It’s ironic that, for a blog post about becoming more of a plotter than a pantser, I’m writing this with no set outline. I guess old habits die hard, eh?
Hypocrisy aside, how much and how little I plan has drastically changed during my writing journey. My first “novel” (I use the term loosely, because I was very young and it only clocked in around 25,000 words which, while nothing to scoff at, is definitely more novella over novel length) was based entirely on a dream, with me filling in the blanks as I went along, typically with the most random thing I could think of because, again, I had no outline, and had little clue of what my book’s world was like besides the few glimpses my subconscious had given me.
A common consequence of me writing like this was the story having an odd, jumbled ending. My first novel was saved from this faith, but several more were not. A book I’m rewriting now, this time with some planning ahead, really broke down during the third act since I hadn’t worked on understanding the whole concept. Instead, I focused on one scene at a time, which, while good for working quickly, made it difficult for me to tie everything together because I hadn’t pondered what the overarching theme was.
Actually, the “confusing ending” point is why I started plotting my novels, and, eventually my short stories (again, why not blog posts, I’ll never know-I still don’t plan out my essays either, so I guess nonfiction is just different to me than fiction in that regard). I began planning my short stories due to a particular incident. When I became especially enamored with the horror genre, I decided I would make some “creepy pasta” based short stories. The first one I made got a decent amount of feedback about how the closing act made no sense and did not tie anything up. While at the time I was incredibly disappointed, I’m glad people that noticed this because it allowed me to improve on all the different types of short stories I produce.
One could argue that, no matter how much one plans, the first draft is always terrible. While I agree, I think that it’s easier to answer important questions about your story at the very beginning, instead of wasting time writing stuff that you’ll have to drastically rework. Maybe this is just my Type A personality coming into play-yes, for some reason, I thought that combining my clean freak/hyper organized self with the relaxed, easygoing concept of pantsing was a good idea at some point-but I’ve found it much easier to move ideas around and experiment before I fully commit to the actual novel.
Another counter, and the one that I feel applies to me the most, is that pantsing makes you feel like your adventuring into the unknown, creating a sense of exploration many may find difficult to replicate with plotting. I combat this by focusing most of my preparation on world building while having the plot only cover the bare bones of what occurs, leaving plenty between each landmark occurrence that can be dictated by later preference. As long as you understand the mechanics of your fictional setting, including the traits behind the characters which inhabit or visit it, then it’s pretty easy to both organize your plot and allow it to organically occur.
Hopefully, I was able to explain my journey from pantser to plotter, and maybe even caused you to reconsider your writing practice! Pansters, plotters, or somewhere inbetween-iths, please tell me about your writing process in the comments.
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my newsletter to receive writing blog updates from my website! Just fill in the information below to sign up.