Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Real Suspense" and Why I'm a Pantser

Yesterday, I struggled with my writing for the day and berated myself yet again for being a pantser and not a plotter.  Then I remembered that I DO have options. I COULD become a plotter.  Except that I also remembered that I've tried that before, numerous times, and it didn't work so well for me

I topped off my remembering with the recollection that one of the editors I'm hoping to invite for an SCBWI event teaches a much lauded Master Class on Plot. She must know something that could help me. So I hightailed it to Cheryl Klein's website where I found this post.

The entire thing is brilliant, and I highly suggest reading it, but this quote, from John Gardner (The Art Of Fiction) struck me in particular:


This hit me right in the truth bone. That's exactly why I'm a pantser not a plotter. When I get deep into the head and world of my character the story moves forward inevitably.  When I hit a snag and feel stuck it's usually because I've lost that deep connection and resorted to inserting one damn thing after another.

After this epiphany, I went back to my WIP and examined it.  I took out a couple of damn things and I was on my way!

Are you a pantser or a plotter? Have you tried the opposite method? How did it work out for you? 





10 comments:

  1. Oh man.. like you, I've gone back and forth on this one. I think overall I'm a bit of both - I tend to plot everything, and then pants around as I'm actually writing it. And, I think I can't pants around until I have something (that I've plotted) to rebel against. So I think I do pants, but need to plot first, even if I just throw it away, to free up the ability to pants. Jeez, this is a confusing comment. (Note: this comment is possibly in need of breakfast).

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    1. Jess, I'm the same way when I've tried plotting. I guess it *is* nice to have something to rebel against. But when I try to plot I somehow think I need to shove like 6 distinct stories into one manuscript and it gets pretty ludicrous. o_O

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  2. I tried plotting thinking it was the CORRECT METHOD, but ended up with a mess of a first WIP. And then I discovered "pantsing" and LOVED the thrill of it, but at the first sign of being stuck, I thought I was a failure at that, too. But then I've learned that story comes from the choices my imaginary friends make, so I've decided to call it "Thoughtful Consideration" (from a blog post that Scott Berkun wrote where he declared that good writing deserved thoughtful consideration.)

    I learned the same thing as you: when I'm stuck, there's a reason why I'm stuck, and that's usually because I was trying to finagle a scenario that isn't in line with what the character would do. In those moments, I brainstorm scenes and have lots and lots of random notes before being able to move on, but I don't consider that plotting. I think of it as the character weighing out her choices and picking a path at the moment.

    Happy writing to you!

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    1. Of all the pitfalls writers can face worrying about the CORRECT METHOD is, I think, the biggest. The minute you learn that there is no such thing you leap a lightyear ahead of where you just were in your writing journey.

      And "Thoughful Consideration" is awesome. :)

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  3. I tend to go between the two really. I usually plot when I have a vague idea of characters but not a story yet. Often the problem is that I have too many stories trying to escape and they won't work in one story. So plotting helps me wheedle out what isnt that character's story to tell.

    I pants a lot. I stick to the truth of a character more than a plot idea. The closer I stick to a character the easier it is to write without thinking too much.

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    1. Isn't it funny how different we all are, Tara? Trying to plot makes me add more things, not simplify. :) I love seeing the various methods we all have. There really is no one way to craft a story.

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  4. Ha! I used to be a hardcore plotter, but I found myself trying to "fit" things in here and there... instead of allowing things to flow naturally. In my most recent stories I've become a hardcore hybrid, like some who've commented above.

    Now, i have a general idea of point A and point B and I'll just plop my character down in their environment and allow them to wind their way from point to point, rather than forcing them along step by step. And some of my best scenes have some this way.

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    1. That's definitely something I do too, Chris. I have a point-B in mind. Enough direction to keep me on track. And I'll also take notes to remind myself of scene possibilities. But my real "buckle down and plot this baby" initiatives are always miserable failures. :P

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  5. *hand in air* Total pantser here. :} Glad you were able to get over the hump!

    (BTW was that John Gardener or John Gardner the amazing author of The Art of Fiction?)

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    1. Oh yes, it is John Gardner! Thanks! I shall fix it, and read his book. :)

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I never bite the hand that comments

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