Taking the pants off

Okay, for anyone clicked on this for an attempt at a pantless shot of me, sorry to disappoint. This is about the ever present battle of writing styles also known as pantster (people who fly by the seat of their pants’ without doing much plotting or planning) and plotters (people who work out all the details before hand). I am a mostly pantser. I at least decide on which pair of pants I’m going to wear before hand.

The best way to describe these two schools of thoughts was from the great guys at Writing Excuses (a most excellent writing podcast) where they say that if you are about to go a trip do you plan every detail of where you will stop, when you will get there, etc. or do you pick a car and go. Pantser pick a cool car and go for it, plotters plan their route carefully.

Now that’s obviously two extremes because I know few people who fall on either of those extremes. I lean towards being a pantser. I like to pick a cool car, but I have a general idea of where I’m going at least.

Just close your eyes and go!

However, lately I’ve been struggiling with this pantsing style of writing. I start going and everything is great, but then I start hesitating about what should happen next. I know where I want to end up but I’m not share the right way to get there. I get frustrated, I refuse to ask for directions and so my cool little car (story) sits abandoned on the side of the road to rot.

So I’m stepping back and focusing on fewer projects and planning them out fully before I get started. Instead of charging blindly ahead because I had a good idea I am going to try to work out what I want to happen, and yes this is going to delay things, but I feel that in the long run it is going to make things less frustrating for me.

So, are you more of a pantser or a plotter? What kind of car do you drive on your writing journey?

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12 Comments »

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elizabeth Vallish, Judy Black. Judy Black said: Taking the pants off http://wp.me/p1bGYd-79 […]

  2. I’m a panster.

    • Judy Black Said:

      I find that I’m almost 100% pantser when it comes to poetry especially. I really feel like plotting it out can destroy the poem before it’s started.

  3. brian miller Said:

    nice…i just point the car and let it go…i do try to have a hook but how i get there is wide open…

    • Judy Black Said:

      That sounds somewhat like me. I pick a cool car but I try to have an idea of where I’m going and what the trip should be like.

  4. Kim Said:

    I think I’m a pantser with a plan. My current WIP I have tackled differently. I’ve actually sat down and planned – but only a little. I like where my creative juices take me.

    If I try to be too organized (totally not a type A personality) then it reads more like stereo instructions. I lose my voice. I lose my characters…it’s just…like eating plain oatmeal…yuk. I want Chicken Pad Thai – hot!

    And thank you, for not flashing us!

    • Judy Black Said:

      I love ‘pantser with a plan’! We should make t-shirts! I think that the problem I have with plotting is just what you’re saying, it starts to feel so tightly controlled that it just doesn’t feel as creative anymore.

  5. I tend to take off like a pantster, but then I try to see where I’m heading before I arrive. (Or crash!)

    • Judy Black Said:

      Sounds like a safe plan! I like to do the same thing and at least have an idea where I’m trying to head

  6. Laura Said:

    OK, I’m a plotter, so prepare for a long post. 🙂

    I had a friend once complain to me that she started stories but could never seem to finish them. I asked her if she planned them out first. She said she never planned; she liked to just go ahead and write. I think she liked the romance of it–and the romance of the open road and unknown destination, to continue your metaphor there, can be very attractive…but once you get out in the middle of nowhere and run out of gas or food, you get disheartened and turn around to head for home.

    I think plotting can help you stay more committed to your writing. Even if you write some of the first chapters and then stop and plan, that makes a huge difference in whether you get where you’re going. It also helps you weed out bad ideas–something that sounded great in your head might not, once it’s on paper and you’re re-examining it, seem very practical. There, you’ve just saved yourself having to tear out that part that wouldn’t work and re-write it. I mean, to me it’s like the difference between a love affair and a marriage–pantsing is all about the feeling and the exhiliaration of writing, but plotting makes things work out in the long run when you’re slaving over your manuscript and ready to throw it across the room. You remember why you’re writing, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. Putting in that plotting effort at the beginning makes you more invested.

    • Judy Black Said:

      Yes, yes! This is why I’m trying to go more towards plotting and not be so much of a pantser. I want a least a basic roadmap so that I don’t get to the middle and go ‘Oh… what now?’ it really helps to be able to look at an outline and say ‘oh right, she has to go to the prison.’ or whatever.

      Glad to hear from a plotter because it’s something I really struggle with. I think that’s because I primarily have dealt with short stories and never done too much plotting with those but now that I am getting into longer works I want to plot things out a little more.

      • Laura Said:

        Yeah, for poetry and shorter things I don’t plan–the most I’ll have is a vague idea for the form or I’ll know how it ends or something. I read another comment saying plotting things makes it seem not as creative, but I actually enjoy the plotting process (plus it forces you to think). Usually when I’m plotting I just write down what I already have in my head-so it’s especially fun to go back 3 weeks later, re-read an outline, and see what I’ve changed.


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