Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Seat of My Pants

Everyone has their own writing process.  You'll often hear writers talk about whether they're a plotter or pantster. 

I fell into the former category.  The first short stories I wrote and the first book I wrote all had lots of notes and outlines and lists.  I even went so far as to do a storyboard for the book.  I changed the heroine's picture later because I found someone who looked more like I thought she looked.  But I digress.



This story was mapped out chapter by chapter.  The blue sticky notes were the hero's POV; the pink were the heroine's.  I could move things around if I needed to thanks to the wonders of 3M.

That method worked for that book.

And it worked for a lot of short stories.  But last month I wrote and submitted a story and by golly I did something different.



I flew by the seat of my pants.  Well, not totally.  I had a few notes with the characters' names and ages and a general idea of the plot (two people end up booked into the same mountain house at the same time).  But beyond that, I really didn't have much of an idea what was going on.


I just started writing.  And by golly the story took me places I hadn't imagined.  The characters ended up being different than I'd originally planned, especially the hero.

A couple times I had to backtrack a bit and write myself out of a corner.  But the really amazing part was that this writer, who used to struggle to hit the minimum word count for a story, ended up with 700 words too many!  I had to go back and cut the equivalent of almost three pages.  I discovered I apparently have a love affair with the word "just."  50 of the 700 I cut were probably "justs."

But the whole process was FUN!  And it was surprising and revealing and by golly I think I'm going to try it again for the next short story once I figure out what that story is going to be about.  I saw the phrase "the new normal" in a book I was reading and think that may be something worth pursuing.

So... writers, are you plotters or pantsters?  Or are you one of those hybrid plotzters?  Have you switched from one to the other method and lived to tell about it?

P.S.  I got an email from the editor that she wants to hold onto it for future consideration.  Good news!

6 comments:

robertsonreads said...

Awesome Marilyn! I'm not a writer but the work that I do, I do plan out what I do. Or when I cook, plan out the meal or a day of errands, I'm plotting out where I will go and what is nearby so that I can hit several stores on one trip.
Have a good Wednesday day!

Stephanie Jones AKA Alicia Pace said...

Marilyn,
I am a self declared plotter who, as you know, works with a pantster extraordinare, so it is often and adventure!

I am so glad that you had fun writing from the seat of your pants!

Nice blog.. I especially like the "New normal." What book was that from if you don't mind telling us?

Playground Monitor said...

It wasn't from a writing book, but rather something I was reading as part of a divorce recovery group. It's called Rebuilding by Bruce Fischer.

I think there's a new TV show for this fall with the title The New Normal too.

Sometimes life has to change or you want to make a change. So out with the old normal and in with the new.

Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley said...

Oh, Marilyn, that's great that she want to hold on to it!
I fall somewhere in between the plotter/panster thingy. I have to know why my characters do what they do and generally where they are going. My new wip started because my agent asked if I had an idea for a romance. If so, send her a Pitch sheet. Well I came up with one and an editor liked it and requested 3 chapters and a synopsis. Didn't have time to plot like usual so, like you I just started writing. I'll worry about the synopsis when I get the 3 chapters done. lol

Great post!

Angel said...

We all know I'm a big plotter! I have to know where I'm heading and why my characters are going there. It allows me to go through the excitement of discovering the journey without the angst of trying to get the words on the page.

But despite popular stereotyping, I don't plot every single second of my story. I realize the need for new scenes as I go along, or discover something new about my characters and motivations as I go along. Plotting just makes my revision list a little shorter. ;)

That being said, I think when you are struggling, stepping outside of that predetermined way of doing things can spark something special. Plotters who simply write to explore the journey can create awesome work. I wrote a novella this way when I was struggling with a lot of self-doubt. Its still one of my favorite pieces. :) Pansters, too, can learn some from plotting a bit ahead when pansting isn't working for them for some reason. Its about shaking your brain up to get new results.

Congrats on finishing the story, PM! And on the editor response.

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