I am a self-declared pantster, which is defined as: a person who writes by ‘the seat of her pants’ as opposed to a plotter, one who plans or outlines her writing. This has been the success and bane of my writing career. On one hand, I am able to just write, putting out a plethora of pages, and not worry too much about what happens next; but on the other, I don’t always know what is going to happen next.
In the past few weeks, I have tried my hand at doing a bit of plotting to see if this helps my writing stay on course, giving me a secure goal to follow. What I’ve found out is that I don’t like plotting at all. Writing out where my story is going and who my characters are helped to a certain point, but I felt as though it hindered the creativity of on the spot insight and growth that occurs organically as I write.
The story I am working on right now came to a stand still because I was having trouble thinking about each main point that is supposed to occur throughout the story. I read many articles on plotting, and I felt like a failure because I just couldn’t pinpoint those moments so far ahead. Plotting killed my creativity.
This was frustrating, so instead of doing what worked for someone else, I came up with my own hybrid formula to work by.
I can’t completely throw away the idea of planning. But instead of writing out pages of plot points and character profiles, I write maybe a few sentences (just enough to get me going). If I can’t think of something for a specific part in the story, I move on and let the story tell me as I write.
So, if I’m writing a scene and an idea pops into my head, I will put it down on a note and then continue writing. This keeps me in the flow of inspiration and helps me stay distraction free. Well, as much as anyone can be. I do try to have a story goal, but I don’t let it keep me from changing the path if something better comes along.
2. Just Write aka Structuring
Writing the first draft, no matter how bad, is important because if you nitpick over how things should be or sound, you might never finish. The completion of a first draft is akin to a skeleton or building a house. You want to lay out the foundation for the rest of the story.
There are times when I become paralyzed, and I can’t write at all because I think, “what if I waste my time writing garbage?” But, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter, because not everything is going to be beautiful the first time around. That’s why writers edit and revise many times over. The first draft is just that, a first, and it has permission to be crappy.
3. Adding Detail aka Fleshing Out
So, I’m still working on this part with my second WIP, but the idea is to go back and add in the nitty-gritty points to the story, otherwise called fleshing out. This is where you cut scenes, fix dialogue, and add in moments of foreshadowing. (Over and over and over. And perhaps a few times more.)
I’ll probably find other helpful tips that I’ll add to my process along the way, but for now this is what works, giving me the best chance for success.
Are you a pantster or a plotter, or a mixture of both? Share your thoughts on what works for you. Comment below.