How a Pantser Became a Plotter

Every now and then, you come across an article or some other resource that talks about how to begin writing a story. Some people swear by outlines or long synopses, while others believe you should just start writing and see what happens.

The first sort are known as Plotters. The second sort are known as Pantsers.

Up until about two or three years ago, when I decided that I was going to “get serious” about this writing thing, I was a bonafide Pantser. I would sit down at the computer (or in the early years, with the spiral-bound notebook and mechanical pencil) start at the beginning, and write until I reached the end. Occasionally I would jump ahead and write out a scene that came later in the narrative. (I may or may not have spent a fair amount of time doing this during my Intro to Computer Science class in college.)

This method worked well for a while. After all, when I started rewriting the “magnum opus” in 2005, I pantsed my way through about 3/4 of the manuscript, typing along in Microsoft Word. Then one day, I realized I was spending more time thinking about what was going to happen than actually writing it. So I decided it was time to try outlining the remaining major plot points.

The hour and a half I spent to make this outline was well worth the effort (and also killed some time while I waited for the hubs to pick me up from one of my teacher certification tests). Outline in hand, I completed the first draft of the “magnum opus” within a few weeks.

Shortly after this, I downloaded WriteWayPro, a writing software program that allowed me to organize my manuscripts by chapter and scene. (Happily, it sorted the “magnum opus” automatically when I imported it). I’ve since moved on to using Scrivener, which works the same way. But the moral of the story is that I learned that plotting was not the enemy and could, in fact, help me stay on track.

I still pants to a certain degree when starting a new story. Sometimes this is due to having a little Plot Bunny nibbling at my ankle. Other times it’s because I don’t know whether or not I want to pursue a story idea. But I’ve learned that by taking the time to either outline or write an extended synopsis, I save a lot of work for myself on the drafting end of things.

Every writer needs to find a method that works for them, and for many, pantsing will always be the way to go.

As for me, I know I’ve been converted. Now that I have a contract for a series, I have to plot the next three books, or I’ll never get them done. It’s all about time management at this stage in the game.


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