, STORYBOARDS! :)
Thanks for sharing!
Onward and upward!