What Happens When a Pantser Plots a Roadtrip?
I’ll answer that in three-and-a-half words. It ain’t pretty.
I don’t know if it goes against my very nature, but planning a cross-country road trip with my five kids makes me a tad bit nervous. And anxious. And really, really, REALLY scared. It’s not so much the perpetual questions and the fighting in the backseat because I’m pretty much resigned to that. It’s the mystery. I hate taking the mystery out of my trip, which probably makes me a pantser in every aspect of my life.
I went to Ireland with my friend Ellen when we were in our early twenties. We planned our route carefully. One week to get from Shannon, Ireland to Dublin. Then we would catch the ship to England and spend two weeks touring England and Scotland. We had it all mapped out. We knew where we would be staying. We planned on hitting every tourist trap from one coast to the other.
And then we decided to scrap the rest of the trip and we stayed in Ireland for the whole month, not knowing where we would sleep at the end of every night. She was nervous. I was beyond-the-moon excited! The mystery! The possibilities! Just winging it! Ahhhh. It was heaven for me. Hell for her.
That trip was one of my favorites. Once we met a nice woman who gave us directions out of Dublin, and we ended up staying at her house for a couple of days. She set us up with two cute single locals who took us out on the town. You just don’t get that with careful planning. Don’t even get me started on tour packages…
So, during this extremely stressful plotting of my current trip, I’ve come to realize a few things that will also help my writing. It’s not such a bad thing to have a basic idea of where you’re headed. It’s not such a bad thing to know where you’ll sleep each night. It’s the journey along the way that it is the mystery. Who knows when we’ll drive by the biggest ball of twine? Who knows when we’ll meet a family who will somehow affect our lives along the way? Or meet somebody who will have a fabulous story to tell?
I’ve decided to let my characters learn a bit from my lesson in planning. It’s okay to have a destination and stops along the way. It doesn’t mean that everything is planned. The substance and personality of the characters is what, to me, means the most. I just have to plan a bit, and I can plop those characters down into a mess I’ve created or just a beautiful part of our country that he/she has never visited before. It’s okay to plan a bit. It is.
If it sounds like I’m still struggling, I am. But, it’s a struggle that I believe will help me in the long run. Just like I realize that winging it may very well be in my personality but it doesn’t fit with taking five kids on a road trip without some planning, I’ve learned that writing can be looked at the same way.
This pantser needs to go finish the basic outline of a loosely planned road trip. I will know where my five children sleep the first few nights. And I know what day I’ll hit Albuquerque because my Golden Heart finalist friend Tammy is planning to house us for a couple of nights. Shhhh. If anyone knows her, pleased don’t tell her that my children are hellions.
And now I leave you with a question. If you’re a pantser or plotter in your writing life, does that flow into other aspects of your life? And how do you stop that from happening? Or do you want to?