Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A to Z Challenge: Knowing

I think most of you have at least once read some sort of hint in what I post or comment that will make you realize that I am the consummate pantser.

In fact, the thought of spending more than fifteen minutes on something resembling plot development fills this little heart with dread.

And yet, my first draft wasn't all that chaotic. If anything, it felt a tad too linear to me, because I focused too much on one part of the story.

How, you may ask, did I do it?

Simple. I knew.

Before I started the first line of my first draft, I knew how the book would end.

Every single thing I wrote either went towards character revelation or to progressing the story line. Of course, I decided to end the story earlier than that, but when I started rewriting, the new end was fully formed in my mind.

To me, the end is my Polaris. Without it, I meander aimlessly, looking for a point for my story to go. With it, I still get to meander all I want (straight from point A to B is soooo boring), my wanderings now always have some underlying reason to them.

That makes a vast difference.

When my first draft was done, I knew that I would have to tighten the story up considerably. So I used the important plot points to make a rough structure for my rewrite. So yes, I do plot, but after I write. So now whenever I open my rewrite, I know what needs to happen in the near future. But those plot points shift (I think I've been through three significant changes to the outline) as I find ways to make later points possible earlier to pick up the pacing. The fact that those plot points are so flexible means that I get to still play while I write.

But none of the changes to the structure would have been possible if I didn't know how the story had to end.

So.... About you: Plotter or Pantser? How do you approach your story? What keeps your story in line?


  1. I've been in situations where I've known how it would end, but had no clue how I was going to get there ;) I've also planned an entire novel out... and then I've done the complete opposite, planning nothing till I wrote the last word. ;)

  2. I always know how it's going to begin and end. It's the middle part that seems to evolve as I write. I usually have some ideas about scenes/ incidents/conflicts/obstacles etc - but may abandon some of these and add different ones as I write. I make the whole journey of discovery alongside my characters.

  3. Good point. Knowing how you want it to end helps shift the story in that direction. I think it's really important. Only once have I written a story that I had no idea how it would end til I got there. It was a learning experience.
    I'm a little of both pantser and plotter.I plot out the entire story and chapters, but I let it unfold in the characters' own way. SO i never know exactly how it's all going to happen still I start writing.

  4. I need to know the ending, even if I end up changing it later.
    Moody Writing

  5. I used to be a pantser. But as I've written more books, I've developed an outlining style that works for me and doesn't stifle my creativity. I'm much happier now with a bit of structre and I don't paint myself into corners anymore.

  6. I know how it's going to end, but I kind of make up sub-plots as I write - things that just seem to spice it up and make it more mysterious etc...

    Duncan In Kuantan

  7. I'm a Pantser. But I find I can plot better as I go now that I've got a bit more experience. I know how to keep the momentum up.

  8. I'm a plotter, but I think your method of pantsing--where you know then end and write toward it--is a very good one. It makes all the difference when you know where you're going!

  9. I tend to map out a few keys points, like the climax, ending, things like that. And then I write, and if I get any ideas in between I throw those in too.

  10. I'm a plotter, but I know the ending so that I can outline my way to it. ;)

  11. I'm a definite plotter. I need at least some structure so I don't go wildly off path. I still give myself lots of room to roam around but the destination is clear.

  12. I'm a pantser who knows where she's going.

  13. I write my first chapter and go from there. By the thrid draft the plot thickens and comes together. However, I sometimes write the ending first and then work my way backwards. It's like farting for me. I call it FART WRITING.

  14. I'm a plotter! I'm ultra organized and like having plans, so of course that translates into my writing process. :) I love spending time with my story and characters before the actual writing. But I don't always stick to my plans. I just like having an outline and general idea of where the story is going so I can avoid major plot holes. Often the story and characters take on plans of their own during the writing, and so I just go with it! That's the exciting part about writing, you can always forget your old plans and make new plans. :)

  15. I approach writing in a very similar manner that you do. In a world of outlines and 3x5 cards, it's nice to have the "I just knew" company. :)

  16. I sometimes have a sketchy idea on how a piece should end, but usually have no clue how to get there. I live in a state of confusion!

  17. If you've been to my blog, you know I"m a plotter. I tried pantsing a story last summer, just to see and it was terrible. It had no direction even though I knew where the story was going. I think the best way to write is what works best for the writer!

