Are you a plotter or a pantser?
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard this question at some point. It’s a matter of writing method and preference. The question may even get at the way you think or perceive the world. But at its heart is the assumption that there is an answer. You’re either one. Or the other. Or a little of both.
So my question to you is: can you shift from one to the other? Or do you think there’s something intrinsic to a person that makes you lean a certain way?
I’ve been a pantser most of my life. Even before I started writing fiction, I could never outline my academic papers. Armed with a thesis, a question to explore, and a whole bunch of notes, I would start writing. And somehow, I always ended up with a coherent, cohesive essay.
When I started writing novels, I assumed it would be the same. In fact, I believed I could never figure out what happened in a story unless I wrote it. And so, I pantsed my way through the first three or four books I wrote. And then, in the past few months, something happened.
Maybe I read one too many craft books. Maybe I was just fed up with the inefficiency of re-writing. But all of a sudden, I had a color-coded story board. A scene-by-scene outline of my manuscript. A deadline and a daily word-count goal.
And voila! A plotter was born!
Okay, not really. I mean, it didn’t actually happen overnight. For years now, I’ve said (on this blog even) that I’ve always wanted to be a plotter. I just didn’t know how.
Well, now I do.
The other day, I was saying to my friend, Kimberly-Mermaid, that the stickiest chapters in my manuscript were the ones where I veered from my outline. She said: “OMG! You’re a freaking plotter now! Traitor!”
And I realized, why yes, I am a plotter. I really am.
How on earth did that happen?!
4 thoughts on “Can Plotters Be Made, Not Born?”
Good Morning Miss Plotter Mermaid. It sounds like you have evolved into your true writer self, which is wonderful. It happened because you made it happen! Great job!
I’m a horrible planner. I’ve tried to plot, but it hurts.
Most of the best writers plot, just to avoid the problem Diana spoke of. However, the other concrete reason to plot is to give better depth to characters. I find that when you lay a novel out, you get to know what motivates characters more, and having to explain that to the reader gives better depth to the novel, makes their actions more logical, and helps evaluate whether the action moves the plot along. I wonder if artists have an end product in mind when they paint, sculpt, etc. I suspect so, and writing is like that.
Traitor! ~~sticking out tongue~~ haha. You get that joke, right???
I have to admit that I’m starting to outline things more as I start new projects. I’m never again going to start a book by sitting down and wondering what it will be about… HOWEVER, I won’t be stuck into a mold! I won’t! I won’t make my characters do things they don’t want to do! So there!
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