Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dude, I'm a pantser after all.

And can I just say I hate the term "pantser?" My Mac hates it, too. It keeps trying to change it into panther. That's a much cooler thing to be. So instead of plotters and pantsers, let's call them plodders and panthers and move on from there. :P

Plodders are the people who write detailed outlines of how an entire novel should take shape before they actually start writing it. Panthers are those who simply sit down and write with no idea where they're going, "by the seat of their panths" as it were.

Anyway, I do try to outline a book before I start writing it. The first novel I wrote had no outline and it turned into a train wreck. No, it was too far from any tracks to be a train wreck. It was like if you took a train and dropped it in the middle of a lake.

The second book, well, I tried to write an outline but I got it all completely wrong and doomed the book from the very start.

The third one I thought and thought about for a long time, wrote an outline, and then did what I'm doing on my current project, which is this:

I write a chapter. If it's good, and my wife also thinks it's good, I figure out what I want to have happen next. Then I think about the next scene or chapter for at least twenty-four hours and sometimes several days. I don't usually write anything down, I just figure out where I want to start, what drives the chapter forward, and exactly what I want to have happen.

Then I sit down and write that chapter based on thoughts that are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, like happened yesterday, a character will say or do something that's not quite what I intended but seems better anyway. Yesterday, this ended the chapter earlier than I thought, but it was good. And Ammii agreed. So I'm on to the next chapter.

I still have my very bare outline, but it's really more of a road sign than a map. I know where I'm going, but how I'll get there is still very much up in the air. I take it one scene at a time.

And isn't that what it means to be a panther?

*RAAWRRR*

(This post could show up in some completely inapplicable Google searches.)

10 comments:

  1. I'm more of a plodder than a panther. (I feel like I have a lisp!) I outline chapters down to the last detail, but I never have that outline in stone. With every single chapter, something always changes as the story unfolds. And then I revise my outline if I need to, to keep my thoughts organized. Or, if I'm really on a roll, I just pants along until I get to the end of the chapter, and then I rewrite the next part of my outline to fit those unplanned changes. I guess that means I swing back and forth from pantsing to outlining. Does that make me a swinger? ;)

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  2. I think you should post the searches your post comes up in :D

    I start with a general idea and then just start writing scenes in any random order.
    Joy is one of the only books I started at the beginning, but I had the end written long before the middle.
    And the scene where she jumps off the dock was one of the first scenes I wrote - it actually gave me the idea for the Kung Fu thing - because I had to find a way to make her tough enough that she'd do that.
    So for me -the general outline gives me ideas for scenes, and then as I write out of order, it gives me ideas in other places of the book.

    Also - love the visual of the train dropped in a lake ;D

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  3. I like to have a general idea of what's going to happen but usually I just start with character arcs and figure it out from there. I'm a panther and I'm a chunk writer meaning I don't write linearly. I used to say I was a chunky pants writer but I'm not sure how that will work with panther. I'm a chunky panther?

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  4. I do exactly what you do. My mind crockpots each scene/chapter. But I will jot stuff down by hand in a handy-dandy notebook. I like panther....or fart writer(?).

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  5. Hey, we're coming up with all sorts of new terms to describe writing styles. I'm getting an idea that we should graph them all on a spectrum with Ultimate Plodders who gradually make their outlines more and more detailed until they become the entire story at one end, and Chunky Panthers *snicker* at the other. Then we make T-shirts with our pictures at the appropriate spots and everyone thinks we've lost our minds. Which may or may not be true.

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  6. I think that based on the provided descriptions, I'd qualify as a go-ahead-and-jump,-what's-the-worst-that-could-happen writer.

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  7. Interesting. I've gone through a similar process....normally I'm a plotter, outlining books extensively before starting, and for most of my life it's worked. But with my most recent book, outlining just hasn't worked. I've had to let go of my usual control and write from the seat of my pants. It's quite liberating! I think every book is different and requires a different approach.

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  8. I like having a skeletal sort of outline to guide me as I go, but I also found my only attempt at NaNoWriMo (for which I had neither an outline nor a plan) liberating, if terrifying. Different strokes for different occasions, I suppose.

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