Sunday, March 3, 2013

16 Question of the Week, 3/3/13 - Plotter or Pantser?


Hi everyone! I’m Clara Kensie, and I’m thrilled to be back as part of the Adventures in YA Publishing team with a new weekly post. What’s my topic going to be? YOU!

Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as writing is talking about writing. So each week, I’ll post a question for you to answer. The questions will cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.


Question of the Week
Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotter: A writer who plans their plot, characters, and settings before writing the story.
Pantser: A writer who writes “by the seat of their pants.” No plotting, no planning ahead. 








My answer: I’m 80% plotter and 20% pantser. I guess that makes me a plantser.

My first two manuscripts were pantsed. I loved sitting at the computer each day and letting my characters surprise me. The result, however, were two manuscripts that totaled 186,000 and 205,000 words respectively, subplots that had no conclusion, and entire chapters that failed to move the story forward. Revision was more painful than prying out my eyeballs with a spork.

So, I decided to give plotting a try. To my delight, I loved it. Now, before I write the first word, I do a detailed story outline, sketches of each main character and setting, as well as a bit of research. However, sometimes there are issues I can’t solve by planning. In those cases, I just start writing and let my characters tell me what to do. And occasionally, once I’m writing, I realize something in my outline doesn’t work, so I change the outline. Pantsing releases my creativity in a way that plotting does not. I think 80/20 is a good balance for me.

YOUR TURN! Are you a plotter or a pantser, or a combination of both? Have you ever tried to switch? To what results?

Psst: there are no wrong answers!

~Clara



photo credit: Katie Krueger




16 comments:

  1. Awesome that you're back, Clara. I had the same problem being a panster for my first manuscript. I'm now about 50% each. I really just outline the key plot points and I have an idea of some of the scenes. But I can't outline a whole story out. I wish I could because I'm a really organized person at my job and I would have thought I'd outline my stories too.

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  2. By nature I'm a pantser, but this time around I'm giving plotting a try. My outline leaves lots of room for creativity and interpretation, but it's better than I usually have and I have to admit, it seems to be helping.

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  3. I'm a pantser with an outline too. I like knowing the overall arc of the story before I start, but the scenes themselves are where I find my creative kicks as a writer. When "The hero/heroine will butt heads" in my outline turns into a scene with the two of them facing-off on a samosa-making contest-- that's when the pantser in me smiles.
    -Sonali

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  4. I'm a combination as well. I've tried going 100% plotter with character profile worksheets, etc., but it doesn't work for me. I could never go 100% pantser either. I feel like I only have so much time to write, so I have to give myself SOME sense of direction or I wouldn't get anything done :)

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  5. Generally, I outline my novel projects, and I pants my short stories. With the latter, I often think the whole thing out by the end if it was especially short.

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  6. I've panstered two ms so far (I do keep an open notes file so I can jot down ideas ahead of the writing that I don't want to forget). I see the value in plotting - mostly in that writing a query pitch and synopsis would be so much easier if there had been a "plan" and I'd stuck to it. We'll see how far I can go plotting the next one - but my fingers do have a mind of their own!

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  7. I'm a panster. If I try plotting, I veer away from it anyway because it doesn't end up working with my characters. I know where the story will end up, but that's about it.

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  8. I am probably 90% pantser. It depends on the book. Sometimes I'll just have a character idea and roll with it, other times I know how the whole story will turn out, and sometimes I only know how it's going to end. I never sit down and plan ahead, though. I just sit down and write whatever comes to mind.

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  9. Welcome back Clara!!
    I'm a pantser at heart, but I've forced myself to become a plotter. I *know* it ends up working better for me, but it sucks sometimes.

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  10. I started out as a pantser, but then I had kids and my brain bandwidth narrowed considerably.

    Now I write an outline, but I carefully tell myself that it's more like guidelines than actual rules. I have to have the mental wiggle room to go let the plot go in unexpected directions, and the characters do things I didn't expect.

    My last story wound up with a completely different ending than I'd intended. I'd meant for my protagonist to wind up committing the murder--and then I found out a whole subplot about alchemists and the things they did, and my protagonist didn't have to kill anyone after all.

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  11. Wow, guys, this is great! Love the variety here: Plotters, pantsers, and plantsers. Keep the comments coming!

    ~Clara

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  12. Hi, Clara! I'm the opposite. About 80% pantser and 20% plotter. :P He he. I like the term Plantser!

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  13. This last one, I started out as a complete plotter and sort of slowly disintegrated into pantser as the story took some turns. Trying to right the ship is difficult!

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  14. I'm like you, Clara. But my plotting is very extensive, especially since I started using Donald Maass's 21 Century craft book. Geez, does that guy ever make you sweat. His questions about your characters and plot are tough but worth it.

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  15. I started out as a pure pantser, but now my plotting board looks like a war room with all my file cards and code symbols. All I'm missing are model ships and tanks. I must admit - plotting still gives me the chance to let 'er rip with the pantsing within the structure. Plantser mania.

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  16. I'm so happy to have you back, Clara!!!!!!! Welcome. And I love this question! I'm a plotser. I get an idea, write a synopsis or short pitch, then do a discovery draft which I laughingly call an "outline" and usually ends up somewhere in the 20K to 30K range, which follows the format in my Complications Worksheet. Then I examine that "outline" by creating a bookmap that considers the goals of each character in the scene, the scene outcome, and the change that results in the mc's circumstances as a result of that outcome.

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