Write On, Wednesday: Pantser versus Plotter

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By Leslie LindsayWrite On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

I thought I would share a little insight from my daughter’s second grade classroom this past spring.  Since it’s about the components of fiction writing, I thought it would work.  And it probably still will.  But I am not in the mood for it today. 

That’s what makes me a panster.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let me enlighten you.  A pantser is a person who flies by the seat of their pants when writing.  There is no piddly outline to follow, no hidden agenda.  The pantser loves to write.  Well, the plotter probably does, too I can’t really speak to that being that I am not a plotter.  Like.  At.  All. 

The mere mention of an outline scares the heebie-jeebies outta me.  Here’s the reason:  I hated them in school. They stifle my creativity, my flow, and were just pointless.  (Could it be the same reason I turn into a cold sweat when I hear the word budget?)

But is there a right way or a wrong way to be a writer? 

No.

It all just depends on who you are and how you operate.  Here’s an example, I’m exchanging material with my critique partner and she wants to know what the inside of my character’s home looks like.  I scratch my head and stare at my computer as if if that is going to reveal the interior of her home. 

“Um…well, the inside…it hasn’t really been revealed to me.” I respond over email. 

She writes back, “Ahh…the difference between the plotter and the pantser.” 

You may be nodding your head in agreement or completely baffled.  That’s okay.  You may think my response, “it hasn’t been revealed to me,” is totally 100% bonkers.  I’m one of those new-age freaks who get revealtions.  I assure you, I am not. 

My critique partner, whom I love dearly shares that she can’t even write a word till she has a decent working title.  Whoa!  Back the plotter train up.  Not even a word?  Now that is some serious plotting.  She follows this up with her character’s home, “I have pictures ripped from magazines and catalogs on my board before I even start writing about her home.” 

While I love the idea of really getting into a character’s head like that, I just don’t know I could be so constrained.  As a creative person, I want to be able to play with words on paper, shaping them into the overall story I want to tell.

And sometimes that means re-writing, which is exactly where I am right now in the process.  Another truth revealed to me today, “Plotter’s have an easier time with revisions.” 

I can vouch for that.  As I was hip-deep into second draft revisions, the story morphed into something else altogether.  My characters spoke to me, a plea that they had other ideas.  So, instead of revising,  the act of “looking at something again,” I am rewriting.  The story has the same premise, it’s just a bit darker, a little wonkier.  And that’s something I am happy with. 

For now.

Write on, Wednesday!

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