Plotters vs. Pantsers

WritingThere are generally two schools of fiction writers–plotters and pantsers.

Plotters plan their novels–they know more or less what happens each step of the way and then write from plot point to plot point. I’ve seen calendars and spreadsheets and outlines that leave me in awe.

Pantsers, on the other hand, write by the seat of their pants. That would be me. I know where to begin. And I have a general idea of where I’m going, maybe even a stop or two along the way, but I don’t know all the steps.

And really, that’s why I love writing. It’s the same reason I like reading. I want to know what happens next. I love it when I finish writing a scene and get to sit back and think, okay, if I want my character to learn a specific lesson or get into a certain tight spot, what might happen to get her there? It’s delicious.

For me, plotting is like having someone tell me what happens in a book before I read it. Why would I read it? I already know.

In my current manuscript a young man has been roped into running moonshine for some shady characters. I knew he was going to make a drop-off and I thought it would be under the classic back stairs with a loose step. But then I saw a picture of a tombstone in Northern WV that was used as a hideout for corn liquor in days gone by (bless Pinterest).

So what if my character had to go to a cemetery? I sent him and when he arrived he was discovered by the pastor. And the pastor had a message for him that he needed to hear. How cool is that? Did NOT know that would happen.

I admire plotters. I kind of feel like they have it more together than I do. I admire anyone with that level of organization. But me? Well, I’m just going to aim my compass in the direction I want to go and see what miracles I trip over along the way.

Can’t wait to bring you along on the ride!

8 thoughts on “Plotters vs. Pantsers

  1. Sarah, I love LOVE this. And how things went unexpectedly for your runner. 🙂 I confess I’m a plotter. I like knowing the parameters of my story. With my first book, I thought through the scenes and ended up writing a brief synopsis for each scene. It was a lot of work, but I also knew where the story was going and was able to add in nuances as I wrote. Some characters came on the scene unexpectedly, which was way cool. 🙂

    With this book, God gave me the overall plot, but the relationship aspect of my story wasn’t coming to me. God finally told me to trust Him to show it to me. So, I am. Which means, some days I don’t write much because I don’t know where it’s going yet. 🙂 I’m enjoying this process too. There’s something about ultimately trusting God to tell the story He’s written on my heart that fills me with glee. 🙂

  2. I pretty much define the characters, and let them do what they want. I just try to keep up with them.

    This may come from having done a LOT of reading – characters on the page spring easily to life for me, and when I started making my own, so to speak – they began to follow their own paths, rather than the ones toward which I tried to nudge them.

    Spreadsheets? Ugh.

  3. I’m a little of both. As scene ideas and bits of dialogue come to mind, I add them to my Scrivener file. But inside those parameters, there’s a lot of wiggle room.
    The father in my current story came on stage for the first time yesterday, and boy did he make me laugh unexpectedly. My stories deal with some very dark issues, so I find that incorporating an authentic character who occasionally lightens the mood has been a good move thus far.
    I’m also reading about the natural history of the area where my story is set. Because I’m a bird watcher and overall nature nerd, it’s important to me that these natural aspects are present in my writing.
    Fun blog post Sarah.

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