By the Seat of my Custom-Ordered Bloomers
by Penelope Price
Its a question every writer (okay, maybe just those who have ever participated in NanoWRimo must face at some point.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Which is to say, do you write by the seat of your pants (a 'pantser') or do you write with meticulously constructed notes and plot points (a 'plotter')?
This would make a great poll - in fact, I'm posting one on my Facebook page today to coincide with this post? I wonder which is more common amongst my fellow writers and whether or not there are others like me.
Because I go both ways.
During the best, most organic moments of writing -- I am a pantser. I fly by the seat of my bloomers! I clamp on my chunky magenta headphones, crank up the playlist, and let my fingers do the work. It has been that way since I started writing books twenty years ago. Perhaps that is why I enjoy sprinting/word wars so much during NaNo; sprints are a license to just let loose and allow whatever comes out to just be.
Yet I write a lot of fantasy, and with fantasy worlds comes world-building, history-writing, research-gathering. And I have been told that I do world-building to excess. I don't believe that - you never know when some small nugget of information may end up being crucial to a plot! Plus, its fun. For me at least. I adore creating timelines, maps, intricate relationships between Ancestral Houses or religious institutions, webs of intrigue stretching across time and space. I have reams of pages filled with brief character sketches, key exports from certain regions, weather patterns, historical changes in geography/topography/political boundaries, lists, maps, details about the style of dress, notes from books or websites about various topics that may come up in the plot, real world mythology and legends... I could go on, but I think that gets the point across.
I am a meticulous planner. To the point that, yes, sometimes I bog myself down in detail. But I like to err on the side of caution and have too much information than to end up stuck on some niggling detail in the midst of a hot and heavy writing session.
But I have a shameful secret to share. Despite all my world-building, all the information I've put together for various projects -- several of those, my dearest and most beloved projects, remain unfinished and incomplete. Probably because despite all the planning, I wrote them as a pantser and tripped myself up in the actual plot.
Which is why, when I began my current WIP, "Incandescence" and its sequel, "Inferno", I made a conscious decision to go against my usual modus operandi and outline the plot BEFORE I started writing. I spent a couple days before last November scribbling out first a general 'this happens, then this, and then this, then the end' before fleshing it out into scenes and chapters. This process has been super stream-lined thanks to Scrivener, which I purchased after winning NaNo last November.
In the future, I am going to continue to work on my process. I think I work best with a good combination of both plotting and pantsing. Of course, the beta readers' verdicts are still out, so...
Anyway, my answer to the question above is muddled. I guess I would have to say that I swing both ways, and I'm comfortable that way. What about you, friends? Are you pantsers, plotters, or both? Would you consider yourself something else entirely?
Comment below and then check out my poll on Facebook to vote and see how other people are answering!
Love & Rainbows,
Penelope Price: author, gamer, nerd. Though she has been writing since she learned to read, P.P. did not emerge from her coccoon to join the writing circuit until the year of Tangerine Tango. She is the crazy chick behind this summer's Incandescence and its sequel, Inferno and can usually be found plotting projects with her partner-in-crime, Jack Morgan of PunchJackMorgan.com. Get updates, gossip and geekery by following P.P. on Facebook (http://facebook.com/PP_TheWriter), Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/PP_TheWriter), and at her blog (http://www.penelopeprice.net).