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The traveling pantser

There’s this notion that every writer is one of two types: plotter, or pantser.

In the extreme, a plotter plans out the whole story from start to finish before she sits down to write. She knows how the story begins, what happens in the middle, and how the story ends, and probably has a detailed outline or synopsis written out before she starts the book. All she has to do is write the full scenes as she moves from A to B to C.

A pantser, on the other hand, sits down to a blank page–maybe with a ghost of an idea–types Chapter 1, and makes the story up as she goes along.

In reality, of course, most of us fit somewhere in between, but we usually lean in one direction or the other. Kind of like politics.

The most surprising thing for me is that in spite of my technical background, and my rather logical, organized approach to life in general, I lean much closer to the pantser end of the scale.

I know who my main characters are, how they meet, what the conflict is–though it’s subject to change :-)–and I even try to plan the major milestones along the way. But, in the end, I go where the story takes me as I write.

I like to compare it to a cross-country trip. If I’m on the west coast, and I want to get back east, I know my goal. How I get there is the adventure along the way. Do I take I-80, I-40, or I-10?

For each new book, I start with a general idea of where I’m starting, who’s going with me, and where we’re going, but only a vague notion of how we’re going to get there.

It’s not always the most efficient method, and I’m trying to instill more structure to prevent backtracking, but in the end, it’s the adventure along the way that I enjoy the most.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Does it surprise you?

0 Comments

  1. Christine

    Reply

    I am a hybrid. First book was written the way you describe. Second, I stuck to the outline (bad move), third, a hybrid. Fourth–a MESS–no all joking aside, I think we can’t avoid that “fixing and cutting and moving” stage, even if it takes less time or flows more easily in first/second drafts.

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