There’s a lot of talk in writing circles about whether we ‘plot’ or ‘pants’ our novels. Pantsing, otherwise known as SOTP, refers to writing by the ‘seat of the pants,’ meaning the writer does not plan the whole thing out in advance.
I used to think if I wasn’t one, I was the other. I knew I wasn’t a ‘pantser’ so that apparently meant I was a plotter. So then, why did plotting seem so hard? I’d get a few images in my mind of cool things that could happen to my characters, but laying out a full novel’s worth of action in a cohesive manner ahead of time just gave me headaches.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser…or is there another way? click to tweet
- #Writers, what’s between plotting and pantsing? click to tweet
My first online crit buddies were/are avid plotters and very willing to help me learn. But I just couldn’t SEE the shape of the story, no matter how hard I tried and how many headaches I got. Clearly I just needed to learn better thinking skills, because my first few novels had already proved I wasn’t a pantser, so I must be a plotter.
In his book Writing Fiction for Dummies, Randy Ingermanson shows at least two styles that fall in between. Reading that section of his book was the first time I began to find out where I fit. If there are two midway styles, why not more?
Ah, sweet relief. Folks, it is not all or nothing. There is a whole gradiation in between, and I’m finally learning (nine novels in) where I land, which is somewhat close to center. I think if I’d figured out earlier that a midway style was real and valid, I might not have wasted some of those novels, trying to force a plot on characters that clearly did not want to cooperate.
I’m finally starting to learn what I need to know before I start. I need a beginning and an endpoint, I need characters with solid GMC (Goal Motivation Conflict), a solid setting, and a bunch of ideas of what might happen, put in what seems at the time like a logical order (but may turn out not to be). (Scrivener is awesome for this, by the way…it plays to my strengths.)
As I write, the characters come alive and twists begin to happen–some twistier than others. The ride takes on a life of its own. In this way, I’m very pantser. But without some sort of skeleton ahead of time, I’m frozen.
Where do you fit on the spectrum of plotter to pantser? What are the pros and cons of where you find yourself?