Plotting v Pantsing

I’ve got a project that I’ll be working on in July (maybe for NaNo???), and for the first time possibly ever I’m sitting down and really, truly, honest-to-goodness-ly plotting my ass off. Now, Dear Reader, usually I’m the kind of writer who flies by the seat of her pants. A pantser, if you will. I know generally what the story is about, who the characters are, where they begin, and where I want them to end up, and I just figure out the middle bits (read: the actual freaking story) as I go. This works…okay. Well, if I’m being totally honest, I think I’m pretty lucky that it works at all, but it was something that appeared to work when I had lots of distractions in my life (i.e. a full-time job). But now that I can actually focus on my writing, I’m finding that pantsing is for the birds (and for those of you who say it works: I trust you to know yourself much better than I ever have or ever will know myself).

Here’s my theory of why I thought pantsing worked for me: When I was drained (physically, emotionally, spiritually, all the allys) and I didn’t write for a couple days (weeks, months, whatevers) I would eventually reach critical-writing-withdrawal and get an idea that I had to put on paper. I thought this was divine inspiration (and consequently all the stuff in between was writer’s block), and I’d go on a kick where I could bang out a few pages whenever I got a chance. I’d have a day off, devote it to writing, and then when I’d get stuck I could throw up my hands and say I just had to get back to adulting.

What I didn’t realize was that I was kinda sorta already doing all the plotting stuff that a plotter would do only I did it very, very poorly and only in my head while I was occupied doing other things like taking phone calls or doing laundry. So it was with my vague and disorganized plot that existed in pictures and random bits of dialogue being shouted by disembodied voices from one end of my brain to the other that I would sit down to work and inevitably get stuck trying to get my characters from their meet-cutes to their happy endings.

Sometimes I could work these things out. The scenes would come to me, problems would get solved (more often than not while I was sitting on the toilet), and stories would be kinda completed, but the work it took to get there wasn’t as enjoyable and certainly not as quick as it could have been. (I’m not saying writing doesn’t take a lot of time, but I do think a first draft should be completed in a short-ish time so your voice is consistent.) And if all the half-finished stories on my Google Drive tell you anything, it’s that your blogger does not always get her own happy ending.

So this time, Dear Reader, I am plotting. And hardcore too. Like three act structure, planning each scene, total character bios, world built enough to live in PLOTTING. I’m not under the impression that this plot can’t and won’t change–at the heart of it, writing is still writing and a story is alive and evolving until it’s published–but I am going into combat with the blank page pre-fucking-pared. I’m basically unwilling to let myself down, because really, that’s what all those drafts are: a little graveyard for all the characters I let down, and what are characters if not just a tiny piece of you?

Will it work? Who knows! But I’d sure like it to especially since I’ve got about five other projects I’d really like to actually complete and it’d be rad if I could nail down a good way to do it.

If you have a working method or have tried both plotting and pantsing I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! At this point, I will take all the advice I can get!

 

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