Before I started writing my first novel I had heard about people outlining their books but had no concept of what that could possibly be about. I just started writing…and kept writing…and 21 days later had a book that was way too long!
When I write a non-fiction piece of work, whether a talk I’m going to give or a book, I do outline. But I find an outline restrictive to the creative process for me as a writer when I’m writing fiction. People who outline struggle to believe there’s another acceptable way to write.
So I learned there are two kinds of writers. Actually—there are two extremes. Pantsters who have no idea what there are doing and wing it and planners or plotters who outline their books, do in-depth character interviews, understand the motivations, story arc, and plot points.
The funny things is, I do some of that now, but not as much as a pure plotter would do. I’m co-authoring a series with a plotter. The first book we did together was torture for me trying to make sense of this story arc and the characters and there were timing issues that I needed to fix. That was primarily because it was handed to me to start the rough draft. I did manage it and the story is wonderful, but it was challenging on so many levels.
My plotter friend, DeeDee, and I now do much of that work together. She comes up with the main stuff and we wrestle through plot points and we talk it out quite often. I give her stuff to write as well so I’m not the only one putting original words on the page. For me getting to know the characters well has been huge for this. Plot points are suggestions and sometimes I come up with fun surprises. I figure if she reads it kind of knowing what is going to happen and I can surprise her, then I can surprise the reader too! It’s a balance that so far seems to be working for us.
Either end of the spectrum is fine. Pantsters want some love too and maybe some of that is personality or part of the unique creative soul some of us have, but it’s OK and no way of writing is right or wrong as long as the writer, in the end, produces a great piece of fiction.
If you are a writer, where do you fall on the pantster-plotter spectrum?