Writer Tip Wednesday

Morning, lovely people! 🙂 We’re halfway to the weekend! *does fist-pump in the air* And today we continue the week of alliterating titles with Writer Tip Wednesday. Each Wednesday, I’m going to pop up a few tips that I’ve been lucky enough to learn so far in my publishing journey. So hopefully they can help you guys too! 🙂

To Plot Or To Pantster? That Is The Question

Now this post will come from someone who has literally been both a pantster, and is now a plotter. In case you’re wondering what on earth those terms are, they are the kind of writer you might be. A pantster literally writes ‘by the seat of their pants’, and can knock up a plotline on the fly, adding all the creative parts later in editing. A plotter will plan the storyline first, writing out the novel as it follows the pattern of events.

I’ve done both of these methods now, and can still see the benefits of both. For my paranormal novels, I’m a pantster all the way. The beauty of these novels is that it can be completely imaginative and free. Things that defy physics can happen (Take that, my old teacher, Mr. Stevens! Gravity does not ALWAYS work!), and you can twist events so sharply it creates hairpin turns. It can be fun to not even know where your characters are heading yourself, and to find out the same way as a reader would can tell you if it’s good enough or not. The downside to this kind of writing is that you must do a lot of editing. Inevitably, as you go back over the novel in the editing process, you may find you forgot to tie up a loose end, or something no longer makes sense to have. But as long as you have a keen eye before sending it off to the professional editor, you can do this method with no problem.

And what of the plotter? Recently having started on my first historical fiction, I’ve found it necessary to plot the story out, as part of it is based on a real person. (I’ll be doing another post at some point on plotting out a historical novel, as it’s very different from some other genres!) If you have a set timeline in your mind, then you can mark it out in order of events, filling the sections in between with action and dialogue, bridging each gap from A to B. This method is the one most used by new authors, and it allows for almost a ‘how-to’ of the storyline. The only downside of this method is that you may find your creativity more limited than the pantster when it comes to the editing process, as you are locked into an unchangeable (without a lot of extra work, anyway) series of events.

So, you’re new to the world of writing. You’ve got an idea of the storyline, it came to you in a dream…now what? You’re going to have to pick a method, but which one?

Pantster

This can be the easiest method to launch into, as you get straight into the process of your idea. But you will need at least the barest of notes first. Your main characters must be well-defined. No matter what your timeline does, they should be well-defined and clear before you start, because they are the backbone of your novel. You can always add to them later, and even drop in extra characters, but the main characters will drive what happens. Have a rough idea of three points; the beginning, middle, and end. Everything else can be filled inbetween. Your story essentially needs to have the protagonist(s) hitting a problem near the middle. The beginning will set events in motion to create that problem, and the second half of your book will go towards resolving the problem. (I won’t go into detail, but I explain more of how to create your plot ‘pantster style’ over at The Book Maven’s blog here.) This method is best for paranormal, romance, and humourous genres.

Not to be confused with a scenario like this, you can actually keep your pants on for the whole pantster process.

Not to be confused with a scenario like this, you can actually keep your pants on for the whole pantster process.

Plotter

This method is more difficult, but depending on your novel’s genre, you may find it a lot more helpful than winging it. Historical fiction and crime thrillers often benefit more from this process. The first thing to do, is your research. If it’s historical, find out as much as you can about the period you wish to write about – and indeed the characters, if you’re basing it on real people. Crime thrillers will require research on weapons used, crime investigation, and much more. Once you have compiled all the research to start yourself off with (you will do more during writing the novel itself!) you can move onto the novel planning. Where is your story going to end up? Will this be a series, or a one-off book? This can determine the end as much as all the other planning. As with the pantster process, work out your beginning, middle and end. However, you must work out and add on all the events in between. Don’t worry too much if you can’t figure out a section between two parts, this is where your writing itself will come in. Once you have a firm timeline, well-defined characters, and research, you’re ready to begin your novel. Although you have to craft your words as creatively as possible, be careful not to stray too far from one point to the next, as otherwise you may add unnecessary words.

You don't have to look quite as mad as this or wear a blazer when plotting, but it may help.

You don’t have to look quite as mad as this or wear a blazer when plotting, but it may help.

So although it’s only a brief introduction to writing methods, hopefully this might help you to decide which you want to use, if you’re just starting out. Which one do you think you would go for, or if you’re already writing, which one are you? 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Writer Tip Wednesday

  1. I would argue that everyone plots. Those who see themselves as “Pantsers” are merely deciding not to put their outline on paper, but to keep it in their heads. BTW … requiring an e-mail to allow a reply is so not practical these days. How many people are there out there who DON’T have one e-mail address that they give e-mail harvesters where all the ad-mail goes … never again to see the light of day? [Grin]

    • It’s true, it’s basically all plotting, but I didn’t decide the names of each of these terms. 🙂 And I disagree a little with pantsters knowing their entire plot…with nearly all my paranormal novels, I genuinely have no idea how it’s all going to end up. I decide it along the way, rather than deciding beforehand, as plotters do. But there is an element of basic plotting to decide how it all kicks off.

      And I don’t decide what info you have to give for a reply either, unfortunately…Wordpress does. 😉

  2. Pingback: Still trying to figure out a few things | Burgess Taylor

  3. I love this post. I’m somewhere in the middle of pantsing and plotting. I prefer a simple basic outline, mostly a character outline, a basic outline of the beginning, middle, and end, but I pants the rest of the way. Outlining each chapter doesn’t happen until I’ve already written the chapter. 😀

    • Thanks for stopping by, burgesstaylor7911! 😀 I’m glad it hopefully helped a little with outlining the differences – not that they’re always important, of course, but it can help. You sound a lot like me if I’ve got a clear idea of where a novel has to go, where you end up somewhere between the two. In the end, the important part to get your first draft down, however it gets there. 🙂

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