“I know I am going somewhere, and if I am lucky I have an idea of where I am going. What I don’t know is how I will get there; I only know where I am coming from, and where I will begin.”
– Aj Dafeta
The quote above pretty much sums up how I write, most of the time, but I have been trying to figure out if I am plotter or a pantser. To clarify, plotters, as the word describes, plot. They plan and outline every, or almost every detail of their stories. Pantsers, on the other hand, write by the seat of their pants, as the stories come. Funny enough, two of my greatest writing inspirations, Stephen King and JK Rowling, are on opposite sides of the plotter pantser gangs. Sir Stephen is a pantser, and Ma’am Rowling is a plotter.
Generally, thinking about plotting drives me crazy. I just want to write. On the other hand, without a plot, there is the tendency to get stuck mid story, to get lost in a place where events and characters loose relevance in the story. For this reason, I need to at least know which point is A and which is B. To help with this, I do backstories, a world history, a little bit of world building, and when I get stuck, a very basic outline.
The first few pages of my work in progress, Peril of a King, were pretty much written of the top off my head, with no plan or outline, just my characters causing and reacting to events. I had created a chapter outline, but I wasn’t following it so I just wrote instead. I created characters as new situations arose, and I gave each situation what it needed to move to the next. It worked, until I got stuck and had to understand the backstories behind some of the characters. This helped a lot, until I got stuck again. And so I decided to use a basic outline: on my manuscript, I typed in 5 to 10 headers at a time in bright red font, no descriptions or summaries, each one marking the next point in my novel. When I reached a new header, though, I allowed myself to skip or change it if the situation had changed: say a character that should have lived now had to die, or the location we should have been at no longer made sense. I did this till I finished the first draft.
My second book will be written quite differently, I suppose. It is currently in the planning phase, mostly because it already exists as a short story (actually a screenplay idea first), which I am now trying to extend into a full book, yay! I need some new characters and I kind of have to understand the already existing ones better, so backstories are being written. I have also written down a bunch of ideas on what happens in the book, but these are random, not chronological in any way. Anyway, I need more planning than writing for this book right now, but I should be jumping in very soon. I’ll try my best to document more of how I write this book when I start, so I get a better idea of where I am on the plotter pantser scale.
At the end of the day, I don’t think I can plot a novel from beginning to end and stick with the plot all the way, and while I like the idea of simply pouring out the words, I’ll likely get stuck if I do just that. I think it’s better to have what I call a rolling plot: write a bit as it comes, plot a bit when I get stuck. So, I am a bit of a plotter and a bit of a pantser, I guess you can call me a plantser……tehehehe.
Which one are you? A plotter, a pantser, or like me, a plantser?