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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Preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo will be upon us in four short days. Dear Reader, I am psyched! Here’s how I’m getting ready.

Packed My Tent – Since moving, we’ve turned one of our two bedrooms into an office. I’ve got my desk in the back of the room, looking out onto it (so no demons or ghosts can sneak up on me, of course), and I’ve got a table set to my side holding important notebooks, my world’s “bible,” and my big desk calendar. That’s where I’ll be camping out.

Prepared For My Badges – I know I can write 30k words, I’ve done it before, and in the last couple weeks I’ve been ramping up how much writing I can fit into a day. Past success really is the best motivation which is kinda a bummer when you think about it because it’s a circle you almost can’t break into.

Practiced Relay Races – I’ve been working out regularly and intend to continue throughout camp. I find the time on the treadmill to be good for zoning out and letting my mind wander in my character’s world. Plus a healthy body can often keep a mind healthy, and the crazies are all too easy to set in on this journey.

Packed My Bags – And they’re mostly full of snacks. Seriously. I ordered two of those sample boxes from Amazon filled with protein bars and healthy-ish foods. Not that writing is a real physical thing, but if I’m on a roll, I don’t want to stop to make something, I just want to grab 200 calories of whey powder and chocolate and go! Similarly, I’ve been writing down recipes and cataloging my thoughts on them as they’re made and consumed, so I’ll be more decisive about what to cook for dinner. No hour of scouring the web for a recipe, everything will be planned out and set!

Prepared My Letters Home – My NaNo novel will be far from the only thing I’ll be working on in April, but one thing that I don’t want to compromise is Vacancy, so I’m getting every post for April queued up ahead of time. Just a warning, it gets pretty silly in the next couple installments .

But here’s where I’m a little stumped: Do I write out my camp itinerary? That is to say, should I outline? I’ve tried writing outlines in the past but usually I outline as I write so I can go back later and make changes without having to scroll through the whole document and guess at what I did. I typically get certain scenes in my head and have a good idea of where I want things to end up, with all the middle bits to be made up on the spot and heavily edited later. But has that served me well in the past? Or has that just lent itself to procrastinating? I know I succeeded (well, 30k succeeded) with NaNo last November because I had many of the episodes planned out, at least in general, ahead of time.

So my question here: do you outline? And if so, what’s your favorite method?