This month in the Writer’s Ramble we discuss Outlining vs Discovery writing, Plotting vs Pantsing, Architects vs Gardeners. However you are used to classifying these two creation styles they boil down to the same two categories. Do you like to plan out your novels and short stories or do you prefer to let your stories tell themselves?
At heart, I am a pantser – I like to sit down, start typing and see what comes out – even the way I travel could be considered pantsing. I’ve gone on trips with my family as well as with my old job as a travel agent where I would wander off, discovering what the cities had to offer; wherever my feet took me. I had so many adventures that were not in the tour books, it almost seems unreal. I collected so many wild stories, it became a joke in our family. "Well of COURSE that would happen to Heidi..."
Much of the writing I’ve done has come about the same way. I let my fingers wander and end up running into characters and situations I’d never dreamed of, but which ended up being just what the story needed. A discovery writer, a pantser, is a more organic writer. You kind of sit back, let things grow as they will and if it turns into something useable? Great!
However, as my traveling habits have evolved, I’ve come to appreciate having a basic plan. I found I could see more of a place and not miss out on things that I know I enjoy by doing a little research and having a game plan in place before I arrive in a new city. Outlining, plotting, planning – these are all new things to me in my writing life as well.
This month for NaNoWriMo I decided to try my hand at plotting. Okay, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a conscious decision. My sister was brainstorming with me about a series of books I’d gotten an idea for. At the end of the session, we had two of the ten books pretty well plotted with rough ideas about the other eight. I’d never done that before.
It feels good to know where I’m going with this story, and that there are nine other stories waiting to be told once this one is done. I’d gotten familiar with the characters before I started writing them. Just as researching a city made me feel more like I was coming home than venturing out into a unfamiliar and foreign place, so has plotting out this series made these characters feel more like family than strangers I need to get to know.
As a writer I’ve come to the realization that to be my best I need to be both a plotter and a pantser, depending on what the situation calls for. I still leave myself time in my travels to do some wandering. I leave myself open to adventure. If my characters want to take a left when I want them to take a right, I’ll go along with it. You never know where a wrong turn will take you – until you make it.
(I’ll let you in on a little secret. This blog post was completely by the seat of my pants. I hadn’t thought about the correlation between my thoughts on travel and my thoughts on writing – until I wrote it out. My advice is to be focused, have goals and an end game in mind, but keep yourself open to the adventures of the unknown. It’s a wild ride, enjoy it!)
What are your thoughts about these two different approaches to writing? Leave a comment with what works best for you!