Writing about writing, short & long form creative writing and other thoughts.

Pantsing vs Plotting vs…

I used to be a pantser/discovery writer.

I’d sit down and type away until I ran out of steam. I’d find out what the story was along the way, BUT unlike most panthers, I didn’t realise that at the end of the draft, you were supposed to rewrite, often several times, to fix the story & plot issues.

This meant usually 2 things happened:

  1. I would run out of steam half way through, not sure of where I was going with anything. This formed the larger part of my writing. Most pieces were abandoned.

  2. I would finish a piece, but it wouldn’t be very good. I’d get disappointed that the story wasn’t better, but hadn’t spent the time making it better.

Both of these things result from various issues in my life, including my finally diagnosed ADHD, and a lack of mentorship or guidance from anyone.

The good news is that thanks to the Internet™️, you can now find guidance everywhere and teach yourself pretty much anything.

So, I learned about story structure. First from Larry Brooks, then K. M. Weiland, then Jessica Brody, Dan Harmon, and others.

It may be due to anchoring, but I like Larry/Ms. Weiland’s versions best, which are essentially distillations of the three act structure with defined beats.

Plotting allows you to build a bare bones structure, figuring out plot points before sitting down to crank out the prose. It’s muchness’s easier to scrap an index card (or software equivalent,) with a few sentences on it because it doesn’t fit the story, than say, an entire chapter of 3k words or more.

So instead of petering out at the 60k word mark like I did on my previous novel because I didn’t know how it ended, this time I’m plotting it out. I have started writing prose too, but I already know how those chapters go, and I also know how the whole story ends, and the major plot points along the way. Next comes writing the outline. This varies from author to author, with some writing thousands of words in a highly detailed way that could almost be a first draft or summary thereof, and others writing a sentence per chapter of only the most salient points. I’ll do somewhere in-between. Maybe I’ll even post some of my outline here at some point.

Most of my worldbuilding is done, although I’m sure some will get added along the way, and I have a working system and software that allows me to capture it as it happens and document it.

However, there is another approach to writing, which I would definitely try next time. No I’m not talking about plantsing, the hybrid of the two where you put together a skeletal outline and pants the rest. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing, but I’m going to write a proper outline before I go much further so I know what to write.

The method I’m talking about is Lisa Cron’s approach of developing characters first, then drawing the plot out from that character. This ensures that the story always hits the right notes, because it’s inexorably tied to the main character’s wants, needs, fears, and misbeliefs.

Maybe I’ll do this for book 2, if there ends up being one, or whatever I write next.

Anyway, if you’re a pantser & happy with your method, go to it. It works for Stephen King.

And if you’re a plotter who loves to know where the story is leading before you commit to 100k words, I empathise. It’s now my method of choice too, whether I start with premise, plot, or character.

Happy writing.

#CreativeWriting #plotting #pantsing #WritingAdvice