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Pantster for Life!

I’m a pantster. This means I don’t plot out my novel before writing. I get an idea and then dive right in. I learn my characters and figure out plot as I go.

I’ve envied plotters. They establish their plot first and are able to work in different aspects of where the story is heading right from the get go. They have a better handle on their characters when they begin. They can weave the plot twists in from the first page, because they already know what those twists are.

A few months back I plotted my first story. A loose plot, but I had a beginning, middle, and end. I set up chapters, I knew where the story was going.

I stopped writing halfway. Complete hit the wall, done. I tried to keep going and wondered if the fact that I already knew the outcome killed the plot. I’m still not sure. I do know I’ve read what I managed to write and something is off with my characters’ chemistry. I hope to one day go back and fix it up, but until I can gather up a spark for the story, it’ll have to stay in waiting.

Meanwhile I’m in a position where it’s time to start a new project or edit an existing one. It has been a while since I wrote a first draft. I always love the process—previous plotting failure aside.

When I get an idea I often times write a page or two, then put it aside until it’s time to work on the story. One such page began speaking to me. There’s no plot, no end goal. Just a beginning concept thrown on a page. I’ll find the plot by writing it.

So far so good. My natural form of plotting involves thinking about the story when I’m not writing, allowing parts of the plot to take shape. Instead of a full out plot I decided to write my query letter, to see if my current concepts might be enough to sustain the story.

All signs point to yes. I’m a little worried the love will die down, or my characters’ chemistry will fizzle. That will show itself in time. Meanwhile I’m enjoying having a new story speak to me. Characters to learn and explore, a plot to think of while in the shower or driving. It’s the discovery phase of a novel. While I always want to know the ending, I do enjoy working with the unknown. My characters have been known to surprise me and at 7,000 words this newbie has already proven worthy.

One day, maybe, I’ll attempt plotting again. Or think differently once I finish my half-finished novel. Until then? I’m a pantster. It seems to work for me and be part of my process. I’ll forever be jealous of the plotters. That’s their process, not mine. Pantster for life!

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4 thoughts on “Pantster for Life!

  1. I have the exact same trouble with plotting. I think it’s why I struggle with second drafts, too. My first writing project, I was writing along just fine until the last 7 or so chapters. I knew it was near the end, so I worked out what would go in each chapter until it was done.

    And then it sat there for probably months. Because I’d worked out the rest, the story was already told in my head, and I couldn’t convince myself to actually write the words. I’ve tried to avoid plotting ever since.

    • So glad to know I’m not alone! Amazing you had the same experience I did. I guess I need to toss out the plot when I return, see if that helps. So strange how some writers need the guidelines and others the open road.

  2. I’m a plotter, and believe it or not, I envy pantsers. Just once I’d like to finish a book without knowing where it’s going. I have tried, and failed similarly to you. I just couldn’t keep going, but not because I knew where it was going and couldn’t put the words down, but because I felt the plot was lost in an abyss with no direction. In the end, I think I’m too neurotic to pants.

    It’s sad that we can’t dip our toes in other writing styles. It’s good that we’ve learned these lessons, and I hope you enjoy writing this new story.

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