Thursday, December 15, 2011

You can teach me to plot? Thanks, but...

I always wonder why people think that there's only one way to write.

Just today I read a tweet about how one can learn how to plot.

But then... why would I?

I mean, I do just fine pantsing (at two finished drafts and a third in progress). No one's going to drop dead when I pants.

Why do people always think that plotting is better? The only thing that plotting does for me is give me an excuse to procrastinate while I write down what I already knew what was supposed to happen. Otherwise it discouraged me because I didn't know every detail before I started writing.

You know what? It doesn't matter not having all the details. That's what the first draft is for: to find out what the heck is going on in the story.

Because there's a big difference between what you think is happening and what happens when you write it down.

Still, I will never go as far as to say that pantsing is superior to plotting in any way. Pantsing has its own drawbacks, the main one being "painting yourself into a corner". Then there's also the blocks that happen because you don't know how to start what happens next. Or the gaping plot holes. And so on and so forth.

But here's the kicker: I enjoy fighting myself out of my self-created corner situations. I like not knowing too much about the story when I start. It gives me my sense of adventure. I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in solving the plot holes once I get to them.

And no matter what, there's one big reason why I don't plot. I used to plot all of my stories. Every single one. Seven of them in total. How many did I finish? Zip. How many did I get half way? Zero. How many did I get quarter way: Two (I think) before I dumped them because they had no soul.

So I have no reason why I'd want to plot. Not even the smallest of reasons. The only thing approaching plotting that I do is making a point of knowing how the story ends.

So if you're a plotter. Kudos to you. Especially if you're good at it.

If you're not. So what? As long as you get your stories done, that's fine. And if you're new to this writing business, don't ever believe it when someone says it's better to plot.

Unless you've pantsed for years and through many stories and failed to finish one.

What do you think? Is there really a better way to write a novel?

Are you a plotter or a pantser? What about your preferred style makes it suit you?


  1. I'm a panster, then a plotter.

    I go as far as I can that even a word? Revising calls for plotting. I do keep a notebook to plot as I go, just for reminders.

  2. Hey Misha! I've missed seeing you around! :) I fall somewhere in between! I have to know who my murderer is, the twist and how I want to end. The rest, well it kind of happens on its own! I do keep a digital file for details! :)

  3. Finally someone agrees with me! Aha!

    First drafts are my plotting. Let it rip baby! Have some magical-let-loose-go-nutso fun. Draft two lays down the law. It's where I cut and redirect myself, making sure I actually have a reason for saying all that fun stuff.

    Sometimes I feel sorry for the plotters, they really don't know how much fun us pantsers have. LOL.

  4. I think it also matters what genre you write as well. I write mysteries and so to plan the clues and the alibis and such, I plot extensively. However, on another book (not a mystery) I didn't plot and it turned out well.

  5. I was a pants with my first novel. It was great ill I hit a brick wall and thought "What the hell am I writing about?" The second novel I wrote for my first NANO and used a brilliant plan I found online somewhere. It worked brilliantly. I didn't feel i needed to stick to it and didn't on occasion. But when I got stuck I read through the plan and it inspired me, reminded me, pushed for on. I have now turned that plan to the first book. I hope its as successful there too. Essentially, do what works for you! We're all different. One rule for all would never work. :D X

  6. I'm a pantser, and the reason it works for me is one of the same things you mentioned - when I try to plot it ends up being another reason for me to procrastinate. I already procrastinate too much as it is, so I don't need any help there. Great post, and I agree, no one way is superior to the other, it's just about what works best for each individual.

  7. I constantly see instructions for writing. As far as I’m concerned it’s a very personal thing. There’s no right or wrong way. And good writing is a creative process with a life of its own. I know the beginning and end to my story, while the bits between meander around to their heart’s content :)

  8. Everything about planning before writing seems logical, and probably is the best way for some, but pantsing is better for me. I've tried planning a novel, but I never seem to get very far before I get bored with it. I like a story that sort of flares up and then spreads like wildfire until it burns itself out.

  9. I am such a pantser. I tried being a plotter but everything came out contrived and forced. I much prefer to discover as I go. You just never know what your character is going to do to get out of that corner you painted them into!

    And, yeah, everyone is different. Thank goodness. :)

  10. Definitely a pantser. I've tried plotting and I love working from an outline, but I just can't practically do that every time I want to write. I might write ideas for my story, but other than that, I love the surprises that come with pantsing.

  11. I've always done better with a basic plot outline. But obviously there isn't one method that will work for everyone.

  12. I do a bit of both. I used to pants, but nowadays with my time limitations, I work better if I know where I'm supposed to be going. To each his own. There are no hard and fast rules to 'The End'.

  13. I plot the major stuff but pants the scenes. It's always worked for me, but everyone has to figure out their own way. :)

  14. I've written books both ways. I don't think this is a right or wrong thing. It's what works best for the writer.

  15. I'm not sure if I'm a pantser or a plotter since I haven't actually ever finished a novel. I like pantsing more but I have all those problems you mentioned, without the willpower to fight myself out of a corner! So I'm trying to be more of a plotter.

  16. I'm a panster who would like to be a plotter just to save my sanity, but will probably always be a panster. Truthfully, it's fun not knowing where a story is going, even if the first draft turns out to be a gigantic mess and I have to kill myself in revisions later. My process is a messy one!

  17. Amiga Misha, siempre es interesante leer tus magníficas entradas.
    con mis mejores deseos para estas navidades
    ¡felices fiestas!.

  18. For my last book, I plotted in detail. For the current one I am a pantser all the way and I am enjoying the process.

  19. Since my novel is only halfway done...all I can say is I plot the basic story, the major characters and roles, locations and names, and some research ideas thrown in and the rest I leave it to the mind and muse to pan out. Working that way so far, each one writes in the way there are comfortable. No 'write' or wrong in my opinion ;D.

  20. I don't think learning how to "plot" means that you can't pants :) it might give you a few extra tools to help you mentally cartwheel and tumble your way through your plotholes, you know?

    I'm a plotter, but I still find myself in corners and in plotholes sometimes. I enjoy the workout and the replotting it takes to figure it out. I love having a roadmap of what's to come because then I can get EXCITED about it, which was my biggest problem when I pantsed yeaaars and years ago. but there's merit in every method, and maybe someday the excitement of the mystery of what's next will appeal to me. who knows!


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