*puts on her most impressive Ring announcer’s voice*
Ladies and gentlemen, in the blue corner we have the Grand Plotter, weighing in at whatever they weigh, all the way from all over the world.
Aaaaaaaand in the red corner we have the Classified Pantser weighing a few more or less pounds, and coming from where-ever.
Okay… okay… it’s not a match. Not at all. And even if it was, I’d not be in that ring, I’d be the one dinging the bell at inappropriate times, and confusing everyone.
But before I go off into a rambling tangent about boxing, let me first explain the Plotter vs. Pantser thing.
It is said that there are two types of writers (of course this is completely simplified and thus a for the most part untrue). There are the Plotters: those dapper dames/ fellows who have worked out their whole novel beforehand, knowing what each chapter will bring.
And then there are the Pantsers: those whimsical types who don’t plan anything, but just ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ They let their muse guide them as they go along.
The two writing styles are very different, yet they do have some similarities, because in the end it all is linked to imagination and creativity.
I believe you can often (not always of course) tell if a writer is a Plotter or a Pantser. For example, I would not be at all surprised if George RR Martin is a Plotter and Stephen King is a Pantser. I just wonder if they are 100% one or the other, because I have my doubts if anyone can completely Pants a story, or completely Plot one.
Personally: I’m a Pantsing Plotter… or maybe a Plotting Pantser… who knows? I guess I like to be contrary. What I mean by that is that I plot certain elements in my book. I need to know where I’m going with my story. When I start a novel (or a short story), 9 out of 10 times I know how it will end. Okay… maybe 8 out of 10 times… I have changed endings before. 7 out of 10 max…
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION
…. Eh… what? Who said that?
Back to what I was saying. Pantsing Plotter. *coughs* So I know certain things. I will make a ton of notes about them, and even work out incomplete timelines. If I don’t do this (and I’ve not done this in the past) my book will be a hot mess, causing me to spend even longer editing. And I spend a long…. loooong time editing to begin with.
When I write I start with an idea, and from that I do a little world and character building. How does my world look? What are the rules for things that are out of the ordinary? What metaphysics do I use for magic or other supernatural things? Who are my characters? What are their backgrounds? Etc. etc. You get the gist.
I have notes on things that will never even make it into the books. So… that’s my plotting part. It’s important to me to have a clear image of what I’m going to write. However, when I start writing, I get ‘in the moment’ and I let my characters and the story take over a bit. I try to imagine what it’s like to be there myself. What would I feel? What smells / sights/ sounds surround me?
Sometimes I get all these spontaneous good ideas, so I let them guide me—which, you guessed it, is the Pantser in me. When this happens, I need to adjust my notes, and make sure that I’m still heading to a solid ending. A pet peeve of mine is reading a book where the ending just leaves you baffled.
Endings are difficult things to write. I’m sure some writers don’t struggle with them as much as I do, but that last line is always a form of torture for me. What are the last words you leave your reader with, after you’ve just taken them on a lengthy wordy ride? How do you suddenly stop? To me, it’s important to have a plan.
That’s a personal opinion of course. And luckily for both Plotters and Pantsers, there are audiences for both.
It doesn’t really matter what your approach is, as long as you give your book the love and attention it needs. Make it the very best work that you can make it. My tip is to always run it past very critical beta-readers. The type that will find something wrong with it, and will take the time to point it out to you.
Your writing style should be your own. See what fits you, and what gives you your edge. And to quote Neil Gaiman: “Make good Art”.
Good luck! And may the Plotting or Pantsing force be with you!
And now... for some cheeky self promotion time! Please go check out my work, and if you've read any of my books, I would REALLY appreciate a review.