Welcome to the fourth installment of Year One – you can access the previous entries right here!
There are basically two types of writers when it comes to the approach to getting started.
Plotters and Pantsers.
Almost everyone falls into one of these categories.
Plotters are just what they sound like. They plan out the whole book, often with a lot pre-planning, outlining, and treatments. The Plotter has the entire book, beat by beat, ready before they ever put the first word down.
Pantsers don’t need no stinkin’ plan. A Pantser will take an idea or a character and simply write. Wherever the story goes, they follow.
The Plotter has a clearer path to a completed manuscript. When they map out the entire piece before they ever start, they know exactly where they’re going and can get there in a much timelier manner. But this can be a detriment, too. When you plot the whole thing out and you want to change something, it can mean having to go back and change a lot of different plot points you already meticulously set up.
The Pantser just lets it fly, but sometimes this leads to a meandering story that doesn’t really have a purpose. It can hurt plot and structure and lead to a confusing story or scenes that mean nothing to the plot or theme. But the freedom gives the Pantser the opportunity to take their story literally anywhere without concern for the constraints of an outline.
The biggest difference in the finished product usually comes down to the re-write. When a Plotter is finished, they should hopefully be able spend much less time cleaning up the story and focus instead on grammar and style instead of structure. The Pantser, on the other hand, will often find themselves with a lot of work to do during the re-write to figure out what the hell they just wrote.
If it wasn’t clear already, I’m a Plotter – an extreme plotter. I will think about a story for a long time, jot down notes, write a summary, a synopsis, an outline, a treatment, then I’ll write. It takes me a long time. When I write a comic, by the time I’ve finished the script I’m on what amounts to my fourth draft. The nice thing is that I do find I have less re-write time.
Shady Place and A Shadier Place were both thoroughly plotted before I ever started writing. Even Amara, which is on the shelf until after A Shadier Place is finished, is completely plotted out; I’ve even had some changes in the format/structure, so I did have to drop back and punt when writing it.
I think everyone has a story in them, but we all get there different ways.
Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?