Pantser VS Plotter

Okay, so there’s generally two camps in writing (there’s a lot of middle ground here, but these are the general groups). A panster is a writer that writes “by the seat of their pants”. Kind of unfair term because many have a plan, but they don’t have an outline. They write what comes to them in the story, finding their way to the end.

A plotter is, exactly what it sounds like, a writer who plots. Yes, all writers plot, but these are the ones that have an outline before they start writing their book.

I used to be a pantser and then accidentally became a plotter. No joke, it just happened. While writing Vanity in Dust, I had all these ideas for the next books in the series. I wouldn’t let myself start another one until the first was done, so I just kept notes for the other books. When I was ready to write book 2, I took a look at my notes and started moving things around into the right order and adding scenes where I needed more and, in the end, had a complete outline.

I decided to try the nanowrimo method and give myself a daily word count goal and just write it–from one scene to the next, down the outline until I was done. 95k in a month.

I’ve done this four more times since and it works for me. I obsess about an idea for a while, thinking it over and making notes that are anywhere from paragraphs of detail and dialogue to “something here”. Some scenes do develop organically while I’m writing, adding to the outline here and there after the daily writing, and others come out exactly as I planned. But, because I have an outline, I never get stuck thinking about what I should do next and inevitably on twitter or watching Killjoys.

Plotting works for me, but that’s not to say the pantser method doesn’t work for others.

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Outlining

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I love outlining! I know, I know, that’s nonsense, but it’s so true. A handful of years ago I would never have thought that I would enjoy outlining so I know why a lot of pantsers out there would be skeptical.

Just consider it. Originally, I just wrote the book with all of the ideas of where it was going in my head. BUT, when I was writing the first book of a series, I found myself overflowing with ideas for the books to come. Desperate not to forget these ideas or lines of dialog, I started jotting them down in doc files.

When it came time to sit down and start work on Book Two of the series, I opened up the file with all of my notes only to realize that it was more than ten pages long. I read through it and started moving scenes around to get them in the right order and then just continued to add to it until I had a scene by scene line up ready.

That book took me maybe a month to write, following the scenes and keeping to a “word-count a day” schedule. Now, some of the scenes were literally just “-stuff” or “-Vaun/Addom”. But they were markers because I knew that I needed something more at that point and when I got to those spots, I had plenty in mind to fill them with.

I’ve continued to use this method and looooove it! I get my world in mind, have my characters and large plot line ready, and just sit down and write out an outline. It takes a couple days sometimes (when the outline is from scratch rather than from pages upon pages of scene notes) but, at least for me, it has been so worth it.

If you’re in the market for a new writing system, give this a try. It’s pretty much speed writing your book in bullet point form, scene by scene, sloppy as can be, but knowing that no one but you will ever see it. You come up with all sorts of things you didn’t even know you were going to do but were so necessary to balance out the book. You can see the pacing right in front of you and add in another scene if you see things being wedged too close together. And you get to sit there, typing and awing at your own genius.

At least for me, outlining has really made things easier. I don’t get distracted or convince myself that I don’t know what to write next or need to think about it for a while (which we all know means checking twitter and tumblr and roaming the internet at large). I’ve used this method three times now and it works. The book gets done and it gets done fast.

Writers out there, give outlines a chance!

-cheryl

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