Plotter or Pantser?

I’m a pantser when it comes to writing novels. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I “fly by the seat of my pants” when I write. I go into a novel with a general idea. Sometimes it’s a specific character, sometimes a certain scene. But I never have a plot planned out when I start writing a book. I just write and see where it takes me. Like my current work-in-progress, for example. I had an idea for a scene at a masquerade ball, so I started writing that scene. I had a vague idea about a ghost hunter and a doctor, but even that got gender-swapped after I started writing. Things that I thought might happen never did, and once I got to know them, the characters took me places I didn’t think to go.

I’ve read tons of books on the craft of writing, and most of the ones I’ve read tell me I should plot. I should outline. I should know exactly how my story is going to get from point A to point B to the end. They have sample forms to fill out, character sheets, outlines…tons and tons of ways to organize my story before I even start writing it.

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My not-so-neat writing space. I cleaned it up a bit for the picture!

My problem with that? I don’t know how my story is going to go before I start writing it. I  may be at point A, but I don’t know what point B or C is until I start writing. And I certainly don’t know how it’s going to end. I’m not the most organized person you’ll meet. You can tell just by looking at my writing space. So organizing a story in my head before I get to know the characters and how they act doesn’t make much sense to me. It works for some people. I won’t deny that. But trying to force myself to write in an organized fashion just doesn’t work for me.

The closest I get to being organized is my notecards, and they’re only a recent addition to my writing routine. After a I get a story started…maybe around the 25% mark…I’ll start writing plot ideas on notecards. New ideas pop into my head all the time, so I’ll jot it down on a notecard, and stick it in my pile. I like notecards, because I can rearrange them, add stuff in-between, and throw away ones that won’t work. I end up throwing away quite a few, because once I get to that place in the book, the characters have decided to go in a different direction, and all I can do is follow them.

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Notecards for my current WIP, a ghost story set in New Orleans. (With the contents blurred to avoid giving away the plot!)

My notecards are messy, with stuff scratched out and written in the margins, but they’re the closest I get to plotting. So I guess with this new method, you could say I’m now a plantser…In-between plotter and pantser, though I definitely lean heavily toward pantsing.

How about you? Leave a comment to let me know if you’re a plotter or a pantser or somewhere in-between.

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