Friday, June 10, 2011

Plotter or Pantzer?

                There are many kinds of writers and many ways to write.  But one of the main debates is whether it is better to be a plotter, someone who plots out their story ahead of time and writes an outline, or a pantzer, someone who, to quote Rachel Hawkins, “flies by the seat of their pants.”  There are benefits to both and there are published authors who do either one.  There are people who plot and then pants their way to the big plot points. 
                Personally, I used to be a complete pantzer.  When I was younger, generally in middle and high school, I would start a story with the characters and have no idea where I was going.  Sometimes that worked.  Most of the time, for me, it didn’t.  After a while I had no idea where my story was going, or I did but only the very end, and I would give up on the stories. 
                Last year I did NaNoWriMo and I read a post in those forums about the benefits of plotting and outlining.  So, on a whim, I wrote an outline for my story.  It clicked into place as soon as I started outlining.  A story I had started on a whim with a bunch of teenage witches in 1812 New Hampshire at a Worst Witch style boarding school became a true blue plotted story.  I haven’t worked on that manuscript in a while but guys?  I know where it’s going.  I can pick it up again and do it and I won’t be giving up because I can’t figure the story out. 
                I also plotted my current work in progress.  It doesn’t have a working title and I had started it last summer.  Last summer all I had was a few paragraphs about a girl named Serendipity Jones and her sister Alliana coming home from school through Prospect Park.  Now, I have a fully fleshed plot that leads on to a series. 
                The way I plot I leave enough wiggle room for a little bit of pantsing.  My current outline is six pages and it goes into enough detail to keep me on track, but not so much detail that I just wrote the book on the outline.  It hits all the major and minor plot points and tells me basically what’s happening between major plot point A and major plot point B.  It also keeps continuity and structure.  For me, that’s important.  I tend to, shall we say, go off script.  If something big changes, I’ll change it on my outline.
                I also write small snippets on my outline if a perfect line for the scene comes to me.  Let’s pretend I have a scene where my main character and her sister are in a pizzeria and I want Dip (yes, her nickname is Dip) to get hit on, and I think of the perfect worst pickup line ever (say: “Girl…you make me wanna f*** a bunny.”  Seriously, someone said that once to _______) I will write that into my outline. 
                An outline is a jumping off point.  If you go into too much detail, well you might as well be writing the book on the outline paper.  If you go into too little then there’s no point in the outline.  But find your balance, that mix of major and minor points, small scenes and general feelings, and you are golden. 
                Are you plotters or pantzers?


Stay Tuned.

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