They say there are two types of writers. Plotters, who plan and plot everything out, and Pantsers who ‘write by the seat of their pants.’
Every writer is different. I would also venture that the plotter/pantser thing is more of a spectrum than an either or. There are writers I know who plot out every detail meticulously, writing notes and profiling their characters, keeping binders or documents full of the plans they make for their short story, novel, or series. There are those that may have a plan, of sorts, and not stick to it 100% of the time. I guess we’re supposed to call those people ‘Plantsers’.
Then there’s me. I’m a Pantser. At best, I’ll have a concept in my mind before I start writing. I’ll use characters that have floated into my head, fully-formed, and introduced themselves and I’ll put those characters in some kind of scenario or an inciting incident and I’ll let the story figure itself out from there. Sound scary? Sound like I’m jumping out of a plane without a parachute to catch me? If so, you might be a plotter. If, on the other hand, that sounds like an exhilarating adventure to you, then welcome to Pantser-hood! (I will stop making up words now.)
Nowadays, I’m a little less extreme with my pantsing. Having written eight novels, I’m starting to realize the value in a little plotting, or at least taking notes to help me in the editing process. The problem is, I’m still terrible at sticking to anything I come up with, so at best the practice of ‘plotting’ for me is a brainstorming exercise. The finished product definitely ends up being its own thing.
So how does Pantsing work? Well, character is very important and so is setting. I try to have at least those things worked out mentally before I jump into the writing part. I don’t bother with notes, because my world and my characters aren’t static, they’re living things. They live in my mind until I’m ready to start writing. So, I do my world building which means a lot of time day dreaming. At most, I may need a map to look at, in which case, I draw it.
Then, once the world exists and I have a feel for it, I’ll create at least two characters who exist as a part of that world. Typically a name and a circumstance is all I need to invent a character. I’ve spent too many years of my life playing role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and being a Game Master means you have to invent people as your players encounter them, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Then, as I mentioned before, I consider what my inciting incident is for the concept I’ve developed, put those characters in that circumstance and start writing. It’s really up to the characters and the way they react to move the story forward and to see it to its eventual conclusion. I pay a lot of attention to the details and try to make sure that anything mentioned early on in the story matters, and gets brought up again as the story draws to a close. This creates foreshadowing, and makes sure that the story doesn’t have any loose ends.
So that’s my process… I hope it makes sense from an outsider’s perspective. I tend to live a lot in my own head, so I’m not always sure that’s the case.
Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!