  18. I definitely plot. But I bet you do more plotting than you realize in drawing some of your maps out. You are visually tracing through your mind the various stages of your novel through the pictoral representation of the map.

  19. I always do an outline. But I've usually played out the story in my head from start to finish, so what I write down is what worked.

  20. I tend to be a pantser with the content of my blog but since I write about food the recipes are totally organized.

  21. Hi Misha! Thanks for checking out my blog!

    I'm a plotter when it comes to writing books. I may work out the end first, but if I can't work out a logical way of getting to that end then I change the ending.

  22. seven years ago, I had a book that was 23 chapters in that I was just writing and going where it led me. I lost that computer to a virus, wiped clean with no backup. I gave up writing for six years. The second time, I wrote an entire plot for the all three of my trilogy. Had maps, character outlines. But that book didn't excite me and I gave up after 10 chapters. This book now I am just going where it leads me, though it is based on my poem and my tattoo.

  23. I always have the ending in my mind before I start writing.

  24. Panster all the way! I don't even know the end sometimes. Other times it's the middle I have no idea about. The only clear part is the beginning and the characters. I get them started and then they literally take over.

  25. Trisha, I've done those too. But the way I described is the only one that worked for me thus far. How did the other ways work for you?

    Paula, same here. I let the middle be as flexible as it wants to be. As long as it gets me to the end. I've also discovered and abandoned many ideas while writing.

    Pk, in my plotting days (yes, I used to be one) I also wrote like that. Plotting while giving my characters space to play out like they want.

    Same here, Mood. And if I change the ending, I have to know the new one. :-)

    India, it's wonderful that you found a way that works for you. I'm the exact opposite. I used to plot, then turned to pantsing...

    Duncan, I also add the sub plots as I write. In fact, sub plots were the reason why I gave up plotting. I just couldn't fit everything onto a page.

    Same here, Christine. My instincts are sharper. ^_^

    Sarah I agree with you. I'd be lost if I didn't know how the main plot of Doorways and its series would end.

    Brooke, the climax tends to come to me because of the ending, so I don't have to map it out.

    Stina, that makes sense. ^_^

    Jaydee, I understand what you mean. Knowing the end gives me an idea in my head that I don't veer too far from.

    L.G. glad to hear it. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by all the plotters. ;-)

    Lol Shelly, fart writing sounds like a fascinating concept.

    Bish, that can be awesome, because you get the best of both. :-)

    Laura M, that's true. Although I only spend time with my characters if they aren't acting like I expected them too.

    Jeffrey, same here. ;-)

    Hehe Ann, once you resign yourself to the chaos, thing become easier. It did for me.

    Laura P I agree. Whatever work for a writer is the best way for the writer. :-)

    Hehe Michael O shhh don't tell anyone, but I do a lot more plotting than I let on, period. I just refuse to write any of it down, because it isn't my focus when I think of my story.

    Diane, that sounds like an awesome way to do it. I tried it once or twice. But my mind refuses.

    Awesome, Michael Di Gesu!

    So you're more of a mix, hey Sandy?

    Slloyd14, that's another reason why I stopped plotting. I knew the end was possible, but that I couldn't get there by planning ahead.

    Joe, may you be successful in your new WiP. :-)

    Niki, I will also try to make sure to have the ending in mind before I start writing. I just works better for me.

    Patricia, I like that a lot, but I found that a lot of my stories fizzled nine or ten chapters in because I couldn't find my way.

  26. I do something pretty similar. I storyline all the way through - not plotting or outlining, but watching the story unfold - and once I know the ending I start writing. I pants all the way through (because usually my characters lie during the initial storytelling) until I get to the end. Once there I can finally make a plan, shift things around where they need to be, and then re-write with an outline of sorts.

    I tried outlining first once, but I got so caught up in the details and getting everything planned out just right that when it came to writing the damn book I just didn't care anymore. I was overwhelmed and quit halfway through.

  27. Hehehe Rebecca my characters lie to me too. ^_^


Thanks for commenting! I love to read what you think.

Feel free to ignore the check-box saying "Prove you're not a robot." My word verification is off, but I moderate comments to posts older than two weeks.