Pantser not plotter

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I am a proud pantser. I have friends who are master plotters. They have methods that they swear by – some with wonderful names like snowflake. (I have absolutely no idea what it does or how you use it but I love the name!). They cannot begin their story until they have worked out their overarching theme, all the various plot points and the highs and lows. Some even take it down to granular level by mapping out their stories scene by scene.

I stick my fingers in my ears and shut my eyes when they talk of such things. If every part of your story from the characters, to the plot, to the very scenes the book is made up of, are planned out like a shopping list before your eyes, doesn’t it deaden the writing? Where is the room for an idea to grow and take hold and shake the very foundations of your story? How can a minor character fill the space to become a major character? How can the magic happen?

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If every detail is planned out surely the ideas that do not conform to the original idea are stymied, the minor characters forever denied the chance to grow, the magic confined to the narrow space of the mapped out plot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you would end up with a good story at the end of it but would it ever sprout wings and fly?

It is a fallacy to think that pantsers do no planning at all. Before I start, I always know who my main characters are. I understand what drives them and what will motivate and change them over the course of the story. I always know where the story starts and I always know where it finishes. The bit in the middle, however, is a wonderful mystery tour.

My plotting friends think I am mad. They gleefully point out that if I knew all my twists and turns before I started I would not need to do so many rewrites, many of which are necessary to incorporate ideas that happened along the way. I would respond by saying the ideas that happen along the way are often the best ones that may never have seen the light of day under the weight of their plots and plans.

For me rigidity kills creativity. They may be more economic with their words and their time but I would rather not have my writing route laid out before me like a map. I prefer to meander and see where my mind takes me.

I could not write like they do and that’s fine because they cannot write like me.

I look at them and shake my head. Sometimes, it seems to me the elaborate plotting and mapping is merely a distraction technique to keep them from having to sit down and write the thing.   Often it strikes me as the comfort blanket they need to wrap themselves in before they can commit to the long haul of writing the book. Each to their own. Their comfort blanket would be my strait jacket.

When it comes to writing there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to do it. There are many different ways. What is important is that you find the way that works for you. Try all the different methods out for size but try writing at least one story by the seat of your pants. You may just find that’s all the method you need.

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