Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pantser verses plotter and what’s in the middle

Blogging from my oh so glorious day job again today. Today is all about the basics- how do you craft your stories? I’m at a spot where I am editing/doing triage on my steampunk while getting ready/starting my newest book.

And I’m wondering just what in the heck I’m doing.

I’ve done five books so far (two in one series, the rest are separate series). And each book has come together slightly differently. My first two were done in fits and starts over a long time as I slowly admitted I really was a writer (denial wasn’t pretty, but it took a while to admit it). The next one was done with a heavy start via NaNoWriMo. That was interesting and actually worked well for the pace of that book. It’s my SF book and the fast pace that resulted from a speed "bones version" from NaNo worked. But I did end up with a few dumped sections. The other two were done slightly different, but still pure pantser with clean-up on aisle 6 afterwards.

As I’m working through cleaning up the steampunk book for submission I’m asking myself if my purely pantser MO is really working. I like it because if I know too much about a story ahead of time, I lose the “need” to keep writing to find out what happened. I also like the wild directions that can pop up with a pantser style.

But clean up is a biatch.

So my new book is sitting there in “notes” form while ideas come to me, but I’m focusing on the editing of the steampunk book. But I think I’m going to do something radical and partially ONLY partially mind you outline this new book. I want to keep the freedom of pantser, but have a bit more planning so I’m not doing such heavy lifting after the book is done.

My question to all of you is- how do you do it? Pantser? Plotter? Combo? Have a good way for a pantser to ease into a more guided story? Any hints, tips, ideas are most welcome!


  1. I'm more of a pantser, but I must admit I write notes about the next book or books as they come to me. Can't help that, but I've never done an outline myself. I don't like pushing it if I don't have to. Just me, I guess.
    PS. Hope you feel better!

  2. Try making a list of your protag, antag, love interest. Put down what each person wants, what each person NEEDS (which may not be what they want - and they might not realize it), and what's stopping them from getting it.

    Once you've got all these things down, decide if it's action driven or reaction driven, i.e. does your hero do something which sets a whole slew of issues in motion? Or does he react to the villain's actions? THEN you can brainstorm scenes that show each char's wants/needs/frustrations.

    I tried starting with my villain last time and it really helped me shape the book.

    Good luck!

  3. I'm a pantser. I tried plotting. Didn't work. What did work was writing my pitch and blurb FIRST. At least that worked for my 3rd book. It kept me on track anyway. I need to do that for my fourth, because I can see me floundering without it.

  4. Thanks for the comments and ideas ladies! :)

  5. I'm a pantster, but I usually sort of know the ending when I start out so I have a "goal" just no idea how I'll end up there... LOL

    I'm not much help... :)

    Good luck!

    Lisa :)

  6. Hey Marie! I struggled a lot with my first book, especially after getting stuck in the middle. I am a natural pantser but I let myself me convinced I needed to plot everything out. Big mistake. For me, the story needs to develop organically from the actions of the characters. What I DO need to know from the beginning to make my story work is the goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC) of at least the protagonist and antagonist, and the stakes. I also like writing out the logline (which basically encapsulates this) and a short, very loose synopsis beforehand. I use these elements as a guide rather than strictly adhering to them. All of them - especially the synopsis - can change. So far this is working for me.

    I find I learn much more by actually writing the story than I could ever learn by plotting. So I guess that makes me an unapologetic pantser!

  7. LOL!!! You're always a help Lisa :)

  8. Wow- ok blogger ATE posts! I knw it was having troubles for a bit- but at least 4 posts are gone!

    Thanks to everyone who commented even those who had their post swallowed by blogger! Not a cool move blogger....GRRRR